Internet users are extremely positive about search engines and the experiences they have when searching the internet. But these same satisfied internet users are generally unsophisticated about why and how they use search engines. They are also strikingly unaware of how search engines operate and how they present their results.
Internet users behave conservatively as searchers: They tend to settle quickly on a single search engine and then stick with it, rather than switching as search technology evolves or comparing results from different search systems. Some 44% of searchers regularly use just one engine, and another 48% use just two or three. Nearly half of searchers use a search engines no more than a few times a week, and two-thirds say they could walk away from search engines without upsetting their lives very much.
Internet users trust their favorite search engines, but few say they are aware of the financial incentives that affect how search engines perform and how they present their search results.
Only 38% of users are aware of the distinction between paid or “sponsored” results and unpaid results. And only one in six say they can always tell which results are paid or sponsored and which are not. This finding is ironic, since nearly half of all users say they would stop using search engines if they thought engines were not being clear about how they presented paid results.