The world of online marketing was rocked so hard this summer that it almost fell to its knees.
Some really big names in online marketing had the courage to announce that online customers are more likely to buy your products if they’ve heard of your company and feel good about it.
Dumbfounded, I spoke to my computer screen as though online marketers everywhere could hear me, “How did you not already know that?”
And then these same researchers suggested that building awareness through mass media might be a good thing to do, after all.
Again, I mumbled, “How did you not already know that?”
I’ve been fascinated for years that an entire army of Search Engine Optimization tweakers could – with a straight face – argue that brand awareness and brand preference are of no consequence in the online world. But then I would hear the echoing voice of Anatole France1 – with a French accent, because he was French, you know – “If fifty million people say a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing.”
SEMrush2 was one of the big names in online marketing who concluded that “direct website visits” are the single most important factor in determining your SERP [Search Engine Results Page] position. In other words, they announced that Google is impressed – and will reward you with higher SERP placement – when people go directly to your web page instead of merely choosing your name from a list of search results.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Google is effectively saying, “If this is the company people think of immediately – and feel best about – in this category, then they must be the category leader.”
Voilà, you and your company are on your way to the top of the Search Engine Results Page. All as the result of brand building through mass media and public relations.
Like yesterday’s telephone book Yellow Pages, a Search Engine Results Page is an information source for customers who haven’t already made up their mind. But when faced with a list of names on the Search Engine Results Page, does it surprise you that even the so-called “undecided customers” will often choose the name they’ve heard of, and have good feelings about?
Direct navigation is a powerful vote of confidence. Just like it was 25 years ago when customers would look you up in the White Pages of the phone book – or dial 411 for “Directory Assistance” and say your name – when they wanted to make contact with you by telephone.
WordStream3 is a huge Pay-Per-Click company that works with over one million advertisers. They were the second big name in online marketing that came to the same conclusion as SEMrush, although they traveled a different road to get there. In their case, WordStream became fascinated by a PPC campaign that had a 300% increase in conversion rates for no apparent reason.
They had changed nothing in the Pay-Per-Click campaign. They hadn’t changed the landing page, the bid strategy, or the ads. What WordStream finally discovered was that some brand-awareness ads were being funded in another media, and these ads had created a halo effect on the Pay-Per-Click ads.
Here are their conclusions, in their own words:
“Direct visits are fueled by your brand awareness, so building a strong brand image should be an essential part of your promotion strategy.” – SEMrush, page 42 of 55
“What we are seeing here is that people with stronger brand affinity have higher conversion rates than people without any, because people tend to buy from the companies they already heard of and begun to trust.” – Larry Kim, WordStream
Jeff Bezos figured all this out a long time ago.
In chapter four of Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It, we read an exchange between Poobah and a younger man:
The younger man continued to read. “Although it seems counterintuitive on the surface—a little bit insane, even—Bezos knew that making honest reviews available on each product page was the right thing to do for the customer. Today more than half of all retail purchases begin with a visit to Amazon to look at product reviews.”
“Are you saying that Amazon.com has become the primary search engine for consumer product research in America?”
The younger man looked up and locked eyes with his inquisitor as he nodded.
You and I go directly to Amazon – because we think of them first and feel good about them – whenever we want to buy something. It is only AFTER we’ve navigated directly to Amazon that we begin to consider exactly what we’re going to buy.
And that, my friend, is an example of a powerful brand. We choose Amazon first, no need for Google, or SEO tweakers, or AdWords to help us. Because we like Amazon.
We believe in them.
Now here’s the really good news: You can be like Amazon.
Roy H. Williams
1 Anatole France (1844 –1924) was a French poet, journalist, and novelist who wrote several best-sellers. Ironic and skeptical, he was considered to be the ideal French man of letters. He was a member of the Académie française, and won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Literature.
2 Ranking Factors, SEMrush Study 2.0 SEMrush serves 1,500,000 online marketing clients
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