Research out this week from Foresee finds that customer satisfaction with Google (and other search engines and social networks) is down significantly. The firm suggests that the proliferation of advertising (especially in search engines) is "diminishing the customer experience."
Do agree? Are ads making the search experience worse? Are you less satisfied with Google or other search engines than you were in the past? What about social networks? Let us know in the comments.
According to Foresee, the e-business category (portals and search engines, social media and online news and information sites) dropped 3.9% to 71.3 on ACSI’s 100-point scale. 22% of search engine visitors polled cited ads as what they liked least about them. E-business is seeing its lowest score in a decade.
“Advertising may be the necessary evil of e-business,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee. “Most e-businesses begin as a free service to gain traction with consumers and increase market share, but eventually they need to find a way to monetize their business. Unfortunately, consumers generally perceive the increase in advertising as detracting from their online experience.”
“From 10,000 feet, the erosion of customer satisfaction with e-business suggests that the sector will have a bumpy road ahead. But the battle for customer preference is playing out at the customer-level,” said ACSI founder and chairman Claes Fornell. “Companies that can find a way to make money without compromising the customer experience will please both its users and investors.”
While satisfaction with social networks is down, the research attributes the overall trend in e-business to dissatisfaction with search engines and portals, which is the largest category of the sector. The category saw a 3.8% drop to 76 - its lowest score since 2007.Google's score is down 6% to 77, but things aren't looking any better for its rivals. Bing is down 6%, Yahoo is down 3%.
“The satisfaction scores make it appear to be a closer race, but it is still only a battle for second when it comes to search engines,” said Freed. “Nearly half of Google visitors use the site for most of their searches, while no other search engine comes even close to that kind of loyalty. Lower satisfaction across the board is leading more consumers to use multiple search engines or try a vertical search approach to get the information they’re looking for, though this is less true for Google.”
The report says that the number of people who use Google exclusively for search has stayed consistent, while the proportion of exclusive users of other search engines has declined since last year. It says that search engines not named Google experienced an average drop of 30% in primary users, which are described as those who identify the site as their primary search engine.
Social media is also failing to live up to customer satisfaction expectations with the category falling 1.4% to a score of 68.
“The noise factor can detract from immersive experiences like Facebook and Twitter. Neither one is curated or edited, so users have to filter through ads, banter and irrelevant posts to find useful or entertaining threads or connections,” said Eric Feinberg, Foresee senior director of mobile, media and entertainment. “Wikipedia, as a managed site without advertising, doesn’t have that problem.”
Wikipedia, which in my opinion should probably be put into the information sites category rather than social media, holds the top position in the category with a score of 72.
Here's an infographic Foresee put out to showcase its findings:
Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land shares some interesting charts from the research.
Online marketer AJ Kohn (Blind Five Year Old) comments on the Search Engine Land piece, "I think the advertising explanation is tremendously weak. Instead, I'd offer that the frequency of search is rising (those strange comScore numbers) and that they're being performed on different devices (phones and tablets). High expectations of search success coupled with greater frequency of searches on a variety of devices would likely frustrate a subset of users."
Still, there are certainly plenty who think the Google experience, in particular has become to ad heavy, or at least ad and Google's own product-heavy. A post by Aaron Harris at Tutorspree called "How Googel is Killing Organic Search" made the rounds earlier this month provoking an industry discussion about this very topic. While SEL's Danny Sullivan does a great job of putting this whole thing into context with a number of caveats, the main finding in the post was that a particular query had Google only dedicating 13% of the page to true organic search results.
On the other hand, there are times when ads and/or Google's own products can provide satisfactory results. In fact, Google is clearly hoping to satisfy users on its own without having to point them to other sites with the whole Knowledge Graph thing. But are users actually satisfied with the results they're getting?
Are you more or less satisfied with Google than you were in years past? How about with other search engines or social networks? Let us know in the comments.