Fifteen percent of people who search for a company's brand name end up going to Web sites of the brand's competitors, affiliates or to price-comparison sites because those sites rank high in the results, according to a study to be released today by online competitive intelligence firm Hitwise, New York.
For its Search Brand Management Report, Hitwise tracked 30 leading online brands in the travel, retail and business and finance categories in February. It found that 85 percent of searches result in consumers visiting the brand owner's Web site. But brand marketers are missing a good chunk of Web visits and potential sales with 15 percent of searchers going to competing sites.
“The Web is a highly competitive place,” said LeeAnn Prescott, senior analyst for Hitwise. “Anytime people search, there is an opportunity for them to go elsewhere.”
Marketers need to be even more vigilant about buying keywords on their brand names as consumers use search engine toolbars more to search for brands instead of typing in the brands' sites. Hitwise found that 75 of the top 100 search terms across all categories in February contained brand names, up 17 percent from February 2005.
“Now people are using Google, Yahoo and other toolbars,” Ms. Prescott said. “People are searching more navigationally than they used to.”
Prescott suggests marketers search their brand name on leading engines to learn which competitors and affiliates are bidding on the name. Then they can track where Web users go after they search through tracking tools.
“Even if they [the brand Web site] are actually listed at the top, they might not be aware of how much traffic they are actually losing,” she said.
Some searchers also reach competitors' Web sites by spelling the brand's name wrong.