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It’s no secret that a secondary objective for a large amount of search marketing activity is branding, yet the results show that a lot of well-recognised brands are failing to have a presence online, meaning that the space is occupied by competitors.

This is highlighted by new research from Epiphany, which challenges the accepted UK list of 'superbrands' by exploring their visibility within the search landscape.

I realise that this opens various issues, the most obvious being the ongoing argument as to what constitutes as online branding, or at the very least, what proportion of branding activity organisations should be allocating to specific channels. I have my own personal thoughts about this, the main being that it’s pretty dependent on the overall business objective and the industry of the business. 

The continuing developments in search, such as real-time results or Google’s search-wiki, mean that brands are going to have to continue to remain conscious about their visibility and will need to try and manage it as much as possible. I’m of the opinion that a number of the superbrands at least are relying too much on brand-led terms in search, meaning that related keywords are dominated by competitors. 

Epiphany’s Director of Search, Andy Heaps, seems to agree: 

It’s not necessarily that big brands are complacent when it comes to search - it’s more that the potential of search isn’t always understood, so isn’t seen as a priority. Brands are also often blinkered by the comfort that comes from brand traffic they receive, that they often neglect the fact that larger exposure is available through more generic search terms.

Having had a sneak preview of the B2C results, it makes interesting reading – although I’m not altogether surprised to see that the brand search-visibility results differ so greatly from the standard list, mainly due to the reason I just explained. 

So, which B2C brand is top of search in the UK, I hear you ask?...


I’m suspicious that the chocolate-fest otherwise known as Easter may have something to do with this, but as this list is going to be updated on a monthly basis, it’ll be interesting to see if they keep the top-spot. 

Although I’m sure people will contest the list, it seems reasonably solid. The research has been generated using an automated system, where an algorithm collects and analyses the search visibility of a brand within both paid and natural search, across the three main search engines.

A scoring system then allocates points based on where each of the top 10 keywords ranks in each search engine, taking into account the proportionate market share and traffic volumes of each engine, by weighting the points accordingly.

For me, what sets this method apart from previous attempts is that a very rational approach has been taken, where a combination of brand terms and associated keywords have been used, meaning a much more holistic overview. 

More tellingly, it provides a great search performance benchmark for the companies themselves.. Furthermore, it also highlights the importance of having a rounded search presence, rather than relying upon the heritage of a brand. 

I’m opening up the floor on this though, as I’m extremely interested to hear people’s thoughts on both the research and the relationship between search and branding. Any thoughts? 

[Image via Danard Vincente]

Jake Hird

Published 9 April, 2010 by Jake Hird

Jake Hird is Econsultancy Australia's Director of Research and Education. Follow him on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn or see what he's keeping an eye on via diigo

126 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan, Senior Copywriter at Koozai

Interesting report. The only issue I see with the whole brand visibility issue is that it doesn't necessarily provide any details on how much this effects the real bottom line - ROI.

Whilst I think all businesses need to make sure that they maintain a high level of search engine visibility, will it really make all that much difference to, say Walt Disney who were 43 out of the 50 super brands? They could spend millions on developing expensive PPC campaigns and improving SEO, but will that generate sufficient brabd interest.

What you say about letting in competitors though is very important. Clearly, the more competitive your market, the better placed you need to be. But the onus is more firmly placed on those who are actively selling, rather than those who are simply promoting.

Within the superbrands list I note that there are businesses like Jaguar, Colman's and Fairy. Whilst I think it is important for these brands to have a web presence, they aren't actually going to be selling much directly. Therefore, is it that important that they are visible everywhere? In fact, it is probably more beneficial to Cloman's and Fairy if a store like tesco is featured prominently.

The Top 10, barring Google and the BBC, are all in highly competitive markets and all their sites feature stores within their main site. This makes promoting their brand all the more important, which is why they are clearly investing more than most in improving search visibility.By gaining online search traffic, they can see a clear ROI.

Anyway that's my two cents. A very interesting read as always.

over 6 years ago

Shane Quigley

Shane Quigley, Co-Founder at Epiphany

Hi Stephen, you make some insightful points here, with brands leaving oppotunities open for competitors to gain market share. Most brands who aren't out and out market leaders would probably look to search marketing in order to drive in-roads into the leading brands territories becuase it is so cost effective. This is where we have seen many traditional super brands make mistake over the last 5 years, leaving gaps in online strategy that allow competitors to piggy back on their offline awareness driving through TV and radio by ensuring they have high visibility in search for hook lines, products and key messages the super brand is promoting but failing to support within the search channel.

In terms of seeing ROI for brands like Disney, the ten keywords we chose for their report drive more than 1 million searches per year and they currently have less than 1% visibility for these terms. If they invested £60,000 over the next 12 months in SEO they could see this visibility reach around 50 to 80 percent, further exposing there brand to anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 extra searchers. From this, the brand exposure alone would justify that level of spend and if this campaign drove only 5% of the 1 million searchers into the Disney site, then that is 50,000 people who were searching for generic terms like "kids movies" that have been engaged by DIsney.

I agree with your comment about Fairy and Colmans needing good visibility in supermarkets for their products but let's remember why that is. It's becuase it's a crowded market full of very similar competitng products and any advantage regadless of how slight can make a significant difference to sales. If you consider the volume of investment these brands make in packaging, TV, in-store placements etc. then can they really afford to be less than highly visible online? Again for me, it comes back to the relatively in-significant investment it would take to ensure that this channel is "covered off" when compared to their existing awareness campaigns.

over 6 years ago

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