What is Share of Search?

Share of Search (SoS) is a method of tracking brands and advertising accurately, using Google search data. It helps brands demonstrate a very clear relationship between advertising, search, and sales. Importantly, it’s a powerful, leading indicator for market share*.

There is a simple equation to calculate Share of Search:

Searches for brand X, divided by Searches for all the brands in the competitor set.

By calculating Share of Search, you have a valuable metric for the demand side of the marketing equation. This includes customer penetration, brand size and strength, and short to long-term advertising. So, it lies somewhere between brand salience and brand consideration.

It also allows you to measure your brand interest against other brands in your category. Critically, you can track marketing activity and make strategic decisions in advance of predicted market share changes.

The short answer is accuracy. Historically, marketers have used survey data for brand tracking, based on questionnaires. However, the relationship between these surveys and purchase behaviour is often surprisingly weak.

As David Ogilvy once said:

“Consumers don’t think how they feel. They don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.” Google is the world’s biggest database of human intentions. It offers marketers precision and a new way to track consumer behaviour. And it does this not on what consumers say, but on what they do. Specifically, what they do online. So, search presents a powerful research tool. It provides rich data on what people are going to do, think, feel, and buy.

Long-term advantage

Marketers already use search data to predict what someone is going to do in the next few minutes or hours. But rarely look at timescales beyond a week.

Share of Search can be a predictor of long-term trends in market share because lead times can be quite long. A six-month warning that market share will drop, enables a brand to act strategically immediately to optimise its media mix.

The correlation between changes in Share of Search preceding changes in market share acts as an early warning system. Brands are able to forecast with a high degree of accuracy.

A powerful metric

Share of Search is globally relevant and equals Market Share across categories, countries, and languages (the ratio varies slightly). The correlation is dynamic, so when Share of Search changes, so does Share of Market.

A recent study shows Share of Seach (i.e. consumer demand) represents on average 83% of Market Share*. Other factors can also drive market share such as distribution and physical availability. So, if you test a brand against market share in a category, you will often see a positive correlation.

There is also clear evidence of a relationship between Share of Search and mental availability for brands. This is a great indicator for identifying trends in advance and acting decisively.

Applying Share of Search insight

Not everyone has access to market share data. This is why Share of Search is so important. It allows any organisation to use this proxy instead of an often expensive, calculation of a brand’s market share.

Having this search insight data means you can see consumer intent accurately. It allows you to measure your activity and steer your business ahead of significant changes in market share.

Most organizations will focus on sales. For other sectors such as higher education, the key metric could be the share of graduates.

Get started

For challenger brands, Share of Search levels the playing field. With bigger brands, it presents a huge opportunity to verify key trends. Ultimately, it helps plan with insight to create the biggest business impact.

SeachShare is a new tool that calculates Share of Search quickly and easily, with tailored client reports.

Want to learn more? Sign up for SearchShare *Binet & Hankins and The IPA Share of Search ThinkTank 2021