What’s in a Name? Measuring Prominence, and Its Impact on Organic Traffic from Search Engines

(Dr. Babur De Los Santos with Michael R. Baye and and Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, Information Economics and

Policy, forthcoming)

 

Organic product search results on Google and Bing do not systematically include information about seller characteristics (e.g., feedback ratings and prices). Consequently, it is often assumed that a retailer’s organic traffic is driven by the prominence of its position in the list of search results. We propose a novel measure of the prominence of a retailer’s name, and show that it is also an important predictor of the organic traffic retailers enjoy from product searches through Google and Bing. We also show that failure to account for the prominence of retailers’ names—as well as the endogeneity of retailers’ positions in the list of search results—significantly inflates the estimated impact of screen position on organic clicks.

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