aka: What CMOs need to know about value Share of Search, learned from fast food
Intro read, 5min
Share of Search (SoS) is the poster child of digital marketing metrics. Many experienced marketeers rightly sing the praises of SoS as an ingredient of digital marketing, Mark Ritson vocal amongst others. The value of SoS as a predictor of future market share is increasingly accepted, due to the fine recent work of Les Binet.
This value, and model of causation, is commonly understood in the digital age: in the way Google can predict election results from search activity, SoS (and higher search visibility to consumers searching online) can lead to higher market performance over time.
The data behind this argument is in two parts. Firstly, SoS calculated now. Secondly the change in market share measured later. The latter ROI can be assessed when the results are known, but how can such investment in the metrics be justified before, in the present?
As a long term marketing strategy SoS has CMOs licking their lips for future outcomes, but what about results now, for the next quarter, to justify SoS? How does a CMO sell the idea of SoS to the Board to get started?
Here I’ll help explain another business case for digital share of search as a leading KPI in your digital marketing arsenal (leaving the wider conversation of the longer term value, as well as the definition and methods of how to calculate SoS, etc, to other articles).
First, “Where’s the beef?”
As Wendy’s asked in the US and Canada in 1984. (CMOs are hungry, they want fast food.)
SoS has benefits by virtue of the process of calculation itself. It’s valuable to add this to the growing wealth of knowledge in this subject area as the data increases over time. This is based on our own firsthand experience and research in providing Share of Search (SoS), and Share of Voice (SOV), reporting.
Business case in the short term
One of our clients saw consistent value from the operational use of SOS. The data insights from our global digital reporting toolkit recommended a greater focus on SEO factors in one of their regions, and in the 1.5 years period since this focus shift their share of search rose from 5.3% to 7.9%: a 50% improvement. Completely measurable, now, before we talk share.
So how did SEO improve SoS?
SEO benefits from Share of Search
SEO analysis and scrutiny in the short-term force assessment and, importantly, pragmatic prioritisation of the SEO factors that comprise the customer-oriented calculation of SoS.
When considering the scope of target keyword search terms, the number needs to be large enough to resemble the entire market you operate in – where your customer is – but not be too large and bog down analysis. What is the optimal number? An empirical answer is 250-1000 keywords to best define a market sector with reliable statistical significance (dependent on the sector and its nature). Keyword sets larger than prove unwieldy and diminishing returns start (at this point you’re into PPC territory of numbers of keywords. Smaller than this struggles to define the market; in our experience more than 40 terms are needed, which is a fundamental restriction of the Google Trends method of calculation.
A robust and focused definition of the keyword data set better considers the target market and audience definition, and leads to better search strategy.
Next, the value of each keyword is relative in SoS and assessed by monthly search volume, provided by your chosen keyword research tool, Google for instance, to prioritise target terms according to user demand, and qualifies them to your target audience. Ranking matters, but ranking for the most important terms matters more.
SEOs will be familiar with this value above and beyond pure ranking position when they also take click through rate (CTR) into account, and not just ranking position per se. Share of Search forces this qualification to the benefit of the digital marketing process.
Relative position is demanded by SoS. Calculation of your competitors’ SoS is built in – you more often than not find competitors you didn’t know you had in search. The whole sector is measured, using every search result, and this provides valuable competitor intelligence. This is often forgotten within typical SEO reporting tools and not provided by default, Opportunities can be missed if you don’t take a holistic market view.
Consideration of SoS helps define the whole search market. Both organic (/natural) and paid search rankings ideally need inclusion and analysis, with the necessary detailed analysis of both. We’re find untapped value in their overlap, revealing otherwise hidden benefits to search marketing. The market can be scoped wider even to encompass eCommerce (Amazon for instance) in addition to search engines and the same SoS calculated and similar SEO benefits gained. (The details of these covered in another article.)
Ultimately within this wider search context brand visibility – through an SoS lens – verges into the discipline of brand governance, in which SoS is an important metric. This governance of digital is activity another benefit to brand marketing and SEO.
These benefits – macro and micro – can be delivered by a cost-effective repeatable scalable reporting process: a corporate Share of Search solution. They are in addition to the long-term impact on future share of market predicted by SoS.
Why wait until the long term? SoS can benefit your marketing now. So how can CMOs convince the board to invest, now?
Selling Share of Search to the Board
SEOs know the value of the constituent parts of SoS, but what about CMOs? What business benefits resonate with them and help them sell convince their audience the Board?
- Share of search spotlights opportunities where to improve brand visibility and increase awareness of a brand to consumers, whose use of online is now paramount for a brand;
- Weaknesses, absolute and relative to competitors, can be identified and provide a list of what to fix when CMOs delegate search objectives downwards to their Heads of Digital;
- CMOs can more easily inform Search Strategy and direct organisational abilities to chart a correct course over the long term for market share impacts;
- Tracking consumer demand, gaining insights and reporting on progress. CMOs can show business impacts using SOS reports as an organisational capability, in a way not possible with just SEO data.
The ‘C’ level and Board love the idea of a long-term systemic process to drive market share where it can be derived from controllable digital marketing activities. Good CMOs plan long term, but all CMOs need benefits in the short term. They need to show results in order to help the Board to sanction initiatives and keep faith for the long term.
SoS in this equation is an upstream factor relative to the resulting share of market. However, SoS itself is a downstream factor – and as such uncontrollable – when compared to the search activities (upstream search activities and tasks) of SEO: including technical improvement, better content, website standing, backed by the necessary reporting.
Understanding this shorter term value helps CMOs ‘sell’ SoS internally.
They get the double whammy of SoS value now from SEO benefits, and value later from correlated market share: jam today AND jam tomorrow.
ROI from Share of Search
With SoS considered a complex ‘top of the tree’ KPI, its calculation needs to be worth the effort. Modern solutions of automation and presentation make it fast and cost effective.
CMOs left to ponder where to get started can ask their Heads of Digital to commission the correct technology to drive the process, to harness SEO, and to produce SoS as a KPI for their brands. Indeed most organisations are probably already managing many SEO parts of the SoS calculation, but falling short of capitalising on the benefits of SoS as a metric itself.
Organisations can make SoS reporting and benefits a reality by articulating, and appreciating, where to gain value from using SoS as a KPI, and by harnessing the associated SEO processes behind it.
If this was helpful please share it, or reply to me, I’d like to hear. All my thoughts are shared with a ‘no content for content sake’ pledge. Read more digital marketing articles from me, the Chief Talker at Cressive DX.