Monday, June 24, 2024

54% of people look through more search results vs. 5 years ago

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A majority of Americans are spending more time searching for services online today than five years ago — and they’re frustrated about it, according to a new survey.

Why we care. Search engines are supposed to help people find information they want or need. This survey indicates that subpar search engine results and experiences may be failing to help users accomplish tasks, frustrating them.

Search engine frustration. Respondents were asked which part of the process of searching for services online was most frustrating to them. The top three:

  • Looking through search results: 26%
  • Coming up with the right search term: 22%
  • Visiting multiple websites: 21%

My reaction: These are all problems that Google’s AI Overviews, ChatGPT and other answer engines will someday (soon?) be in a position to solve. However, the full promise of generative AI in search has not been realized.

More searching. A majority of respondents said they look through more search results compared to five years ago:

  • More: 54% (19% “a lot more”; 35% “a little more”).
  • Less: 27% (19% “a little less”; 8% “a lot less”).
  • About the same: 20%.

A majority of respondents also said they spend more time searching when looking for services online:

  • More time: 51% (16% “a lot more”; 35% “a little more”).
  • Less time: 28% (18% “a little less”; 10% “a lot less”).
  • About the same amount of time: 21%.

My reaction: Users have been increasingly frustrated by Google’s search quality – and this is further confirmation that we’re not imagining it – despite Google telling us people love AI Overviews and Search results. Google told us Search usage is increasing due to AI Overviews – but is that because they are researching more deeply or because they can’t find the right answers?

Low PPC ad relevance. Only 12% of respondents said search ads were relevant to them. Yes, PPC ads just barely beat out radio at 10% in this survey.

  • More respondents said they encounter more relevant ads on six other channels: television (41%), YouTube (37%), Facebook (32%), Instagram (32%), TikTok (19%), websites (18%).

My reaction: I’m shocked that television is number one, though I’m less surprised to see that multiple social platforms rank higher right now – especially in light of more users using social for search and discovery, perhaps due to a growing frustration with ads on search results.

What else. On the SERPs, 35% of respondents said they skip (I assume scroll past) ads to go to the website (organic) results. Also:

  • 33% look for sources/companies they recognize by name (hello, brand recognition).
  • 33% look for results with higher star ratings.

Less surprising. Other findings of note:

  • 30% of respondents believe services that appear higher in search results are usually more relevant.
  • 46% of respondents said having “credible” results would make the search experience more enjoyable.
  • 86% of respondents believe they almost always, or more often than not, can distinguish between organic and paid results.
  • 47% believe it’s easier to tell the difference between organic and paid results; 37% think it’s harder; 16% believe it’s no different vs. five years ago.

But. It’s also entirely possible that some, or many, of the survey respondents aren’t the most technologically savvy.

About the data. The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults was designed to ensure a national representation in terms of gender, age and region. It was conducted in late February by Dynata, an independent market research company, on behalf of Scorpion, which provides technology and services for local businesses.

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