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The Pew Internet & American Life Project is out with a new survey on how users interact with search engines, and that results are somewhat discouraging. As the project summarized it, “Internet searchers are confident, satisfied and trusting – but they are also unaware and nave.”

Users tend to quickly settle on one or two particular search engines, although two-thirds say “they could walk away from search engines without upsetting their lives very much.”

They say they trust their favorite search engines, but there’s a distressing lack of understanding of how engines rank and present pages – only 38 percent 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.”

The funny part about this last bit is, nearly half of users say they would stop using search engines if they thought the engines were being unclear about how they presented paid results.

A PDF of the report is here.

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