When it comes to advertising, the Superbowl is the granddaddy of them all. During this one football game, viewership is huge. Advertisers shell out millions of dollars to run just one thirty-second spot and agencies vie to produce THE spot that will have everyone talking, blogging and tweeting long after the MVP’s trip to Disneyland.
It occurred to me as I reviewed the January search stats that organic search is the superbowl of online marketing; here are six ways:
- A very large number of people tune in.
- Audience size is on the rise.
- Placement is everything!
- The ad must stand out.
- There are no guarantees for the effectiveness of your placement.
Nielsen Media Research reported that Super Bowl XLIII, which aired on February 1, 2009, drew an average of 98.7 million U.S. viewers. By comparison, the highest rated broadcast television show last week was Fox’s American Idol which drew 24.8 million viewers.
According to monthly search engine tracking by comScore, Inc., there were 13.496 million searches on the five major search engines during January.
Below is a chart from tvbytheNumbers.com showing Nielsen Media Research’s data for the number of viewers of the Superbowl each year, beginning with Superbowl I in 1967 through Superbowl XLIII in 2009. Although there are some years that were flat or even dipped in total viewers, the overall trend is up.
I charted comScore’s monthly search engine ranking data for the past twelve months. Like the Superbowl viewership, some months remained flat, others actually decreased, but the overall trend is up.
Superbowl XLIII began at 6:18pm eastern on Fox. Nielsen Media Research reported that the most-watched quarter hour of the game was the 9:45-10:00pm ET spot, with an average audience of more than 106 million viewers. The most-watched minute was 10:07pm ET, which amassed 111.6 million viewers. Advertisers were fortunate that this superbowl game was competitive up to the last play of the game. It’s been more common in previous years that one team dominated the game, dropping viewers as the game progressed.
For search engine results pages, Cornell University conducted eye tracking studies for users’ behavior, including click distribution as well as the time spent looking at each result. As the following image shows, the top three positions on page one received almost 80% of the clicks, with the number one position receiving a whopping 56% of the clicks!
For several years, Master Lock devoted its entire annual advertising budget to the Super Bowl in the form of one :30 spot. You may recall the spot from the 1970’s that even today is considered to be one of the best Superbowl ads of all time.
Many point to this Master Lock spot as the beginning of the big Superbowl ad hype that exists today.
When it comes to a search engine results page (SERP), there are three key components: the headline, the snippet and the URL. The more specific to the keyword and the more descriptive, the better – which is to say in the world of SERPs, the more likely the searcher is to click on your link. In the SERP example below for “supebowl XLII,” look at the headline and snippet for the second result; this result is so vague that I doubt it would get very many clicks.
Although advertisers purchase an ad during a specific time period of the superbowl game, there are many uncontrollable factors that contribute to the viewership of the ad:
- all NFL teams do not enjoy the same popularity
- the teams competing in the superbowl are not determined until two weeks prior to the event
- audience size varies from year to year
- the competitive nature of the game is not predictable
In the world of organic search, you don’t buy your placement, but rather are at the mercy of the search engines’ double-top-secret algorithm to determine your SERP ranking. All you can do is follow SEO best practices and hope for the best:
- write quality content
- limit keywords to one “theme” per page
- link to related content
- include keywords in your headline (h1) and early in your first paragraph
- use bold to emphasize keywords
Every year, superbowl advertisers range from the companies who are there every year, like Budweiser, to first-time superbowl advertisers like Go Daddy. There are big budget spots like Audi and even Doritos spots produced by amateurs in a contest. It’s an example of a medium that anyone (with the $3 million+ dollars for airtime) can participate in.
Likewise, organic search is now a medium for everyone. It’s not just for web developers and SEO consultants anymore! New online services — like the SEO platform from Lead Maverick — and optimized social media sites, like YouTube, enable advertising, public relations, and marketing consulting agencies, in addition to web developers, interactive agencies, and SEO consultants, to publish optimized content that appears at the top of organic search.
Get in the Game!
These are the days when agencies are beginning to figure out how huge search marketing is — in audience size, in ad spending, in measurable ROI. Those who engage now will no doubt be the winners.