As an astute business person, you already know that paid search advertising – like Google Adwords, is about driving more traffic to your website and hopefully converting visitors into qualified leads or a sale. Or is it?
What if it had another unsuspected, yet powerful contribution to make to your digital marketing strategy?
A recent meta-study run by Google and Ipsos MediaCT in 2013 has indeed revealed that it is exactly the case. Not only does search engine marketing have an impact on your revenue through click-throughs and giving your business more exposure, but that Adwords advertising also works on a more subtle level and increases the awareness of your brand. This, in the long term, is priceless.
Surprisingly, the results of that study showed that search advertising made a positive impact on brand awareness even if the consumer didn’t click on the ad – even better, you can get the same benefits without paying a cent! Now, that is very good news for small and medium businesses with limited marketing budgets.
What was the study about?
Google and Ipsos ran 61 studies across 12 categories: apparels and durables, cars, business to business, classified and local, consumer packaged goods (CPG), healthcare, education, financial services, media and entertainment, retail, technology and travel.
For each of those studies, 800 consumers were selected based on the advertisers’ specific criteria, and took part in a simulated online search scenario where they were asked to search for specific category keywords.
They were split into two groups, a control group whose members were shown the organic results of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), which were not adulterated in any way and had no ads from the brands being tested; and a Test group which was shown a test results page featuring the advertisers’ brands in prominent positions.
The goal of this study was to measure whether search advertising had any effect on so called “top-of-mind brand awareness”, i.e. whether a customer would name the test brand first without being prompted when asked a question about the relevant category; and unaided brand awareness, i.e. knowledge of a brand without any prompting whatsoever.
After their searches, the respondents were asked which brand came to mind first when they were thinking about whichever category they had done a search on to test top-of-mind brand awareness recall.
While an average 14.8% of the members of the Test group named the brands tested, only 8.2% of the control group, the group which saw normal organic results without the brand in question, did. This revealed without a doubt that the ads had lifted top-of-mind brand awareness by a staggering 6.6 percentage points, which is an 80% increase, a result that most brand managers would dance about!
Furthermore, a breakdown of the results showed that the boost to brand awareness varied depending on the keyword category and that it was even higher in some cases. In consumer packaged goods for example, the top-of-mind brand awareness rose from 11.1% for the control group to an impressive 19.1% for the test group, i.e. search advertising had effected a lift of 9 percentage points. Similar results were observed in other categories, such as automotive and business to business where the average top-of-mind brand awareness boost was as high as 9 percentage points, and retail with an increase of 6 percentage points.
Even more interestingly, it also appeared that search advertising had also lifted unaided brand awareness.
When asked to name up to four other brands relevant to the targeted keyword categories, the advertisers’ brands were named by 26.7% of the respondents in the test group versus 17.5% in the control group, an average increase of 9.2 percentage points.
How does it work?
It is well known that psychology plays a big role in how we decide – or are persuaded – to purchase goods and services, and marketing has developed very sophisticated techniques to entice us to buy.
When it comes to the results above, the success of search advertising through adwords is not so surprising: when people are in research mode and using specific keywords relating to your products or services, they are in a highly receptive frame of mind. They are maybe still undecided at that stage, but brands appearing in front of them at that moment will be more memorable to them, as you represent the solution to their needs at some point in the near future.
So rather than displaying your ad on a billboard somewhere and hoping that consumers will remember you later (the only billboard campaign I can EVER remember is Tui), you are in a position to put yourself forward when it matters, while they are shopping and researching products or, in other words; at the very moment when they are interested in companies like you and prepared to part with their cash.
Building your brand with search (online) advertising
Over the last decade, search advertising has proved itself to be as powerful as traditional offline advertising, in that it can impact your audience’s perception of your brand and products as efficiently. However, unlike offline marketing which can be a bit of a stab in the dark (actually, it nearly always is), search ads like adwords provide immediate, measurable feedback as to the success of a campaign thanks to click-throughs, and, as the Google-Ipsos study shows, undoubtedly improve brand awareness.
No more waiting for months until the results of a campaign filter back up to the marketing department, search ads’ data is always up to date! Furthermore, keyword strategies can be modified instantly in response to those numbers, offering a flexibility that offline advertising can’t compete with, and they are, overall, far less expensive than air time or ads in the press – even free in some cases, as the study revealed that simply seeing a brand’s name on a screen is enough to increase unaided brand awareness, without having to pay for a click- through.
Cost-effective, responsive, efficient – what is there not to like about search advertising?!
If you have never run adwords or display advertising campaigns before, it can be hard to know where to start. Google offers a range of guides and tools to get you started but, if we are honest, while setting up a campaign can be done ‘relatively’ quickly, running a successful campaign is another kettle of fish and it may be worth outsourcing it to an adwords specialist.
To make the most of adwords advertising, start by doing keyword research for your business using an online keyword planner tool. Don’t rely on what you think your customers look for, as it usually incorrect!
Google Keyword Planner will suggest related keywords and ad groups, which can be a good starting point to set up a campaign and capture your audience, as well as costs and projected budgets, to which you can set a limit. There have been horror stories about businesses failing to do so and left with gigantic bills, so DO set a maximum budget or you could have a very bad surprise at the end of the month.
It is important, at this point, to think of your keywords as opportunities to increase awareness of your brand as much as tools to bring about conversions. In addition to your brand search terms, buy category keywords which will be most relevant to a search audience at that time when customers are still undecided but ready to make a decision and purchase.
You can choose from several formats for your ad. The top ad slot and image search format will help your brand stand out from your competitors.
The results of the Google-Ipsos study could well revolutionise how businesses think of and manage search advertising campaigns, as they clearly have a direct, measurable impact on brand awareness.
Traditionally, brand marketing has rather been the poor relative, getting the budget scraps of whatever hadn’t been allocated to other channels. Thanks to this study, it may well start getting the lion share, as Adwords marketing have proved that they can influence the sales funnel in more than one way. So join the party and make adwords advertising an intrinsic part of your digital marketing plan.