UK consumers are shunning generic Internet searches, such as 'cheap flights' or 'broadband', in favour of searching for popular brands, according to new research.
According to the Managing Your Brand Online report published today by Experian, the growth of branded search in the UK provides threats as well as opportunities for brand owners and marketers.
Analysis by Hitwise, an Experian company, shows that 88% of searches for the 2,000 most popular search terms in the UK during May 2008 were for branded terms, a figure that has increased from 65% in May 2005. The most searched for term in the UK during May 2008 was 'facebook', which accounted for 1 in every 72 searches.
Co-authored by Robin Goad, UK Research Director for Hitwise and Lynn Brunner, Director of Consulting and Propositions at Experian's Integrated Marketing division, the report is available for download from www.hitwise.co.uk/registration-page/managing-your-brand-online.php.
1. Social media brands are most popular with UK consumers
UK consumers are voting for their favourite online brands in their masses. 88% of searches for the top 2,000 UK search terms during May 2008 were for branded terms, and all of the top 10 most popular search terms were brands. The most searched for term during May 2008 was 'facebook', which accounted for 1.39% of all UK searches. This was joined in the top 10 by four other social media related search terms: 'bebo' (2), 'youtube' (4), 'you tube' (5), and 'myspace'.
Other popular online brands appearing in the top 10 include the retailers eBay (3), Argos (7) and Amazon (8). The BBC completes the list with two entries, 'bbc' (8) and 'bbc weather'. The only brand to drop out of the list between May 2007 and 2008 was RightMove, the property website.
2. Integrated marketing drives branded search
According to the Managing Your Brand Online report, a successful offline marketing campaign will lead to a significant increase in searches for an organisation's brand. Following a TV, print, outdoor or radio campaign, brand owners should monitor the increase in branded search. This will help them measure brand awareness as well as the campaign's impact.
However, for a properly integrated online / offline marketing campaign, an increase in brand search should act as more than just a measure of success. Research carried out by Hitwise in 2007 looking at two marketing campaigns run by a large UK television broadcaster found that an integrated online / offline approach led to a doubling in traffic to the broadcaster's website, whereas its offline only campaign was less successful.
The report's co-author, Lynn Brunner, Director of Consulting and Propositions for Experian's Integrated Marketing division, comments: "This report clearly highlights the need for organisations to overcome a siloed approach to marketing. It reveals just how important the Internet has become as the 'unifier' of the direct and brand marketing disciplines and that brands need to include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) much earlier in the planning process than many do currently. To ensure that all potential online acquisition traffic is captured and maximised, it is vital that brands integrate SEO activities with the on and offline marketing mix."
3. Organisations must address brand leakage in order to prosper in the online marketplace
The Managing Your Brand Online report also reveals that 8.7% of searches for one of the top 100 online brands in the UK results in a visit to a website owned by someone other than the brand owner.
1.4% of searches for the top 100 online brands in the UK (excluding media / social networking companies) currently go to a social networking site. There have already been a number of high profile examples of companies getting 'stung' by a campaign organised against them on a social network, but there are also examples of the positive impact social networking can have on an organisation's brand. In many cases, social networks actually provide more traffic to websites than they take away. Similarly, the amount of traffic that weblogs receive from searches for the top UK brands has increased by 185% since the start of 2008.
Robin Goad, Research Director of Hitwise and co-author of Managing Your Brand Online, comments: "The growth of branded search in the UK poses an important question for brand owners: where is branded search traffic actually going? Much of this branded search is navigational in nature - people type a brand name into a search engine or browser toolbar with the clear intention of navigating to a particular site.
Before Google's trademark changes, such sites had to rely solely on effective SEO to pick up large volumes of traffic. However, search engine optimisation can now be complemented with a paid search strategy for branded terms, increasing the threat even further. Consequently, with branded search continuing to rise in the UK, the only way that companies can protect their brands is to fully understand how they are searched for online.
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