As search splits into top-of-funnel activity on Google and product-specific searches on Amazon (and other retailers), brands in every sector need diversified search marketing strategies to ensure both visibility and conversion. Yet many companies are still, well, “searching for” the right balance, according to Gartner L2’s Search report.

The report evaluates the SEO and SEM performance of 771 brands, focusing on search visibility, ad extension tactics, and “white space” assets (e.g., knowledge panels, Google Maps store profiles). Here’s how they broke down:

A slim 10% of brands were Leaders, maintaining high visibility in both branded and nonbranded search and incorporating relevant shopping information into their Google results. Beyond simply investing in paid strategies, leader brands—from adidas to Gucci—link their digital properties to other off-site platforms and feed timely information to their search engine partners.

But almost half of brands were Laggards, lacking a discernible or cohesive search strategy. Many of these brands, like Helly Hanson and La Mer, take scattershot approaches to search marketing, without correctly identifying the terms and strategies that work best for their businesses. These brands score below-average in their search investments and often fail to structure their sites for optimal search indexing.

In the middle, the report identified a number of brand reliant companies, which use branded product terms to maximize return on smaller search investments. Brands in this category first seek to defend their turf, focusing on brand dominance, while prioritizing product keywords that may be at risk to competitors with deep search marketing budgets. Household names like Lacoste and GoPro bank on their most popular products, seeking to capitalize on explicit brand interest and guided selling to push shoppers to conversion.

Finally, a quarter of brands are mass appeal, anchoring their search strategies with broad, popular terms and savvily aligning their products to trends and seasons. This category includes brands like Oral-B and L’Oréal, which surface their most compelling product categories early in the research and consideration phase of purchase decisions. These brands also dedicate significant search investments to nonbranded showcase ads, banking on brand equity to differentiate themselves from competitors.

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