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The True Impact of Branded Search in Marketing Attribution

Are people searching for something because they genuinely want it, or are they just responding to ads and information they see elsewhere?

Search plays a pivotal role in online marketing because of its added value. But a key question arises: are people searching for something because they genuinely want it, or are they just responding to ads and information they see elsewhere?

Put simply, the debate revolves around whether the search is creating the demand itself or if it's primarily capturing the interest sparked by other forms of advertising. We will explore the role of branded search in marketing to determine if it's a driving force or just a responsive channel.

A dashboard with three cars as a result of a branded search. In the search space there is a text: What is the true value of branded search?

The Impact of Branded Search

In recent years, attribution modelling has shifted towards holistic marketing mix modelling, meaning that marketers are considering the combined impact of various marketing activities rather than looking at each one in isolation. The focus on incrementality therefore becomes stronger as well.

The important question arises: how much credit should be given to branded search in the overall marketing success, considering the broader context of different marketing efforts?

This consideration is vital, especially when acknowledging that branded search:

  1. Often occurs close to the conversion point, correlating strongly with online sales.
  1. Is influenced by significant investments in upper-funnel media channels like TV, Online Video, and Radio, which aim to boost brand awareness and trigger branded search queries.

Branded Search: Genuine Driver or Conversion Catcher?

It makes sense that branded search gets a high attribution value, as it often occurs in converting journeys. When someone looks for a specific brand, it indicates their interest and increases the likelihood of purchasing it. Branded searches are seen as a strong signal of potential customer intent to make a purchase.

There's a concern that the amount of credit attributed might not accurately represent the true additional or incremental value that the branded search channel brings.

In simpler terms, even though branded searches are associated with conversions, the question is whether they are genuinely driving new business or if they are merely capturing people who were already likely to make a purchase. The attributed value might not fully reflect the extra value that the branded search channel adds to the overall marketing strategy.

Our Approach

At Objective Platform we have developed a methodology that can help you identify and correct the effect that your upper-funnel media channels have on lower funnel demand fulfilling channels. Meanwhile, we often find key learnings that identify important dynamics between upper, mid and lower funnel channels.

Often all cross-media advertisements are measured as separate channels (next to other base dynamics, factors of influence, business dynamics and events). This means that channels that are focused on brand building are directly competing with the more direct ‘performance’ and owned channels:

An image showing how cross-media advertising channels like Branded search, radio, online video and TV can have a direct impact on sales.

In reality, we expect that cross-media advertisements directly impacts the sales while also increasing the branded search queries:

An image showing that cross-media advertising have a direct impact on sales but also on branded search, which also has indirect impact on sales.

Not taking this dynamic into account results in a distorted attribution where the actual ‘incremental’ value of channels like TV, Online Video and Radio is not found. Therefore, we introduce a two-stage (nested) model in which both the direct impact of cross-media advertisements and the indirect effect of these advertisements are measured.

Introduction of a two-stage (nested) model in marketing attribution.

In this way, we would be able to distinguish both the direct and indirect impact of each media type. We understand that branded search is a crucial channel, and we also understand which part is influenced by which cross-media advertisement. This will be crucial in media investment decisions.

In summary, the attribution of value to search channels in marketing is a nuanced and complex issue. While branded search plays a significant role in conversion journeys, it's crucial to discern whether it's truly driving new business or simply taking advantage of on existing demand. By employing advanced methodologies like the two-stage (nested) model, marketers can better understand the interplay between various media channels and make more informed decisions about their investments.

Are you looking to optimise your marketing strategy with precise attribution insights? Let's redefine the value of each channel in your marketing strategy together!