Search rankings can have a significant effect on brand awareness, as well as a consumer’s perception of a brand and subsequent purchase consideration, according to [registration page] a July 2012 study by Conductor. Choosing a refrigerator manufacturer as a test case (due to the likelihood of consumers not holding strong opinions about such a brand), and conducting the study in a controlled environment, the report found the target brand seeing a 30% lift in awareness among respondents when appearing both above the fold and in universal search results (digital assets). When appearing in paid search (PPC) together with natural search results above the fold, the brand awareness lift was 20% above the baseline results, and 10% when only in natural search above the fold.
This appears to bolster the argument for running search ads in conjunction with SEO efforts: a March 2012 study from Google found that half of the search ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental, meaning that visits to the advertiser’s site from the ad clicks are not replaced by organic clicks when the search ads are paused.
Meanwhile, data from Conductor’s “The Branding Value of Search’s Page 1” indicates that when the refrigerator brand appeared below the fold in search results, it experienced a brand awareness score 20% below the baseline (no appearance in search results).
Fold Position Affects Perceived Quality
When asked to rank 10 brands of refrigerators that they encountered in results for a “buy refrigerator” search, on a perceived quality on a scale of 1 to 10, brands that appeared above the fold and in universal search results enjoyed a 20% lift over baseline. Those that appeared above the fold and with PPC, and those that appeared simply above the fold, each experienced a 10% lift.
Intent To Purchase Also Affected
The results for lift in intent to purchase were identical to lift in perceived quality, at 20% for brands above the fold and within universal search results; 10% for brands above the fold and with PPC; 10% for brands above the fold within search results; and no change for brands below the fold.
About The Data: Conductor polled 1,250 participants in the areas of brand association, brand quality, purchase consideration, and retail preference.
In a controlled lab environment, respondents were directed to an internal search page where they were asked to enter the keyword “buy refrigerator.” After clicking the “Search” button, users were shown a customized search results page hosted on a Conductor-owned domain. Modeled after the Google search results page for “buy refrigerator,” the only modification made was to insert the target brand in the results.
Respondents were divided into five groups, 250 per group, that saw a customized search results page, with the brand positioned based on categorization: no brand in the search results (control group); brand above the fold; brand below the fold; brand above the fold and in Universal Results; and brand above the fold and in PPC.
After viewing the customized results, respondents were asked a series of questions that tested for: refrigerator brand awareness; refrigerator perception of quality; refrigerator purchase consideration; and retail intent to purchase (note: this result not contained above).