Study Finds Search Engines Play a Huge Role in Consumer Purchase Research

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A new focus group study by search engine marketing firm Enquiro has found that search engines play a big part in consumer decisions. The study is being recognized by search marketing experts as a major step forward in shedding new light on consumer behavior when using major search engines like Google.

A focus group research product undertaken by the search marketing firm Enquiro has provided a fascinating glimpse into the search behavior of consumers. It found that using a search engine is a common place occurrence with today’s consumers to research future purchases. Depending on the type of purchase, the study estimates that over 65% of North American consumers commonly use search engines for consumer research.

This consumer rush to search engines have turned search marketing into the hottest online marketing channel. Growth in the industry has been dramatic over the past 3 years, and revenues are forecast to more than double in the next 3 years. But despite this growth, there has been very little research done into how consumers interact with search engines. The recent release by Enquiro is one of the few sources of insight available to search marketers.

Search marketing expert Danny Sullivan confirms this. “I always find it amazing that with all the importance of search engines, including the advertising money going to them, there's seemingly little research done on how we interact with them. This study by Enquiro is an excellent start. I found the results fascinating”.

Enquiro President Gord Hotchkiss commented on some of the more interesting findings of the study, “We were more than a little surprised by some of the things we found. For example, search engines are much more likely to be used to research a purchase than to make the actual purchase. Yet the majority of search marketing campaigns are aimed squarely at the purchaser. We also found that there are distinct search behaviors out there. For example, we found that many of the women in the group had different search behaviors than many of the men.”

One other interesting finding of the study was that many search engine users are still drawn first to the traditional, free search listings, rather than the sponsored ones. This tendency was most noticeable in Google users, where the sponsored listings have always been clearly labeled. The Federal Trade Commission has warned many search providers that sponsored listings have to be clearly marked on the search results page. This move was spurred by complaints from a group led by consumer advocate Ralph Nader who filed a complaint in 2001 against misleading advertising practices used by some of the major search portals. “It appears that people still want relevant, free listings. The easier these are to find, the more likely it is that searchers will go to them first,” commented Hotchkiss.

The results of the research can be downloaded in a white paper available at

Gord Hotchkiss can be contacted by email at or by phone at 250 861 5252,

Gary Stein, Jupiter Media’s Senior Search Analyst is also familiar with the report and can be reached for comment at

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Gord Hotchkiss
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