We've been doing some research on a website of ours. On this website we help the user pick the cheapest product for what they are searching for (example: TV / Smartwatch etc).

In the heatmaps we see that if there is no sponsored content, most of the users click the second option. While if we do show sponsored content, most of the users select the first non-sponsored option. The sponsored content is, in all cases, clearly marked paid content.

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While doing user interviews (for general research) we noticed that a lot of users say they do not trust 'websites that compare stuff' because they do not know if the content is sponsored or not.

In the user interviews after a usertest the user says they picked the second option in the non sponsored list because it looked the best for them. Users that had sponsored content also picked the second one and gave the somewhat the same reply.

However in the sponsored list the 3rd option would be the same option as the 2nd in the non sponsored list.

So my question is as followed, would showing sponsored content increase the trust of the list because it is clearly marked? And when there is no sponsored content, would the user pick the second because they maybe assume the first is sponsored content?

Note: The usertests were qualitative and not quantitative

  • 1
    Examining more in detail why user chose second option would be good. Assumption can be also that they skip first option as they thinks it's an Ad. More metrics in Qualitative research would help you. Also if you google "banner blindness" and check in details how it works you can see if that's it. Google adwords banner blindess is probably most learned UI pattern for that.
    – xul
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 10:13
  • Very good question.
    – Chris
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 10:22
  • @xul Indeed, In my case the sponsored content is marked as paid content the design is somewhat different. If the 'second non paid' option would be better for the user it should show in both heatmaps in my opinion. I edited my post somewhat.
    – Kevin M.
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 10:48
  • "Why did you picked the second option", "What do you think about first option".. You can always ask that.. Without its just a guessing game. But very interesting, would love to hear outcomes
    – xul
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 11:03
  • 2
    nngroup.com/articles/banner-blindness-old-and-new-findings I'd say the most obvious answer is that we've been so accustomed to seeing ads that we see then even when they aren't there.
    – Paran0a
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


There are clearly some additional complexities and contexts that might explain the observations made, but if we look at the key aspects of trust it might be possible to try and tease out what are the most important factors in this particular context.

  • Trust can come from familiarity, and this is certainly a common psychological behaviour which can be reinforced over time but also taken away very suddenly with some potentially disastrous results.
  • Trust can also come from social proof, especially when there are brands or influencers (including subject matter experts) to provide objective and impartial value to the users.
  • Trust can also come from personal biases of individual users and groups that are established and not susceptible influences other than those that are from within the group.

As was mentioned in the question, the results are qualitative and not quantitative, so the degree to which these different factors that influence trust are at play here requires more investigation, but that would be outside the scope of this question in terms of whether the sponsored content can reduce trust. In other circumstances it can also increase the level of trust.

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