Posted by Matt Miller, Director, Vertical Solutions
Google recently announced changes to the Google Suggest feature, which include “navigational suggestions.” For instance, if a searcher’s keystrokes in the search box indicate that they’re looking to directly navigate to a specific Web site, Google will display the link to the site in the search box for the user to click on and go straight to the site. They will also include paid search ads in the navigational suggestions when an ad matches what the user is typing in the search box:
Implications for Marketers
This can create challenges for resellers who rely heavily on the brands they merchandise in search, as searchers will now be more easily guided toward the manufacturer’s Web site. Resellers may see some drop in traffic from these terms; however, Google is still providing suggestions to encourage additional query refinement, which ultimately leads to the standard SERP. In addition, our initial research suggests that Google is not displaying navigational searches for all possible branded queries. Google’s eventual inclusion of ads in Google Suggest will also provide resellers an opportunity for direct navigation if they’re willing to pay for the first position.
Bidding on Brand Terms:
Another implication of navigational suggestions has to do with brand term searches. For brand terms, brand owners may see an increase in natural search traffic from the navigational suggestions and a decrease in paid search traffic. Marketers should look to compare new and repeat visitors from paid and natural search brand terms to understand the potential impact. For brand terms, Performics has found that paid search ads attract a higher percentage of new visitors than natural search links. It’s possible that new visitors (who are likely looking for information or offers) will navigate past the search box navigational suggestion to the SERP, where they’re more likely to find the information they’re seeking. Repeat visitors may be more likely to use the suggestion link to go directly to the site.
This change presents a good opportunity for marketers to evaluate the user experience on the pages that receive the most traffic from brand (ex: “Nike”) and branded (ex: “Nike shoes”) terms to ensure they are providing a relevant user experience. Some companies have used natural search to educate and inform searchers, while leveraging paid search to push consumers through the purchase process. This strategy may need refinement if more searchers end up using natural search links as a result of the navigational results.
It’s still important to bid on your brand terms in paid search. Not all searchers will use the navigational results, opting instead to refine or see additional results. A strong offer or call to action via a paid search ad is a way to capture users who have already passed up the chance to navigate directly to your site.