Web site advertising is a buzz kill -- report

Satisfaction rankings for search engines, social networks, and news sites drop almost 4 percent from last year, says the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

James Martin/CNET

People don't seem as happy with social media sites and search engines, and advertising could be the culprit, at least according to one new study.

Released Tuesday in partnership with analytics firm ForeSee, the American Customer Satisfaction Index's E-business report gave search engines, social networks, and news sites a collective satisfaction grade of 71.3 out of 100. The score was 3.9 percent lower than last year's score and the lowest seen by the ACSI since 2002.

To explain the drop, the ACSI pinned part of the blame on online advertising. Among those surveyed, 22 percent of search engine users said advertisements were their least-liked feature. Three out of five social network visitors said they don't pay attention to the ads, while one in five said the ads get in the way of their experience.

"Advertising may be the necessary evil of e-business," ForeSee CEO Larry Freed said in a statement. "Most e-businesses begin as a free service to gain traction with consumers and increase market share, but eventually they need to find a way to monetize their business. Unfortunately, consumers generally perceive the increase in advertising as detracting from their online experience."

Social networks scored a collective grade of 68 out of 100. Defined as a social media site by ACSI because of its collaborative nature, Wikipedia took the top spot with a satisfaction grade of 78. Twitter came in at 65, while Facebook scored 62, though both sites saw their ratings rise by 2 percent. LinkedIn's score dropped by 2 percent to 62.

"The noise factor can detract from immersive experiences like Facebook and Twitter. Neither one is curated or edited, so users have to filter through ads, banter, and irrelevant posts to find useful or entertaining threads or connections," Eric Feinberg, ForeSee senior director of mobile, media, and entertainment, said in a statement. "Wikipedia, as a managed site without advertising, doesn't have that problem."

Scoring 76 out of 100, search engines were hit by a 3.8 percent drop in their satisfaction rating.

Though it saw its grade fall by 6 percent to 77, Google ranked as the most satisfying search engine. The ratings for Bing and Yahoo dropped as well, both garnering a score of 76. MSN and AOL followed with a score of 74.

"Nearly half of Google visitors use the site for most of their searches, while no other search engine comes even close to that kind of loyalty," Freed said. "Lower satisfaction across the board is leading more consumers to use multiple search engines or try a vertical search approach to get the information they're looking for, though this is less true for Google."

Finally, news and information sites stayed steady with a grade of 73 for the third year in a row. With a score of 82, FOXNews.com proved the most satisfying to users, followed by ABCNews.com and NBCNews.com, both earning a grade of 75.

ACSI's data is compiled from interviews with around 70,000 consumers per year to gauge satisfaction with 230 companies across 43 different industries.

 

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