What's Brand Got to Do With It?

Search engine optimization and marketing is often thought of as solely a direct marketing media, with branding often forgotten. In fact, branding and brand awareness are significant elements of search, and some recent studies have started to evaluate the importance of branding.

Separate Branded & Generic Search Phrases When analyzing your search traffic, take care to separate out the branded phrases from the unbranded phrases, as they are quite different beasts. All too often search traffic and conversions rates are quoted as just "search," with no separation of branded verses generic. This is important, as visitors using your brand have already been made aware of you through some form of marketing activity, either online or offline, or they are an existing customer. Thus it is unrealistic for search to take all the credit, when brand- building activities have been key in driving consumers to your site.

Be Found It seems obvious that your site should be easily found by people searching for your brands. In most cases this is achieved by your company name, but what about your marketing slogans, trademarks and product-related brand names? All too often a company is not ranked well for the secondary brand names and marketing slogans it is spending hundreds and thousands of dollars promoting offline. If you are using mass media to promote your products, make sure to make it easy for customers to find you online.



Protect Your Brand The first thing I've started doing when I'm talking to prospects is to type their company name and trademarks into Google to see which of their competitors are targeting these terms. More often than not I find one or more competitors using Adwords to target the trademarks. If this happens to you, just contact the competitor to ask them to stop. Then contact Google to request that no one can target your trademarks again. But be aware that Google might not honor such requests, unless your competitors are using your name in the text of their ads.

Monitor Your Brand The next thing I do with prospects is look at the natural search results for the company name and brand names to see if their customer service department has been doing a good job, or if they have upset any customers who have vented their anger online and achieved a top 10 ranking! It happens more often than you would think, and blogs are making it much more common. Here is a real-life top 10 ranking that was displayed when searching for a well-known ISP: "****** are Cr*p : **** Blog" One person's bad experience resulted in this listing ranking well for over a year, which couldn't be good for the brand.

Most Popular Brands in Industries Search phrase research tools like can be used to research the most popular brands in a particular industry. They are a useful and cost-effective way of evaluating your brand awareness among online users compared to your competitors. Or if you are retailing branded products, you can find out which brands have the biggest demand online. For example, a quick look at the U.K. new car-market tells us that the top 5 manufactures are: Vauxhall, BMW, Toyota, Ford and Peugeot.

Brand-Build with Search A study last year by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Nielsen//NetRatings clearly showed the brand-building power of a top search engine listing (based on paid search). It showed that on average placement was a key element. Ads in the top position on the search results page increased an aggregate of all the brand metrics by an average of 14 percent across six industries. The effect falls dramatically as you drop down the rankings, with no real effect at the fifth position.

Pre-Purchase Search Behavior A recent DoubleClick study (Search Before the Purchase) showed some very interesting data regarding the part generic and brand phrases played in the online purchase cycle. In summary, the study concluded that most buyers used generic searches two or more weeks before purchase, but many of these searchers used brand phrases within the last week prior to purchase. The survey also concluded that generic phrase targeting was key, as most purchasers used this approach over brand searching. However, the study did highlight the importance of brand within search activity.

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