I was recently on an interesting case, analyzing the behavioral data from one of my client’s Web site.
This company operates in a geographically delimited market, with a very unique product. We know from research that the client enjoys a 96% brand awareness. Needles to say that their clients, and their prospects too, know who they are.
Analyzing the search traffic, I saw that organic search actually drives a good third of the online sales! Paid accounts for close to nothing, and has been falling (both in terms of percentage of sales and conversion rate) for some time now. As for Search Engine shares, Google owns that space with MSN and Yahoo barely moving dust.
When I look at the keyphrases, the top 20 grab 83% of all used expressions, with mention of the brand in all but one! I mean, it makes no sense that any Internet user would in 2008 not try the company name with .com in the address bar to get to the site (the .com is actually one of the top keyphrases). Still, many people used the company name in their search.
The more I look at it, the less I can call that search, though. It looks much more like browsing to me, as if Google was replacing the URL field of the browser.
Is Google the new browser?
Actually, I am noticing that phenomenon more and more with companies that have strong brands, and whose domain name is really obvious, i.e. people could know right away from trying their name with .com. Still, the brand (and variations/associations with other keywords) often occupies almost all the territory of organic search terms. Quite interesting.
I began asking around, and quickly people started telling me about that new habit they’ve had for some time. It is so much simpler to key the name of the company in Google (and for a few others MSN or Yahoo); you know you’ll get the site as the first, or very first, choice at the top of the SERP. No more typo in the URL, etc.
And you? Is this how you sometimes use Google?
If so, this brings the important question of how we should analyze organic search, especially in relation with PPC. It also pose the question of SEO relevancy, and strategy. Scoring well on one’s brand(s) and name(s) should not then be seen as a success. Sure, there are the odd cases of companies that don’t even own the best positions for their brands/names. You can imagine how much trouble they’re in then when people are just looking for them, and not finding them.
This also questions the relevancy of buying one’s names and brands in PPC. I am no SEM expert, but I am wondering if Paid Search in that context is not simply bringing traffic that would otherwise have come to the site via the free organic results.
Anyway, I am not drawing any conclusions today. I will need to investigate this much further.
And you? Have you noticed this phenomenon in the site(s) you analyze?