One of the great benefits of search engine marketing is that it's more measurable than most other forms of advertising and marketing. Search marketers are able to see exactly how many conversions (online leads or sales) they've driven, along with revenue generated and ROI. It's every marketer's dream!

But are we missing half the picture by focusing on conversions? Just because we can easily measure conversions, does that cause us to focus solely on this single metric and ignore other, harder-to-track benefits of search engine marketing?

I'm talking about branding. You may be surprised to hear how much search engines impact brand awareness and the propensity to purchase.

Just seeing a paid search listing, for example, made searchers 38% more likely to have a perception of "exceptional quality" for the brands featured - they didn't even have to click to visit the advertised sites for this increase in brand equity to occur.

High search engine rankings translate into perceptions of leadership and credibility across various industries studied. For auto insurance purchasers, 79% said search introduced them to brands they were previously unaware of (2). For wireless service customers, 61% said they expect brand leaders to consistently be in the top results (3). And for travel web researchers, 56% said they looked at a site they didn't intend to because it was one of the first few results listed (4).

People using search engines are more likely to consider multiple brands (77% did so) than Internet users that don't use search engines (70%) or non-Internet users (46%). On average, searchers considered 2.5 brands before making a purchase (5).

The positive impact that search has on nearly every step in the buying cycle is increasingly being recognized and valued by marketers. Companies are now actually more likely to use search marketing for increasing brand awareness (61%) than for selling directly online (58%) or generating leads (20%) (6).

There's no doubt that conversions are critical, and fortunately it's easy for search marketers to measure the conversions they've generated. But it's important to remember that search impacts brand-building throughout the buying cycle, and is likely to have an even more positive affect on a company's brand -- and business as a whole -- than we'll ever be able to measure.


Search Brand Studies, June 06

Yahoo Search Marketing Reach & Engagement, Nov. 05

The Role of Search in the Wireless Market, Aug. 05

The Role of Search in the Travel Research Cycle, Nov. 05

Yahoo's "Long & Winding Road"research, Dec. 06

SEMPO's annual survey of SEM agencies and advertisers, Jan. 08

Special thanks to Ron Belanger and John Cattarulla of Yahoo, whose presentation at the June meeting of the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association brought these statistics to our attention.

August 5, 2008

Stacy Williams, search engine marketing specialist, is founder and President of Prominent Placement, Inc. With an extensive background in Internet marketing, Stacy offers her clients cutting edge solutions that are always rooted in sound marketing strategy. A member of the Technology Alliance of Georgia and the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association, Stacy is a frequent lecturer on search engine optimization and Internet marketing topics.


Great article! When I build reports for my clients, I put heavy emphasis on the amount of impressions for a PPC campaign. Like you said, conversions are very important, but businesses really want to see how many people saw the ads, increasing their brand awareness.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. The information you have got here is so insightful and informative. I am sure more people would love to read this.

Great article, Stacy! I had some thoughts about your arguments that ended up turning into a blog post. I think that we could spend all day talking about whether or not what you're describing is "branding" or "awareness", and the differences between the two.

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