University of Twente Student Theses


Organic versus sponsored links : users' selection- and evaluation behavior towards search results

Stoeten, K.M. (2006) Organic versus sponsored links : users' selection- and evaluation behavior towards search results.

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Abstract:Search engines usually present two main categories of search results on the search engine results page (SERP). One set is composed of organic results which the search engine determines using its native matching algorithm. The other set is composed of sponsored results, or advertisements, which are paid for by advertisers. The current study investigated users’ selection- and evaluation behavior towards organic- and sponsored search results and was espcially interested in whether awareness of the search result distinction influences both behaviors. Findings from an online survey (N=647) showed that organic search results outperformed sponsored search results and are specifically preffered by users who are aware of the search result distinction, which were generally more frequent users of search engines. More valid reasons are found for selecting organic search results than for selecting sponsored search results. Especially quality factors (e.g. reliability, relevance) and a bias against sponsored results were the most important reasons for selecting organic results. Remarkability and recognition of familiar suppliers/organizations were reasons for selecting sponsored results. Reasons, features and the influence of awareness identified in this study extend and update the previously found factors of influence on relevance judgments, web search behaviour and users’ interaction with search engine results. Level of Google use and search result position were the main predictors for selecting respectively organic- and sponsored search results. From the findings of this study, guidelines can be extracted for further optimising the presentation of search results on a SERP and for the development of sponsored result presentation and “paid search” campaigns. Furthermore, the findings of this study indicated that users’ selection behavior may be predicted and explained from a social cognitive perspective and proposes additional investigations to further explore factors of influence.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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