PPC – Search used when brands are unknown, but it’s direct navigation for existing customers

PPC - Search used when brands are unknown, but it’s direct navigation for existing customers


It’s well established that consumers use multiple channels and digital tools for shopping research and discovery. Among them, Google, Amazon and social media (to a lesser degree) tend to be the top traffic referrers to websites with 48% of website visits coming from direct traffic.

Brand sites more trusted. Direct traffic to those sites indicates that brand familiarity or purchase intent probably already exists. Those customers are more likely to trust the content on the brand’s website compared with third-party platforms, according to a recent survey of just over 500 U.S. adults from Yext and Forbes:

  • 48% of current customers cite a brand’s website as one of their most trusted sources for information
  • 47% report being more likely to trust third-party sites, including search engine results, directories, and social media, when discovering a brand for the first time
  • Only 20% of current and new customers trust social media sites to deliver brand information

This directionally mirrors findings from an earlier BrightLocal survey about trust and small business (SMB) websites. In that survey, 56% of respondents said they expected the SMB site to be more accurate than the content in Google My Business (32%).

Source: Yext, Forbes Insights survey (2019)

The Yext survey found that people were looking for distinct products or services when they visit brand sites compared with search or directories. Consumers visit search and third-party directories for “objective information,” to compare providers, explore reviews, find deals, location and contact data. In visiting brand sites, they’re more often looking for specific information or content.

This corresponds to the “customer funnel” to some degree, and naturally makes sense. But Yext is using the finding to argue, correctly, that brands must ensure that their content is accurate and complete on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook and other third-party directories, as much as on their own sites.

Brand gets the blame, not the directory. Multi-location enterprises sometimes aren’t entirely thorough in populating content or attending to reviews on third party platforms. But when the information is wrong on those sites, brands can be blamed and it can damage the brand’s reputation.

According to the Yext survey, “Following a negative online experience with a brand, including finding inaccurate information, 28% of consumers tend not to buy that brand’s product or service at the time and 26% may share their bad experience with others.” Similarly, the BrightLocal survey found that 68% of consumers agreed with the statement “Finding incorrect information in online directories would stop me from using a local business.”

Why we should care. At the highest level, there are two major audiences: those that know the brand and those that don’t. Brands that are familiar to consumers (with positive reputations) are in a much better position — and will pay less for traffic and customer acquisition — than those that are fighting it out anonymously on the pages of the SERP.

A critical part of the larger process of building awareness, especially for brands with physical locations, is having complete and accurate profiles on key third party local platforms and paying attention and responding to reviews in a timely way.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.
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