Yahoo! tends to be a bit more cautious than Google when it comes to allowing trademark related ads. That significantly suppresses their earnings because brand related search queries are often some of the most targeted, most commercial, highest converting, and most expensive keywords. Here is a snapshot of the current search results for SEO Book. Notice that the top 8 organic results link to SEO Book.com. By loosening up on subdomains (displaying them more frequently) and providing a mini site map (called Sitelinks) in the SERPs it makes it much harder for affiliates or merchants reselling a brand to get exposure through the organic search results for the core brand name.
There are two pieces to that, as well.
- If the top 5 or 6 search results point at the official site searchers have to scroll down quite a bit to find commercial search results outside of the core brand. Rather than scrolling they may be more likely to click an ad.
- If the search results look highly informational in nature (by being harder to manipulate via commercial bias, and Google over-representing the official site) then merchants are more likely to buy ads.
The brutal part with buying the ads is that sometimes Google shows 0, 1, 2, or 3 AdWords ads above the organic search results. If the organic search results are somewhat irrelevant to the commercial intent of a searcher, those few ads at the top of the search results are going to get a high clickthrough rate. If you are a merchant who is not featured at the top of the results the right rail ads will bring you relatively little exposure. Thus a bidding war occurs for those top couple ad spots, and Google can control how many ads to show above the results to maximize earnings.
If you sell an ebook like I do, it is no big deal if one day your sales are high and the next day they are garbage, but if you run a business with fixed costs, a fixed marketing budget, and many employees then you may be stuck paying whatever it takes to be at the top of the results for brands you carry. The more dependant your business is on search the more they can bleed you dry!
While I used my brand as an example in this post, this brand factor recently played a big roll for a client, who even outranks his manufacturer for their official name in some major search engines, but is forced to pay much higher AdWords rates to get any exposure on Google. If he falls out of the top couple ad slots the right rail sends us like 10% the traffic that the top ad positions do. And I am probably going to have to
bid bleed about $5 a click for a while to work that client back into the rotation of the ads at the top of the search results. And then if we knock a competing site out of position that may spur on a budget bleeding bidding war. Companies with a fixed marketing budget (my client has a variable budget based on market conditions) will suffer even worse by having to overpay for traffic until they kill their budget, and then not show up the rest of the time.
If the core brand term is priced out of reach it is important to
- Build enough link equity that your deeper pages rank at or near the top of the search results for long tail brand related queries. This may require investing into placing cheesy linkbait on your site to better integrate your site into the web and boost your overall authority.
- Use enough modifiers and alternate part numbers in your page content to be relevant for a wide array of queries.
My client dominates the long tail, but for that particular brand he carries, most of the queries are for the official brand name. As a Google share owner and owner of a strong brand, I think they are brilliant. As a marketer who has a client getting screwed by their setup, I think a bit less of them. ;)
Also worth noting that Yahoo!'s search results are moving toward a more authority based algorithm, and they are starting to double list many brand sites, so this issue will likely rise again soon enough.
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