Share of search

May 4, 2021

Digital marketers have long employed online search to predict how consumers will behave in the short term – will they take action in the next few minutes, hours, or days? Campaigns have most often been a short-term play and been all about the transaction at the moment or shortly after the search was conducted. No one thought about search from a longer-term brand perspective.

A recent study conducted by Les Binet, the head of effectiveness at agency Adam & Eve DDB, and the industry’s “godfathers of marketing effectiveness” looked at the importance of the “share of search” metric for the past six years.

Share of search is a way of measuring brand visibility within organic search results. It’s calculated as the portion of overall online interest in a particular keyword that you are capturing. If there are 100 searches every day for your product category, how many would your site receive? The higher the percentage, the higher your share of search.

You can quickly obtain your site’s monthly search referrals for specific keywords or phrases from your Google Analytics dashboard. To get the average overall searches for that same phrase or keyword through Google, use the Google Keyword Tool. Be sure to set the same criteria and restrictions in both tools (country/region, keyword vs. phrase, etc.).

To test his ideas around share of search, Binet explored three categories: an expensive considered purchase (automotive), a commodity (gas and electricity) and a lower-priced but very crowded brand segment (mobile phone handsets).

The results were very telling. Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

  1. Share of search correlates with market share in all three categories.
  2. Share of search is a leading indicator/predictor of share of market – when share of search goes up, share of market tends to go up, and when share of search goes down, share of market falls.
  3. This long-term prediction can also act as an early warning system for brands in terms of their market share.
  4. Share of voice (advertising) has two effects on share of search: a significant short-term impact that produces a big burst but then fades rapidly, and a smaller, longer-term effect that lingers for a very long time.
  5. The long-term effects build on each other, sustaining and growing over time.
  6. Share of search could also be a new measure for brand strength or health of a brand by measuring the base level of share of search without advertising.
  7. While share of search provides essential quantitative data, brands should also use qualitative research and sentiment analysis to get a more robust picture.


One of the data points that is incredibly insightful is the correlation between shares of voice, search, and market. Binet reports that “eventually, you reach a point where a brand with 10% steady share of voice will have a roughly steady 10% share of search and a roughly steady 10% share of market.”

When a brand earns an “extra share of search,” which is defined as the brand registering a search share above its market share, it is most likely to enjoy growth.

How do we influence our share of search? Organic search performance is all based on relevance. The more relevant your content, the more you should see your share of search increase. The more narrowly you define your audience and the content that will resonate with them, the more likely you will achieve a higher share of search. When your audience is niched down, you reduce the number of competitors trying to rank for those specific key words or phrases.

For most marketers, one of their goals for 2021 is to improve their visibility and search metrics. Binet’s research demonstrates the value of pursuing that goal with a vengeance!


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


What’s your strategy for a cookie-free web?

April 27, 2021

In my fourth and final column of the 2021 trends series, we’re going to examine life after the cookie. Third-party cookies are data registered in a user’s browsing history. Everything we do on the web leaves traces, especially information about our activity when visiting websites. For marketers, this data is of great value as it shows users’ habits on the web.

For years, digital marketing has been using this information to identify and create audience sets and target better campaigns, with the ability to follow these prospects wherever they may roam on the web.
Marketers have been using the third-party cookie to:

  • Customize experiences when the user visits a website.
  • Follow activity on a website to gauge interest in specific content.
  • Learn which pages on the website are getting the most traffic.
  • Collect information to build a re-marketing approach.
  • Create ads on the Google Display Network.

It’s because cookies are such a powerful tool and can accurately record and track a person’s movements, decisions and interests that every time we visit a website, we’re asked to accept the cookies.

In early January of 2020, Google announced that this data would no longer be available to companies. It is a phase-out process that will be completed in 2022. Google is phasing out the cross-website tracking on its Chrome browser. Firefox and Safari already have done so. This is a significant change that we all need to be ready to tackle.

Think context and content: Contextual advertising simply means that the ads on the page correspond with the content on that page. If you’re looking at a fishing blog, the ads will be for lures or guided fishing trips. This will be easier for you to do inside your own website than it will be for the advertisers and publishers to get their act together and coordinate topics.

But there are tools inside Google AdSense right now that will help you place an image, video and text ads on-page at participating sites based on contextual keywords.

People-based targeting: Cookies were all about targeting web users based on their behaviors. You have all the tools you need to do that on your own, but in a much more targeted and more effective way. This is about using customer relationship management technology to track and identify website visitors, email subscribers, and social media followers. You can even use cookies! The ban on cookies is really the ban on third-party cookies. But any code that gets generated and stored on your website visitor’s computer when they visit your site will still remain intact.

Get personal: Personalization has gotten much more manageable, thanks to CRM and other technologies. The tools are incredibly sophisticated.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t take advantage of a fraction of what their CRM can do. Most only use it to send newsletters and track potential leads.
When you create custom experiences and communications based on the customer’s unique journey, it can be very compelling, and no two people can have precisely the same communications flow with you.

Build your own data set: The most effective way to survive and thrive in a cookie-free world is to build your own data on prospects and customers.  The value of this is twofold.

The data will be more accurate, and you have to get to know your prospects and customers better to make it happen. As you get to know them better, your marketing gets better too.

The good news is that this change is going to affect everyone. The challenging news is that you want to have some well-thought-out solutions before your competitors get the jump on you. Now is the time to figure out how you’re going to leverage data in this new, cookieless world.


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

Get Write On It

March 25, 2021

In last week’s column, I walked you through some preparatory activities you should consider if you want to write a book to use as a three-dimensional business card, business growth enhancer and credibility tool.

This week I want to give you some hacks for actually writing the book. If you didn’t work through the prep work from last week’s column, I strongly suggest you do not embark on these suggestions until you have laid the proper groundwork.

But assuming you have, let’s talk about the work of actually getting the book written.

Decide on your format: In the nonfiction category, there are many options. Your book might be based on your personal journey in your profession or some lessons you learned along the way. You might interview people who have something in common to draw out some takeaways from their stories. You might write a business fable or a how-to book. Understanding the format you’d like your book to follow will make the creation process much more manageable.

You don’t have to write a word: Many authors are better talkers than writers. You could talk your way through each chapter and have your recordings transcribed. Many authors are very comfortable editing their work, and for some reason, that is a much more successful strategy than starting with a blank page. With today’s technology, you could record your thoughts on your phone, upload the audio file to one of the many transcription services, and have a transcription back within a day.

Don’t start from scratch: I’m guessing you already have a fair amount of your book written, even if you don’t realize it. Look through your past presentation decks, keynote speeches, articles, blog posts and even proposals to prospects and clients. It may not be in the format you want, but you may have more of the core elements created than you think.

Bigger isn’t always better: Many business books are shorter than fiction offerings. You’re not trying to create “War and Peace.” Given that you’re writing for a business audience, remember their attention span. Don’t feel like you have to pad the book to get to a certain number of pages. Many popular and successful business books are under 150 pages.

Don’t write it at all: Many classic business books were written by a ghostwriter. It’s not cheating to have someone else capture your thoughts and get them down on paper. Ghostwriters are brilliant interviewers. They can help you build your outline, decide on your book’s structure, and then, typically through a series of conversations, extract the book from your stories, experiences, and teachings. Many authors will have a ghostwriter create the first draft, and then the author edits that draft to make sure it sounds just like them. Skilled ghostwriters can not only capture the information you want to convey in your book, but they can mimic your style and tone perfectly.

Know why you’re making the effort: Most of us are not going to make a living by being an author. Our books are a means to an end. Being very clear about how you’re going to leverage your book once it’s complete will help make many decisions as you write and edit your masterpiece.

Being an author doesn’t have to just be a dream. No matter how busy you are or how insecure you feel about your writing ability, if you want to write a book and can already envision the incredible value it can provide your business, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Hopefully, some of these author hacks will serve you well as you sit down to capture the book that only you can create.

I look forward to reading it!


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Does being negative generate positive results?

March 2, 2021

In last week’s column, we looked at why so many of the political ads take an aggressive, negative stance rather than exalting the candidate’s platform, past performance or beliefs. The data shows that the negative ads are effective, so we endure them every year through the election cycle.

But what about using negative ad tactics for nonpolitical advertising? Does it still work? The data is far less conclusive. We expect political candidates to trash-talk their competitors, but it seems like we have a different standard for brands. People are drawn to brands that they can connect with and that share some of their same core values. In general, we hope our marketing builds a bond that makes our consumers proud to buy what we have to sell.

In the ideal world, they feel as though using our product or service says something about them.

For example, when Dawn started promoting that it was the product used to save/clean up animals after an oil spill, it was a game changer for them.

Their campaign Dawn Saves Wildlife achieved the highest ROI of any commercial in the home care industry and scored them an off-the-charts consumer equity index score of 168.

We love brands we can love and connect with, and we love it when our dollars support something we believe in. Despite that, taking a negative approach can be effective if it’s done well. The nuance here is that it can’t be vicious or mean-spirited, like political ads.

Here are some ways you can generate positive reactions to a negative campaign.

Taking on your competitor: If you’re going to go head to head with a competitor and either name them explicitly or make it clear who you’re talking about, you need to tread carefully. Using humor or a lighter tone will soften the audience’s reaction to your attack. We’ve seen this in the mobile phone space.  With quirky characters and catchphrases, they poke at their competitors, but with a light touch.

Take on an issue: Another way to put a positive spin on a negative is to point out a risk or social issue. We see medical commercials and nonprofits paint a grisly picture (like those sad, abused dogs in the SPCA spots) and then give us an opportunity to help right the wrong or avoid the symptom or disease. The power of these negative spots is that we can do something to avoid or fix what is broken.

Show what might happen: There are plenty of spots that use this strategy of showing us the consequences if we fail to take action or if we make the wrong choice. Political ads take this to an extreme, but many brands go down this path as well. The Rid-X spot that shows how a little girl’s garden party birthday was ruined because her dad didn’t use Rid-X is a perfect example of this strategy.

As you consider using one of these negative strategies, be mindful of your brand. It has to be authentic and in alignment with your organization’s values. Not every brand can step into this negative space and pull it off. Beyond your brand, you have to think about your audience as well. Some are going to embrace that negative tone, and others are going to find it off-putting.

Really smart marketing communicates and resonates. It not only tells the audience who we are, but it tells them how we are a good fit for them.

Keeping that in mind as you explore using one of these negative-toned strategies will help you decide which one, if any, is a good choice for creating a connection that will hopefully lead to ongoing sales and brand loyalty.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


If you can’t say something nice…

February 23, 2021

It’s inevitable.

During every election cycle, I shake my head in dismay at the tactics taken by candidates at every level of government in their campaign ads. I hate the shouting, the hyperbole aimed at their opponents, and the ridiculous imagery that goes along with the words. They are everything we as marketers have been taught to avoid because of how offensive it is.

The problem is, they’re effective.

Many studies have been done that demonstrate that negative ads specifically tied to political campaigns are more memorable and have a more substantial impact on viewers.

Interestingly, a negative ad about the candidate you strongly support reinforces your buying decision to vote for that candidate. Our reaction is to be defensive on behalf of our candidate and protect them with our vote. An accidental downside for negative ads is that you can inadvertently activate your opponent’s base to go to the polls and vote.

When the studies say that negative ads are effective, they aren’t necessarily saying they help the candidate directly get more votes. It has been proven that they are more memorable, increase voter turnout, and are stickier.

Several of the studies found that a negative frame is much more persistent or stickier than a positive one. If an ad comes at an issue negatively, but voters are later reminded of the policy’s positive aspects, they’ll still think it’s a bust. And if an ad presents a favorable view about a policy or issue, but later ads focus on its downsides, the voters’ positive perceptions will be swept away, and a negative one will take its place.

Once we think of a glass as half empty, it’s difficult to remember it is also half full. Our brains are hard-wired to seek out and remember negative information.

One of the most interesting aspects of the studies was when they looked at candidate or party ads versus ads placed like political action committees or PACs. Ads directly from the candidates were twice as effective as PAC ads. Whether it’s the “I approved this ad” endorsement or that the PAC ads tend to be even more extreme in their negativity, they are far less effective.

What does this mean for us as marketers? Should we start attacking our competitors in our ads and other marketing materials? Should we re-purpose their negative Yelp or Google reviews as a way of earning someone’s business?

Thankfully, the answer is a resounding no. While negativity plays well in the political arena, it does not perform the same in the marketplace.

Remember what our moms used to tell us when we said something negative about one of the kids at school. “Talking badly about someone says more about you than the person you’re talking about.”

It turns out that our moms were right again!

When we directly attack our competitors, we weaken our position. We come off looking vindictive and petty. The audience may find the feud entertaining, but they will also feel it is mean-spirited. Much like the accidental impact of negative political ads, the attack ads will also reinforce the loyalty and buying decisions of many of the customers who prefer the attacked brand.

But we should be able to help our prospects compare our product and services, shouldn’t we?

Absolutely. We just need to do it from a different angle.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


When sales slow down

February 16, 2021

As our country works to climb out of the recession, sales in many industries have been sluggish at best. Many sales teams are struggling to get calls returned, and even when they get the opportunity to talk with a prospect, they often aren’t getting too far.

The uncertainties of the economy, coupled with the pandemic, are stalling many sales. How can marketing help keep the sales team in the running when the prospects are running cold?

One of the nuances of marketing that often gets overlooked is the “be interesting, not interested” maxim.

Our marketing efforts often make it clear that we are interested in the prospect. We want them to buy something from us. When we show up wearing that intention on our sleeve, it’s easy for them to tune us out, unsubscribe to our emails, or ask us to stop calling.

When sales are flowing more quickly, it’s easy for us to miss the consequences of that mistake. But when everything is stalled, we need to earn the right to keep talking to our prospects. The way we do that is by being interesting. It looks incredibly simple to do, and yet many marketers fail miserably.

Why? Because they are not patient enough. The “be interesting, not be interested” works because the prospect doesn’t feel any pressure. When someone isn’t ready to buy, the only way they’ll tolerate our continuing communication is if we’re interesting to them. The minute they feel like we’re trying to close the sale, they’ll walk away.

To be interesting, you need to:

Be helpful: This is the most effective and easiest way to be interesting. But it’s one that many marketers are leery of because they don’t want to give away their secret sauce. Smart marketers know that when they give away everything they know, it creates a connection that leads to a shorter sales cycle and a bigger sales total.

Going out of your way to create helpful content, be available to answer questions, or point your prospect to a resource they can use are all ways you can earn the right to stay in touch.

Know something the prospect does not: When someone knows something we don’t, we find that intriguing. This is where industry data, research, case studies, how-to blog posts, and insider information prove incredibly useful. If you keep serving up interesting tidbits that give them an edge, they’ll keep listening.

Make an introduction: Odds are many people within your organization have powerful connections and collaborators. Maybe they served on a board with an influential individual, or it’s a client you’ve had for years. But many of your prospects would greatly appreciate being connected with someone in the industry who could help their career or be valuable to their company.

When someone trusts us with one of their contacts, we know they’ve, in essence, called in a favor on our behalf. That creates a sense of gratitude and the need to reciprocate in some way in the recipient of the introduction. That’s a powerful connection that will serve you well as you work to maintain a relationship with the prospect.

The most significant danger to this strategy is our own impatience. With a reluctant prospect, we need to wait until they clearly indicate to us that they’re finally ready to hear about our product or service.

In a time when we can’t offer special pricing or some other incentive to speed up the sale, we just need to keep things interesting!

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


When old is new

February 9, 2021

It’s 2021, and we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, so all marketing paths are leading to digital solutions, right?

Actually, no.

Long before the pandemic hit, some very old-school marketing tactics were enjoying a new lease on life, and the realities of 2020 have just furthered their success. I don’t believe any of these will fade in effectiveness or popularity post-recession. Which means we’d better study up on how these golden oldies have been reinvented to be relevant today.

Direct mail: As our inboxes get more cluttered, our mailboxes have become prime real estate again. Technology has leveled up what’s possible with direct mail. AI technology allows brands to learn more about their target audience. Based on what we can now do with personalization, tracking how a recipient interacts with a direct mail offer or whether it results in a call, product trial, or purchases, is much easier.

Catalogs: Remember when you were a kid, and you pored over the Sears, J.C. Penney, or other toy catalog at Christmas time? I read and reread those catalogs like they were the latest Harry Potter novel. Amazon and other retailers have picked up this old tradition but with several new twists. Amazon’s 2020 catalog is about 100 pages packed with toys, electronics and games for all ages. It uses technology like QR codes, special in-app pricing and other targeting tactics to take full advantage of our nostalgia, the fact that people have screen burnout and the latest in technology.

Referral and loyalty programs: As all sales screeched to a halt this past spring, marketers were quickly reminded that there’s incredible gold to be mined in their existing customer database. Many businesses were kept afloat by those current customers, who were the most likely to spend money as things opened back up. Word of mouth stimulated spontaneous customer campaigns on social media to support local businesses and drove new opportunities when everyone was clinging to every dollar.

Product demos: No one is hanging out in the mall or big-box discount stores, gathering around the demo table, watching live demonstrations. But thanks to the power of video, demos are alive and well. Some brands have combined demos with an influencer campaign so that they have a “celebrity” endorse their product. But many brands are forgoing the influencer and using employees, real customers, or animation.

With the help of technology and social media, all of these marketing tactics can take on a new life and new effectiveness. One advantage we have this go-around is that we can weave all of these tools together to maximize their success. Merging digital and analog marketing efforts can be a potent combination that reaches your audience in multiple channels and often with multiple mediums.

We can also use sophisticated first and third-party data resources to make sure we’re delivering our messages directly to the people who are most likely to be receptive to them.

Our ability to accurately measure and monitor in real time has also improved dramatically, even over the past five years. While none of these marketing tactics work instantaneously, we can make adjustments quicker based on the real-time data collected, saving both money and time. We don’t have to wait for months to see trends and do A/B experiments to see if we can spike results or reduce waste.

As you think about how you’re going to connect with audiences in 2021, don’t forget that there’s still plenty of life left in the tactics that you probably cut your teeth on early in your career. Be wary of the shiny-object syndrome that we’re all susceptible to and remember that, at least in the marketing world, you can teach an old dog some new tricks!

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Should your company get political?

February 2, 2021

In last week’s column, we walked through the pros and cons of getting political on your personal social media channels. This week, I want to look at it from your company’s lens.

It’s challenging to know how our consumers feel about the issue. Look at this data:

In November 2019, Sprout Social research reported that among roughly 1,500 U.S. consumers surveyed, 70% said it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political matters.

That seems pretty straightforward until, in the same survey, you see that only 47% of consumers said they want brands to share their opinions through social media channels. That’s despite the fact that 67% of consumers say brands are effective at raising awareness around critical public issues when they speak out on social channels.

If that’s not confusing enough, more than half of the respondents (53%) said they believe that brands only take a stand for public relations or marketing purposes.

These stats demonstrate what a complicated issue this is. But are consumers getting more clarity on their feelings as we face #MeToo, COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a contentious presidential election?

As tensions increase in the U.S., 68% of consumers expect brands to be clear about their values, according to a report from Kantar Monitor in June. Millennials have the highest expectations for brands to speak out, according to the Kantar study.

  • 46% of millennials expect brands to take a stand on these issues.
  • 42% of Gen Z share those expectations.
  • 31% of Gen Xers and 22% of boomers expect brands to take a public stance on social issues.

A different study, the Corporate Social Mind Report, came out in July and showed that nearly 60% of Americans want the companies they buy products from to have a position about issues such as racial discrimination and social justice. Roughly 50% of the survey’s respondents said they often do online research to see how a brand reacted to social issues.

Several other studies also show that a slight majority of Americans do believe brands should take a stand. But how do you decide what to do when it’s clear that Americans are split on this issue? Actually, I think it’s the ideal time to make the call.

It means you have to decide based on your organization’s convictions and values combined with your perception on whether or not brands should jump into the discussion.

Those are two distinct decisions. How you feel about the issue itself is decision one. And then decision two is: Should you take a public stand?

If you are going to take a public stand, the first thing you need to do is make sure it’s genuine. Do your internal policies, decisions, and employee and customer experiences align with the stand you’re about to take? The minute you step out into the spotlight, you’re fair game, and if anyone thinks you’re being inauthentic, they’re going to say so. Publicly.

Beyond that, don’t just speak out. Offer a solution. Better than that, be a leader in creating a solution and invite your community to join you in the effort. Our consumers expect us to put the resources of the company behind our sentiments. It’s about walking our talk, so when you speak up, you also need to be ready to step out.

There are some incredibly rewarding reasons, like being an influencing force for change that comes with using your brand’s voice.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.