Share of search - the new brand metric?

Thu, 21/01/2021 - 09:16

The internet has completely screwed up brands’ ability to measure share of voice - a critical benchmark used for decades to predict market share and to help companies fine-tune their advertising campaigns.

But a solution may be on the horizon.

Les Binet, group head of effectiveness at Adam & Eve/DDB and the industry’s leading voice on all matters research, believes he has found a reliable alternative that can help brands calibrate their marketing spend.

By measuring a brand’s share of organic search over time - i.e. the number of times people hit up Google to gather information on a company’s products or services - Binet has been able to correlate search activity with market share.

He’s identified that if share of search starts to fall, sales volumes will also dip in months to come. 

More fundamentally, his research shows that brands can counter dips by switching on ad campaigns which, in addition to delivering a short term boost in search activity, will also help build a more gradual long term increase in share of search. Which will, he posits, bolster sales revenue.

Writing in Marketing Week (paywall), Mark Ritson believes this “looks like becoming one of the most exciting and useful marketing metrics of the near future.”

What’s gone wrong with share of voice?

For years, brands used share of voice - which mapped out how much they and their competitors were spending on advertising - to gauge their relative levels of market share. With terrestrial broadcasters and print publishers it was fairly easy for researchers to identify total ad spend in each category. 

However, the rapid growth of digital spend, which now accounts for half of all advertising, makes it incredibly difficult to gather accurate data - largely due to the opacity of the likes of Google and Facebook. So a new metric was needed.

Why social’s no replacement

Binet initially looked at social media for a solution in the belief that by measuring how much people are talking about a brand he’d be able to predict a brand’s share of market.

He quickly realised that the aspirational nature of social conversations meant there was very little correlation between brands’ performance in the real world and how people talk about them on social media. Using an automotive industry example he pointed out that people post more about Porsche and Ferrari than they do about Ford. Yet the latter significantly outperforms the others in vehicle sales.

Eff it Works

Speaking at the IPA’s EffWorks conference in mid-October (video of talk here), Binet unpacked how he had tested his share of search theory across three industry verticals with very different sales cycles - automotive, energy and cell phone handsets. 

He identified the major brands in each sector and used data from Google to map out the volume of search queries that included a brand name for each of the companies.

At this point, it’s important to clarify that his Share of Search theory is based on organic search only and does not look at paid search.

He found that share of search correlated with market share in all categories and that it is a leading indicator of future market share - when share of search rises, so too does share of market. However, the lead time will vary from sector to sector - in the auto space, it took up to 12 months for share of search changes to reflect in market share movement.  

The research also identified that advertising has a double effect on share of search. In addition to the expected short term boost that comes from enhanced visibility when a campaign is running, repeated ad campaigns generate a smaller, longer-term effect that will accumulate over time, ultimately accounting for around 60% of all searches.

Easy peasy

So, how does a brand calculate its share of search? It really is as easy as going to Google Trends and entering your and your competitors’ brand names then tracking performance over time. It’s an incredibly simple and elegant solution to a brand conundrum. 

But if that sounds like a schlep, we can help you here at Rogerwilco. Last year we added a new module to our multi-award-winning WOLF tool. Originally designed to provide insights on online competitors and assist brands with topic selection for content marketing programmes, our new share of search WOLF module will create a baseline of branded organic search interest for you and three named competitors with monthly updates allowing organisations to plot changes.

This article was first published in Charlie’s Clicks n Tricks column on the MarkLives newsletter.


Image credit: Les Binet chart showing share of search vs share of market


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