The power of Share of Search

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December 19, 2023

The power of Share of Search

Share of Search is a, largely untapped, well of knowledge. In the most rudimentary terms, Share of Search uses Google Trends search data regarding your brand, and your selected competitors, to look at people’s search behaviours over time.

Google’s search data can go as far back as 2004, giving you a nearly two decade long overview of people’s behaviours online. By exporting this data, and working some Excel/Google Sheets magic, you generate the yearly rolling average of these searches and BAM you can see exactly how your brand is performing compared to your competitors.

Now, the most important question. Why is this data useful? I promise you, you really should read on. Share of Search really is bloody useful.

For most categories (the exceptions being few) how people search on the web is strongly tied to their shopping habits. When people search for something, they are often considering or planning to buy it.

This means we have a quantitative source that’s tapping into people’s behaviours, rather than what they say.

As designing useful surveys to collect quantitative data is an artform in itself, and the gap between what people say and what they do being an overarching dark cloud of worry for many marketers, Share of Search allows for brands to tap into the real life behaviours of their consumers.

Not only that, but research done by Les Binet shows that Share of Search has a clear correlation with Share of Market. Share of Search predicts your future Share of Market - if you see your Share of Search increasing, you are very likely to see your Share of Market follow that same pattern. Depending on the category, the delay of correlation can vary. For example, the time people take to research buying a Volvo car compared to completing the transaction can be at least several months, whereas the time someone might spend pondering purchasing a Maybelline lipstick could be much shorter. But in the end, the relationship with what people search for is related to a brand's Share of Market.

Share of Search is therefore a quicker, generally cheaper, way to measure how your brand is performing compared to your competitors.


How not to fail Share of Search

There are some easy and common pitfalls to avoid when setting up your Share of Search analysis. The search terms you choose for your analysis are critical to the value and relevance you generate from Google. The same goes for the competitors you choose to compare yourself to.

When picking your search term, you need to be conscious of consistency. The search term for the brand you’re analysing and those of the competitors need to be of the same structure. If you are researching the brand name, then the entire set of search terms need to be brand names. If you are looking at a specific product, then you also need to compare it to other products. There’s absolutely no point in mixing these together, as the search terms you're analysing aren’t comparable.

You should, for example, not set up a Share of Search with the terms:

  • Maybelline

  • Loreal

  • Mac lipstick

  • Anastasia dip brow

  • Benefit brow pencil


Instead, a good structure of search terms is:

  • Maybelline

  • Loreal

  • Urban Decay

  • Max Factor

  • Bobbi Brown


The terms need to be consistent with each other, or you will be looking at data that measures different consumer behaviours, and you won’t be able to successfully compare and analyse the data.

You also need to be conscious of the competitor set you choose. For example, are you looking at your direct competitors, or your aspirational ones? If your competitors are massively bigger than yours, then your search traffic relative to the competitors might be so small you can’t discern any patterns. If you look at competitors that are closer in size it is easier to see peaks, troughs, and changes in the market.

You are able to see how you are performing compared to your competitors, but you can’t see how you are performing in the entire category. This is another reason why choosing your competitors carefully is essential, as anyone not included in the set will not be a part of the analysis, even if they own a large share of the market.

The market you and your competitors operate in is also essential. You want to compare how you are performing compared to other brands or products that are in your market, and that target the same consumers as you. There’s no point in having a competitor set where one company only operates in the US, another one in the UK, a third one in Germany, and so on… You should only compare yourself to competitors that are competing for the same consumers and customers as you.

Last words

Share of Search is far from perfect, but it is an incredibly useful measurement. Tapping into real-time consumer behaviour directly, marketers and companies can see how they are performing in their market. With its unparalleled consumer insight, we, at Halo, have used it to guide us for many client briefs.

We at Halo were trained in Share of Search by one of its founders - James Hankins. If you want to read more about Share of Search you can check out this article in Marketing Week.

Get in touch with us at Halo if you would like to discuss how your brand can utilise Share of Search.


Ellinor Valtersson | December 19, 2023
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Ellinor Valtersson
Brand Strategist
Curious nerd. Always learning. Asks way too many questions.
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