It’s Time For Marketers To Attend To The Branding Benefits Of Search

Google recently released a study that concluded, “Search Ads Lift Brand Awareness.” The study tested brand recall for searchers who had seen the target brand in paid search ads against a control group who had not been exposed to the brand. The study concluded that brand-exposed searchers had a 6.6% increase (80% lift) over the control group.

In Search Engine Land’s writeup, editor Ginny Marvin pointed out that the study only tested the top brand position; it did not determine the degree to which the lift carried through to other, less prominent search ad positions. And, any study that examines brand lift from paid search ads begs the question of the degree to which corresponding brand lift occurs in natural search results — which is where the majority of searcher attention is focused.

Organic Search Study

To add to the ongoing conversation on brand impact in the search results, I will present herein the findings of a Conductor study (disclaimer: I am the Director of Research at Conductor) that analyzed brand impact in the search results. The study, The Branding Value of Search’s Page One, was published in 2012 and could use a refresh, but it can be used directionally as a benchmark against Google’s conclusions.

Conductor’s study showed respondents a brand in several positions around the SERP:

  • Organic results above the fold
  • Organic results below the fold
  • Organic results above the fold and in universal results (shopping, images…)
  • Organic results above the fold and in paid results

After viewing a search results page, respondents were tested on brand awareness, brand recall and purchase consideration.

The study showed:

1. Most Significant Lift Occurs When The Brand Appear Above The Fold And In Universal Results

The most significant lift (30%) occurred when the brand appeared above the fold in both natural search results and universal search results. This is likely due to the searcher being exposed to the brand twice in one viewing.

Organic search listings above the fold are where eye-tracking studies have shown the majority of searcher attention is given, and the universal search results provide a space in which the brand is represented visually.

2. Brand Lift Stronger When Appearing Above The Fold Than Below

When the manufacturer brand appeared above the fold of the search results, lift across all brand measurements was between 10%-30%. When the manufacturer brand (Frigidaire) appeared below the fold, brand measurement scores for it were flat or actually declined slightly for brand awareness.

This finding shows that brand recall declines as the position of the target brand in the search results page declines — at least, it does in organic search results.  It is not unreasonable to conclude that a similar decline would have occurred had the Google study tested beyond the first position.

3. PPC With Organic Results Above The Fold Increases Brand Awareness

When the brand appeared in paid search (PPC) together with natural search results above the fold, brand awareness scores increased by 20% above the baseline and 10% when appearing only in natural search. However, the addition of the brand appearing in PPC together with natural search listings did not provide any lift to Brand quality and purchase consideration scores.


Marketers Should Consider The Branding Benefits Of Appearing In Search

Google’s study reignites the conversation around the secondary benefits for brands of appearing in search results. Google’s study shows brand lift for appearing in paid search, and Conductor’s study shows lift for appearing in organic search, with a higher boost for appearing above the fold and in organic search results.

With more than 3 billion searches occurring online every day, it may be time for marketers to take into account brand lift benefits of appearing in search when making budgeting and strategy decisions.

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