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Survey Shows Americans Confused By How Google, Facebook Make Money

A new survey from Harris Interactive on behalf of The Search Agency finds, among other things, that large numbers of people in the US don’t really understand how Facebook and Google make money. The online survey was conducted in August 2012 with a sample of just over 2,000 adults.

The Search Agency (via Harris) asked whether people agreed with the question “I understand how Facebook makes money.” A slight majority (54 percent) said that they strongly or somewhat agreed. On the flip side, 46 percent essentially did not understand.

However even among the 54 percent who said they understood, 36 percent were more tentative, indicating that they only “somewhat” understood. More specific details were not explored in the survey.

When it came to search engine revenues, people did better. Just over three-fourths (78 percent) understood that search engines made money through advertising “that runs with search results.” But there were also other companion answers; users were permitted to “select all that apply.”

A striking 36 percent of respondents thought that search engines “sell users’ personal data to marketers.” Another 29 percent thought that “companies pay annual dues for use.” It’s not entirely clear what that means other than the perception of enterprise fees or maybe “pay to play” for rankings.

Finally, 20 percent thought that users pay search engines for “premium features.”

Respondents were also asked about whether they clicked on ads appearing in search engine results. Overall 22 percent said they did. However more educated and affluent respondents were less likely to click compared with those with less education or lower incomes.

Source: The Search Agency/Harris Interactive (n=2,006 US adults)

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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