Google search data gives you valuable insight into consumers’ awareness of your brand, in their own words.

You probably know how important your Google rankings are in measuring brand awareness —  but are you aware of how brand awareness is actually shaped by search?

Because of the way search engines like Google are structured, brand awareness is a viral phenomenon. People’s opinions about your brand are encoded in their searches, and in some circumstances, the search engine will spread these opinions.

As I emphasized in a previous post, Google search results are dynamic, and change according to user behavior. Google’s rankings emerge from user’s searches and what they click on. If a page ranks for an obscure term — like one containing a specific opinion of your brand — and generates clicks, that page is more likely to rank for more generic terms.

Meanwhile, the search results presented to a user actually influence the future searches they enter. This, together with Google’s habit of completing your searches for you, can promote the page and the idea in question.

What does this mean for brands? For one, a close examination of your search keyword data can yield valuable insights about the influence of particular articles or marketing collateral on your brand’s reputation. By extension, search data represents a compendium of what users think of your brand. With this in mind, we encourage you to take a deep dive into your keyword data, take stock of your brand’s image — and then tell your own side of the story.

The Case Study of Uber

During a recent meeting with leaders at FiveBlocks, a search reputation tracking tool, we took a look at the top branded Google search results for ‘Uber.’ Midway down page one, we noticed a link to a New York Times article discussing the psychological tricks Uber allegedly uses on its drivers.

uber psych tricks

This made us wonder whether this article was affecting future search results, and whether we could detect this effect in the keyword data. So we pulled all Google search data containing ‘Uber’ in the period of time since this article was published, and found:

uber psychological tricks

how uber uses psychological tricks to push its drivers buttons

uber psychological contract

uber drivers psychological tricks

These hyper-specific searches are telling: they indicate that this somewhat scathing New York Times piece — and the fact that it was ranking on the first page of Uber’s Google results — had perceptibly conditioned consumers’ understanding of the company. Fundamentally, the search data contains a digital record of people’s perception of Uber.

What to do When Your Brand Reputation Isn’t Up to Snuff

The good news for brands is that searches like ‘uber psychological tricks’ certainly represent a PR threat, but the effects are relatively slow to take hold. This gives brands the time to fight back by telling their own side of the story.

Enter: FiveBlocks. This tool can track your brand reputation at the keyword level. It can also give you a picture of what types of digital sources — such as a news story or branded content — rank for the offending search terms. This information holds the key to fighting negative results: if the problem is a third party publication, for example, you can aim to outrank the offending article by seeking out a high-quality guest post in another publication with equal or greater domain authority. Or, if you’re a top brand with a solid domain reputation, you can write something on-site and almost guarantee that you’ll rank for the terms in question.

Keep in mind: if you don’t talk about it, someone else will. Uber has already proven the effectiveness of this approach with respect to ‘surge pricing’:

uber surge pricing

Uber’s explanation ranks first place and has earned Google snippet status, allowing it to control the conversation about a policy that has proved somewhat contentious among ridesharing devotees.

Essentially, people are telling you about their awareness of your brand every day via their Google searches, and this data isn’t just in their heads — it’s a signal to Google, and it changes the way the search engine presents results for future searches. The first step in shifting this conversation, then, is making sure that the search results a curious consumer sees about your brand support your vision of where your brand is heading.

Author Oliver Cox

Having originally joined the company as a writer in 2013, Oliver currently works as a full-time member of L&T's sales team to prospect, nurture and help close sales leads in the US and UK markets. Oliver is a graduate of the University of Liverpool and is a prolific musician and author.

More posts by Oliver Cox

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