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Placement Matters: Where Are You on the Search Results Page?

by Nathan Safran  |  
November 26, 2012

A marketer’s strategic goals have always been dictated by the channel in which the marketer operates. Traditional channels, such as television and print, are used primarily for brand development and consumer influence, while search marketing has been strictly relegated to capturing clicks and driving web traffic.

Those conventions speak to the established roles each channel has historically played. Natural search is expected to solely deliver conversions, while search traffic and other channels are expected to deliver on branding development goals. Similarly, industry research has been equally polarized, producing numerous studies measuring the brand impact of television and print exposure, or taking a search-specific route where research affirms the website traffic benefits of appearing in the search results.

What’s been overlooked, however, is measuring how the appearance of a brand in the search results impacts brand perception in the mind of the consumer. With more than 26 billion monthly searches taking place in the US alone, the opportunity for brand exposure is substantial and deserving of a closer look.

Appearing in Search Results Produces Brand Lift

The new research report The Branding Value of Search’s Page One suggests that appearing in the search results has a substantial impact on brand awareness, perception of brand quality, and purchase consideration—up to 30% higher than if a brand did not appear in the search results. The research showed respondents' search pages for the term "buy refrigerator" with a targeted refrigerator brand in various positions on the search results page. The respondents then were asked to rate manufacturer brands and retailer brands, making impact of brand appearance in search measurable for those manufacturers and retailers.

The research showed the most significant lift occurred when the brand appeared in the top half of the search results and in universal search results (images, video, shopping, etc.). That lift is likely due to the double exposure of the brand, appearing both textually in the search results and visually in the universal results. Brand lift occurred no matter where in the search results the brand appeared, but the brand lift was higher when appearing in the top half of the search page than the bottom.

A New Branding Shift

So, what can we make of these findings? Well, the implications of this shift for marketers are three-fold.

Budget and resource implications are likely to ripple across all marketing budgeting and resource allocations. Strategic marketing decisions may be impacted by the awareness that search can also be leveraged as a branding tool.

Marketers need to take advantage of the readily measurable nature of online marketing and continuously gauge their brand visibility in the search results---both in quantity and quality.

Search marketers must gather metrics about their brand visibility and take the necessary steps to ensure control of their brands in the search results. Focused care must be taken to regulate messaging, optimizing the textual snippets that appear in the search results to best reflect their brand.

Marketers have long compartmentalized the way they use their marketing channels. Now, new research turns old marketing formats on their head and suggests significant brand development opportunities exist in the search results for marketers savvy and creative enough to take advantage of them.

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Nathan Safran is director of research at Conductor.

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  • by Moriarty Tue Nov 27, 2012 via blog

    "Search marketers must gather metrics about their brand visibility and take the necessary steps to ensure control of their brands in the search results."

    well that is fine if all you want is Brand Management. Only ...

    ... what if the thing you really need is ... more clients?

    Will page 1 on Google for your expensive brand bring you better leads? Is there any way to determine a result for all that hard cash you spent? I find too many marketing professionals focus on the things that please businesses when it comes to advertising - and don't do the really tricky things like finding them new and - more importantly - **better clients**.

    Branding as such and sitting at the top of Google will solve none of this. It is a pretty bauble to hang on your tree, only businesses aren't in business to fund expensive advertising campaigns that yield results that are only

    ... decorative?

    Results first, and that means how to get the best clients, the best leads. That means finding out who they are first. It need not be as expensive as maintaining some notional brand image. It could mean that the people who need to see your brand ... get to see it, even if it isn't on page 1 of Google.


  • by Derek M Tue Nov 27, 2012 via blog

    Hold on, this IS still MarketingProfs site, right? It's 2012, is this really still news to people? Of course SERP matters...

    And @ Moriarty- I believe they were trying to insinuate that if your brand ranks higher on SE's that it makes searchers feel "all warm and fuzzy inside" instilling some initial trust in your brand helping to drive that first click over to your domain. Therefore providing Johnny Business-Owner more of an opportunity to bring in these "better clients" you reference. Those are my thoughts at least..

  • by Nathan Safran Tue Nov 27, 2012 via blog


    You make a good point, and certainly creating value for clients is crucial. The point we strove to make with the research is to demonstrate the branding value that is available to Marketers in appearing in the SERPs. Since it is a topic that Marketers likely don't think about and probably is not an input into an SEO business case, we wanted to design research that would demonstrate the value from a branding perspective.

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