Throughout my six years as an SEO, there have been times when I’ve questioned the value of SEO for clients. The reasoning behind this was that popular non-brand phrases were unlikely to drive business or in some cases where markets were dominated by aggregator sites, where people require choice from the offering, rather than an individual brand. Data was often backed up by generic paid search generating negative return and eventually being switched off.
There are always long tail phrases that will generate return but ultimately, that is not what this post is about. Brand terms are vital and in the majority of cases drive more revenue than high volume generic phrases, especially for big brands yet are often ignored on the basis that a site should rank for them. There are also opportunities that are not strictly related to the brand itself that are often ignored.
Working at OMD has exposed me to working with some of the biggest brands out there and my role is getting stuck in to the chunky pieces of work. Working with existing media clients, it would not make sense to not offer the service and it wouldn’t wash to argue the toss for not doing SEO. For the same reason, integration with other digital and above the line channels is crucial too. Offline marketing types don’t tend to understand digital and to be fair, there is likely a mutual misunderstanding but the two channels need to work together for the greater good and co-ordination is required between teams.
Campaign Based SEO Integration
One common failing of above the line work is that there is no measurability. There are ways in which to rectify this by the use of vanity URLs/domains and redirecting with campaign tracking codes but not everyone will remember the brand, let alone the URL. As much as TV advertisers will hate to admit it, people will often remember the advert but not the brand, unless the brand is drilled in to your head to the point of infuriation like the Go Compare and We Buy Any Car adverts here in the UK. If the branding is not strong however, there are other ways to get visitors to the site via other marketing channels and ensure the brand message is passed. Taking the first example to come to mind:
I remember watching this video and not being entirely sure what it was for immediately afterwards, so this is a perfect example of what I am talking about. In actual fact, the video is promoting Cadbury’s Dairy Milk; however, even four years after the advert, there are related terms that are not brand related:
I’ve deliberately excluded unrelated and brand terms, which add to the number of searches and while the volumes aren’t ground breaking, the advert is four years old and is still receiving search volume. Searches for these phrases further extend the measurement of above the line activity and increase traffic and ensure the brand association is made online, if it was not clear to begin with. In this particular example, the brand (Cadbury’s) appears eighth in the search results for the phrase, though visibility is poor due to the dominance of universal search:
None of the videos or images are from an official YouTube channel and the brand association is not clear on the titles which is certainly not ideal. Other, non-TV advertising can quite happily live on the site in harmony with regular content, particularly if it is humorous or emotive in some way. This could be in the form of advertising from newspapers, magazines, pub toilets or public transport. The same rules apply.
My strategy for integrating campaigns in to search and to gain maximum exposure and offline tracking would look something like the following:
1. Ensure the client keeps you in the loop with any upcoming marketing activity
It is difficult to carry out campaign optimisation strategy without being forewarned. This is often the most difficult part so prepare to be reactive.
2. If at all possible get a sneak peak of the campaign from the client or at the very least a brief
Again, a nice luxury if you can make it happen but seeing the campaign first hand will give a better understanding of what the campaign it is and allow you to properly brainstorm potential related keyword searches.
3. Create official YouTube and Flickr accounts if they do not already exist
Fairly obvious point, however you’d be surprised by the amount of brands that don’t have a branded YouTube account.
4. Prepare a paid search campaign covering brand and advert related terms, as well as any generic phrases that may apply, i.e. “drumming gorilla”
We all know that ensuring number one positions for every potential keyword is difficult so for maximum exposure and tie in to above the line, PPC will help assist and ensure maximum coverage.
5. Ensure there is a section of the site for adverts and campaigns and use a tailored landing page for paid search, as well as SEO
Again, an obvious point but not all brands have spaces on their site for their advertising campaigns.
6. Brief other digital teams to include relevant imagery for display and affiliate activity to amplify the campaign digitally
Display creatives should be altered on a regular basis and while I’m no expert on display, it would make sense for them to match any television advertising. The same creatives could be passed on to affiliate networks for affiliates to use on their own site, which should amplify the impact and engrave the advert on peoples’ minds.
7. Prepare and optimise a landing page for the campaign in question, include imagery and a description of the campaign for the visually impaired
Not the same as point five, which suggests having a dedicated section of the site for advertising, my point here is to ensure a dedicated landing page for each advert and not all adverts on a single page.
8. Launch the campaign
By launch, this could be the first TV airing, date of coverage in newspaper, etc. The following post launch strategy should occur as soon as possible afterwards and should be fairly self explanatory:
- If video based content, upload the video to YouTube and link to the landing page in the video description with Analytics tracking
- If image based, it wouldn’t hurt to upload to Flickr and watermark any images relating to the campaign for branding in universal search
- Optimise images for related terms in the filename and alt attributes, ensuring the latter are descriptive of the image in question
- Embed the campaign/video in to the pre-prepared landing page
- Put the paid search campaign live
- Amplify the launch by promoting through official social media channels and PR
- Do not remove the campaign page from the site
The last point is important; often brands will remove older adverts from their sites and YouTube channels, which is completely unnecessary. If the campaign is successful and memorable it can drive traffic for years to come. One further point I’d highlight is tracking content on third party sites using the Google Analytics URL builder where possible.
Search can be avoided altogether with the use of QR codes, however I’d argue that until QR code readers are native in modern smartphones, rather than requiring a third party app, the uptake is likely to be small and regardless, there will always be searches, so it is still worth covering all bases.
Extended Brand Terms
Campaigns are not the only brand related searches that get overlooked. There are many extended brand terms where a brand will not rank in first position. Often brands have parent or sister companies that will outrank them, even if they are less relevant and traffic is lost to these sites. This can be avoided by linking between the sites or if required, by link building targeting these terms.
In my experience there is one common brand related suffix that is usually outranked by third party sites and they relate to the brand and vouchers/discounts. Those pesky voucher code affiliates dominate these terms though this is often due to not having a relevant landing page on the site. If there is no brand presence, people will visit the affiliate sites for these terms anyway, so why not have a discount and voucher code landing page on the site? The offer doesn’t have to be earth shattering, as long as it gets the traffic to the site and not your affiliates. This can be supported through paid search.
Other common brand variations include complaints, contact, prices etc. Make use of your Analytics data, internal search and Google suggest for common variations and see where you rank. I’d imagine you’d be surprised at what ranks for these terms. If you don’t rank, it’s likely that there is no relevant landing page.
Products are effectively brand terms. To use the example above, the main brand was Cadbury’s; however the product was Dairy Milk, which is a brand in itself. Often the product can have greater search volume than the main brand. Again, ensuring a dedicated page for each brand assists with this, though in many cases, the product will have its own site. Of course, there are further terms relating to the product, Dairy Milk itself is a chocolate bar, a milk chocolate bar at that.
This leads nicely on to vanity searches, something which the largest brands seem to be adamant on ranking for, despite a likely poor ROI. The brand association is enough for them to want to rank. In the continued example, Cadbury’s and Nestle may want to fight it out for “chocolate”. Levis and G-Star may want to fight it out for “jeans”. It would be poor show to not advise the client that ranking for these terms will take a lot of resource, time and effort for little return but for them, it is often necessary and as long as they have a reasonable budget, there is no reason not to chase it.
There are always less obvious related terms that can be taken advantage of, on top of the primary generic keywords. For food related terms, there are always nutritional searches. “Calories in chocolate”, “fat in chocolate” are two examples following the same theme. Governments, particularly in the UK and the US, are placing a larger emphasis on health awareness and encourage brands to educate their consumers. It is good PR for brands associated with obesity to actively promote healthy eating and a balanced diet. Being upfront and offering honest advice can lead to good publicity and help capture more search traffic, though of course, people will be critical of the dealer preaching to the addicts approach.
Finally, piggybacking on current affairs is a great way to increase search traffic assuming that it can be made relevant. This could be the form of linkbait or just simply an article/blog post discussing the topic. I’d advise that it is kept on topic and that caution is taken with the topics that you chose to jump on. Choosing a topic that is close to people’s hearts can lead to negative attention and unless you’re Ryanair who seem to thrive from trolling the public, bad publicity is not good publicity. One very recent example is a Dragon’s Den funded popcorn brand that jumped on the riot bandwagon:
This particular gem was blogged about by Andrew Burnett and the image is from his post.
The key here is to discuss events relevant to your site and brand, perhaps showing some thought leadership while avoiding potentially emotive topics.
After all this, I still believe there are companies that will not see a significant return from search. My experience has told me however, that there are always ways to increase traffic, even if you are concentrating solely on integration with campaign based marketing and brand terms. The extra traction from SEO and search as a whole is 100% worthwhile, if you can get the integration part right.