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World Cup Search Stats Show Why Unbranded Search Matters For Marketers

When searching to buy jerseys during the World Cup, fans largely didn't navigate to a brand's website. The retailers who won were prepared for that.

England may have lost in the semi-finals of the World Cup, but two brands won big when it came to sales of the anglophone team’s merchandise in the U.S.: Nike.com and Fanatics.com dominated market share around search terms having to do with purchasing an England jersey — even beating out Amazon, according to research from Adthena, an AI and machine learning-powered search intelligence analytics provider.

And how did they do it? By outranking all other retailers in unbranded search situations.

It’s no surprise that fans were making searches and purchases on mobile while cheering on their favorite World Cup team: After all, an estimated 95 percent of consumers have their smartphone in hand while watching TV. But what may be a surprise to marketers is the way in which viewers’ searches reflect one of the biggest trends in SEO since the switch to mobile: Rather than searching for a brand (like Nike) or going to Amazon’s homepage, users made unbranded searches for “England jersey” directly into Google — meaning that only retailers who had thought about how to rank for unbranded, World Cup-specific searches were poised to capture that traffic.

Nike.com dominated on the term ‘Where can I buy England jersey,’ maintaining approximately 50 percent of the market share during the event, and achieving its highest market share (65 percent) on July 1st and July 6th — the day prior to England’s semi-final, according to Adthena’s research.

“As the manufacturer of the England jersey, Nike clearly made a heavy push in search around the England shirt, and their efforts seemed to have really paid off,” said Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing, Adthena.

SEO Goals

The World Cup may be over now, but its lessons related to search trends still stand. First and foremost, marketers must be aware that consumers today are more likely to search for “England Jersey” or “best bars to watch World Cup” than they are for a particular brand name or website.

As we’ve written previously, in 2018, if a consumer searches for “new car,” they no longer simply see links — they see the knowledge card, with prices, configurations, features of cars for sale, and more, all seamlessly. Similarly, if someone Googles groceries or banks, they get maps back; Google now assumes someone is looking for a place if they search for something present in the physical world. As such, marketers need to manage both their standard listings and location information but also to prioritize ranking in unbranded situations — like these searches for “England jersey” rather than “Nike.”

Secondly, it’s critical for marketers to think about how the language used in unbranded search queries may change by location or background. For example,  for the term “England Kit” — a term used largely by English fans living in the U.S. — Fanatics.com handily beat Amazon.com on the term during the event. The lesson? It’s key to know what terms are popular with which demographics — especially when it comes to appealing to a diverse global audience.

Read more about the search trends that have defined the past year, here.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of GeoMarketing.com. A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.