Consumers today conduct more research and have access to more information about businesses than ever before. The problem for marketers? Too much of the information about their brands online is unverified or inaccurate.
When it comes to the essential facts about a business’s products, services, people and places — the facts that comprise the answers to questions that show intent to transact — there is no better expert than the brand itself. Digital marketers can and should be in control of these facts everywhere they appear, delivering accurate brand-verified answers about their business. But right now, they’re not: marketers believe that only 35% of the information available about their brand in the digital ecosystem is accurate and up to date.
Every customer journey starts with a search. But if your brand shows up in search results with incorrect or incomplete information — or doesn’t show up at all — you risk missing out on that customer’s business and losing revenue.
Read more in our recent blog post, What Is Intent Marketing and Why Does It Matter?
The Three Types of Answers in Search
To understand what types of information customers see about your brand when they make a search, it’s helpful to break down the three types of online answers — objective, subjective and deceptive answers.
The search ecosystem is designed to deliver fact-based, or objective, answers like “what time does Taco Bell open?” or “does the UPS store on Claremont Avenue have a public notary?” It is also set up to provide opinion-based, or subjective, answers in the form of opinions, reviews and recommendations.
Google reports an 80% increase in mobile searches including the phrase “should I” in recent years. Consumers are seeking third-party validation of their purchase decisions. (It’s also worth noting that brands can influence the subjective answers consumers find about them with effective reputation management — by encouraging, monitoring and responding to reviews across digital properties, plus taking action on negative reviews to guarantee consistency and quality throughout the customer experience.)
However, the shifting search ecosystem has opened up room for a third type of results: deceptive answers. The proliferation of, and consumer desire for, subjective information online has allowed search to become murky and crowded with disinformation and misinformation alike. Disinformation takes the form of low-quality content designed to take advantage of search algorithms to drive ad impressions. Misinformation online, meanwhile, is simply inaccurate or out-of-date information on unmanaged digital properties. Paid search ads are also a source of deceptive answers — your competitors may be running ads on your branded keywords, driving up the cost-per-click for you and driving consumers to “comparison” landing pages that include disinformation about your product.
Objective Answers Matter More Than Ever
Because of this rise in deceptive answers within search, it’s never been more imperative for marketers to take control of the objective answers that are delivered to their customers. Customers ask questions looking for the essential facts about a business’s products, services, people and places. Brands need to be in control of those facts — and the answers to those questions.
If brands don’t provide objective, accurate answers to questions about their business directly, someone else will earn those clicks, transactions — and most important — the trust of their potential customers. But for a brand to maintain control of its brand-verified answers (information about a brand, delivered by the brand itself) a structured, single source of truth for all of its potential facts is necessary.
To achieve this, brands need a knowledge graph — the same kind of technology that powers search engines. That’s the only way to make sure that your brand stays in control and that you can deliver brand-verified answers everywhere your customers are searching.
For more information, check back next week when we’ll be releasing research about who is answering questions related to your brand.