Frequently I get questions about our “Brand Command” methodology and what online brand protection has to do with brand marketing on the search engines.
The easiest way for me to respond to this question is to simply point out that the natural and paid results for branded search
es fall into three categories:
C- Unwanted (think competitor or competitive solution)
Search engine visibility is a zero sum game. In other words, there is a finite number of listings displayed for a brand’s “real estate” in the search engines and in many industries these results shape brand reputation and loyalty, and greatly influence the actions of prospects, customers, partners, investors, creditors, etc.
A specific example would be RSA Homes. The company’s brand reputation in Google resulted in the owner’s inability to secure loans. Three different lenders declined funding to RSA Homes due to negative visibility in Google for the search “RSA Homes.”
Strategic brand management in the search engines is a primary business concern and our Brand Command methodology is a blueprint for success.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example to fortify your comprehension of the concept. Have you heard of Proactiv Solution? Who hasn’t, right? Proactiv Solution is a very successful three-step acne management system designed to treat mild acne.
The product is distributed by Guthy-Renker, the direct response television marketing company that initially brought us Anthony Robbins and his “Personal Power” program back in 1989. Today, Guthy-Renker’s roster of direct marketing products include the following:
- Proactiv Solution
– Winsor Pilates
– Meaningful Beauty
– Get the Edge
– Principal Secret
– Youthful Essence
– Sheer Cover
– Dean Martin Roasts
– Dean Martin Variety
– Natural Advantage
– Comprehensive Formula
– Core Secrets
With respect to the Proactiv Solution campaign, Guthy-Renker relies on famous celebrities to use and endorse the popular acne-fighting system, a highly effective strategy to influence demand from adolescents and young adults.
Celebrity endorsements and spokespersons for Proactiv Solution include Vanessa Williams, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, P-Diddy, Kelly Clarkson, Melissa Gilbert, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alicia Keyes, Elle Macpherson, Paulina Rubio, Stephanie Seymour, Brooke Shields, Britney Spears, Serena Williams, and others.
Now, on to the analysis. The screenshot below displays the search results on Google for the query “Proactiv Solution.”
I’m going to analyze each and every natural and paid result. For the purposes of this case study I have highlighted each natural result with either green, representing a positive listing, or red, representing a negative or unwanted listing, within the Proactiv Solution brand real estate.
Let’s take a look at natural results to begin with:
Natural Result #1
Proactiv® Solution – Official Site
Right where it should be, the first listing in the natural results is the Proactiv Solution home page. The description tag displays the following content:
“Proactiv Solution is a 3-Step acne management system – combining prescription-grade ingredients that work together to heal and prevent acne.”
This is an excellent description. One thing I would recommend, because it is a “direct marketing” product, is a call to action. For example:
“Proactiv Solution is a 3-Step acne management system featuring prescription-grade ingredients. Order the 5-Piece Deluxe System today and SAVE 50%!” (offer per their website)
Natural Result #2
YouTube – Look what Proactiv Solution did to my face!
Ouch! Welcome to Google’s new “Universal Search.” I have found that most brands are not prepared for this radical update to search engine results–the inclusion of images, video, and news to the standard text rankings. I will discuss Universal Search strategies and preparedness in an upcoming post.
This YouTube result is very prominent in the brand real estate of Proactiv Solution and quite damaging to the brand. One cannot help but empathize with the individual sharing their experience with the acne products. Proactiv Solution reps appear to have done nothing to address the issue except encourage the purchase of more product.
Below is screenshot of the video page, the second result in Google for the search “Proactiv Solution.”
Note the 40,322 views and 263 comments.
Many brands have learned the lesson that you cannot simply ignore prominent product or service complaints on the web. The best practice is to publicly address the issue (preferably in the form of a corporate blog) as soon as possible, investigate, admit culpability only when appropriate, quickly remedy the situation at hand within reason, and strongly advise potential consumers about any possible issues or warnings–whether or not it’s justified in the eyes of the boardroom.
Poof… it’s gone, and, you have instilled confidence and credibility with potential consumers by listening to, and showing concern for, your customers (the reason you are here in the first place).
In this specific instance, Proactiv Solution is on the way to losing a PR game, because the perception is, that Proactiv is more concerned about selling more product than addressing a painful customer issue.
The last thing Proactiv should pursue is legal action against the use of the name “Propassiv” because this is clearly a Fair Use example and the ensuing media attention would only worsen the issue. Upon review of the Propassiv.com website I found no illegal commercial activity or likelihood of confusion–in fact the footer states the following:
“This site is NOT affiliated with, connected with, or sponsored by Guthy-Renker or Proactiv Solution or any of its subsidiaries.”
[Author’s Note: Proactiv Solution does warn of a possible allergic reaction and recommends conducting a small skin patch test prior to using the system]
Natural Result #3
QVC.com > Beauty > Proactiv Solution
QVC is a television shopping network and a major direct sales partner for Proactiv Solution. While Proactiv Solution should take steps to dominate their brand real estate to capture direct retail sales and build a brand relationship with the consumer, this is clearly positive visibility.
Natural Result #4
Acne.org – Proactiv Solution Reviews
Acne.org is the brainchild of brilliant online marketer and self-described acne sufferer Dan Kern. Dan markets his own line of products under the name, “The Acne.org Regimen.” Specific products include the Acne.org Gentle Cleanser, the Acne.org Treatment Gel, and the Acne.org Moisturizer.
Note the content in his description tag:
“However, if you currently own Proactiv Solution products, don’t throw out the benzoyl peroxide lotion. If you can handle the smell, it should work fine.”
Not only do the Proactiv keywords in the description tag aid in the search engine ranking of this page, but the content itself is designed to divert traffic from the Proactiv Solution brand. How did Dan’s site get visibility on the brand real estate of Proactiv Solution?
Dan has mastered the use of consumer generated media (CGM) to yield prominent visibility. Specifically, this page features a message board for visitors to post their experiences, positive and negative, with Proactiv Solution. The result? First page visibility on Google for the search “Proactiv Solution,” and the opportunity to divert and engage highly targeted traffic.
View the screenshot below.
Natural Result #5
FAQ on acne skin care, Proactiv Solution review
This is the second listing for Dan Kern’s Acne.org website. Dan’s website provides the visitor with everything they ever wanted to know about acne, scarring, treatments, and of course, his Regimen. How did Dan’s site get visibility with a second listing on the brand real estate of Proactiv Solution?
Dan makes use of his FAQ page to present Proactiv Solution content. Even though this is an FAQ page for the entire Acne.org site, what is the title tag again? That’s right, “FAQ on acne skin care, Proactiv Solution review.” He has optimized his title tag for Proactiv Solution keywords.
The screenshot below displays Proactiv Solution content on his FAQ page. Note the multiple links to another Acne.org page that is optimized for the keyword sets “Proactiv Solution” and “Proactiv Solution Reviews.”
Natural Result #6
Proactiv Solution – Lowest Online Prices – Proactive
This page is an affiliate leveraging the Proactiv Solution trademark to convert branded traffic for dollars. The website is www.optimization-world.com and the rest of the site’s pages appear to sell video cables.
The site owner has optimized one page to rank for Proactiv Solution and utilizes powerful calls to action to convert visitors:
- Click Here For Today’s Lowest Prices!
– Free Bonus with the 4-Piece Oil Control System!
– Nearly 50% off the 3-Piece System, Plus a Free Bonus!
– Proactiv Test Drive: Half the size at half the price!
Here is a screenshot:
Natural Result #7
Proactiv Solution – The Official Site of AsSeenOnTV.com
This is another affiliate with prominent visibility in the brand real estate of Proactiv Solution. I want to reiterate that Proactiv Solution has the opportunity to dominate their brand real estate and capture retail sales directly.
Natural Result #8
Amazon.com: Proactiv Solution Renewing Cleanser 120ml/4oz. Health
This is another Proactiv Solution affiliate. In this instance, the affiliate, Beautiful Perfumes, leverages the strength of Amazon.com to garner prominent search engine visibility for their storefront.
Natural Result #9
Proactiv Solution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The ninth result brings us to the Wikipedia listing for Proactiv Solution. Wikipedia is a deeply flawed resource because the actual content is moderated by “editors” who have no stake in the finished product. The screenshot below displays the Proactiv Solution page on Wikipedia.
You can count on the editors of Wikipedia to publish links to negative websites and even competitors. This behavior is appalling and brands should do everything they can to crowd out the visibility of Wikipedia listings.
Let’s analyze the highlighted external links in the screenshot above:
Official website ~ This links to the Proactiv Solution website (www.proactiv.com)
Information on Proactiv Solution ~ This links to an AdWords site (a site specifically designed to generate Google ad revenue) that hijacks much of the copyrighted text found on the Proactiv Solution website. There is about an 80% chance this site belongs to the Wikipedia editor moderating the Proactiv Solution page.
Proactiv Solution rejected on Street Cents ~ This links to a negative review on the website of a Canadian television show.
Reviews on Proactiv ~ This links to the Proactiv Solution competitor, Acne.org. Remember, Acne.org ranks for the fourth and fifth results of the Google search “Proactiv Solution.”
Report that Proactiv infomercials are misleading ~ This is a gripe site that utilizes “complaint” content to generate ad revenue with Google AdWords.
So let’s review. Out of the five external links we had one link to a Proactiv web asset, one link to a copyright violator hoping to make some Google ad cash, two links to negative reviews on websites that are not authorities on skincare, and one link to a direct competitor who is already actively diverting branded traffic from Proactive Solution. Way to go, Wikipedia!
[Author’s Note: I inserted the nofollow tag in the above links with the exception of the link to Proactiv.com]
Natural Result #10
Acne Help Web – Acne Treatments – Acne Solutions
Acnehelpweb.com is another affiliate but the issue here is that the site showcases direct competitors. It appears that Proactiv has already intervened because the affiliate “order” links appear to have been removed and now redirect the visitor back to the home page.
Below is the screenshot.
I want to review one more natural result that is visible on the second page of brand real estate for the Google search “Proactiv Solution.”
PROACTIV SOLUTION – Featured On TV
Here is the screenshot:
Now that we have reviewed the brand real estate for natural results, what can Proactiv Solution do to improve their marketing efforts and protect their brand in this space?
1- Create multiple web assets to dominate their brand visibility with frequently searched content and calls to action. I should point out to you that Guthy-Renker owns the website Acne.com but have yet to rank it for “Proactiv Solution.” That is step #1. To learn more about dominating brand real estate, download the Brand Command white paper or contact us about our services.
The goal is to push down negative and unwanted visibility, while engaging the consumer directly with multiple web assets that feature frequently searched content–Proactiv, Proactiv Solution, Proactiv reviews, Proactive Solution (the “Proactive Solution” mis-spelling yields around 700 searches per day on Google alone), acne treatment, teen acne, baby acne, adult acne, back acne, rosacea, acne scarring, skin care, skin cleanser, exfoliation, etc.
2- Launch a corporate blog to further engage prospects and customers, and to build and maintain a brand relationship. This is also the perfect vehicle to address the damaging second result, “Look what Proactiv Solution did to my face!” A corporate blog, in this instance, is also an ideal medium for celebrity endorses to post “updates.” These celebrity updates can serve a dual purpose–to share Proactiv experiences and promote the celebrities’ concert schedules, upcoming appearances, etc. Talk about a win-win-win. Can you say Brand Loyalty?
3- Contact Wikipedia to have the link to the direct competitor, Acne.org, removed asap! I would also lobby the Wikipedia editor for the Proactiv Solutions page to add some balance to the external links and change some of the page content if need be.
On to the paid results…
[Author’s Note: At the time of this research there were fifty-two (52) unique advertisers for the keyword search “Proactiv Solution” on Google]
Paid Result #1
Proactiv® Official Site
A brand’s “official site” should always get the bulk of click-throughs versus other paid listings, and I’m sure Proactiv Solution is no different. Here is the ad copy:
“Learn about the Proactiv Solution & get the great skin you want, now!”
The thing about paid listings is that unrelated advertisers tend to make grand claims or offers, and in some cases try to schock the searcher into clicking their ad. Because of this, I would use more compelling ad copy that will trigger the conversion:
“The revolutionary acne treatment. Order today and get two FREE bonuses!” (per the website)
I can assure you that most prospects are going to find out what the two FREE bonuses are!
Paid Result #2
Buy Proactiv® Solution
As previously mentioned, Acne.com is a Guthy-Renker web property. This is an “authority” domain that conveys credibility to get the conversion. Here is the ad copy:
“Proactiv® Solution 60 Day Trial, Money Back Guarantee!”
Paid Result #3
Proactiv ® Didn’t Work?
Acne-review.com is a competitor that sells a product called Exposed Acne Treatment System. Rule #1: Do not allow third parties to use your trademark in the heading or text of a paid search ad. Google offers an optional trademark policy to halt this practice.
Here is their ad copy:
“See How Acne Products Stack Up! (Sponsored by Exposed Skin Care™)”
A competitor advertising on your IP assets in the search engines constitutes trademark infringement. Yahoo changed their trademark policy last year to prohibit this. Here is the email Yahoo sent me indicating the policy change:
“On March 1, 2006, Yahoo! Search Marketing will modify its editorial guidelines regarding the use of keywords containing trademarks. Previously, we allowed competitive advertising by allowing advertisers to bid on third-party trademarks if those advertisers offered detailed comparative information about the trademark owner’s products or services in comparison to the competitive products and services that were offered or promoted on the advertiser’s site.
In order to more easily deliver quality user experiences when users search on terms that are trademarks, Yahoo! Search Marketing has determined that we will no longer allow bidding on keywords containing competitor trademarks.”
Another point to make about this ad is the title: “Proactiv ® Didn’t Work?” This suggests to the searcher that Proactiv Solution doesn’t work. Proactiv Solution needs to monitor this activity on the search engines and take steps to eliminate this nonsense, starting with a Cease & Desist letter to the offending party.
Paid Result #4
Why Murad Over Proactiv?
Here we go again. Proactiv must not allow unauthorized parties from using their trademark in the heading or text of Google ads. Here is this competitor’s ad copy:
“Leading Authority in Acne Skin Care Murad – $29.95, Proactiv – $39.95″
In that tiny little space for ad copy Murad attempts to strike a chord with the cost-conscious consumer, and using the Proactiv trademark to do so.
The title tag, “Why Murad Over Proactiv?,” asserts that the Proactiv product is in some way inferior. Again, Proactiv Solution should address this rogue competitor.
Paid Result #5
Proactiv Acne Solution?
This one is a doosey and pulls out all the tricks to divert traffic and shave revenues. Here is the ad copy:
“2007’s Top 20 Acne Solutions! Does Proactiv Acne Solution Work?”
1- The title uses the Proactiv trademark with a question mark–a provocative tactic to increase conversions.
2- The ad purports to give the visitor “2007’s Top 20 Acne Solutions,” providing the searcher with many options they may not be familiar with.
3- The ad poses the question “Does Proactiv Acne Solution Work?,” this is content many searchers are looking for.
Below is a screenshot of the landing page.
Two of the links are affiliate links to other products, there is one Google ad, and the remaining thirty-six (36) links direct the visitor to eBay where the site owner is selling all kinds of products.
The site owner is selling the Proactiv Solution 3-step System on eBay for $5 less than Proactiv does on their order page, but then charges more for shipping. Pretty sophisticated, right?
One more observation. Because this Proactiv affiliate doesn’t drive sales directly from his landing page it is hard to determine who the owner of the affiliate account is. Why is this important? Because Rule #2 is this: Affiliates are not allowed to bid on branded keyword sets. This one has found a way to circumvent this “obstacle.” FYI, the site owner’s information is private in Whois, but even if it was available it doesn’t necessarily mean it would match up with the affiliate account owner.
By simply implementing Google’s optional trademark policy this ad loses 99% of it’s effectiveness. In fact there is a good chance this advertiser would drop ads on the Proactiv trademark entirely.
Paid Result #6
Don’t Waste Your Money
This is the same advertiser as the #3 paid result, Acne-review.com. This advertiser is a direct competitor attempting to steal targeted traffic and convert a sale for the Exposed Acne Treatment System. Here is the ad copy:
“How Acne Products Stack Up! Compare Proactive ® to Exposed™”
Once again, the use of the Proactiv trademark in the text of the ad creates problems for the Proactiv Solution brand.
Paid Result #7
Acnestreatment.com is an AdWords site designed to skim revenues through search arbitrage. These sites will come and go and the only real winner here is Google. Here is the ad copy:
“Compare Effective Acne Treatments. Clear Skin – Affordable Options.”
Below is a screenshot. The sole purpose of this site is to get a click-through on the ads it is displaying.
Paid Result #8
You wouldn’t think a major search engine would get involved in search arbitrage but that is exactly what Yahoo is doing here. Take a look at the screenshot.
While Yahoo does feature a product listing, albeit a competitive product to Proactiv Solution, the obvious focus of this page is to yield a click-through on the Yahoo ads. Yahoo spends a little on a low-ranking Google ad to make a higher amount on a Yahoo click-through.
Isn’t it neat how Yahoo Shopping is advertising Proactiv Solution on the brand real estate of Proactiv Solution yet doesn’t really sell it? Hmmm…
Paid Result #9
Another bottom feeder. Shopping.com is another shopping aggregator engaging in search arbitrage. In their defense they do present Proactiv Solution products and market them through affiliate links.
Below is the screenshot.
Paid Result #10
Even eBay is involved in deception. Let’s review the ad copy:
“Proactiv Solution available. Don’t just Buy it – Win it!”
Now let’s take a peak at the landing page below.
Is it just me or do you also notice there is no mention of how to “win” Proactiv Solution as described in their ad copy? What they literally mean is “win” the auction–to me, this is a deceptive tactic.
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