More and more, companies are realizing the importance of creating a strong online presence both in the free organic search results and the paid advertisements that appear alongside those results. The tracking features of website logs and the measurability of pay-per-click ads enable marketers to monitor the traffic of their organic listings and the performance of their online advertising campaigns. However, it's comparatively more difficult to determine how the placement of those search listings and online ads affect consumer brand perceptions. In a first-of-its-kind online study commissioned by Google , researchers discovered a significant correlation between companies in the top organic and sponsored ad placements and consumer brand affinity, brand recall and purchase intent.

Using Honda as a test brand and “fuel-efficiency” as a brand attribute, the study focused on consumers early in the purchase process who had not yet selected a particular car model. Key findings of the study included:


  • A significant lift in brand affinity: Online consumers who saw Honda in the top ad placement and the top organic search result were 16 percent more likely to think of Honda as a fuel efficient car than when the automaker's brand didn't appear on the page at all.
  • A significant lift in brand recall: Online consumers were 42 percent more likely to recall Honda if the company appeared in both the top ad placement and the top organic search result, rather than just the top organic listing.
  • A significant lift in purchase intent: When Honda was featured in both the top ad and top organic listings, purchase intent for Honda increased. However, other automaker brands absent from the page suffered a significant decrease in purchase intent.

“For decades, fuel-efficiency and environmental leadership have been guiding principles at Honda,” said Jenny Howell, Interactive Marketing Manager at American Honda. “It is encouraging that these advertised messages received such positive awareness in the study. We are extremely pleased that consumers found relevancy in the relationship of fuel economy and Honda in their searches.”

About the study

Using Honda as a test brand, the study sought to quantify the branding impact of differing Honda listing placements on the search results page . The experiment was conducted using subjects 25 years and older who were considering the purchase of a new car within the next year. Users performed a search for “fuel efficient car” and the search results appeared in five different variations: a Honda-branded listing in top ad position only, top organic position only, both the top organic and ad positions, side ad position only, and not at all (control group). Enquiro measured eye fixation on the Google page and also surveyed participants to evaluate the search experience's branding effect on each of the five consumer test groups.

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