Friday Commentary: Trust and Google

Welcome to the Friday Commentary. In this series every Friday experts will shine a light on the digital industry. Where are we heading, what is going on and how should we approach this as decision makers? This Friday we listen to Nick Garner, CE0 of 90 Digital.


I’m convinced we are seeing the rise of Google, the consumer influencer.

Google have a website. On it you can navigate to other websites. It’s their website and they can do what they want with it. Right now they are making it increasingly difficult for SEOers to game’ the system. At the same time, they are making record profits from advertising on their website.


Source: Google

An ideally optimised ecosystem for Google would be to make advertising the best way to directly buy something and make natural search results the best place to form an opinion before buying something. Google has become the single most powerful consumer influencer there is, yet business is only waking up to this.

Google & Trust

In other words, Google wants us to trust its search results and depend on those results to make buying decisions.


Google came out with a piece of research on ‘Zero Moment of Truth’, the results from a 5,000 person survey into shopper behaviour online. The killer stat was that consumers look at on average 10.4 sources of information before making a buying decision when they research online.

On average web, users will look at 10.4 sources of information before making a purchase decision. This figure varies by sector as shown below.



  • ‘Stimulus’ which is branding and general awareness of a product brand or service.
  • ZMOT: Zero Moment Of Truth i.e. when you check out a brand
  • FMOT: First Moment Of Truth which is when you are buying

Source: Google

It’s justifiable to say that consumers purchasing behaviour is influenced by what they read on the internet.

As social animals, humans are very good at acting upon ‘micro social signals’. These signals steer the behaviour that affects our social interaction and ultimately allows us to function in large societies. We take this inbuilt skill for understanding ‘micro signals’ and we use this ‘bat sense’ when we’re working out what products or services to buy.

Ultimately consumers want three questions to be answered:

  • Is this right for me?
  • Is this worth it?
  • Will this brand deliver what it promises?

If a consumer isn’t sure what is right for them, they will research to find out more. Once they’re sure it’s the right product or service, they will look for validation from others to make sure their purchase is a good one.

In the following diagram we have:

  • ‘Stimulus’, which is branding and general awareness of a product brand or service.
  • ZMOT: Zero Moment Of Truth, when you check out a brand
  • FMOT: First Moment Of Truth, which is when you are buying
  • SMOT: Second moment of truth, when you experience the product


Source: Google

The main point here is today we get brand stimulus or conversations with friends about products services or brands. We then check them out online, buy what we know we want from the store / cart, give our feedback online and finally it adds to the information out there about the product or service you just bought. The Internet allowed this to happen and search engines gave us the means of finding that information.

Using data from the 5,000 person research panel, this chart below shows the percentages of those influenced by ZMOT, broken into activities:


Source: Google 

It’s interesting to note how social media only impacted ZMOT for 18% of all users, whereas search affected 50%, just ahead of friends and family at 49%.

Google found that users looked at an average of 10.4 sources of information before making a buying decision.


As you see, the bigger the investment the greater number of information sources are used.


Supporting this idea that users trust Google, Edelman the PR agency came out with a seminal piece of research on ‘trust’. It turns out that we trust search engines as much as traditional media.


Pew Internet

The Pew Internet and American Life Project did a piece of research into search engine use over time and found that 73% of users think search engine results are very /  reasonably trustworthy.


Source: Pew Internet |

Because users use search engines more frequently, they are now better able to find information to help guide their purchasing decision.

The following chart shows we’re all using search engines more frequently than in 2004.


Source: Pew Internet |

The real click rate for paid Adwords

We often think of paid search adverts taking up a huge percentage of clicks on the internet, but in reality PPC only accounts for about 7%. The other 93% of clicks is from natural search.


When search queries are looked at by intent , the breakdown is roughly as follows:

  • Transactional searches are  i.e. ‘buy [product]: 10%
  • Navigational searches are repeat searches for a known destination i.e. ‘facebook’: 10%
  • Informational searches are i.e.  ‘reviews [product]: 80%


In other words, we mostly search for stuff that leads to a buying decision.

OK, we trust Google and most clicks are not Adwords…now what?

If we trust Google, then it has influence. If something has influence it becomes something marketers can target and steer because they know whatever is influential affects business. This is how PR’s work…They influence media, steer output and affect the perception of a brand.

The PR industry is looking at Google, they know brand perception is steered by what comes up on search engines. PR’s are very good at getting the influencing content into trusted publications, but what they can’t do so well is manipulate search results like SEOers can.

Coincidentally, Google have started making SEO far tougher. Their spam team upped their activity and we saw the arrival of Penguin, disavow lists, ‘not provided’ and all the carefully structured dissemination of ‘fear PR’ around violating Google webmaster guidelines.

As a direct result, SEOers have had to get really good at Digital PR i.e.

  • Creating content people want to link to
  • Being persuasive in their outreach
  • Building meaningful relationships with the right online media owners to get placements and links

SEOers are one small step from out PR-ing the PR’s.

My best advice to a typical Chief Marketing Officer…

The proof is there, Google is far more than just another way to get traffic, it’s the single most influential source of information there is.

You can lift your brand, service and product reputation and thus conversions by using a combination of SEO and Digital PR. The business case is solid and the expertise is available.

I urge you to take ownership of your brand’s reputation on Google today.

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About Nick Garner

Nick Garner is CEO of 90 Digital, the SEO agency based on London & Leeds. He is a judge on the UK and European Search Awards and a regular conference speaker.

One thought on “Friday Commentary: Trust and Google

  1. Google is doing all it can to convey this level of trust. As marketers we forget at times how we experience Google, from the consumer side. We Google stuff each hour, it seems, and demand trusted results, or authority sites. I do at least, when looking for content for my articles as a freelancer. Or when I need travel information. Knowing this it forces us to do things from a high energy marketing space, to appease the Google gods 😉 Great breakdown here.

    I found this post on Kingged(dot)com and will vote it up!

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