Nielsen has long surveyed television viewers to determine what we watch on TV. The company has expanded its coverage of consumer usage to the Internet, conducting a survey in conjunction with inPowered that reveals just what Internet users want: real, unbiased information.

The study divided content into three classes and asked survey participants which type was most valuable to them in making purchases. The three types of content reported in the study were:

1.   Expert content, including product and service reviews from third-party websites and blogs – sites that provide unbiased reviews with no hidden agenda.

2.   User reviews, taken from websites like Amazon® and Angie’s List®, formed the second category of content in the Nielsen survey.

3.   Branded content, content taken directly from the business’ website, formed the third classification of content. Typically, this branded content is sales content intended to encourage conversion from site visitor to customer.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate ways consumers employ product and services information, how buyers use different types of information, and how different information impacts prospects in choosing which product to purchase.

How Do Consumers Decide What To Buy?

The study identified three key stages in the consumer purchase process:

1.   Product familiarity (do prospects even know the product exists?)

2.   Product affinity (a developing interest in, or awareness of, the brand)

3.   Purchase evaluation of the product or service, the process of deciding whether to buy

Evaluating Research Results

In evaluating the data collected by Nielsen, it’s evident that all three types of content had a positive impact on each of the three stages of the consumer buying process.

Buyers were more likely to recognize a brand, show increased interest in the brand, and ultimately make a purchase after reading about the product, regardless of content type. However, expert content, written by impartial authorities, had the greatest impact across a variety of product purchases.

The Nielsen study revealed that expert content increased brand familiarity by 88%, brand affinity grew by 50%, and purchase consideration increased by 38%.  Most importantly, expert content made buyers 38 percent more likely to buy than branded content, and 83 more likely to buy than user reviews.

Building Buyer Trust with Expert Content

Why is expert content most effective in increasing brand awareness, affinity and conversion? Expert content tends to be impartial because it’s developed by third-parties – reviewers, authorities and other experts whose only purpose is to evaluate product performance.

Branded content – sales content – provides information with a purpose – something consumers recognize, and therefore, fewer buyers are swayed by branded content to encourage a sale.

User content – consumer reviews – was less likely to create product trust than expert content because savvy Internet consumers suspect that many of these reviews are “planted” and not impartial.  However, user reviews are read by prospective consumers, and when coupled with expert content, they actually increase the likelihood of closing a product sale.

Thus, according to the study, unbiased, impartial content written by third-party sources delivered the biggest, and most positive, impact on brand recognition, interest in a product, and integrating impartial information into the purchase decision.

It’s all about building trust, and sound informational content builds trust more effectively than branded content that’s clearly targeted at encouraging prospects to make a purchase.

Survey Results Grow Your Company Sales

Internet buyers are less interested in sales copy, sales hype or consumer reviews that can be easily planted and, therefore, may not be reliable.

Internet shoppers, searching for the right source of goods or services, are more likely to trust unbiased, third-party reviews – reviews written to inform consumers, not sell consumers.

Review your website and consider swapping out some of that sales content for useful, informational content from unbiased sources to help you see an increase in Internet-generated sales.   


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.