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Share of Search: A digital alternative to Share of Voice

2020-12-17

Using Share of Search to directly measure the strength of a brand in digital channels has become an increasingly important tool for us at Kapero. Share of Search (SoS) has recently got lots of attention. It’s useful but there are pitfalls to be aware of. The interesting thing about analysis of this sort is that it can show real interest in a brand, rather than an alleged interest that classic surveys reflect. What’s more, the data for the measurements is free.

In the summer of 2020, SoS started being seriously discussed as a complementary way to measure a brand’s strength. It studies how many Google searches have been done for a particular brand, in comparison with searches for key competitors.

With traditional survey-based research, the challenge is that it is difficult to know if answers accurately reflect how respondents behave. To quote advertising legend David Ogilvy, “The trouble with market research is that people do not think how they feel, they do not say what they think, and they do not do what they say.”

SoS offers an exciting opportunity to look at interest in a brand based on real behavior.

Studies by Les Binet (Head of Effectiveness at adam&eveDDB) show that SoS can also help predict market share in advance. There is a delay of 3-12 months between SoS and the market situation, depending on the speed at which the market segment moves. This methodology also provides an opportunity to estimate how much an increase Share of Search will receive from an increase in Share of Voice. Furthermore, Binet proves that the well-known 60/40 rule, which Les Binet and Peter Field often cite, also applies to SoS.

Share of Search är ett lovande nyckeltal / KPI för att mäta varumärken relativa styrka över tid. Källa: Les Binet

Share of Search is a very promising metric or KPI for measuring brand’s relative strength over time. Source: Les Binet

“We’ve already used Share of Search in a number of analysis projects for our customers and have seen that it can provide really interesting insights,” says Robert Ryberg of Kapero. “At the same time, we’ve learned a lot about how to interpret the information correctly. It is really important to not jump too quickly to the wrong conclusions.”  

Share of search presents many challenges

There are a number of challenges with SoS regarding how the data should be interpreted. SoS can, for example, be affected by changing search patterns, competitors’ media spending, and other external factors. Since many people will search for a brand name on Google in order to reach a company’s website, search volume could be affected by a company launching a new online service. Users will have an increased need to log in regularly, which generates increased web traffic, which in turn generates an increase in Google searches for the brand name. But that does not mean that the brand has risen in popularity.

What must also be taken into account is that a higher Share of Search is not always a good thing. A public crisis can increase your SoS, though your SOS might also be affected if a competitor’s SoS rises due to their crisis.

Another thing to note is that it is difficult to capture all searches related to all brands in a market sector. It can be hard to interpret data for trademarks based on words that have other meanings (e.g. Target) or trademarks that are often misspelled (e.g. Häagen-Dazs) or that can be written in different ways or have nicknames (e.g. McDonald’s/Mc Donalds, CoCa Cola/ Coke). It’s therefore difficult to use SoS to estimate a particular brand’s share of interest. Instead, SoS should primarily be used to study changes over time.

It is also not relevant to study rapid changes in SoS for a number of reasons, including the fact that data is not very accurate at the weekly level and small changes can be difficult to interpret.

It is also not relevant to study rapid changes in SoS for a number of reasons, including the fact that data is not very accurate at the weekly level and small changes can be difficult to interpret.

How to interpret Share of Search?

The brand’s SoS increases:The brand’s SoS decreases::
The brand’s popularity is increasingThe brand’s popularity is falling
The brand is suffering from a public crisisA competitor is in a public crisis
The brand has invested in boosting visibilityA competitor has invested in boosting visibility
The brand has launched an online featureA competitor has launched an online feature
Customers’ search habits have changedCustomers’ search habits have changed
Other external factorsOther external factors

What is Share of Search?
• SoS describes the search interest in a brand compared with its competitors
• Not survey based, it uses actual brand searches
• Can give an indication of the future market share (with a 3-12 month delay)
• Needs analysis and interpretation as media investment, competitors’ actions, product launches, press and publicity, search habits and other factors can affect results
• Data is exported from Google Trends and collected and processed in Excel to visualize trends and directions

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