Organic vs. Paid & Features Snippets vs. Organic Results in a New Survey

How do users interact with Google search results and its ever-changing landscape? Can they distinguish between paid and organic results? Do they even click on organic results or stop at the Featured Snippets and Knowledge Graph? And do young users behave different than older ones? A new survey, conducted by MOZ and Path Interactive aimed to answer these questions and others.

1,400 respondents took part in this survey; most of them are from the US, and the majority of them defined themselves as somewhat tech-savvy or not tech-savvy at all. Among other things, the survey showed that the search behavior is significantly different among 50+ years old comparing to young adults, and that Google’s Featured Snippets and No-Click Results are less dominant than predicted.

Organic Search Results vs. Ads

About 50% of the survey participants said that they rarely click on Google ads or avoid it completely, and less than 20% don’t have any preference and would normally click the most relevant result. Users who are 60 years old and older were more likely than 18-21 years old users to choose the latter answer.

google search results survey - paid vs. organic results


First SERP or Beyond?

75% of the respondents do not go farther than Google’s first search results page. Only 7% said that they would continue browsing beyond the first page to get additional results.

Young users tend to click on the first and second search results, while the older users are willing to scroll down the entire first page results and even go as far as the second and third page in order to find the most satisfactory information.

organic results behavior survey


Featured Snippets vs. Regular Organic Results

Surprisingly, the majority of the respondents said that they don’t especially prefer Google’s Featured Snippets, and they would most likely to switch between reading the Snippet and clicking an organic results according to the specific query. Only 22.1% tend to prefer the Featured Snippet and ignore the organic results.

Less surprisingly, young users (13-18) said that they would read the Featured Snippet, while the 60+ users would continue searching until they find the best result.

google knowledge panel - users' behavior survey

These answers raise some concerning questions regarding the future of SEO (and humanity): Are the young users too short in time and patience so they’ll automatically trust Google’s top search results? And if so, what does it say about the future of websites who rank lower than the top 3 results?


No-Click vs. Click

Only 30% of the respondents prefer the “no-click results” (such as weather forecasts or answers to specific questions) and skip clicking the regular results. While about 50% alternate according to the search query context, and 18.5% ignore these results and move forward to the regular organic results (the majority of them are 50+).

The answer regarding results such as Google Hotels, Flights and local events are even more surprising: 42.7% were indifferent, 33.2% ignore them, and only 13.6% prefer them.

noclick google results user behvaior survey

And what to users think about Google, the website they visit at least 3 times a day according to this survey? Well, 24.8% had no complaint regarding the search engine; the most common complaint (24.1%) was about the amount of ads; 21% criticized Google’s preference of large corporations over small businesses; 17.3% complained about Google’s self-promotion of its assets; 7.5% were concerned about the future implications of Google’s power, and only 5.5% protested against the low-quality results.

users opinions about google search results


From the SEO perspective, the survey’s results are partially positive, as they show that the Featured Snippets and other advanced Google search results steal less organic traffic than expected. But, if the younger users’ search behavior indicates what lays ahead, then SEOs, digital marketers, small business owners and everyone who is not Wikipedia or a large corporate have a reason to worry.

Read the full survey results: