Yes, Virginia, You Can Brand With Search

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships

Continuing the rant thread I started last week, another piece in the trades that caught my eye recently was fellow Search Insider Gord Hotchkiss’ musings -- How Much Would You Pay For This Unclicked Search Ad?

As only Gord can, this column takes a deep dive into the neurological abyss to determine if there’s value in exposure to search ads.

Gord intuits that when people scan search results pages, they file individual listings into their “working memory.” Basically, they sniff around until they find what they’re looking for, then click to get more info and completely wipe their minds of the listings they encountered prior to that point. From there, the experience at the marketer’s website worms its way into the more permanent long-term memory.

Gord concludes that “there’s little opportunity for unclicked messaging to pass beyond working memory and stick.” This is a very logical conclusion -- one that I would embrace if I didn’t have hard data that proved otherwise.

As mentioned in my post “Search is Not Just a Direct Response Vehicle!”, Microsoft recently sponsored a study for one of our clients that showed that mere exposure (via impression, no click) to a search listing dives a statistically significant lift in key branding metrics.

We have not yet released the study publicly but I can share the basic methodology…

comScore surveyed people who had searched our client’s brand and product terms across Live Search and the other major engines and asked them questions about the brand. Responses were segmented by those who had been exposed to our client’s search listing but didn’t click (test group) vs. those who had not been exposed (control). To be sure, the same sample set of keywords and engines was used for both the test and control.

The results showed a 10 point-plus lift in the test group over control in each of 6 areas:

-Unaided Brand Awareness
-Ad Recall
-Brand Favorability
-Positive Attitudes (towards the brand)
-Purchase Intent
-Likelihood of Recommendation

While this demonstrates that there is indeed value in those unclicked search ads, the real question Gord poses remains unanswered -- how much would you pay for those ads? Fortunately, we don’t have to answer that question today as marketers can get those non-clicks for free due to cost-per-click pricing.

As Gord points out, though, some people (including comScore’s founder and Chairman) are making the case to move paid search to a CPM model. If and when that happens, we’ll have to tackle the same issue traditional media has been facing for years -- how do you put a price on good branding?


Unknown said...


This keeps more and more interesting. We just wrapped up a study with Google and one of the data slices seems to support your findings as well. But I think this brand interaction has a lot of moving pieces that bear further exploration. I think two pieces are a) brand metrics and methodology used and how indicative they are of increased brand value in the real world (we used similar metrics to you) and b) is there an existing brand construct in long term memory to stimulate. I think we're picking away at a fascinating question, and that's one thing I think we all agree on. Stay tuned!

Aaron Goldman said...

Thanks for the response Gord. Check back in tomorrow as I tackle your follow-up piece -- Branding, the Mind, and Search.

djpaisley said...

i always forget who did the eyewire study... where they show where people click by tracking eye movement... was that iprospect or enquiro? i always forget and am not going digging to see.. anyways.. that spurred some in-house research that showed relative placements on the left v.s relative placements on the left and what type on residual impact that had on a seacher in terms of brand awareness... also we did the same thing for a certain set of terms with actual customers and showed a 30% increase in closure rate, then i figured out i couldn't really postulate their decision to by so rthe closure assumptions had to go out the window.. but the residual memory and enhanced branding increased click through on the organic results.

so jan of 2005.. i grabbed "free ppc campaign" feel free to read the first link..

the ONLY reason we use PPC on customer campaigns IS for branding.. or if they want to buy competitor's keywords.. if you do further reszearch studies..

try and differentiate the difference between organic position 3 and 5 with the ad in position 2, (position 3 if you have the over top PPC)

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