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The latest round of Pew consumer research concludes that most search engine users are still confused about what's paid search and what's not.

According to a report issued yesterday, 62% of respondents to Pew's telephone survey were "unaware" of a distinction between paid and unpaid results. However, 70% of respondents were "okay" with the idea of paid search results.

More sophisticated users–those who have been online at least 6 years–are "slightly more skeptical" about search engine results. In a related vein, previous comScore data show that the more experienced the searcher, the less likely s/he is to click on paid search ads.

Pew's findings are consistent with previous consumer studies that have shown confusion about the nature of search results.

One interesting finding was that 67% of respondents said that they would essentially be fine without search engines, whereas 32% said they "couldn't live without them."

Other findings:

  • Men use search somewhat more than women
  • Younger users trust and use search more than seniors
  • A slight majority of Pew's respondents use search "one or twice a week"
  • Just under half of Pew's respondents are loyal to one search engine and a slightly larger group used "two or three," while a tiny minority used "more than three."

Extensive discussion of the results and a nice write up are available at Search Engine Watch.

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