This weekend, we started seeing tiny buttons next to each Google search result that allow you to move a site up or down in the ranking, personalizing the results that you get each time you search on that particular keyword when logged into Google. So, this thing, called Google Search Wiki, allows you to quickly get to what you've determined to be the most relevant returns on a search.
The preferences are visible only to you, barring the "see all Google search wiki results" link at the bottom of the page for each search - where you can see what other people ranked as relevant, and any comments they made on the listings.
To me, this is more than just a cool new tool. The very existence of Google Search Wiki is acknowledgement that people tend to search for the same thing many times over, and use search to get to sites they already know exist, not just find new ones.
I do this all the time - I almost never type a url. I always just type the name of the site, or the terms I know will get me there into my Google Searchbar. I've done this in front of some people, and they think it's weird. The reason for why I do it that way is that it's faster. I always inevitably type a url wrong (.cm is my classic typo), which then takes me (usually) to a spam site, which means I have to retype it, and....ugh. Too much work. If I make a mistake when I type my search into the Google bar, it will almost always know what I meant to type, and I get my result anyway, saving time and energy on my part. (I guess that article about Google making people stupid might have some validity with me).
I use this technique this for stuff that I don't have a browser bookmark for, and that I can remember well enough that I don't need to sift through my Del.ici.ous bookmarks to jog my memory.
The fact that Google Search Wiki has been created sort of validates the fact that a lot more people than just me tend to use this 'search first' method, even if they know where they want to get to.
This all seems pretty obvious, but in my experience, it isn't widely acknowledged by brands. I think that some marketers still think that when they put a url on a tv spot, someone is out there meticulously typing that url in letter by letter. The importance of a comprehensive search strategy that works with other communications is immense, because this is generally not what people do.
Brands know that SEM is important, and invest against all the key terms that are relevant to their business, including their own brand name. The thing is, their competitors do this as well, and even if I am a person who seemingly knows what I want, because I searched directly for it, that doesn't mean that I can't be drawn away to a competitor at that point.
Example: I searched 'Harry and David', because I am uncreative gift giver when it comes to my grandparents.
But look at that! Even though I searched for them, I might be swayed by Pemberton Farms over there, because they are offering 15% off. This wouldn't have happened if I'd simply typed HarryandDavid.com into the URL bar, but it happened because my first instinct was to search.
I guess my point here is that maybe the ad should be different for people who directly search for the brand name, to keep them on track in getting to the site. Since I already know what the brand is, because I searched for it, maybe the job of any paid search ad is to fight off competitors, rather than explain what the brand is. A lot of brands do this already, but I think more brands should.
(Not that $7 flat shipping would be enough to keep me from clicking on whatever White House Black Market is....come on Gap, you can do better than that.)
Search is incredibly ingrained into not only how we initially look for information, but also how we relocate the information and resources we know and trust. In my opinion, the creation of Google Search Wiki is hard evidence of this. So as a brand, if I'm already aware enough of who you are to search for you directly, isn't there an opportunity to do more at that point than repeat to me who you are, and that you exist?