We all use search engines on a daily basis and Google et al appear to be coming under increasing fire from all sides in terms of the content they return in their listings for people and businesses. Libel claimants assume the world has seen the defamatory accusations of their opponents online, often through Google, but quantifying the impact – generically or specifically – has often been difficult.
Online reputation management company Digitalis Reputation has released new research, conducted by YouGov, which demonstrates just how influential online search engine results are in terms of shaping the perceptions of new, professional contacts in business and other sectors.
Coinciding with the first anniversary of the EU’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’ judgment against Google, the research quantified, for the first time, just how important the front page of Google is to one’s reputation. Their key findings were that:
- 89% research a new contact using a search engine
89% of people research their new contacts using an online search engine: 51% of those doing so prior to a first meeting. That figure rises to 56.5% in business and media.
- 92% say discovering something negative impacts their perception of someone
An overwhelming 92% of respondents say discovering something negative would impact their perception of a contact.
Trusting the first page of Google
It was also found that 82% of interviewees trust the first page rankings of search engine results, a figure which is split into those who believe that the results will have some relevant and credible links but will need to decide which to trust (70.3%) and those who believe that the first page links are the most relevant and come from credible sources with trustworthy information (11.9%).
The research has also revealed a disparity between websites that are used for online research and the level of trust in those sites. Surprisingly, a company or organisation’s own website is accorded the highest level of trust in terms of factual accuracy (41%), and is used most widely as a source of information (76%). National media and industry news are the next most trusted source, at 35%, and are used as a resource by an average of 66% of respondents.
Wikipedia is also a key source of information though returns the highest level of inconsistency; it is used by 67% of people but trusted by only 26%.
LinkedIn is considered the most trustworthy social platform.
This study has featured in the Daily Telegraph EU ‘right to be forgotten’: one year on and trade titles such as PR Week Negative online information can taint your career prospects.
Data source – YouGov plc, UK Opinion Formers Omnibus, April 2015