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‘How to search the internet’ sounds really patronising but a lot of us are searching online and not even really realising what we are clicking on.

Lets say for example we are searching on Google (other search engines are available) and we assume that what is returned to us are the most relevant and genuinely helpful results on what we have searched. Now this is true BUT Google’s ads are so similar to unpaid content that they are almost indistinguishable in a quick search. 
So as an example we search for ‘web hosting’ and if you look closely below you can see that the first 4 results we are delivered are in fact ads.

This will likely be true for the last 4 in the list too. Now its naive to think that search engines won’t have ads, its their bread and butter money maker. But you need to know what is a paid advertisement and what is genuine content from companies that have worked hard to climb those rankings.

Now that is not to say that the first non-ad result is the best company out there or most trustworthy but it does reveal some factors. Highly ranked search results as a rule generally come from companies that are established, often with good reviews, website content and customer retention. This is not true for all companies but it takes a lot of hard work to be on the first page of Google as opposed to just paying the highest figure to be the top advertisement on the page. Google is also quick to penalise websites that are not above board in terms of content.

I personally have nothing against that form of search advertising, it clearly works extremely well or companies wouldn’t do it. But it is important that you make an unbiased and informed decision. You may click on the first ad and never give any of those other companies a chance when they could have been cheaper, offer a better service or both.

Once you have made that search then you are filtered in to an audience of sorts. You are seen as a lead or prospect to buying that product. Now companies can pay to remarket to you, which essentially means they are going to push relevant ads to you for that product or service that you searched for. Never believe that this is just a coincidence, ads come in many forms, they may be banners, text ads or native ads that can be a mix of both and are specifically made to blend in to the site content.

More and more we now see these kinds of ads in our social content like our Instagram feed, Facebook feed and even our messaging apps. There is nothing you can do about it being there but you can understand why it is there and whether you should act on it.

GDPR set out to make people more aware of this but it hasn’t done a fantastic job of it. The more informed people get the more creative ways that marketers come up with to deliver ad content to us.

In short, take some time to look at what you are clicking on next time you search or scroll and make informed decisions on what you click on.