A marketer’s strategic goals have always been dictated by the channel in which the marketer operates. Traditional channels, such as television and print, are used primarily for brand development and consumer influence, while search marketing has been strictly relegated to capturing clicks and driving web traffic.
Those conventions speak to the established roles each channel has historically played. Natural search is expected to solely deliver conversions, while search traffic and other channels are expected to deliver on branding development goals. Similarly, industry research has been equally polarized, producing numerous studies measuring the brand impact of television and print exposure, or taking a search-specific route where research affirms the website traffic benefits of appearing in the search results.
What’s been overlooked, however, is measuring how the appearance of a brand in the search results impacts brand perception in the mind of the consumer. With more than 26 billion monthly searches taking place in the US alone, the opportunity for brand exposure is substantial and deserving of a closer look.
Appearing in Search Results Produces Brand Lift
The new research report The Branding Value of Search’s Page One suggests that appearing in the search results has a substantial impact on brand awareness, perception of brand quality, and purchase consideration—up to 30% higher than if a brand did not appear in the search results. The research showed respondents’ search pages for the term “buy refrigerator” with a targeted refrigerator brand in various positions on the search results page. The respondents then were asked to rate manufacturer brands and retailer brands, making impact of brand appearance in search measurable for those manufacturers and retailers.
The research showed the most significant lift occurred when the brand appeared in the top half of the search results and in universal search results (images, video, shopping, etc.). That lift is likely due to the double exposure of the brand, appearing both textually in the search results and visually in the universal results. Brand lift occurred no matter where in the search results the brand appeared, but the brand lift was higher when appearing in the top half of the search page than the bottom.
A New Branding Shift
So, what can we make of these findings? Well, the implications of this shift for marketers are three-fold.
1. Budget and resource implications are likely to ripple across all marketing budgeting and resource allocations. Strategic marketing decisions may be impacted by the awareness that search can also be leveraged as a branding tool.
2. Marketers need to take advantage of the readily measurable nature of online marketing and continuously gauge their brand visibility in the search results—both in quantity and quality.
3. Search marketers must gather metrics about their brand visibility and take the necessary steps to ensure control of their brands in the search results. Focused care must be taken to regulate messaging, optimizing the textual snippets that appear in the search results to best reflect their brand.
Marketers have long compartmentalized the way they use their marketing channels. Now, new research turns old marketing formats on their head and suggests significant brand development opportunities exist in the search results for marketers savvy and creative enough to take advantage of them.