Monday, June 19, 2006

Brand hijacking - a growing problem?

Heather Hopkins from Hitwise writes:

Travolution last week reported [see the story here] on the research published by Nucleus and Hallmark IP which shows that brand interception through PPC is on the rise. But are clicks to competitors and price comparison sites after a brand search also on the rise? My research which indicates it is on the decline - at least for the big brands.

Brand protection online is a huge issue and at Hitwise we recently published a white paper on the issue of search engine brand management that found that in the UK about 8% of searches for a brand send visits to competitor or price comparison website.

The number of visits on searches for misspellings of a brand name or keyword strings that include a brand name (i.e. "british airways flights to ottawa") were much more likely to send visits to competitors and price comparison websites.

[NB: If you haven't already read the white paper, I strongly encourage you to do so. Not just because I wrote it, but because it provides a guide to the protections offered by the leading search engines in the UK and offers tips on how to monitor which competitors are gaining visits from searches for your brand.)

Let's get back to the issue raised by the Nucleus/Hallmark IP research. I looked at Hitwise data on a few leading airline brands and found that a higher percentage of visits from searches for brand names are going to the brand owner websites compared with a year ago.

For example, while searches for "british airways" sent 80% of visits to the BA website in the past four weeks, last year, that figure was 69%. Which means that BA is receiving 16% more visits from searches for its brand name than it was a year ago.

Also interesting is that last year Hitwise recorded 309 different websites receiving visits from searches for "british airways" compared with the most recent four week period, with 149 sites - less than half the number from last year!

The following table [see below] shows an interesting pattern. It compares the share of visits from searches for leading airline brands sending visits to travel agencies. Travel Agencies had in the past been aggressive in trying to gain visits from searches for airline brands, whose inventory they sell.

The table shows a clear pattern that fewer searches for these brands are sending visits to travel agency websites compared with a year ago.

Hitwise UK year-on-year change in share of UK internet searches sending visits to travel agencies [four weeks to June 10 2006]:

Easyjet -31%
Ryanair -50%
British Airways -75%
BMI -72%
Flybe -32%
Jet2 +37%
Monarch -33%
KLM +2%
Virgin Atlantic -24%

The Nucleus/Hallmark IP research is definitely worth a read. It offers interesting insights into the trends in the area of brand hijacking. The issue of brand hijacking is an important one for any company that has invested in its brand - whether online or offline.

However, it is also important to note that the big airline brands have been more successful over the past year at attracting visitors who search for their brand.

Heather Hopkins, director of research at Hitwise UK

Read more from Heather’s blog here

No comments: