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What Do Paid Search Ads Have to Do With Branding?

What if search advertising were able to impact not just clicks and conversions, but top-of-mind brand awareness? This was the question Google set out to answer in a just-released study with Ipsos MediaCT. In it, they found that search ads have a positive impact on top-of-mind awareness, but also on unaided brand awareness – even when the searcher doesn't click the ad. Search ads may be known as a direct response tool, but Google's research points to real value for branding, as well.

The study, which consisted of 61 simulated search experiments involving 800 U.S. consumers, identified an 80% lift in top-of-mind brand awareness.

In each of the studies, consumers were asked to perform searches for category-specific searches spanning 12 verticals. They then saw either a control page or a simulated SERP with the test brand featured in the top search ad position.

adwords brand awareness

When asked to name which brand came to mind first for a keyword in a specific category, 8.2% of the control group named the test brand, compared to 14.8% of the test group. That 6.6 percentage point difference translates to an 80% lift in brand awareness.

Some verticals saw even more lift; in auto and B2B, the difference was 9 percentage points. CPG and retail were close behind with 8 and 6 percentage points in brand recall lift when they'd seen a search ad.

brand awareness lift

While this study confirms what a lot of us have been saying all along, it flies in the face of eBay's recent study, in which they claimed that search advertising has "no measurable benefit." Ironically, eBay has billions of ad impressions in the Google SERPs over the last decade or so to thank, in part, for the recognizable brand they are today.

In explaining their findings, Google points out that search ads reach people who are already in a receptive state of mind. They're actively searching for products and services. If your brand is the one they see when they search – because let's be real, they're going to see someone's brand and it might as well be yours – they're more likely to remember you.

Smart marketers know that paid search is an excellent method of getting in front of people who know they want something, but haven't yet decided exactly where to get it, or from which company they'll purchase.

When they make that decision, do you want to be there…or not?


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