There is little talk of growing Brand Activity within the digital marketing community. This is largely explained by the fact that many in the Media, Marketers and Technologists don’t believe that branding occurs online. Why would you seek to identify and measure something you’ve decided doesn’t exist? Yet, online branding is real and can be measured. In fact, Brand Activity accounts for the majority of all retail sales.
Most consumers make a purchase by searching for brand terms or going directly to a site. 60-80% of online sales happen this way. Consumers don’t type a brand name into a search engine or go to a URL – if they don’t know it exists. How do they know something exists and where to find out more? The answer is via exposures to messaging that makes this clear. The exposures can come online, offline, via social media or word-of-mouth. Most any and every type of exposure can generate this brand activity.
As a Digital Marketer, I focus on exposures that occur online -- and I’ve had the good fortune of working with clients who only advertising online. Thus, by measuring Brand Activity, I have a certainty that branding occurs online via online exposures. I’ve witnesses this activity grow, contract and flatten based on digital exposures. I’ve built strategies based on this knowledge that could be tested and optimized. My clients have increased sales, lowered costs and dominated their niche based on this knowledge.
A simple and inexpensive SEM campaign can provide insight into the number of times your brand is searched for. This is the first campaign we create for the products, services and concepts that we market. We bid on terms that are squarely focused on the offering and how to find it. They include the offering name, website URL and brand specific terms. For products that have never received exposures, the number of search impressions for ads should be near zero. For products that have received exposures, a baseline can be established.
As exposures grow, the number of times your brand is searched for should increase – along with direct entries. Since this is where the bulk of conversions come from, sales should also increase in relation to exposures. Prior to the release of View-Through and Impression-Assisted conversion metrics in Google AdWords, brand searches and direct entries were the primary metrics I used to measure brands. As a brand’s exposures grew, brand activity and sales grew.
When Google began reporting on View-through conversions within AdWords, the effect of brand activity could then be connected with specific ads, keywords and sites within its display network. A View-through conversion happens when consumers view a display ad and later complete a purchase (or other conversion goal) – without clicking on the ad. Usually, view-through converters arrive on a site via brand searches and direct entries.
Within Google’s display network, the majority of conversions come from view-throughs rather than consumers clicking on ads – at least, for our clients. With some campaigns, we get 10 view-through conversions for every 1-click conversion. Based on total conversions (1-click plus view-through), we can estimate the real cost-per-conversion for each ad we run – along with the sites where each ad is shown. We can then tune our targeting, messaging and bidding strategies to bring this cost down further – while increasing exposures.
View-through conversions changed the way we designed and managed display campaigns. Yet, the fact that exposures from display ads produced brand activity and conversions didn’t surprise us. What surprised us was the impact of exposures within paid search – where we still maintained a bias toward clicks. When Google began providing stats on Impression-Assisted Conversions, we discovered that exposures mattered even when the message was a plain text ad.
Impression-assisted conversions are when consumers view a text ad within Google’s search results and don’t click – but go to a site later and convert via search or direct entry. It’s the same concept as view-through conversions. What we found surprising is that these conversions were equal to or greater than 1-click conversions. Some of the campaigns we manage get 3 impression-assisted conversions for every 1-click conversion. Now, we're able to work towards improving total conversions via targeting, messaging and increasing exposures.
Because we focused on measuring and growing Brand Activity, we were better able to take advantage of tools that told us where this activity came from. We could then develop processes that increased sales and lowered costs. Yet, the first step on our journey was a belief that branding did, in fact, occur online. This is a step many digital and traditional marketers have been unwilling to take.