The implementation and perception of paid placement schemes in the top three search engines

Pombo, Leonardo; Weideman, Melius

Published Online

Pombo, L. & Weideman, M. 2014. The implementation and perception of paid placement schemes in the top three search engines. Working Paper, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town. Available online:

The purpose of this research was to analyse the current top three search engines in order to find a correlation between the implementation of their paid placement or sponsored search result schemes, and user's perception thereof. An analysis of current literature was done, finding similar work surrounding these topics and also more specific work done regarding the implementation of paid placement results and user perception. Empirical work was then planned and executed in the form of two pilot studies. In the first, the top three search engine result pages were analysed to find how each search engine implemented its paid placement schemes. Some search queries were created and each of these was used and the results noted. The second study took the form of personal interviews - 10 participants were interviewed. Each one was shown the same results page from a search conducted on Google and questions were based on that page. Results from both studies combined with previous work confirmed that users are not satisfied with the level of separation between organic and paid results. Users would prefer more separation between the two sets of results. There is some evidence that search engines are trying to accomplish the opposite as this would benefit the income potential of their paid placement results.
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