Recently, Google & Ipsos MediaCT released a study that found that paid search ads drive brand awareness, spurring advertisers to rethink paid search planning and budgets. Advertisers have typically used paid search ads to address “lower-funnel” buyers. But, the study found that paid search ads do much more than just deliver direct response results for lower-funnel searchers. In 61 simulated search experiments, search ads proved to have a positive impact on both top-of-mind awareness and brand awareness—even when the searcher doesn’t click on the ad. When searchers were asked which brands came to mind in specific verticals, Google found significant top-of-mind awareness increases from searchers who saw Test Search Pages versus Control Search Pages. IMPLICATIONS for ADVERTISERS For just over a decade, advertisers have been leveraging direct response data to plan paid search campaigns and allocate media budget. The allure of direct response data is that it enables advertisers to measure spend against direct performance, and investment behind campaigns can be shifted to control return on investment (ROI). However, studies like this prove that search isn’t only a direct response channel, but also a powerful branding channel. Typically, paid search is planned around other media (and isn’t always prioritized in the advertising budget). Google’s findings should encourage brands to prioritize paid search during media planning, knowing that paid search ads will drive conversions and create awareness. Leveraging the above findings, brands should reevaluate media budget allocation. Don’t limit performance by only investing in paid search based on direct conversions! SEARCH & BRANDING STRATEGY Brands can employ search to influence brand metrics—including awareness, consideration, perception, engagement, loyalty and customer lifetime value. Brand building via search starts with defining your business objectives. Once objectives are defined, brands can develop search strategies to influence branding. For instance, search can be used to:
- Alter certain perceptions about your brand
- Change the behavior of your potential or existing customers
- Inspire advocates to spread positive conversations about your brand
- Make your brand top-of-mind
- Defend your brand against competitors seeking to dilute it
Driving Awareness Before the purchase phase, your customers often gather information via search. They seek to discover brands, compare options and read peer recommendations.
- Pull levers like ad ranking, messaging, keywords and landing pages to impact whether searchers (1) are aware of your brand, (2) perceive that your brand is great and (3) consider purchasing your product/service
- Focus on prominent search visibility and page domination to influence awareness
- Remember that once you create awareness, you’ve opened the opportunity for searchers to fall in love with your brand, influencing brand metrics like loyalty and customer lifetime value
Empowering Searchers Brand building via search isn’t just about showing up. It’s also about empowering your participants to positively impact your brand’s perception. For instance, today’s SERP is increasingly incorporating “earned content.” Earned content is content that is created by participants on behalf of your brand. To illustrate, paid search ads now contain Google +1s and customer reviews.
- Focus on creating advocates and empowering them to positively influence your brand’s perception on the SERP. Your customers innately want to share their knowledge and expertise about your products/services.
- Create an environment—on your native site and social properties—where participation can thrive. This will build brand loyalty, and you’ll increase the volume of positive earned content that can spread to the SERP.
Connecting with Searchers Branding efforts—including TV, out-of-home, sponsorships and display advertising—spur people to search for your brand. But your job as a brand marketer isn’t over once you generate a search. For instance, your competitors may be bidding on your brand name in efforts to connect with your searchers. Your competitors could capitalize on your brand awareness, putting their products/services in your place.
- Through paid search, focus on maintaining the brand connections you’ve already created via your other advertising
- Protect your brand by monitoring your competitors and ensuring you’re dominating the page for brand keywords
- Integrate your offline branding efforts with your search branding efforts. For instance, if you’re running a commercial, you should bid on the commercial’s themes in paid search. This maintains the searcher’s connection to the theme that originally spurred the search.
As brand advertisers dedicate more dollars to search, Performics is focused on quantifying exactly how search lifts each brand metric. Unlike traditional brand marketers, we can blend brand metrics with the direct response metrics that search has always influenced—impressions, clicks, leads and conversions. Google’s study can help you make the case for brand dollars in search, but all brands should test for themselves. At Performics, we can help you test and learn by employing attribution techniques to quantify the value of search on branding, and we’ll use this data to inform investment decisions. For more information on Search & Branding, please contact your Performics Account Team today