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Britons Unaware Of How Search Engine Results Are Compiled

December 15
16:54 2008

Web Host NewsGloucester, UK – 71 per cent of web users are unaware of how Internet Search Engine results are compiled, according to research released today by Fasthosts Internet Ltd, the UK’s number one web hosting company. The study of 1600 UK consumers(1), which focused on the public’s day-to-day use of search engines, found that the vast majority of Britons either have no idea or an inaccurate view of how online search results are determined. The research also found that consumers today have a strong preference for ‘Organic’ or main search engine results as opposed to additional ‘Sponsored’ links which website publishers pay to display, with more than 1 in 3 (38 per cent) choosing to ignore these when they appear.

As our gateways to the Web, Internet Search Engines are the most commonly used websites for the majority of UK web surfers. However, Fasthosts’ ‘Online Search Matters Survey’ found that over two thirds of consumers remain in the dark about how the search engine results they use come about. Whilst 97 per cent of those questioned frequently use search engines, only 29 per cent are aware that search results are ordered according to a combination of relevance to search terms and optimization techniques used by the individual website owners.

Nearly 1 in 4 Britons (24 per cent) believe that the order of the search listings they use cannot be influenced by the publishers of websites listed, whilst a similar proportion (22 per cent) suspect that results are ordered entirely according to how much has been paid by the websites listed. 1 in 5 consumers (19 per cent) have no idea at all how results are compiled, and 5 per cent believe that search listings are arranged completely at random like a lottery. Interestingly, men have a significantly better understanding of search engines than women, with 1 in 3 men (33 per cent) correctly identifying how they work, as compared to only 26 per cent of women. The level of confusion on the subject also varies with age, with 30 per cent of over 55 year olds having no idea at all, as opposed to only 7 per cent of 16-24 year old.

Steve Holford, CMO Fasthosts Internet, said “It’s remarkable that the majority of Britons rely heavily on search engines but do not understand how they work. By knowing a little about how and why results are ordered, users can better determine which content will be of most value to them”.

Fasthosts’ research also identified that British web surfers have significantly more trust in main search results over additional sponsored listings. Often found to the side or above the main results, such links appear to be viewed by many with suspicion. 1 in 3 (33 per cent) believe these listings to be ‘less worthy’ and ‘less useful’ than main search results. Two thirds of web users (66 per cent) report that they always pay attention first to main results, and some 40 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men will consciously ignore sponsored links whenever they appear.

Eastern and central parts of England appear the most skeptical towards sponsored listings, with 45 per cent of Norwich residents and 43 per cent of people from Nottingham refusing to click on them, as compared to only 12 per cent from Belfast. There are also slight geographical variations in our reliance upon search engines. Some 12 per cent of Belfast citizens report having never used a search engine to find a retailer as opposed to only 2 per cent of more search-centric Londoners.

Holford added, “Particularly at this time of the year, search engines comprise an invaluable link between consumers and retailers. Web users who can better interpret search engine results will often enjoy a more meaningful online experience”.

As the UK’s largest web host, Fasthosts offers a comprehensive range of web solutions including domain name registrations, email solutions (including mobile email services), shared web hosting, dedicated servers, online payment services, reseller web hosting and feature-rich broadband packages. For more information on Fasthosts, see the website at

(1) 1,636 UK adults interviewed by Tickbox.Net in November 2008 via electronic feedback form

About Fasthosts
Fasthosts is the UK’s number one web hosting company. Based in the UK and operating 24×7 from their dedicated UK data centres, Fasthosts keeps over 1 million domains running smoothly and ensures over 6 million emails are delivered safely each day. All Fasthosts services can be self-managed through the award winning Fasthosts web-based control panel that provides customers with unparalleled online control, enabling them to manage hosted services including domain registrations, shared web hosting, business-class email, dedicated servers, software-as-a-service, internet merchant accounts and unlimited broadband.

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