Many factors come into play when trying to gain a user’s attention on search engine results pages in order to get that all-important click-through.
In search engine optimisation, we tend to focus on ranking – with the best positions 1-10, to determine whether your brand will attract search traffic. However, a brand new study, Secret Life of Search’ by Red C has discovered that brand familiarity may play a far greater role in search click-through rate than marketers had thought.
Based on eye tracking over 400 search journeys across more than 40 search terms, they studied how searchers interact with the Google search, Google Images, Google Shopping, and Google Maps, when carrying out shopping-related searches.
When asked to perform a research task such as shopping for a party dress or searching for a cruise holiday, 82% of participants in the study selected a brand that they were already familiar with. This is regardless of where it ranked on the search engine.
The study’s findings lend a new weight to the importance of brand recognition and trust on search results page.
The power of brand familiarity
The study used 3 demographic groups “pre-family” participants, who were younger and had yet to start a family; “family” participants, who had children living at home; and “post-family” participants, who were older and had children aged 18 and over who had left home.
They found that 82% of study participants who were asked to carry out a shopping-related research task on Google chose a brand that they were already familiar with for their “purchase”. Only 16% of participants chose an unfamiliar brand. These percentages did vary amongst the three demographic groups the younger pre-family participants were the most likely to choose a familiar brand in their search, with 91% making their first click on a known, trusted brand. The paper notes that noted that a brand’s familiarity was far more persuasive than how highly it ranked on the search engine page – indeed participants willing to scroll down to position 8 or 9 just to find a familiar brand. The study also found that searchers who click on a familiar brand in search results tend to do so quickly – taking an average of 10.53 seconds to click on a known brand on desktop, and 9.26 seconds on mobile.
The researchers posed follow-up questions to participants to find out what their motivation was for clicking on these brands. Nearly half of participants (47%) said that it was because they were a past or present customer of that brand, while a fifth (20%) said that they trusted the brand.
So now let’s look at how can to adapt your marketing strategy to take into account these findings.
How can retailers win more search traffic?
This study has shown that the battle for search clicks is often won before the consumer gets to the search engine. However, there is still that 16% that clicked on a brand they didn’t recognise.
When participants were asked why they chose the unfamiliar brand that they’d clicked on, 42% said that they were persuaded by the content of the Google result, while 33% were won over by a PPC ad. The study’s findings reinforce the importance of visual content in searches where shoppers are looking for inspiration – something that visual social networks like Pinterest have built an entire business model around. Many participants reported using the Shopping tab or Google Images to inspire them before continuing their journey on the main SERP, and some habitually used these tabs in order to find new brands to buy from.
Creating compelling copy is also important in winning over customers who aren’t wedded to a particular brand. Organic search presence and PPC ads between them capture 75% of customers who are open to trying a new brand, and these customers are also taking more time to carefully browse the search engine – giving you the opportunity to grab their attention. Make your headlines compelling and distinctive and use memorable, stand-out words to interrupt scrolling – they will hunt for words and phrases that resonate with their search objective.
And finally, some key takeaways from the researchers…
“It’s clear that raising awareness and trust in your brand is an essential part of getting clicks on the search engine… You need an integrated approach to be in the frame. So while effective PPC and SEO strategies are key in ensuring your brand is high in the results when a consumer is searching, being in the consideration set in the first place requires marketing away from the SERP.”