Rating the Super Bowl Advertisers’ SEO Record

Football season is over, which is always a shame. For Giants fans, the season will linger and always trigger great memories. For the rest of us, there is always next year. For advertisers, fans are left with brief memories of ads humorous and perhaps intriguing. So what happens when fans take those memories to their favorite search engine?

As I did last year, I’ll once again offer my opinions on how the Super Bowl advertisers fare from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective. See this SearchDay article for an analysis of only the Web site visibility within the advertisements aired during Super Bowl 42.

This article will not delve much into paid search – others have done a nice job at that including Reprise’s annual scorecard, as well as a nation of Super Bowl “twitterers” including Charles Armstrong.

The formula used to rank these sites for their SEO will be considered non-scientific by some. A small selection of search results was analyzed for a few keywords that the advertisers should show up for with at least basic SEO preparation. The more difficult the term to rank for, the more likely SEO would have been implemented to ensure visibility. Only one search engine: Google. The keyword phrases tested may or may not lead to traffic, but the goal in this case was to test to see if advertiser sites show up for phrases specific to the campaign – both branded and non-branded.

This year, the SEO ratings will mirror the URL Visibility ratings formatting. I’ll use “Champs,” “Chimps,” and “Chumps” for categories this time.

Champs: “Wow You Must Work that SEO Out”

Careerbuilder.com, following their strong URL visibility rating, and Garmin, in a stunning turnaround from their low ratings for the same, are the clear winners from an SEO standpoint. Neither really needed to mention a URL prominently to post-game searchers, since they respectively rank at or near the top of Google for terms such as “find job,” “job search,” “global positioning system,” and the highly competitive “gps” (with 377 million results at Google) and “job” (with 1.24 billion results).

GMC’s Yukon Hybrid performs nicely for its brand, as well as for “hybrid SUV.” This is in stark contrast to its likely major competitor, the Cadillac Escalade hybrid, which can only play in the paid search space for the same term. The Escalade doesn’t even rank on the first page for the term “Cadillac hybrid SUV.” This shows a continued lack of effort on the part of Cadillac when it comes to SEO. Last year they didn’t rank for the term “my Cadillac story” when running commercials with the same tagline (that microsite does come in number one now).

Ford, on the other hand, did manage to get their splash page ranking for the TV-promoted “F150 Behind the scenes.” The search leads to a top 6 spot for the term “Ford behind the scenes,” and number one for “F150 behind the scenes” with the page fordvehicles.com/f150behindthescenes/. The commercial spot calls people to the domain f150behindthescenes.com, which has been redirected to the ranked page. Someone may need to analyze the redirect being used.

In keeping with the automotive theme, Audi has done a good job in getting its sites ranked for branded terms. The nasty-looking-in-a-good-way Audi R8 shows up consistently with relevant pages of the Audi USA and microsites.audi.com subdomain (insert chuckle about that subdomain name here), and their “truth in engineering” campaign tagline search leads to that dot com, which is not being redirected. There is some room for improvement in the high-level strategy of what Audi USA is doing, but the foundation for good performance on more difficult generic terms is there.

Two cause-related ads, Dell’s “Join Red” and The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign’s “Parents: the Anti Drug” yield the proper results for specific and broader terms, including “Dell join red” and “anti drug.” Dell has some stiff competition in ranking for the more general “join red” term against the African Aids crisis site joinred.com, and the Parents site faces lots of government competition for terms like “prevent drug abuse.”

Disney leads the pack in the movie crowd, doing particularly well for searches for “Chronicles of Narnia,” and “Narnia,” both of which have decent long-standing competition. Like Ford, they redirect people from the TV spot “vanity domain” Disney.com/Narnia to the ranked page: disney.go.com/disneypictures/Narnia. However, Disney needs to evolve a bit with their Pixar strategy.

Chimps: “A Little Evolution and a Workout, and You’re on Your Way”

It seems as if more and more major advertisers are paying attention to SEO. One strategy is to use easy-to-remember domains and redirect people to the main domain in order to consolidate as much SEO strength into one site. Disney is missing the boat in its relationship with Pixar. Perhaps this is because Pixar legally demanded to keep its own domain as a part of the deal which “merged” them in 2006. Some wouldn’t complain, since the Pixar domain does fine. Others would recommend a major reorganization of Disney content in order to truly dominate rankings for many broad terms for years to come.

Planters showed its domain after mesmerizing its ad audience with a truly ugly mole on the face of an actress. In the search results, their mole is in the form of dual Google sitelinks to the same sweepstakes page, one with the anchor “sweepstake,” and the other with the anchor “sweepstakeS.” At least they are ranking for their brand, but a company like this should rank on the first page for “peanuts.” (not saying it would cost peanuts to do that).

Pepsi wins the battle of the sodas, barely (more on Coca-Cola below). This advertiser pushed the domain “Pepsistuff.com.” Unfortunately it doesn’t rank with that domain or even a Pepsi domain, instead relying on the strength of the Amazon.com domain to claim number one with pepsistuff.amazon.com/gp/pepsistuff/home.html. This page is actually being redirected from pepsistuff.com. In another “weird tales of marketing madness,” there are about a half dozen other Pepsi-owned domains on the top page. A mess, but it could be cleaned up.

Bridgestone Tires provided another strange brew when it comes to advertising creative, but was effective in driving their brand home. They rank for branded terms, but need some help to compete with fellow manufactures for space amongst the top distributor rankings for the term “tires.”

The last advertiser included at this level was the Super Bowl broadcaster this year: Fox Sports. In a move that would be questioned by many SEOs Fox chose to host the ads online at MySpace.com. Although the parent company relationship exists, if I was the marketing manager I would have chosen to go the same route as CBS did last year and host the ads on my own domain. It’s not really like MySpace needs any more traffic.

Yet they performed better here than in their multiple pitches for the TV show “Sarah Connor Chronicles,” none of which included a URL. At least they rank in the top 5 for a search on that show, which keeps them out of the basement.

Chumps – “Please Stand by for Sand Kicked in Your Face by Competitors”

There are a few categories of SEO chumps to address. SEO isn’t only about the rankings, but also the creative used in the page titles and descriptions, which often serve as the first point of contact for searchers. A search for “Amp Energy Drink” leads to a number one result for Ampenergy.com, with the ridiculous description “The likeness of Dale Earnhardt Jr., the #88 AMP/National Guard Chevrolet, and other related trademarks and copyrights are used with the permission of …” The title is simply “AMP.” Some basic SEO would fix at least this issue.

Coca-Cola led to a top result which was outranked by a news search in the Google Universal layout. No description and yet sitelinks…again some basic housekeeping could fix this. Bud Light’s description: “Bud Light history, events and merchandise.” Yawn.

Hyundai Genesis claimed that BMW and Mercedes would most certainly remember their Super Bowl ads. Unfortunately if someone searches for “Hyundai Genesis” at Google, they will not find any Hyundai domains in the organic listings. It is honestly possible that one of the competitors that they called out could mention that car on one of its own pages and quickly rank well for that term, a-la Mazda PPC-squatting the “Google Pontiac” campaign.

There were other losers on this day, when it comes to SEO performance. The typical story is a lack of appearing for slogans or taglines used in ads. This is a difficult issue to overcome, especially if the advertisers want to keep the secret about the creative until the actual TV spot is launched. However, there are ways to quietly rank a deeper page for the term until it begins to see searches. Additionally, one can always launch an aggressive SEO campaign immediately after launch and get results fairly quickly.

Hopefully, next year will bring even fewer chumps than this year, which was a true improvement on last year. Baby steps. This didn’t cover all the ads, but feel free to share your opinions on the SEO performance of the Super Bowl advertisers at the SEW Forums.

Chris Boggs is manager of the search engine optimization team at eMergent Marketing, a division of Brulant. Chris is also a moderator within the SEW forums, associate editor of the Search Engine Roundtable Blog, and co-host of the weekly “Search Pulse” podcast at WebmasterRadio.FM. Chris serves on the 2007 SEMPO Board of Directors.

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