Many of the large enterprises we work with have a significant brand. They can mount advertising campaigns to create leverage for all of their marketing efforts. Sometimes, this comes out a bit sideways from an SEO perspective. What I mean is that some of these brands view SEO solely as a means to harvest the benefits of their other marketing efforts, rather than a marketing effort on its own.
For example, one brand we work with is only concerned about ranking for its brand names (both the company and individual products). To them, that is the sole purpose of their SEO. This is not quite as trivial as it sounds, as the company has a large scale affiliate program effort, where many of their affiliates are quite aggressive at SEO. If they do not put the effort in, they can get outranked for their product brand names.
A Practical Example
Let’s take a real world example. If I use the AdWords keyword tool, I can pull a list of the search volumes on the largest brand names in diapers:
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As you can see, the top 2 are Pampers and Huggies. Both sport impressive search volume! This is great stuff.
Since these are the top brand names in the diaper biz, let’s take a look at how they fare in a search for their key non-branded search term, “diapers”:
The screen shot shows the top six search results, and they are nowhere to be found! In fact, Huggies.com comes in at #7, and Pampers.com does not show up until the 3rd page of results. Not a good thing! Interestingly enough, the story is reversed if you search on [diaper], where Pampers comes in at the #8 spot, and Huggies is not on the first page. Still not good.
What’s The Opportunity Cost?
One way we can estimate the opportunity cost is by looking at the Google AdWords tool phrase match search volume for the major brand terms vs. the non-brand search terms:
The phrase match volume shows us the total volume of all the search queries that include the word (or words) inside the quotes. This can give us a rough estimate of the long tail search volume associated with the word or phrase. Clearly, there is a lot more long tail volume associated with the non-branded terms than there is with the branded terms.
You could argue, and you would likely be right, that the conversion rate on the branded terms will clearly be higher, and that a significant percentage of the non-branded terms long tail volume will come from things that do not apply as directly, such as [diaper bags].
However, all of that non-branded long tail search volume represents a branding opportunity that is being missed in a big way. Note that if someone searches on your brand name, they already know it, and they already have developed a certain level of interest in that brand.
If they search on a non-brand name, chances are that they don’t have that same level of commitment. What we see in the above data is 2.5 million branding opportunities. You could also argue with me that you can get more impressions per month by other media. While that would be non-trivial, you could do that, but you would be missing the point.
Nearly 100% of the search impressions are from people who have a direct and immediate interest in diapers. Granted that some of the people who search on phrases like [Diaper cakes] may be researching cakes for a baby shower, but even some of them may buy diapers for the event. Nowhere else are you going to get anywhere near the same volume of people with such a focused interest.
In addition, there is a lot of business to be had among these keywords. This is all incremental business since the search query started with a non-branded phrase.
What Can We Learn From This?
The basic branding campaigns that major brands pursue bring huge benefits. I remember when I was first learning about marketing and branding. One of the key concepts I learned was the notion that it took 7 branding impressions to create a sale. Seems to me that there are a ton of those impressions still available in search. Right now, diapers.com is reaping far more of those benefits than the major brands.
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