Nothing Else Can Save You: Share of Search

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April 1, 2022

To misquote, a misquoted Mark Twain: “The reports of the death of organic search are greatly exaggerated.”

Google data shows that 60% of UK adults are using the internet to search for information. And for many it is the starting point for the majority of daily online transactions. So to say it is important for brands is an understatement.

A few years after Mark Twain, Les Binet, Head of Effectiveness at adam&eveDDB, presented an analysis on the potential for share of organic searches to predict market share. Good old Les found that:

  1. Share of search (SoS)  - across all three categories tested - was indeed a reliable proxy for share of market;
  2. SoS can act as an early warning system because it precedes the data it proxies;
  3. All forms of advertising impact share of search;
  4. Organic search was a good tracker of brand saliency and consideration.

Les then proclaimed that SoS could act as a new metric to determine brand strength.

So has it? Well, not quite yet. But that’s about to change…

We’re now in the “new normal” post-pandemic and there is a heady blend of high street and online. This has then led to a change in the competitive set for many retail categories. And newer (online-born) businesses that have enjoyed growth during lockdown are now dabbling in brand marketing to take that growth further. Meanwhile, the old guard are ramping up the online side of things - because that’s where the consumer is.

And there are more tools to play with now. SoS has always been based on Google Trends’ monthly data, but newer, shinier tech allows brands to compete against each other, and to analyse and benchmark that detail over time. We might be able to help out there…

With these new tools, brands can effectively find out just how popular they are online. Until now, there’s been a lot of presumptions about not only how popular you are but also who you are up against.

Share of search data can actually reveal how brands tend to have a different competitive set for almost every product they sell. H&M may own search for women’s sports leggings, for example, but for cotton t-shirts it’s behind Uniqlo.

Brands also need to remember there is a fundamental difference between share of brand search and share of product search.

Some people are searching because they are interested in a brand. Others are looking for a particular type of product. Like the perfect white t-shirt. Google will show that product based on distribution, technical SEO and how good its algorithms think a business is.

Gaining a good share of either type of search requires different tactics and investments, which is why a holistic approach is not going to work in this case. A siloed approach on the other hand? Now we’re talking!

So what should brands do next when it comes to SoS? Get out there and test it! See if you’d do anything differently as a result.

And like all good consumer insight, the odds are it’ll lead the way to new growth strategies and successes.

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