STUDY: Consumers Don’t Trust Your SEO, Social Media Marketing


Is this guy even real?

Want to push your client’s negative reviews down in the search rankings and encourage consumers to leave positive feedback in public?

Of course you do. Unfortunately, consumers know this–and according to a survey released this week by YouGov, Bloomberg and the UK-based Chartered Institute of Marketingthey don’t like it very much:

  • 67% of consumers think using SEO tricks “to hide negative content within search results” is unethical
  • Only 38% of marketers agree

We’ll just say the average Joe on the street has very mixed feelings about some of the most popular digital tactics of the day.

See, most people–in the UK, at least–aren’t too fond of brand ambassadors:

  • Only 48% think it’s ethical to “[give] products away to encourage positive reviews online
  • Unsurprisingly, two thirds of marketers think it’s just fine

Now, some of this is cultural: The Wall Street Journal notes that a recent documentary revealed soap and reality stars in the UK tweeting good things about brands without disclosing their pre-existing relationships.

The issue, as CIM director Thomas Brown explains in a follow-up paper, is that we’re not even aware of the public’s judgments on some of things we do–and our ethical concerns don’t always line up. Here’s a bizarre outlier:

  • A whopping 91% of marketers think it’s “misleading” to create fake accounts and use them to post positive reviews
  • Only 71% of consumers agree

Isn’t that odd? Here’s the quote you need to focus on:

“Only 20 per cent of consumers report high levels of trust and confidence in the information they see on social media, and 62 per cent say it’s difficult to know if brands are using questionable methods on these platforms.”

This despite the fact that only one in five claim to have witnessed such questionable methods firsthand. Yet there’s business to be lost: 47% of respondents say they would stop buying from (or at least change their behavior toward) a brand found to be acting dishonestly online.

There’s an infographic you should check out, but here’s what we take from the findings:

Consumers don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes when it comes to digital/social marketing, but they’re skeptical. They think the industry requires more legal regulations, but more importantly, they think that the relationship between brand and consumer should be clearer from the start.

…and that’s where we come in.

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