Sometimes, we take branded search (searches for your brand name or domain name) for granted. We just assume that people who know our name will find us.
Today, I wanted to book a flight on BMI (more accurately known as British Midlands Airways). First, I tried direct type in to bmi.com. That was not correct. (One of the many reasons no one types in domains anymore and everyone just relies on search.) So, I did a search for [bmi]. Huh. Nowhere to be found.
Refining my search to [bmi airways] does bring up the site, but I could have just as easily refined my search to [aer lingus] or (please never let it come to this) [ryan air].
Because I’m a search geek, rather than just booking my flight, I also checked out the rankings for the BMI site (which, by the way, is flybmi.com). While it ranks #6 on Yahoo for its brand name, it comes in at a sad #128 on Google and doesn’t rank at all on Bing. Searchers who aren’t as hip to refinements and instead rely on paging through results will be looking for a long time.
I didn’t go so far as to investigate what the problem might be (it could be a content problem, a linking problem, a technical problem, a penalty issue…), but perhaps BMI should.
Update! Commenters have figured it out!
Commenters (below) and Twitterers have pointed out that BMI does in fact rank for its name in the UK and Ireland. And I conveniently happen to be in London today and can see for myself that it’s true.
As with the US, a bunch of body mass index pages rank next, along with the Brain Mind Institute.
I concede that BMI’s primary customers are in the UK and Ireland, but they also likely have lots of customers like me who are booking from other countries. BMI surely doesn’t want to rank #128 for their own brand name on Google. So what are they to do?
I wrote up some thoughts on geolocation a while back, but this query points out how tricky things can be. BMI could operate separate sites for each country, each with a specific TLD and have each TLD be an entry to a central reservation system. That might be cumbersome though, so they could at least specify the country location for each folder in Google Webmaster Tools to improve things on Google.
It looks like simply improving their site architecture could also make a difference. An easy clue that this might be an issue is that in the UK, www.flybmi.com/bmi/splash.aspx ranks #1 on Yahoo, wwwflybmi.com ranks #1 with www.flybmi.com/bmi/en-gb/index.aspx (basically the same page) indented below it on Google, and www.flybmi.com/bmi ranks #1 on Bing. Without doing any digging into the site at all, we can see that at least four pages are competing with each other.
I would look into this further, but being in London, I have beer to drink at the pub.