Like Me? Follow Me.
Earlier this week, my colleague Ian began a series of posts about 'Why SEO Can Still Help You Even if You Have a Big Brand'. He makes some great points, and I strongly suggest you check out his post and keep your eyes on the rest of the series. After reading his post, I find myself in agreement, except for one thing - in many cases, I would argue that search engine optimisation is MORE important for big brands. Why? Well, because they have so much more to lose.
I've picked up on the example that Ian mentioned at the end of his first post - McDonalds and other fast food chains. They have no particular interest in competing for generic terms like "hamburger" or "sandwich", and it's no big trick for Google to work out which website belongs to their brand. But what about other brand specific terms - "McNugget" or "Big Mac", for example? Would Google know where to send visitors searching for these? The charts below show our findings for four of the UK's best known fast food chains.
In many cases, when a particular branded sandwich is searched for (and, as you can see, terms including these words are searched for fairly frequently), pages from the official site can only be found lower down the search engine results. Ahead of them are a range of related pages from other sites, including descriptions of the product, its nutritional value, sometimes even the recipe; often in a less than flattering light. For example, the Wikipedia page for "Big Mac" tells us:
"In 1999 in the United Kingdom, three Court of Appeal judges ruled that a diet consisting of high-fat McDonald's products may lead to heart disease".
Oddly enough, the relevant page at McDonalds.co.uk (ranked 2nd for "Big Mac") omits this information.
The chain to most notably buck the trend is Subway, who rank first for two of their products and in the top three three for two more, with only one lower down the first page, at position eight. But it is also worth noting that this is only one of two of the four chains analysed to include the name of the sandwich in the page's title tag; the other being Burger King, who ranked well for three out of the 5 terms searched for and suffered from relatively generic names in "Whopper" (competing against dictionary sites, as well as their own properties on Facebook and mini-sites) and "Steakhouse Angus" (up against lots of "Angus Steakhouse" restaurants). In the cases of KFC and McDonalds, the title tag is the same across each page - "KFC.co.uk | Tasty, Wholesome Chicken Goodness | So Good" and "McDonalds", respectively.
So, from just a few quick searches we can see that a relatively simple element of search engine optimisation can have an important knock-on effect, and I think it's fairly safe to say that if simple issues like that are being ignored, there will be others to be taken care of as well. Considering the sheer amount of searches for these products each month, in the UK alone, surely it's worth the time for these brands to optimise their sites and make sure it's their message that is found first in these results?
It's been said before that organic search is the great equaliser, allowing local or niche businesses to compete in the same space as international powerhouses. This has arguably become less true as time has passed, with Google introducing regular algorithmic updates that appear to favour "recognised" brand names, but one thing is for sure; if, as a brand, you fail to claim the top spots on relevant, branded search engine results pages, there will be someone else who will be more than happy to do so, and reap the rewards of the resulting traffic.