We’d like to share some search data on one of our more successful local contractor clients, Hippo Roofing. This data shows their top performing paid and organic search keywords over the last 6 months.
Top performing paid search terms:
257 of their 393 paid search conversions are brand name searches (searches with “Hippo” in the query). That’s 65% of their conversions.
Top traffic driving organic keywords:
Their top driving keyword phrase is “hippo roofing”, their business name. As you can see, searches that include the business name dominate their organic traffic results.
In addition, 16.7% of their conversions come through the brand channel, and on that channel 228 out of 283 conversions come from direct website traffic, and 30 more come from social media referrals.
In summary, we can see that a high percentage (approximately 75% in this case) of this business’ online conversions come from people who know – and searched for – the business by name.
We show this example not as something unique, but to demonstrate what is increasingly the norm. Across the many verticals we market for, this data trend is repeated. We see it on Marketing 360®; “marketing 360” is by far our highest converting search term.
In 2019, the keyword that is most likely to drive online conversions for a business is their business/brand name.
How does this impact your digital marketing strategy?
The Traditional SEO Strategy
When Google started to become popular and it became clear there was huge marketing potential with search, the strategy we envisioned was clear. A business would rank on page one for a generic search term, like “roofers Tampa Bay”, and be discovered by potential customers who didn’t know about them.
Most of the assumptions of this traditional strategy remain today. We line keywords up with a mass of searchers who have a potential interest in a business. In this context, the higher volume the search the better because that means more potential traffic.
In the late 90’s, Hippo Roofing might have tried to rank for the term “roofers”. However, ranking for that generic a term soon became impossible, so we started adding qualifiers like locations or types of roof. These were called long-tail search phrases (for example, metal roofs Florida).
This strategy tended to work well and it made sense. We could envision the potential shopper, ready to find a product or service. They’re not sure what their options are, so they do a general search to find businesses they might want to work with, a lot like people used to do with the Yellow Pages.
Let’s be clear about something. Search does still work this way, particularly for local service businesses that people hire with low-frequency. For example, this carpet cleaning business gets a lot of service focused search traffic:
So there are a lot of service-based keywords to target here. But at the same time, two of the top three performers for clicks are brand name (“steam master cleaning”).
Our data does, to a degree, fly in the face of the traditional search marketing strategy. What businesses hope search engines will do is expose them to prospects who didn’t know they existed and quickly convert them. But the traffic that converts best for most businesses is from people who search the business by name.
Buying a Brand Name
So what’s going on here? Why is there so much search traffic on business name and brand?
We can get a couple obvious points out of the way. First, it’s far easier to rank in search results for your business name. There is a lot of competition for “roofers Florida”, but “Hippo roofing” is pretty much a guaranteed #1 result for the business. You’re going to get a lot more traffic being in the top spot.
Second, someone who searches for a business by name has strong buying intent. They’ve decided to give this particular business a serious look. Therefore, the conversion metrics are going to be much better than on other keywords. For example, Steam Master Carpet Cleaning is on page one twice (Google My Business and organic listing) for the search “carpet cleaning San Antonio”, yet their business name results are stronger.
Also, consider that these are local businesses that have chance to rank for service-focused search queries in their area. If you’re a business that offers services or sales nationally and you’re trying to rank for competitive terms (for example, so type of online consulting service or an eCommerce business), your chances of ranking organically are non-existent for general terms. In 2019, your organic strategy must revolve around generating brand searches.
So there is one clear thing to address. If prospects are searching for your business name, they learned who you are prior to doing that search. How do people learn about you in the first place so they search for you specifically when they’re ready to hire or buy?
Brand, Reputation, and Rank
The data on business name searches suggest that the majority of online consumers, when they get to the critical moment of purchase, already know of the businesses they’re interested in. This is the crux of what’s going on here.
So the search marketing goal has shifted. Instead of trying to convert people through initial, general search queries, you need to run brand campaigns that get your name in front of people. If you’re targeting competitive keywords and/or large geographic areas, this may be your only strategy.
So if you’re unknown, how do you get people to know about you? Here are some online brand building tactics.
- SEO. Hold on, you say, isn’t this post about how SEO doesn’t work? Not so fast. Targeting people at the end of the buying cycle on search is increasingly difficult, but you can create an informational niche that captures people in the research phase, exposing them to your brand. Target long-tail queries that answer questions and fill information gaps.
- Social media marketing. Many business owners wonder what the value of social media marketing is because it often doesn’t result in direct sales. This article should be giving you an idea. As you create connections with potential buyers on social, you develop brand awareness. They begin to know, trust, and like you. When it’s time to buy, they look you up by name.
- Retargeting. After someone visits your website or reacts to social media content, hit them with retargeting ads. These ads are like billboards that follow them around on the internet. Many people think of these ads as direct response sales, but they’re often more effective as brand advertising that keeps your name in front of people.
- YouTube videos. YouTube is another massive resource people use to get information, research, and be entertained. This is part of your informational marketing strategy, only you create videos instead of articles. YouTube is the second most used search engine, and the potential for brand exposure is tremendous.
- Social purpose marketing. One of the most effective ways to get people to share info on your brand is social purpose marketing. Connect your brand to a cause and do some good in the world. People notice it and spread the word.
- Public relations. Get into the news. Connect with relevant publications.
- Influencer marketing. Get noticed by social media influencers and have them become advocates for your brand. Your brand gets exposed to their vast audience.
- Local advertising. Use billboards, signage, vehicle wraps, t-shirts, hats, and business cards with your brand name on them. Network at local Meet Up events and your chamber of commerce. Knock on some doors and cold call if you have to. If you’re a local business, hustle and get your name out there.
- Email and text message marketing. Develop an email list and send out newsletters and periodic updates. If you’re local you might also want to snail mail your newsletter. If you’re a retailer or restaurant, use SMS marketing to send updates and deals.
- Referral programs. Offer incentives to your best customers to give you referrals. This gets your name out there to highly qualified leads.
- Online reputation. This is one of the most important ways people discover your brand because review checks are a strong buying signal. Practice reputation management to make sure you have reviews on all the major platforms people might check as they search for the “best” services in their area.
- Paid Advertising. As you get started, you may have no choice but to invest in paid advertising and target keywords that will give you brand exposure. Diversify your campaigns so some are direct response ads (keyword targets) and others are strictly brand exposure (display ads). Be sure to retarget your traffic.
- Market on Amazon. Amazon is a strong platform for getting brand exposure, initial sales, and product reviews. We’ve seen businesses get a strong start on Amazon and parlay the brand exposure into sales on their website.
- Brand label your products. Make sure your brand name is clearly labeled on your product (as prominently as possible). If someone sees your product in use, you want them to know how to find you by name.
Any of these tactics might result in direct conversions. But more importantly, they expose your brand to potential customers. Taken together, we think all these tactics are coming together and driving the high levels of brand name searches we’re now seeing.
There is one quality we know most consumers search for in a business: trustworthiness.
People hire businesses that are established, have a track record of success, and that clearly communicate value. They buy from businesses where they can get a sense of the people behind the business; people like to buy from people.
Consumers seek recommendations. They check online reviews carefully, and they ask friends for referrals. They prefer to work with businesses that are involved in the community and show they want to help, not just sell.
These preferences tie into the data on brand searches. Online consumers take more time today to discover what’s a fit for not only their needs, but their lifestyle. They don’t just want a product or service, they want it from a brand that fits into their self-narrative.
Today, the traditional SEO view overestimates how direct the buying decision is, suggesting marketing works like this:
- A consumer has a need for a product or service.
- They search and evaluate options online.
- They choose a business offer they like and convert on the website.
In fact, the steps towards a conversion are rarely this direct. Instead what happens is:
- A consumer has a need for a product or service.
- They search and evaluate options online.
- They hesitate and take no action.
- They continue to research, weigh options, interact with brands, and narrow things down to options they trust.
- They go back to the brand they favor and convert.
There are, of course, caveats to this. Some consumers needs are so immediate that ongoing research doesn’t happen (a trip to urgent care or emergency locksmiths, for example). Searchers find something they think will work and convert.
Other businesses may have solidified their top positions on high volume, high value search terms and see strong conversion data associated with them.
But for nascent marketers, the strategy of ranking for high volume, general keyword terms isn’t viable. If you want to sell shoes online, you’re not going to out rank Zappos or Amazon.
Instead, you need to get people to search for words you own, and the main one will be your brand name.
Getting people to find you – because they’re looking for you – is a huge marketing victory. It takes time and effort to connect with a small but viable audience and them get them to spread the word.
But when you do, the word they spread isn’t just a general keyword. It’s an identity you own and an idea you have a much better chance of selling.