Should We Educate Searchers Or Just Get Better At SEO & PPC?

My mate Dixon Jones just Tweeted a Guardian post which shows just how far we have yet to go in educating consumers on how online advertising works.

FastHosts recently commissioned a survey called Online Search Matters asking 1636 UK adults questions around their online usage and perceptions.

A whopping 24% are not aware of SEO or Search Engine Optimisation, and have no idea that search results can be influenced by website owners who embark on a robust and comprehensive content and linking strategy.

22% seem to think organic listings are paid for and 33% deem PPC or Sponsored Links as less “useful” or “worthy” than the main algorithmic results.

Now I love a challenge and when I meet someone who says, “I never click on the sponsored listings because they’re paid for!” I get a cheap thrill explaining just how relevant and timely they can be.

Consider the huge discounts being offered online right now. It could take days for organic results to show up a change in prices to reflect a quick two-day “50% Off Sale!”

But with PPC, a sale ad could be up and being clicked on in minutes………and that doubter could be a lot better off wallet-wise.

We’re the experts though. We live and breathe this stuff and I remember how hard it was when I was learning to get my head around it.

Maybe consumers just don’t care?

Ignorance can breed defensiveness if challenged so how do we educate? Is it necessary to explain to consumers the intricacies of how the web works?

2009 will be a big year for SEO and site architecture optimisation as businesses get their “sites in order”so theycapitalise and profit when we emerge from the downturn.

Will increased relevance in bothorganic and paid change how people think about search?

Only time will tell….

  • Robert Weatherhead

    I dont think educating searchers does any harm at all. I work in search engine marketing and still use both PPC and SEO listings just in a different way. If I am looking to make a purchase I will be more inclined to peruse the paid links for offers but if I am looking for information I will use the natural links more often. This actually makes my searching experience more satisfying as I am able to steer clear of sites which arent going to provide me with what i want.

  • Mel Carson

    Robert – How do you educate searchers though and get them to understand the difference before they glaze over?

  • Nick Drew

    Are you sure that ‘education’ is really a necessary part of this process? For example, consumers don’t understand how a retail supply chain infrastructure works, but they can still choose a high-street shop or supermarket based on what they want to buy and then purchase the required item. Similarly, is it necessary for them to know how listings are ranked in order to gain the benefit of search engines?
    And it is always worth bearing in mind, of course, that consumers will often say of any advertising that it had minimal effect on them, and didn’t change their choice of product or brand. I’ve seen consumers in focus groups blithely claiming that they ‘don’t click on those [search] advertising links’ before stating that they often find the links down the side to be more useful than the ones on the centre of the page, unaware of the disparity in what they’ve just said…
    On the other hand, you’re absolutely right that trying to educate consumers is always a challenge and does provide cheap thrills! :c)

  • Steffan Aquarone

    Interestingly I can’t find anything on to suggest there are any special deals to get by using PPC. However educating consumers on how search engines and search engine advertising works is just the sort of thing that would work well on an ‘impartial’ consumer blog. I echo what Nick said – consumers (myself included) will always deny how much they are influenced by traditional forms of advertising and I would be massively surprised if the same passive influence wasn’t taking place online too.
    Whilst we’re on the topic of PPC, those who have never seen an image of people’s eye movements on Google’s search results listings will enjoy this: thin