There's many expensive ways to measure brand awareness, but how can you do it for free?

Traditionally, brand awareness is measured using quantitative surveys.

Once or twice a year, big brands commission research agencies to design and deliver a survey that measures:

  1. Awareness: How many people in their target market recognize them
  2. Perceptions: What they think of the brand in relation to the competition

Digital platforms like SurveyMonkey make this type of research easier and more accessible, but you don't always have the time or money to invest in survey-based awareness measurements.

While surveys are the most accurate way to measure brand awareness, there are some free alternatives that give you similar results quickly.

  1. Why you should measure brand awareness - the insights that knowing your brand awareness unlocks to inform better marketing strategy
  2. The best KPIs for brand awareness - what to measure and track over time
  3. 3 ways to measure brand awareness for free - ideas and approaches you can use right now to track the awareness of your brand

Why should you measure brand awareness?

In a world of digital tracking and analytics, why is it important to know how many people are aware of you?

Brand awareness informs strategy

Knowing how many people are aware of your brand is crucial information for good marketing strategy.

Look at the two marketing funnels below...

Measuring brand awareness identifies areas of weakness in your marketing funnel

Despite having identical bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) measurements, Brand A has 75% awareness in the market while Brand B is trailing at 23%.

Strategically, Brand A knows it's nearly reached the limits of achievable awareness and can double-down on BOFU tactics that convert more website visitors.

For Brand B, following the same BOFU tactics would be disastrous.


Because no matter how much they improve website conversions they will never have enough customers to outgrow Brand A.

Instead, Brand B should focus on top-of-funnel (TOFU) tactics to increase awareness as much as possible. The extra web traffic will trickle-down into greater sales, and help them steal customers from Brand A.

Brand awareness tracks campaign impact

Running these free brand awareness checks before, during, and after advertising campaigns gives you an immediate read on whether they're shifting the needle.

While sales is always the ultimate KPI, seeing if your advertising efforts are having an impact on a wider audience is a good indicator that your messaging and creative is performing well.

What are the best KPIs for brand awareness?

Brand awareness is usually reported as the percent of the total market that's aware you exist.

Depending on your market size and media budget, consistently investing in wide-reach advertising can see awareness increases of 5-10% per year. It's also possible to see brand awareness decline, which is common in companies that under-invest in marketing, focus too heavily on performance advertising, or are struggling financially.

Best brand awareness KPI: '% Audience Reached'

A good KPI to use to make sure you're reaching enough people throughout the year is % Audience Reached.

% Audience Reached = Total ad impressions / Total addressable market

When % Audience Reached = 100%, that means you've delivered one ad impression to everyone in your market in the given time range.

One impression isn't enough to convert, so you need to aim for 200% or 300% in a campaign. In other words, delivering 2 or 3 (or more) ad impressions to each person in your total market.

Consistently reaching 300% or more of your target audience throughout the year will put you on the right track to see 5-10% increases in brand awareness over a 12-month period.

3 ways to measure brand awareness for free

If you don't have the time or money for quantitative surveys, here's some other ways to estimate your brand awareness.

1. Look at website traffic in Google Analytics

Website traffic is the easiest, quickest way to estimate your brand awareness, especially for DTC or SaaS businesses. Comparing year-over-year organic and direct traffic volume over 6-12 month periods lets you know if brand awareness is increasing (or declining).

A net traffic volume change of -1.42% suggests brand awareness has decreased slightly in the past 6 months

Dividing your total website traffic volume by your total addressable market (TAM) also gives you a rough estimate of the percent of people who are aware you exist.

Most people check out a company's website before they buy, so even if you sell non-digital products or services this can be a good way to estimate brand awareness.

2. Compare ad impressions to total market size

Website traffic alone can't capture the true scale of people who are aware of you.

Ask your digital agency to send you a report with the total number of ad impressions delivered each quarter. Then divide the total number of impressions by your TAM.

Similarly to the % Audience Reached KPI, results over 100% mean you've delivered more than one impression per person (which is usually a good thing).

But not all ad impressions are noticed, remembered or even delivered to a human! It's important that you factor in delivery and attention issues when calculating your total ad impressions.

“Digital marketers can expect up to 40% of their traffic to be fraudulent for any given campaign”
2021 Marketing Fraud and Benchmarking Report
White Ops

Discount your total ad impressions by at least 40% to get a fairer picture. If your agency reports 1 million ad impressions in Q1, assume that 400,000 of those impressions were ineffective and use 600,000 impressions to calculate your brand awareness instead.

3. Do a Share of Search analysis

Share of Search is the smart marketer's secret weapon, and is the best proxy for accurate brand awareness if doing a quantitative survey isn't an option.

Share of Search uses freely available Google Trends data to track how many people are searching for your brand compared to the competition.

Since Google shares search data from 2004 to the present, you get the long-term trends in brand awareness not just for your own company, but everyone in the category!

A share of search analysis for Canadian banks shows changes in market share and brand awareness across the category over a 5-year period

Share of Search is used as a proxy for Share of Market because it tracks consumer online searches over time. It's also a great way to see changes in brand awareness without relying on your own limited website or advertising data.

Here's a great step-by-step tutorial on doing Share of Search analysis for your brand using free Google Trends data.

Combine all 3 for best results

While none of these methods are as accurate as a survey, looking at your web traffic, ad impressions and Share of Search can be a great way of estimating the impact of in-market campaigns.

You can also combine all 3 methods to see if brand awareness is trending up or down over a 6-12 month period.

We measure brand awareness using both paid surveys and free methods when building growth plans for startups and SMEs.

These simple and effective marketing plans drive predictable, profitable growth in as little as 3 weeks, and are designed to raise brand awareness and sales at the same time.

The way we work, works

We’re a flexible, fast-moving, group of strategists and creatives. We work as an extension of your team, relying on evidence not hunches to deliver real results, fast.
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