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Super Bowl SEO: Who Had the Best Organic Gameplan?

boggs-chris
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The Super Bowl has long been the premiere event for TV advertisers, but more and more it is also becoming a prime opportunity for search marketers as well. A growing number of viewers, more than 70 million this year, will go online to find out more about the commercials and companies they saw online, and a majority of them will begin at a search engine.

Yesterday at the Search Engine Watch Blog, we discussed the “URL visibility factor” of advertisers in this year’s Super Bowl. Additionally, Reprise Media released their annual report, the Super Bowl Scorecard for SEM, which looks at the search ad performance of advertisers in the Super Bowl when rated for search engine presence. This is an annual report put out by Reprise, and they plan to once again make available a full white paper later this week.

For today’s Search Day, we are going to discuss the Super Bowl advertisers that included a URL in their TV ad, and grade them purely on the basis of their search engine optimization (SEO) -- or more specifically, their positioning within organic search results at Google for terms related to their campaign.

Readers will find that some sites fared pretty well, but many would have been better off had they seeded their marketing campaigns with some better online content, as well as all-important links pointing to the content.

A longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members adds more SEO tips, including a look at SEO during the college football championship series last month, and more analysis of Super Bowl advertisers. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

SEO Ratings for the Sodas

Pepsi seemed to do very well with its sponsorship of the big game, getting full billing on the official Super Bowl XLI site. Oddly, the television coverage focused on Pepsi, while the site seems to focus on Diet Pepsi. A search for “Pepsi Super Bowl” returns the official Superbowl.com site, but nowhere in the top ten is the actual Pepsi.com domain. Pepsi would have been smart to set up a page on their domain also related to their promotion of the Super Bowl, in order to gain some traction and appear within those results as well.

Sierra Mist, another Pepsi product, also ran some ads, and did lead visitors to SierraMist.com. Looks like that site needs one of the very basic SEO deliverables, however: a META description tag. Their #1 listing for the search “Sierra Mist” provides the following description: “Sierra Mist. Oops! Looks like your JavaScript is turned off. You must enable JavaScript to visit our site. Once you have enabled it, click here to refresh ...”

This is a situation that's not unusual for large brands, many of which don’t seem to care about SEO yet, feeling that their position at the top is enough to get people to the site.

As a side note, the “beard comb-over” commercial was in my opinion one of the funnier ads aired. However, should I want to find it I will be forced to find it within the Sierra Mist site, tucked away in an image. It may be nice to have an HTML page which leads to videos of the ads, should I search “Sierra Mist beard comb over.” I can still find it with that search, but not at the Sierra Mist site.

On to the Snacks

Doritos made a big deal about its contest, co-sponsored by Yahoo, to allow “regular people” to submit 30-second videos for consideration as Super Bowl commercials. Barry covered this last October. The site seems to have had a bit of an identity crisis, first using the crashthesuperbowl.com domain to drive traffic to the actual page, hosted at a Yahoo subdomain instead of Doritos: promotions.yahoo.com/doritos/. During the Super Bowl, however, they promoted the snackstrongproductions.com URL, which is actually a viral site started by Doritos.

The interesting thing about this is that a search for “snack strong productions” in Google leads to the number one listing being Doritos.com. It seems that they have switched their entire domain over to the same content found at snackstrongproductions.com, which until January 6, the last Google cache of the site, was a “Coming Soon” page at Register.com.

Doritos may be wise to do a couple of things here: one to redirect snackstrongproductions.com to Doritos.com, if they plan on hosting that content there for a while. A second option would be to offer people who may want to learn more about Doritos’ nutritional value, for example, the option of going to the viral site or choosing a more informational site.

One of the most acclaimed ads of the Super Bowl was the Emerald Nuts (EN) “Robert Goulet” campaign, which featured Robert sneaking into an office manned by tired individuals and generally wreaking havoc, only to be foiled by someone eating Emerald Nuts. Fun! However a search for “Emerald Nuts Robert Goulet” leads to zero listings for the EN domain on the top page.

This is likely because all the EN site content is completely invisible to search engines. Again, not even a META description is used. In this unfortunate circumstance, the entire EN listing for a brand search at Google leads only to the domain, without any description at all. I suppose they should be thankful that they at least are #1 for the term.

Taco Bell promoted its “Think Outside the Bun” slogan at the end of their ad. Fortunately for them, the Taco Bell Web site does appear at #3 for the slogan search at Google without the quotes, and #1 when searched with quotes. This is one of those examples where prior marketing has driven this ranking, with anchor text using that term leading the way to the site. This is obvious because, as seems to be the norm with large brands, a quick look at the site shows that SEO has been left out of the picture when the site was created, and no true content is available for the Google spiders to index. The only reason they have a somewhat decent description in the Google listings is due to their DMOZ listing.

Snickers raised the ire of some viewers with their ad featuring two men “accidentally” kissing. The goal was to drive traffic to the URL “Dosomethingmanly.com.” However, if I search “Snickers Super Bowl ad” at Google I am led to a #1 listing for snickerssatifies.com, which now conveniently doesn’t seem to mention the Super Bowl ad, even though the Google listing title is “Watch the Snickers Super Bowl Ad.” Something fishy going on here, and Snickers should address the situation in whatever way they want to on that domain, since it is ranking #1 for that term.

Meanwhile, a search for “do something manly” reveals no Snickers sites, let alone dosomethingmanly.com. As with the Mycadillacstory.com domain, however, that should change within a few weeks, as social Web sites and blogs begin linking to that domain.

The Clear SEO Winner

Although Garmin’s “Mapasaurus” ad was already voted by many as being the most entertaining of the bunch, I felt a little annoyed by the font they used to display their URL (so much so, that I made a note to mention that in this article). However, a simple search for “Garmin,” “GPS,” or even “global positioning system” cured my SEO heart as I found Garmin to occupy two out of three top spots for “Garmin” and “GPS,” and to fall in as the first non-educational listing for “global positioning system” at number 4. That's the kind of performance that warms the heart of any marketer attuned to SEO.

As previewed in the Waterlog Blog, this is the story of a company that started with military work and moved into the consumer sector with force, now occupying “60 percent of the domestic market for personal navigation products.”

They chose the Super Bowl to let people know that, but prepared well in advance and got top organic listings prior to their “debut.” Kudos to Garmin for their SEO efforts and it seems that they are fairly happy with the organic positioning, since their main site cannot be found for any of the above searches in the sponsored listings section. Of course who would want to compete with all those distributors for paid position?

Final Thoughts

Congratulations to anyone that made it all the way through this tirade. The main takeaway that I was hoping to convey is that SEO should be considered as a part of any advertising campaign. Search engines can no longer be ignored, especially as there are people out there that are likely to create content that will rank for the particular search terms associated with the brand in questions, and not all of that content will be “desirable.” Google does an excellent job at trying to ensure that the proper brands get listed for their branded and trademarked slogan-related terms, providing that there is content that is indexable by a spider.

So, if you are a brand considering your marketing focus this year or beyond, never forget that there are more and more people searching the Googles of the world every day. If you want to control your message, you have to say it in a way that is understandable to search engine spiders.

Chris Boggs is a Search Strategist for Avenue A | Razorfish. He is a contributor to the SEW Blog, primarily focusing on SEO-related issues. Chris also is a moderator within the SEW forums, the Associate Editor of the Search Engine Roundtable Blog, and co-host of the weekly “Search Pulse” podcast at WebmasterRadio.FM.

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