Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Know-How: Understanding Brand-Influenced Search Queries

When shoppers navigate to a search engine and begin their queries, they usually have some idea of what they are looking for. In many cases, that initial idea is the result of brand-influence.

In very general terms, search engine queries fall on a specificity scale. On one end of this scale are very generic terms, like “clothing.” On the opposite side of the scale are specific terms like “Merino flutter bow cardigan at J.Crew.”

General search terms generate very broad-based results. They indicate that the shopper has relatively little understanding of what he or she is looking for. General search terms also rarely return the exact results that a shopper was seeking, meaning that the shopper may become more specific in successive queries.

More specific search terms generate targeted results that are often more useful to the shopper. And there is a direct correlation between how specific a keyword phrase is and how much knowledge or understanding a shopper had before she began the query. Shoppers that arrive at an online retailer’s site using a very specific keyword phrase may also represent a better prospect than one that stumbles in from a very generic search query.

Video: The Concept of Brand-Influenced Search

General Versus Specific Search Queries

It may be helpful to further define general versus specific search queries as they relate to ecommerce. General searches focus on a product category or family, product and attributes, or other related keywords. As examples:

  • Product category or family – “clothing,” “shoes,” “golf clubs,” “construction equipment”
  • Product and attributes – “blue socks,” “extra large shirt,” golf club driver,” “wide-angle camera lens”
  • Other related keywords – “used to fix plumbing,” “birthday gift for teen”

Specific search terms, conversely, focus on products plus brand or store name; specific part numbers or product brand names; company brand names; or store names. Examples include:

  • Products plus brand or store name – “Nike shoes,” “running shoes Zappos,” “Channellock wrench”
  • Specific part numbers or product brand names – “CT306588 1GB DDR module,” “Apple Air,” “Big Bertha golf club”
  • Company brand names – “Neutrogena,” “Under Armour,” “Polo by Ralph Lauren,” “KitchenAid”
  • Store names – “Toys R Us,” “PhoneDevil,” “Newegg.com,” “IconDock”

That Knowledge Came From Somewhere

When shoppers arrive at your store via a specific keyword, they must have had some knowledge of either the brands you sell or your store’s own brand. There is no other explanation for how they knew to type “Nike running shoe” or your store’s name and “cardigan” when they started their search engine query.

In the case of product brands, it is likely that they learned about it from the manufacturers’ own marketing. If they included your store’s name in their searches, it is safe to assume that they had seen your non-search marketing.

We know that the prior knowledge to type a specific search term came from somewhere, and brand-influence is the best possible explanation.

Summing Up

No doubt some of your site traffic already comes from very specific keyword phrases. By making brand-influenced search part of your marketing strategy, you could potentially increase traffic even further.

Exactly how to do this will vary from operation to operation, but remember that brand is a powerful tool even where search engines are concerned.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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Comments ( 4 )

  1. James clark August 25, 2009 Reply

    Really nice article, but I think the searchers are becoming more intelligent and most of them search now for specific long tail keywords instead of general keywords.

  2. Armando Roggio August 25, 2009 Reply

    @James Clark. I agree. Long tail keywords are always an example of brand influence and/or foreknowledge. The exact point of this article.

    I was recently shown an analytics report from a large electronics manufacturer. Over 80 percent of that OEM’s search-engine derived traffic came from brand-influenced keywords. Plus, a study of 55,000 Internet users in Asia (mostly electrical engineers) showed that overall 56 percent of transaction-related search queries included a brand term.

    Furthermore, Brad Van Auken, in the book, Brand Aid, discusses a 2000 study which found that brand was the top influencer in ecommerce transactions.

  3. matthieudejardins August 25, 2009 Reply

    Very interesting article. I would say that after, you need your landing page to reflect the keywords for consistency purpose (e.g. dynamic landing page headline).

    In a PPC promotion, you also have to consider your domain name to be generic to enlarge your spectrum vs. branded one. You have a nice post about it here: Elliotsblog.com/why-a-generic-domain-name-is-important-8273

  4. Jared Brickman August 27, 2009 Reply

    Great insight. This will prove especially useful for high profile brands.