Share of search: PR’s new golden metric?

Leading industry thinker explains new measurement concept

If advertising agencies are taking out full page adverts in the national newspapers about a new measurement concept, perhaps the PR world ought to sit up and take notice.

In our latest ‘IC Insight’ event, leading PR thinker Andrew Bruce Smith explained the relatively new concept of ‘share of search’ and its value to PR and comms campaigns.

Created by advertising effectiveness gurus Les Binet and Peter Field, share of search was unveiled at an advertising conference in late 2020 – making an immediate splash in the industry media.

Backed by six years of research, Binet and Field were able to show a correlation between a brand’s share of organic search and its market share – with the potential to predict changes in market share by tracking changes in search.

Looking at car brands, for example, their research showed that the share of search metric could give marketers as much as a year’s notice of changes in their market share.

Using share of search in PR

So how is this metric relevant to PR and comms activity?

Given that our work usually takes place towards the top of the marketing funnel (raising awareness of brands, products or services) – it’s very relevant.

“Search fulfils demand, it doesn’t create it. People can’t search for something they aren’t aware of,” said Andrew.

Use cases in PR could include:

  • Using share of search as a proxy for awareness (it is calculated via Google Trends, offering a cheaper and more accessible alternative to e.g. pre and post campaign awareness market research)
  • Proving that a campaign has created awareness of a new product or brand (by measuring an uplift in share of search from zero pre-launch)
  • Allowing tracking of competitor brands’ marketing activity

For B2B brands looking at lower volumes of search data, Andrew confirmed that 10 searches a month are all that’s needed for a term to be recognised by Google Trends.

Not a silver bullet

While the concept is exciting, Andrew warned it’s not a silver bullet and said practitioners should be careful about reading too much into a single metric. He advised using a 12-month rolling average to even out any bumps in the figures.

He also shared two of Binet and Field’s previous research papers that demonstrate the importance of brand-building vs brand activation. For B2C brands, 60/40 is the ideal ratio for brand-building to activation. For B2B, the ratio is 55/45.

Food for thought and a helpful proof point for those tricky exec conversations about instant results!

If you missed the session last week, you can watch the recording here.