Search Engines More Trusted Than Social Media For News & Information [Study]

edelman-trust-2013-logoWhen it comes to getting general news and information, consumers worldwide put as much trust in search engines as they do in traditional media — and more in both than they do in social media.

But, the numbers don’t portray any single source as highly trusted, which suggests that consumers are at least trying to vet the accuracy and trustworthiness of what they find in today’s information-saturated world.

The data comes from the recently released 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, the 13th annual global survey that uses data from “informed publics” — college-educated individuals in upper income brackets that follow public policy issues and are active media users.

Trust in media, the survey says, is up five percent over last year, with search engines and traditional media topping the list: 58 percent overall said they trust those sources for news and information. Comparatively, only 41 percent of respondents said they trust social media for general news and info.


Trust is much higher in emerging countries (the green columns above), and among younger consumers (the bottom half of the chart).

(Note: “Owned media” above refers to company websites. The “Hybrid media” definition isn’t clear from the study, but appears to describe company blogs and microblog services like Twitter.)

But, with only 58 percent overall saying they trust search engines for news and information, that could be seen as a sign that Google and Bing (and others) have a long way to go in giving searchers reliable results — or maybe in convincing searchers that the results can be trusted.

Both Google and Bing seem to be trying to do just that by surfacing more reliable information, rather than just a list of links, in response to many queries. Google does it with its Knowledge Graph, while Bing has its Snapshot feature and is also offering Britannica-based information in some results.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Knowledge Graph | Google: Web Search | Microsoft: Bing | Search & Society: General | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Rosendo A. Cuyasen

    Yes this is correct. When you heard something that had happen in some place. You will use the search bar to find that news information even if its new or old.

  • Sanket Patel

    Mostly peoples like to search on search engines for the any kind of news in all over the world because search engines display very captivate and trusted results compare to other way results.I also like to search on search engines for the news.

  • Bill Elward

    It’s great to hear that people trust search, but it scares me that over the last 12 months IMO Google has tweaked their algorithm to significantly favor big brands. For example, a search for “ink cartridges” used to bring back mostly smaller online retailers like 4inkjets and Castle Ink. Now the results include only the big & diversified players like Amazon, Overstock, Best Buy, Walmart, and OfficeMax. Not ONE of these sites was listed in the SERPs just 12+ months ago. Listing big brands might make the results more reliable (and it simplifies things for Google), but there are certainly other ways to derive reliability. Should the size of a company’s revenues influence whether or not they make the first page in Google? Feels like the rich getting richer…

  • Matt McGee

    I’ll play devil’s advocate, Bill:

    I’ve never heard of Castle Ink or 4inkjets and if I’m looking to buy ink online, I think I’d be much more trustworthy of the results that had recognizable, trusted stores.

    Also, isn’t it possible that the major brands you mention are simply doing a better job with their SEO?

  • Bill Elward

    Thanks for the response Matt! I think the issue is that these big brands are recognizable because they have extremely deep pockets. Here is what I mean: (1) they are able to fork over millions to hire the most creative agencies in the world to develop advertising and social media campaigns that naturally go viral (this gives a huge boost to their social profile and increases links to their site); (2) they are able to pay top research analysts to identify potential brand advocates & bloggers, and then they can afford to pay to transform them into true advocates (again more links pop up on blogs, etc); (3) they have 1,000s of actual brick and mortar stores so dominating local search and even mobile is easy (as an online-only business how can a small player compete?); (4) they can afford to sponsor big time events that get massive amounts of press (which then translates into a massive number of links to their site); (5) they can afford to make sizable donations and offer scholarships, two tactics that can also lead to juicy links; and (6) they can afford to offer very competitive affiliate programs (w/ juicy commissions) and are able to financially absorb losing money on a customers first transaction with them (as you know a precursor to getting listings on many top coupon sites is an affiliate program, which translates into some nice links from the likes of and others). And I know I’m leaving off a bunch of other tactics that favor deep pockets. These big companies just need to get the basics of SEO right in order to crush the competition. No matter how good a little player is at SEO, there is no way to beat a big brand…at least not anymore. My stance is that Google has tweaked their algorithm in such a way that a smaller business which sells the same products as these big retailers simply can’t compete in organic search any longer. Sure they may be able to outrank the competition on obscure long tail phrases, but it’s impossible to outrank big retailers for head terms.

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