Google proves what we thought all along

It's always nice to hear proof of something you thought was true - it confirms you're not mad if nothing else. In this case it's a fascinating piece of research showing that coming top of organic listings raises purchase consideration of a brand by 14% and holding the top paid position raises it by 20%.

Pan-european research commissioned by the search giant proves the branding value of search

It's always nice to hear proof of something you thought was true - it confirms you're not mad if nothing else. In this case it's a fascinating piece of research showing that coming top of organic listings raises purchase consideration of a brand by 14% and holding the top paid position raises it by 20%.

The research carried out by Enquiro and Ipsos and commissioned by Google shows that searchers are swayed toward a brand simply by seeing their ads in the search listings.

Henry Eccles, Google EMEA product marketing manager for the Market Insights Team said "The Gold Standard is being top of both organic and sponsored listings. This combination raised purchase consideration by 22%"

"We've seen the same lifts for all verticals, including FMCG, retail and technology, and all markets, so we believe this is brand, vertical and market agnostic."

This proof is really helpful for any brand measuring the effectiveness of their search campaigns. It's something that Microsoft too are working on with their Engagement Mapping technology due to be launched soon.

New Media Age Highlights the dangers

New Media Age (10.07.08 - Read the NMA article here) reported on these findings and went on to describe how many brands are starting to use search for branding. Orange (See the 'I am' search campaign in action), MTV, Pontiac, Special K have all experimented with replacing a url in their offline communications with a call to action to search for them instead. This has quite obviously led to mixed success. In all honesty it's no more helpful than telling you customer to 'find us in the high st'.

Whilst NMA may suggest that these campaigns are part of a similar trend they rightly point out that there are dangers and in reality they are borne out of a different intent.

What these campaigns are actually doing is trying to make it easier for people to remember to look for their brand when online. It's a response to a marketplace increasingly congested with more and more weird and wonderful urls to remember. As over 90% of web users start their session on a search engine, it's fair to assume that to ask people to "look you up", is an easier way to ensure recall when your customer sits down at their PC.

This research, interestingly, proves that an approach like that is quite dangerous. You would be pointing your customers to a competitive environment which has now been proven to be quite effective at raising purchasing consideration for them.

But the research does mean great things!

The research shows that even if people are not clicking or indeed buying having clicked on an ad, their engagement has been much increased. It teaches us all not to think of the people who search but don't click on your ad, or click but don't buy, as completely lost. Far from it, they are in fact more likely to consider your brand in the future and may appear as a direct type-in sale or indeed an offline sale, as in the case of many FMCGs.

It proves that when planning your search campaign some budget really must be allocated for brand building. This means not holding that budget to task through a simple ROI model of cost per click versus average sale value and conversion rate. It means putting the budget into some more generic search terms so that searchers who haven't yet settled on a brand see yours as one of the lead choices.

Obviously measuring the impact of this exercise is tricky, it's a longer term thing and the results are easily lost in the noise of other parts of your campaign. However, looking at it in isolation you could expect to see a positive impact in direct type-in traffic and even more people actually clicking and buying from more specific, and branded, search terms.

This represents a superb insight into how your customers use search and the effects it has on their buying behaviour. It makes absolute sense but until now has been very difficult to qualify and therefore justify spending money on. We think that everyone that invests in search really must now consider brand building to be a vital part of the campaign.