10. Brand traffic: What Are Brands and How Can You Utilize This Traffic?

With Will, Stephen, Dixon and Barry.

Will Critchlow – CEO & Co-Founder Distilled
I think the first thing here to realize is that we’ve gone backwards in data. Because pre not-provided, you were able to tell where your brand’s search traffic was going, you knew what your keywords were, you were able to segment that out. These days we really can’t segment in that way. We’re missing some data.

But it’s very clear that if you – just as an user – when you’re going to search – with search suggest, with related searches, with all these kind of things – you’re kind of getting funnelled into that stuff. You might start by searching “credit card”, but there will be suggested searches of “barclaycard credit card” or related searches of “MBNA credit card”. And, as a marketer, that’s a huge win. Even before you consider it as a ranking factor for anything else. Just the fact that, if you can persuade people to be searching for your company and your brand, instead of the generic, then obviously that’s a marketing win.

But I think we are increasingly going to be seeing all of those brand signals factor into ranking factors in the regular, unbranded search results. When you’re doing a “credit card”-type search, those brands will be present and they’ll be present not just because their website are so powerful, in the kind of traditional ranking factors sense, but because of all of those brand factors. So because of branded search, because of co-search. So, then there will be people who type “mbna credit card” – if enough people do that, that connects those entities in modern ranking algorithms.

And so, as a marketer, you will be looking for ways make those things happen, and to find the ways that associate your brand more closely with your target keywords. And it’s going to be an increasing ranking factor.

Stephen Kenwright – Director of Search Branded3
You see it all the time. I mean, you’ve kind of moved from traditional but bland advertising being, “talk on this hashtag” to “search for this. Search for this, on this product that we’ve got.”.

And we’ve certainly seen that, when brands that we’re working with do product-led advertising on TV or push a promotion on MoneySuperMarket, for example, you can see literal non-branded search queries, you can see the rankings actually go up a page, or two pages, for the duration of that campaign and then drop back down.

Will Critchlow
Which is probably what the users want. It’s great, this is Google doing the right thing for users in many ways.

Dixon Jones – Majestic Marketing Director & Receptional Founding Director
I have to echo exactly what you’ve said there. I think the important thing about brand is that is has the ability to convert people way earlier in the search process. If somebody types in “dyson” instead of “vacuum cleaner” or “hoover” instead of “vacuum cleaner”. You’ve completely change the mechanics of the whole search funnel at that point.

So that’s why brand is really really important. And as you say, it becomes much more important now that Google is associating this word as an association with this. As “mbna” is associated with “credit card” for the example you gave. I’ve got “majestic wine”, “majestic search”, completely different context.

But if you’re going to go back to the conversations about “Ok Google!” then it makes a huge difference because Google has to got to get it right. Google can’t give you “majestic wine” if you’re asking about “majestic search” and if you’re asking about “majestic search” you’re not drinking enough wine.

So the point being is that Google has got to make those connections: this brand is associated with this keyword. And until it’s done that, you’re not going to get all the benefits of that brand. But you’ve got to get that done, you’ve got to get your brand associated with the products you are working with.

Barry Adams – Founder Polemic Digital
I think the emphasis on brands also aligns with what Google is actually trying to do, which is to give the best, most reliable, most useful results to its end users and Google is starting to understand that websites belonging to big brands tend to fit all of those particular factors.

Now it might be very frustrating for newcomers and small players, because they can’t replicate those sorts of brand results even though they sometimes believe themselves they are the much better result.

It sort of skews the playing field a little bit towards the big brands but the user ends up winning in the long-run. Because they end up with better search result, that more fit with what Google wants to represent as a trustworthy reliable source.

Will Critchlow
Or at least not losing. I think the interesting thing is that the little niche-sites you’ve never heard of might be better than the content you get on the big brands.

Barry Adams
.. but it’s a risk.

Will Critchlow
… but it’s often very much worse. If you look at the internet as a whole, most of the worst content is on noname-sites. And so, I think it was Eric Schmidt who said that brands are the way to filter out the cesspool of the internet.

And essentially you can just say, if we only look at brands, at least we get rid of all the terrible stuff. And yes, there could be false positives, we might also lose some great sites in the mix. But they do seem to be doing that.

Barry Adams
Collateral damage, basically.

Will Critchlow
And I think the action for smaller site marketers is to build micro-brands. The great thing about the internet is that there are all these sustainable niches that would never have been a business if you were in the offline world. Because you simply couldn’t have found the 50.000 people around the entire globe who are into this thing. Whereas the internet is capable of bringing that stuff together.

So you can build those micro-brands and as Dixon, I think you hit the nail on the head, if you go further up that brand funnel – this is why people, this is why Fast-Moving-Consumer-Goods advertising is such a big deal. If you can set somebody’s preferences, you make money of them for the rest of their lives. And that’s why TV advertising had so much budget put into it and so forth. And, just for a personal perspective, I still buy Nike basketball shoes because of Michael Jordan.

Dixon Jones
I’m still buying an iPhone. It’s getting worse but I still buy the iPhone.

Will Critchlow
And so, I think you can do it in the niches. So I don’t think it’s “completely give up if you’re competing against the big brands”. It’s “find the thing that you can be greatest at!”.

Barry Adams
It’s one of those areas where SEO is starting to align more and more with classic marketing. Where we go away from being a technical discipline and more towards of a marketing discipline. Because, if you do want to build an online brand, you have to do it the classic marketing way and can’t rely on just using a few technical channels, like SEO and pay-per-click. You have to establish that brand presence with above the line advertising or maybe targeted social media advertising.

Dixon Jones
You also gonna be a bit unicorny – sorry to use the word, hopefully only time all day – but you do have challenges, I think particularly in travel or comparison sites have got a challenge and an advantage here. So the MoneySuperMarket or the booking.com’s or whatever.

They have a disadvantage because they have a disadvantages against Marriott for hotels or Hilton for hotels or the brand Hilton – you should get to Hilton – but they have the luxury of structured data which has a win in a different part of the algorithm, as well. So it depends on the context in which you are searching or the context in which Google is pulling its algorithms together, as to where a comparator or a new model brands, web brand, has to evolve.

Stephen Kenwright
And then, because they’ve been able to maneuver more quickly for a long time, they’ve managed to change behaviour over time. To the extent that, now, a lot of the time when people are searching for credit cards, such a big chunk of them actually are looking for a comparison now.

Dixon Jones
So they’ve won the thing. They’ve won, you’ve got earlier in the funnel. They’ve achieved the marketing objective. And therefore Google will be very wrong not to show MoneySuperMarket at the top when you type in “moneysupermarket”.

Barry Adams
And yet they put their own comparison in there, first.

Dixon Jones
Well yeah and also, of course, the micro sites or the micro businesses thing have a secondary market within MoneySuperMarket. If they’ve got a better credit card rate than everyone else.