In search of benchmarks for ‘Share of Search’

James Hankins, Strategist, Analyst and Planner, introduces the work of a new think tank aiming to test hypotheses about a key search metric.

The IPA has been at the forefront of effectiveness for over 40 years via the IPA Effectiveness Awards. However, a major step was taken in 2017 to enhance this position when the IPA established EffWorks, a cross-industry, long-term, global marketing effectiveness initiative.

In part, the ambition behind EffWorks is to support new research into marketing effectiveness. Last year, Les Binet and I led a special, extended EffWorks session that published evidence of a metric (Share of Search or SoS) that has huge potential to democratise both the measurement of marketing effectiveness and support strategic analysis and decision-making. 

The IPA believes the industry as a whole could benefit from further understanding this universally available metric, and its quirks and applications.

Following our presentation on Share of Search and its myriad uses, therefore, the IPA created a think tank specifically to investigate this nascent field. Comprised of an international selection of stakeholders including clients, agencies, analytics businesses, tech platforms, academics and marketing scientists, the Share of Search Think Tank is working to create an evidentiary databank and set of insights, guidelines and principles which will set a benchmark in this fascinating area.

Led by myself and Les, with support from the IPA’s Director of Marketing Strategy Janet Hull OBE, the think tank has devised seven hypotheses on share of search to test, using a combination of existing data and new research.

The hypotheses are split into three groupings -

  • Increasing evidentiary bank about the relationship between share of search and share of market across categories, countries, and contexts
  • Uncovering how SoS responds to inputs such as advertising
  • Comparisons/synergies with existing marketing science insights and models

A number of specific ‘questions to answer’ have been identified that sit beneath these groupings which will be answered during the think tank’s sessions.

In addition, the think tank expects to identify additional practical insights from the various stakeholders in terms of ‘watch-outs’, ‘quirks’, areas for future research, and enhanced applications of search data.  These areas and topics will either be presented at EffWorks 2021, or will form the basis of further research by the group as we move towards EffWorks 2022.

As a ‘universal’ and free metric, Share of Search has the potential to shift the conversation dramatically when it comes to marketing effectiveness due to its relationship to a known, valid and understood business metric, Share of Market. 

The IPA wants advertising/marketing to become more effective and here we have a metric that could help more brands demonstrate the positive impact of their marketing and advertising (it can have wider implications too).  This is of clear benefit to all practitioners of all levels. 

No one is under any illusion that SoS is a perfect metric. Few metrics actually are, but should the think tank provide evidentiary rigour then its usage could become more widespread, with the broader impact this unlocks. 

Further research into the insights that “the largest database of intent” holds could place the IPA at the centre of new effectiveness research for the foreseeable future and EffWorks as the pre-eminent forum for sharing this with the wider industry.

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Last updated 27 July 2021