Do Summer Blockbuster Movies Bother With On-Site SEO?

Do Summer Blockbuster Movies Bother With On-Site SEO?

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In some instances a site will gain so many natural links that little else matters in the grand scheme of ranking.  Let’s take a look at a handful of summer blockbuster movie sites to see what kind of attention, if any, was paid to their on-site SEO efforts.  And, more importantly, a close look at where they rank and if a lack of attention to on-site SEO matters much in the world of blockbuster movie sites.

Star Trek

One of the most highly anticipated blockbuster movies of 2009 is certainly Star Trek.  Following the same school of thought as the always popular Star Wars series, the latest movie in the Star Trek saga rewinds to tell the story of the core characters in the original series before they joined the crew of the Enterprise.  This installment serves as the prequel to the original series.

As you would expect, the SERPs for a recent movie is a perfect example of the universal search Google is committed to providing for its users.  A general search for the term “Star Trek” generates a whopping 105 million results ranging from news results that aren’t necessarily applicable…like the three in this case, which clearly mention Star Trek, yet I feel far short of being particularly devoted to Star Trek.

Star Trek Search Results

Immediately following the Google News Results we find the Star Trek official website, dedicated to all things Star Trek.  The site not only promotes movies, like the 05/08 release of this film, but also serves the larger Trekker/Trekkie community – devoting sections of the site to the original series, the existing movies, The Next Generation or any other evolution of the original Gene Roddenberry creation.

After the official Star Trek sites come a couple of results from IMDB (Internet Movie Database), a trusted source of information about movies, television shows, actors, etc.  The next results are an integral part of Google’s universal search offering:  videos.  Not surprisingly, all three of the video results shown within the SERP for “Star Trek” link to trailers for the recent movie release.

And immediately following the videos, we finally stumble on to the official movie site, startrekmovie.com.  The Star Trek site is built entirely in Flash, which considering the visual demands of the techie-types that gravitate toward Sci-Fi flicks like Star Trek, shouldn’t come as any surprise.  It does make me wonder, though, if the site wouldn’t rank above the fold if it incorporated content the search engines could easily index coupled with Flash elements that appeal to more demanding users, as well.

Results for “Star Trek movie” and “Star Trek trailer” are much more promising for the summer blockbuster, with the official site listing well above the fold in both searches.  Remember, the more specific a search term the less competition there tends to be.  This is a perfect example, with over 150 million results for “Star Trek”, but just over 30 million for “Star Trek movie”.

TRANSFORMERS

If the previews for this movie are any indication, TRANSFORMERS is sure to be the pick of the litter of action films this summer.  While the movie isn’t scheduled to be released until June 24th, the official movie site for “TRANSFORMERS:  Revenge of the Fallen” – www.transformersmovie.com – already ranks in the top position in Google for the general term “Transformers”.

It’s no surprise that the entire “TRANSFORMERS” site is dynamic, with very little content that can be indexed by the search engines.  Like the “Star Trek” movie site, that means the search engines must rely very heavily on the anchor text of links from outside sources to determine what terms are most applicable to the site.  Fortunately for summer blockbuster movies, receiving a great deal of attention from traditional media and trusted online media sources is worked into their marketing budgets.

Land Of The Lost

With a title like “Land of the Lost”, I wouldn’t expect this site to have a lot of trouble ranking well.  Like TRANSFORMERS, the movie has yet to be released and the public hasn’t had the chance to see if the film will live up to the hype.  That said, much like Star Trek, this movie has a bit of competition in the search results – itself.  A science fiction television series by the same name made its debut in 1974.  The IMDB result for the original series is, however, outranked by the movie’s official site:  www.landofthelost.net , which appears atop the SERPs for “Land of the Lost”.

Up

Perhaps the most surprising result in the SERPs comes for the uber-generic term “Up”.  I expected to at least have to include “movie” or “Disney” with the search in order find relative results.  I was wrong.  Upon inputting “Up” into the query, I was immediately greeted by the Disney Pixar summer film.  In fact, 4 out of the first 5 results were for the movie, Up.

Like the previous movie mentions, this site is also entirely done in Flash.  Further illustrating the impact and overall importance of a high number of incoming links from a wide variety of sources ranging from media websites to enthusiastic bloggers.  Rankings are a bit of a popularity contest and a link to a site plays very much like a vote for most popular.  The cache that comes with being a Disney film put Up at a link building advantage from the start.

Less Buzzworthy Movie Mentions

A few honorable mentions include:  Night at the Museum:  Battle of the Smithsonian, whose official movie site ranks 7th, behind IMDB results, video results and Google news results for “Night at the Museum”.  Ice Age:  Dawn of the Dinosaurs ranks 1st for “Ice Age”.

An interesting thing to note is that the soon to be released The Taking of Pelham 123 has an official site at catchthetrain.com, yet that URL appears NO WHERE within the search results for the term “Pelham 123″.  This certainly could serve as an argument in favor of including search terms in the URL, but with the complete absence of catchthetrain.com from the search results, I’d say there’s probably a bit more to it than that.

A more obvious point of difference between a site for a movie like TRANSFORMERS vs. The Taking of Pelham 123 lies in the number of incoming links.  TRANSFORMERS has over 100,000 links pointing to it, while The Taking of Pelham 123 has under 8,000 links.  That’s a huge discrepancy.

Playing By The Rules

Links are still Google’s currency of choice, as related to organic rankings.  That’s  no less true of a movie studio’s website than a local small business owner’s.  The most efficient way to improve a site’s ranking is to address on-site and off-site SEO issues.  If you’re a movie studio with a huge marketing budget, on the other hand, you can ignore on-site SEO entirely and still come out at or near the top of the search results because of the large number of links the site will acquire naturally.

6 COMMENTS

  1. It also seems like many of these movie studios are missing out on secondary information opportunities. The current Transformers page title is: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen | Official Movie Site & Trailer”. I think most people expect that if your domain is http://www.transformersmovie.com that you understand that it is the “Official Movie Site”. They probably also expect they can see the trailer there. What would be beneficial is to include the opening date in the page title: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen | Opening June 24th. Buy Tickets Here.” Which is both informative and an upsell opportunity where they could sell tickets directly or sign up for an affiliate program with http://www.movietickets.com or another ticket website.

    Just my thoughts. Overall, nice post.

  2. It also seems like many of these movie studios are missing out on secondary information opportunities. The current Transformers page title is: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen | Official Movie Site & Trailer”. I think most people expect that if your domain is http://www.transformersmovie.com that you understand that it is the “Official Movie Site”. They probably also expect they can see the trailer there. What would be beneficial is to include the opening date in the page title: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen | Opening June 24th. Buy Tickets Here.” Which is both informative and an upsell opportunity where they could sell tickets directly or sign up for an affiliate program with http://www.movietickets.com or another ticket website.

    Just my thoughts. Overall, nice post.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Jeff. Which is why my approach to solid on-site SEO is as much about user experience as it is about impacting rank. Many seem to concentrate on building a site FOR search engines and they forget the basics of on-site SEO (like internal linking structure and proper use of paragraph headings) impact rank BECAUSE those efforts help to make a site more user-friendly.

    The truth is that once people understand the individual aspects of on-site SEO, how they relate to each other – and, more importantly – how they relate to and impact the user’s experience, the big picture of SEO makes more sense on a fundamental level.

  4. I couldn’t agree more, Jeff. Which is why my approach to solid on-site SEO is as much about user experience as it is about impacting rank. Many seem to concentrate on building a site FOR search engines and they forget the basics of on-site SEO (like internal linking structure and proper use of paragraph headings) impact rank BECAUSE those efforts help to make a site more user-friendly.

    The truth is that once people understand the individual aspects of on-site SEO, how they relate to each other – and, more importantly – how they relate to and impact the user’s experience, the big picture of SEO makes more sense on a fundamental level.

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