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?…

…Thorntons. 

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]