When it comes to predicting the sales performance of a brand, general perception suggests the number of queries a search engine collects from users provides a glimpse of it.
Google even makes such information freely available to marketers through a valuable application called Google Trends that lets anyone see the frequency of search queries on popular brand names.
But a new study indicated it’s not always so.
Google, Brigham Young University (BYU), and Drexel University (DU) collaborated in a study that revealed there’s more to consider when examining the large number of queries on brand names.
To examine the relationship between search engine queries and brand attitudes, five researchers studied more than 1,500 Google users who decided to have their Internet searches on vehicles and smartphones tracked for a period of eight weeks. Their responses were then linked to a traditional survey on brand attitude.
The researchers were Jeffrey P. Dotson, BYU associate professor of marketing and global supply chain; Elea McDonnell Feit, DU assistant professor of marketing; and Ruixue Rachel Fan, Jeffrey D. Oldham and Yi-Hsin Yeh, all from Google.
“Using a panel of users who gave us specific permission to track their brand searches gave us a unique perspective on how brand attitudes relate directly to what individual users search for,” Feit said in a statement.
She added that it was indeed a considerable work for them, “but the end result is some findings that we think are vitally important to marketers.”
Users shopping actively in a category were seen to search more likely for any brand. But as users transition from awareness of a particular brand to planning a brand purchase, they were found to have an increased likelihood to search for that specific brand.
Greatest gains were noted as customers shift from recognition to familiarity, then familiarity to consideration.
The researchers also discovered that users possessing and using a particular smartphone or car are even more likely to search for that specific brand they’re using, although they are not shopping actively.
Such finding showed that a substantial volume of brand searches in such categories isn’t associated to shopping per se, which marketers must remember if they see a swift spike on their brand’s search traffic.
In the category of smartphones specifically, study evaluations implied that all five-brand attitudes, namely recall, recognition, familiarity, purchase intent, and purchase recognitions, were linked positively with brand search.
It confirmed the usual notion that customers having positive attitudes on a particular brand are more probably to search for that same brand.
Same goes with the automotive category, which holds a likelihood of five times for customers with five-brand attitudes to search for a brand.
The researchers also established that actively shopping customers are more probably to search for any brand in a category.
“Customers who indicated that they were in-the-market during the observation period were significantly more likely to search for any brand,” Dotson said. “Similarly, customers who indicated that they ‘always pay attention to the category so that they know when to buy’ are more likely to search for all brands in the category.”
He said that the outcome suggested that a considerable portion of the queries on brand search submitted to Google is related to users shopping for the product.
They also found that a very strong predictor of brand search is the ownership of a vehicle or smartphone brand, and that a big increase in brand search for owners could be partly because of owners looking for information on how to use the product.
They added that marketers engaged in interpreting the total volume of brand search should assume that there will be more searches for brands with more owners, regardless of the attitudes of customers on the brand.
Dotson admitted there’s still much work to do to exactly discern how sales people should interpret the volume of brand search queries in engines like Google for particular brands in particular categories. “But this research confirms that marketers should start using brand search volume data to monitor their brand’s health,” she said.
The study, Brand Attitudes and Search Engine Queries, will come out in the Journal of Interactive Marketing.
(Photo Credit: Drexel University)