In June 2014, Google and Ipsos published a study that had the following headline – “Search advertising doesn’t just drive conversions, it also lifts top-of-mind awareness”. This is a rather wild assertion that should be taken with a grain of salt. Here’s why.
It’s not about #1
As per the experimental design the test brand was featured in the top search ad position, while the control group did not feature an ad from the brand at all. My biggest contention is that the “top search ad” is not representative of the search results experience. One may just as well conclude (though it would be equally shaky) that the reason the survey respondents remembered the brand is because of the winner-take-all effect, as in nobody remembers who came in second.
Like flaying a fly
The research comprised 61 studies across 12 verticals with 800 U.S. consumers. Let’s say 200 consumers were parked in the control group. That leaves 600 consumers spread across 61 studies across 12 verticals. I could not see the details on the test cells in the report but I cannot see this study as being statistically representative of the US market (let alone the globe). I’d be glad to be proved wrong but I have strong reservations about the assertion in the report.
In my opinion, Google wants the reader to take away that while revenue attribution is easiest for click-throughs on ads, impressions have advertising merit as well. Even in this respectthe study is directional but is not conclusive.
Personally, I believe that search marketing should be carefully evaluated. One alternative path for digital marketers is to engage the consumer on social channels by providing a truly immersive experience. I posted on this earlier with an example of how Joyus is doing this right. Below’s a case study on how to measure the revenue impact of new media engagement.