What is your natural search ranking ? It matters more than you might think.

Your natural search ranking may be poised to replace advertising awareness and consideration tracking as a key indicator of how a communications strategy has truly influenced the minds of the target audience and therefore the most reliable indicator (alongside sales of course) of the success of a campaign. 

 Google search is striving to become more intelligent.  We have grown accustomed these days to the speed of search (many people won’t remember or have experienced the necessity of going to a library in order to look things up). 

 Google of course never rests.  We know that now.  Developments that you may have noticed recently include localisation and the knowledge graph. 

 Amit Singhal, head of search at Google, explained in this interview that Google search developments are trying to represent the instinctive way in which the human brain works.  He acknowledged that computers can’t exactly mimic the human brain but that the intention was that “the system will feel closer to our human understanding of the world.”

Now prominence in search rankings is obviously key to online advertisers.  How many times have you bothered to go to the second page of search?  The higher your natural or organic search position is the less you need to invest in paid for search of course. Massive as paid for search is in the UK, according to a Group M study, in fact more than 90% of all traffic sent to websites by Google (who have  nearly 90% of all search in the UK) is Search Engine Optimisation Traffic. 

So the first point to make is that any advertiser who needs online web traffic must have an integrated SEO plan to go along with their paid for search activity. 

But Google’s continuing evolution of search results gives us an additional and exciting challenge.

Primarily all brands compete not only for a share of our disposable income, they compete for a share of our brains.  Brand guru Byron Sharp put it like this  “Brands compete for custom primarily in terms of mental and physical availability.”

We usually measure mental availability with awareness and consideration tracking of some kind.  This serves the advertising industry well, and Warc and the IPA  are chock full of case studies that prove that if awareness goes up so eventually will sales.  The research industry is a restless one too.  Recently some have been questioning the techniques used in awareness tracking and making claims for the superiority of other measures for instance neuroscience with MRI scans to observe the brain, facial expression analysis, or indeed # trends and Facebook likes.

There is one more strikingly simple way to understand mental availability.  How well does the brand do in terms of SEO?  If search is continually improving to become more instinctive and brain like, then a good natural search ranking is a great proxy for mental availability and could be the most key kpi for communications even for brands that don’t sell or interact online. 

As search becomes more and more intelligent there is every reason to place SEO at the heart of every communication strategy.  The algorithm that rules the web, might well rule the world.

  • Andrew Walsh

    I guess it depends on the role of search to your category. Certainly your search ranking is a good proxy measure of your overall salience in some categories but not convinced it is in all categories.

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