Stop a search marketer on the street, whether a grizzled veteran or relative newcomer, and ask him/her to list the top goals of ranking in the search results; they will talk to you about traffic, revenue and conversions. Likewise, in reflecting what’s top of mind for search marketers, a perusal of industry websites shows a majority of articles are focused on the same.
Far less covered — whether research, POVs or even “thinking-out-loud” blog posts — is content focused on other benefits of appearing in the search results, such as brand development.
For decades, marketers have invested in getting their brand in front of eyeballs using traditional media channels such as TV, billboards and radio. Yet today, in the digital age, few brands consider the brand development benefits of appearing in the search results. Even though getting their brand in front of the search listings could mean millions and even tens of millions of eyeballs, brands are only laser-focused on driving traffic and conversions.
Research On Brand Benefits In Search
I am going to explore the question of whether there are, in fact, brand benefits above and beyond traffic and conversions to appearing in the SERPs. My hope is to leave the search marketer with food for thought around the ancillary benefits of appearing in search that they may not have previously considered when engaged in budget and strategy considerations.
To explore the issue, we’ll take a look at research on the subject from a number of different sources.
Searchers Recall Brands In SERPS; Higher Recall For Clicked Vs. Non-Clicked
To start, we must determine if the searcher even recalls the brands they encounter in the SERPs. A Microsoft study that asked searchers to recall search listings hours after viewing them showed that searchers did, in fact, recall the brands they viewed. There was also a correlation between (1) the higher ranking in search listings for brands showing a higher likelihood of recall and (2) clicked listings being far more likely to be recalled than non-clicked.
*Note: The Microsoft study dates back several years, prior to the addition of many of the visual elements of the SERPs such as authorship, etc. Research shows that CTR can be significantly higher with visual SERP elements, and results that incorporate these elements are, therefore, also more likely to increase brand recall.
16% Lift For Brand Recall When Appearing In Search Results
Next, we look at a Google and Enquiro study that measured lift when a target brand appears in search results. The research found that there was a 16% lift in brand recall when a target brand appeared in the search results vs. control brands that did not.
When it came to purchase intent, they found purchase intent increased by 8% when the brand appears in the search listings vs. control brands.
Conductor Study: Up To 30% Brand Lift For Brands Appearing In Search Results
A study we recently published at Conductor shows a similar finding, with brands appearing above the fold in the natural search listings experiencing a 10% lift in brand awareness, quality and purchase consideration. The findings showed, when it comes to reaping brand development benefits, placement above vs. below the fold is particularly crucial. And, the study found the greatest brand benefit was from those brands appearing both above the fold and in universal results (images, video, etc.).
When it came to retailers, the study found a 20% lift in purchase intent for a target retailer when compared to control retailers for above the fold results. For below the fold retailer results, there was a 10% lift.
Search Impacts Brand Perception: Control Your Brand Messaging In The SERPs
Analysis of the research around recall and impact to the brand suggests there is a definite brand impact to appearing in the search results, both in perception of brand and intent to purchase. Although marketers are not likely to drastically shift their focus from the primary goals of driving traffic and conversions from organic search, understanding the brand benefits in appearing in the search results may impact strategic approaches to marketing channels and could be used as an ancillary benefit cited when appealing to management for budget.
And, with the knowledge that exposure to a brand impacts perception of the brand in the mind of the searcher, paying close attention to how the brand is presenting itself in search snippets and leveraging visuals such as Google+ authorship and digital assets in universal search becomes increasingly important.
A version of this article originally appeared in Search Engine Land on May 2, 2013.