The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released the results of their most recent online survey on online search. Search Engine Land covered the results, and as far as personalized search goes, the news is not good. 65% of users view personalized search as ‘bad’, and 73% view it as a privacy invasion.
‘It’s a Bad Thing’ Does Not A Google Logout Make
In thinking about these results and considering the possible answers to the above question that were available to respondents (e.g. asking respondents to label personalized search as a ‘good thing’ or ‘bad thing’) it’s not a great distance to draw conclusions about how users will log in to Google while surfing the web based on their declared feelings about personalized search.
But, I think it’s important to remember that 65% of respondents labeling personalized search a ‘bad thing’ does not necessarily translate to droves of users who will now log out from Google services while surfing the web. (More on that in a moment.)
Half of all Users Logged-In to Google 3/4 of the Time or More They Surf the Web
In advance of the SMX West conference in late February, Conductor surveyed 750 online users about their Google logged-in behavior while surfing the web. We also asked them about their plans to reduce time logged-in due to privacy concerns, but before we get to that, let’s take a look at how users are logged-in to Google services while surfing the web.
We asked users to estimate the percentage of time they spend surfing the web while logged-in to Google. If we use 50% of the time as a dividing line and bucket users based on that line, we end up with half of users who are logged-in half the time or less they surf the web and half of users who are logged-in 3/4 of the time or more.
Six out of Ten Users Will Not Change Logged-in Behavior Due to Privacy Concerns
Returning to users’ plans to reduce time spent logged-in due to privacy concerns, 1/3rd of users state they intend to reduce time spent logged-in due to privacy concerns. That is one way to read the data (see graph below).
However, I think the right way to read this is that six out of ten users do not plan on reducing the time they spend surfing the web while logged-in, suggesting Google’s services add value in users’ eyes and are particularly sticky despite ongoing privacy concerns. This seems particularly true given the ominous way the question was phrased: “…With their recent launch, Google announced their intention to merge user data across their products and services. How, if at all, will this change impact your being logged-in to Google services?” (emphasis added).
One could even make the case that with the phrasing of the question, we (unintentionally) led the respondent down a path of responding “Wow. Of course I’m going to reduce the time I spend logged-in!” Yet, despite the ominous tone of the question, six of ten users still say they will not reduce the time they spend logged-in while online.
Conclusion: Welcome to the Post SPYW Era
So what’s it all mean? My read on the Pew Internet and Conductor survey data is that while users are concerned with online privacy, they are not so concerned as to be running to log themselves out of Google while surfing the web. For online marketers, this means learning to live in a post-SPYW [not provided] world. A good starting point is to fully understand the extent to which your site/vertical is impacted. See our last post for data on the prevalence of [not provided] by industry and download the presentation on Life in a Not Provided World for more data on the [not provided] landscape.