SEO Branding: Appearance In Search Results Impacts Brand Perception

Stop a search marketer on the street, whether a grizzled veteran or relative newcomer, and ask him/her to list the top goals of ranking in the search results; they will talk to you about traffic, revenue and conversions. Likewise, in reflecting what is top of mind for search marketers, a perusal of industry websites shows a majority of articles focused on the same.

Far less covered — whether research, POVs or even “thinking-out-loud” blog posts — is content focused on other benefits of appearing in the search results, such as brand development.

For decades, marketers have invested in getting their brand in front of eyeballs in traditional media channels such as TV, billboards and radio. Yet today, in the digital age, few brands think about the brand development benefits of appearing in the search results. Even though getting their brand in front of the search listings could mean millions and even tens of millions of eyeballs, brands are only laser-focused on driving traffic and conversions.

Research On Brand Benefits In Search

I am going to explore the question of whether there are, in fact, brand benefits above and beyond traffic and conversions to appearing in the SERPs. My hope is to leave the search marketer with food for thought around the ancillary benefits of appearing in search that they may not have previously considered when engaged in budget and strategy considerations.

To explore the issue, we’ll take a look at research on the subject from a number of different sources.

Searchers Recall Brands In SERPS; Higher Recall For Clicked Vs. Non-Clicked

To start, we must determine if the searcher even recalls the brands they encounter in the SERPs. A Microsoft study that asked searchers to recall search listings hours after viewing them showed that searchers did, in fact, recall the brands they viewed. There was also a correlation between (1) the higher ranking in search listings for brands showing a higher likelihood of recall and (2) clicked listings being far more likely to be recalled than non-clicked.


*Note: The Microsoft study dates back several years, prior to the addition of many of the visual elements of the SERPs such as authorship, etc. Research shows that CTR can be significantly higher with visual SERP elements, and results that incorporate these elements are, therefore, also more likely to increase brand recall.

16% Lift For Brand Recall When Appearing In Search Results

Next, we look at a Google and Enquiro study that measured lift when a target brand appears in search results. The research found that there was a 16% lift in brand recall when a target brand appeared in the search results vs. control brands that did not.


When it came to purchase intent, they found purchase intent increased by 8% when the brand appears in the search listings vs. control brands.

Conductor Study: Up To 30% Brand Lift For Brands Appearing In Search Results

A study we recently published at Conductor shows a similar finding, with brands appearing above the fold in the natural search listings experiencing a 10% lift in brand awareness, quality and purchase consideration. The findings showed, when it comes to reaping brand development benefits, placement above vs. below the fold is particularly crucial. And, the study found the greatest brand benefit was from those brands appearing both above the fold and in universal results (images, video, etc.).

conductor serp branding study

When it came to retailers, the study found a 20% lift in purchase intent for a target retailer when compared to control retailers for above the fold results. For below the fold retailer results, there was a 10% lift.

Search Impacts Brand Perception: Control Your Brand Messaging In The SERPs 

Analysis of the research around recall and impact to the brand suggests there is a definite brand impact to appearing in the search results, both in perception of brand and intent to purchase. Although marketers are not likely to drastically shift their focus from the primary goals of driving traffic and conversions from organic search, understanding the brand benefits in appearing in the search results may impact strategic approaches to marketing channels and could be used as an ancillary benefit cited when appealing to management for budget.

And, with the knowledge that exposure to a brand impacts perception of the brand in the mind of the searcher, paying close attention to how the brand is presenting itself in search snippets and leveraging visuals such as Google + authorship and digital assets in universal search becomes increasingly important.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | Search Marketing: Branding | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | Stats | Stats: Search Behavior


About The Author: is Director of Research at Conductor, Inc, an SEO technology company in New York, authoring insightful research on trends in the natural search industry.

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  • Jimmy Olivero

    I definitely agree with getting your Brand in front of as many eyes as possible! If your site ranks well and you combine those top rankings with paid search the leads will come in. One thing to remember if you are not an e-commerce site is to have a strong and knowledgeable sales team to close those warm leads. Good sales people are not a dime a dozen and they need to be ingrained in the company culture! Great post!

  • Derrick Wheeler

    THANK YOU. Finally. I thought I was the only one that felt this way. I can finally come out of the “don’t use search results for branding” closet. When people search for “Microsoft” I want them to see that we are a “Devices and Services” company, not that we have “computer software, enterprise email blah blah, hardware, buy from us – Microsoft” :) Awe feels so good to be understood.

  • Nathan Safran

    Ha. Glad to see you, er, make it out of the closet Derrick :-)

  • jemin

    I am totally agree with you Nathan. Google is now giving more priority to brand websites in organic result also. Even brand website has unnatural links then also they are on top. All rules are only for small business website… Google now become more partial for branding websites.

  • Adam@ADS Marketing

    Great article and it shows how important it is to ensure your website and brand is everywhere possible. Not just organic results, but PPC results and of course social media including Google+.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Having that brand recognition can definitely help with clicks from the SERPs. When someone remembers your name from a previous interaction, whatever it may have been, it gives you a little boost organically because there is that connection.

  • Neil Pursey

    It’s probably something we all new but it’s great to see data to back it up :)

  • Mathew Hammond

    Interesting post, thanks Nathan.

    A point of interest from me: I understand that the stats (for this particular comment) above were from 2007. But it is interesting to see that there are no brands (At least for me, using private browsing) that rank organically for the term “Fuel Efficient Cars”. I expected i’d see the Toyota and Nissan Hybrids on page 1.


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