why does search engine marketing work?

vas asked me a couple of times already and i could only cite anecdotal evidence to show that it does work- very well, in fact. recently though, Slack Barshinger and Search Channel released a white paper about vertical search engines, but it had an interesting fact about general search engine use:

only 20.3% of the people (professionals, mind you) surveyed can always tell the difference between a sponsored link and regular search results.

combine that with my crafty copywriting skills and that means a lot of people clicking on an ad that kind of looks like a search result, despite the fact that these ads are clearly marked.

[add] while dropping a friend home from dinner tonight i was explaining to her that search engine marketing works because it’s useful. the ad only shows up when you are actually looking for that thing, which is the biggest reason why it works.  

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