SEO for the Product That Doesn't Exist Yet

By Tad Miller | Jul 23, 2012
More Articles by Tad


Usually the easiest thing an SEO can do for a major brand is get a number one ranking for that brands product names.  There is an exception to that rule though.  Getting ranked for product names when the product doesn’t exist yet can be a challenge – especially if there is any significant amount of pre-release publicity.

Search Mojo has represented several major brands in the past year that have had major new product launches.  The anticipation of the arrival of some of these products has been huge and the build up of hype surrounding them by fans, bloggers and the press has in some cases been rabid.  Examples include the Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell, the as yet unreleased Call of Duty Black Ops 2 and the 2013 Mazda CX-5.

As an SEO it is exciting to work with big brands with a lot of hype around their new products, but there are some significant disadvantages to be overcome.  The very hype that builds the excitement for the coming of the new product has to be overcome in search results.  All of those articles, blog posts, pictures from trade shows of new products, leaked YouTube videos, Spy Cam pictures are competition in the Search Engine Results Pages that you as an SEO will eventually have to outrank.

In most cases the press and user-generated content that brands need to sell their products can often come many months before the brand even has a web page that mentions the product.  This puts the brands at a major disadvantage in having to catch up to the news and information sites.   The very simple reality is that you won’t really rank for a search on your product until you can actually put some content on your site about it.

Importance of the Teaser or Hand Raiser Page

If you have a new product coming out you need to have a page devoted to it – even if you aren’t prepared to even show a picture of it yet.  Auto-makers are famous for just putting a picture of the car in silhouette.  At a minimum you can start with “Coming Soon.  The All-New 2013 Blue Widget-inator” with some very basic details or teaser language.

The original prototype was a Pink Widget-Inator. But test markets indicated that people preferred Blue.

When you are ready to release more details you can do so.  Activision’s Call of Duty website is  masterful at building hype with screen shots of gameplay and cinematic teaser videos.  These digital assets get shared on social networks thousands of times over.  The important thing is that they are being shared from their website – with their links. Giving the assets away without a link back may build hype, but it only makes the job harder when it comes to over-coming the press that uses those assets with no obligation to link back.

Let’s Get the PR Folks Working on This One

Press releases are usually the first official mention of a new product like a car, taco or video game.  Press Release’s have been leveraged by SEO’s for years as a method to get viral spread of anchor-text links built.  Simply by making a word or phrase that you would like to rank for in search engines within that press release an anchor text hyper link that deep links to your Teaser or Hand Raiser Page you can start building some links for that page.  Press releases often get republished hundreds and sometimes thousands of times over on different websites.  Newspapers, TV station websites, blogs and media sites often republish those press releases with the anchor text link in tact.  Some SEO’s may debate the overall “weight” of press release links in search engine algorithms, but the reality is that they are still absolutely a ranking signal that make a positive difference on getting pages ranked highly in search engines especially for new pages like a teaser or hand raiser page.

Blogger-Press Outreach

Sometimes simply just asking for a link from a blogger or reporter for the name of your product within their article to your Teaser or Hand Raiser page is enough to get a”YES”.  Small “Fan Blogs” are a great resource for this kind of link building approach.  They are brand loyalists and are often-times very happy to spread the word about your page.  The reality often is that your products are what give them material to write about.  Returning the favor of sharing there articles on your Facebook page is a great way to get them to feel appreciated as well.  Often times these are the very sites that are outranking your for your own brand name because they got a head start.  You need their help to over come them in the rankings.

Cater to Fan Boys. Even This Guy…

Try Curation

This is an approach that I’ve been suggesting to brands for years and I’ve never actually gotten anyone to bite on the idea.  The simple fact with Teaser and Hand Raiser pages is that the content is very often sparse.  Here’s the iffy part of the strategy.  You have to be a little bit of a hypocrite to make this strategy work.  Curating links and snippets of content from the very sites that are writing about your product and out ranking you is a great way to get relevant news worthy content on your page.  Here’s the hypocritical part:  You need to make the links that connect to this content “Nofollow”.  Tagging a link “Nofollow” tells search engines not to follow the link or pass along any “Page Rank” that could boost its rankings in search engines.  Those sites still get the traffic that those links could deliver to them, but the last thing you really want to do is give your search result competition another leg up in outranking you for your product name.

Emphasize Social Sharing

Having social sharing buttons on your Hand Raiser or Teaser Page is imperative to getting viral spread of your marketing materials, and it’s also a great way to get socially shared links to your page.  You need to make it as easy as possible to get Tweets, Google +1′s and Facebook Likes on all of your page assets.  Let your fans do the work for you in getting the word out and let them do some link building for you.  Your competition in results did the same thing and you need those socially shared links to beat them in tie breaker situations in the ranking algorithm.

The Problem is Intent

Google recognizes three different search query intents:

  • Informational:  An informational query seeks information on a topic.  The user is looking for information on the query topic (broad or specific).  The goal is to learn something by reading or viewing the content on the web, such as text, images, video, etc.
  • Navigational:  A navigational query is intended to locate a specific web page. The user has a single web site in mind, often the official homepage or subpage of an official site.
  • Transactional:  A transactional query seeks to complete a transaction on the Web – for money or free – of a product or service. The user is mainly looking for a resource (NOT information) available via web pages. The goal is to download, to buy, to obtain, to be entertained by, or to interact with a resource that is available on the result page or made available through the result page.

Searches about new unreleased products are Informational Queries.  These searchers are merely looking for data or stories about the unreleased product.  They are in the information gathering process to evaluate if the product is something that they will be interested in purchasing once it becomes available.  As a result, articles, blogs, pre-release reviews tend to be what Google and to a similar extent Bing delivers for search results on those product searches when the product is still in the “hype-stage”.

The change in searcher intent almost always seems to naturally happen once the product is released for sale to the public.  The brand selling the product almost always rises to the top of results for searches on that branded product name within a couple of weeks.  How this magically happens isn’t really elaborated on by the search engines.  It could be a manual process involving Google’s Quality Raters to determine if Transactional search results are being delivered once the product is for sale or searcher behavior signals favoring the brand page once the product can be sold may be helping the search engine favor the product seller’s site.

The most problematic results that I have found in trying to outrank once the product release are model year specific car keywords.  Words like “2013 Mazda CX-5″ tend to have a very high number of automotive review websites dominating results.  It always seems to take a longer amount of time to achieve top results on those model year specific queries and it may be that Google tends to consider these more informational fact gathering queries that need heavier emphasis on 3rd party informational sites like caranddriver.com.  Either way it’s kind of embarrassing as an SEO for a brand to not have a number one ranking for that branded term.

The Key is Content

You shouldn’t ever expect to rank number one for a new product name if you don’t have a page devoted to that new product on your website.  The content on that page has got to satisfy the searcher or at a minimum tease them enough with the possibilities of your new product.  The more you can share on that page before you go sharing with the press the better.  It’s even better if you make the digital assets promoting the product like pictures, videos, or press releases sharable from that web page only.

You can rely on your fans or the press to promote your product on their own, but you need to be aware of the head start you are giving them in the race to get high rankings for your product on the release date. Ideally, its great to get people to sign-up on your Teaser or Hand Raiser Page to get more information so you can send them targeted e-mail messages when you are ready to sell.

Are you ready for the future? Prepare for what could exist.

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