One out of seven searches on trademarked terms result in a visit to the site of a competitor, an affiliate, a comparison shopping engine, or some place entirely unrelated.
After searchers type in a brand-name query on a search engine, only 85 percent end up at that brand's Web site, while the rest are diverted to competitor's sites, comparison shopping engines and affiliates. That's according to a new study released by Hitwise, which undertook the research after determining that 75 of the most popular 100 searches in February involved trademarked brand names.
Users' behavior when conducting searches that include brand names is especially interesting in light of ongoing legal battles over search engines' trademark-related advertising policies. Queries involving brand names are growing in popularity, too. Hitwise found that such queries were up 17 percent over the same period last year.
"Every time we pull a search term report we notice almost all of the highest [search terms] are brand related," said LeeAnn Prescott, a senior research analyst at Hitwise. "This is something that companies need to be aware of and monitoring."
For the report, Hitwise looked at searches on 30 leading brand names across the travel, retail, and business & finance categories.
In one instance, for online travel agency Expedia, the research firm found that 90 percent of searches on its brand name resulted in a visit to the company's Web site. Of the remaining 10 percent, 2.5 percent went to affiliate Dealcrawler, which had placed a high-ranking paid search ad on the term. Priceline and CheapoAir, competitors to Expedia, received less than 1 percent of traffic, a result the researchers felt was driven by consumers' reluctance to visit a competitor's site.
The number of brand-related searchers diverted away from a brand's site can also be affected by other words associated with the trademark. When people searched for "allstate," for example, 83 percent ended up on the brand's Web sites. But when "allstate insurance" was the search term, only 74 percent of searchers found their way to the company's sites.
Prescott suggests that brand managers need to keep a close eye on brand-related search terms and adjust paid search and affiliate marketing efforts to keep brand-related searches going to brand sites.
"Brand owners need to understand where the traffic from their brand-related search is going," she said.
Search engines have varying policies on trademarks. Yahoo recently changed its stance to allow only brand owners, resellers, information sites and comparison-shopping sites to bid on trademarks. Google allows bidding on trademarks but won't let a trademarked brand name be used in ad copy.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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