A new report released by The Australia Institute, and cited in an article published on smartoffice.com.au, has revealed that 37 per cent of Internet users were not aware that search engines were displaying paid advertising in with standard search results.

The results drawn from a sample pool of 1,000 Australians also surprisingly revealed that only two out of every five could tell the difference between paid ads and unpaid organic search engine listings – which may be interesting for those in search engine marketing.

Co-author of the study, Richard Denniss, was slightly concerned by the research – this was justified in further results found by the study.

Worryingly for those not ranking on the first page of Google, Yahoo! or Bing, only 15 per cent of users actually clicked to go beyond the first page of search results; while the first results displaying on the page accounted for 72 per cent of user clicks – resulting in larger brands dominating.

Denniss commented: “I get the sense from the work I have done on this that in Australia we still seem to think of anything that happens on the internet as a bit of fun and we don’t take it seriously.”

The co-author also was vocal in explaining his fears that regulators were not taking issue seriously enough, adding: “Unless regulators pay more attention to the need for online diversity, and there is greater understanding of how search engines function, online retail could come to resemble to today’s shopping centres.”

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