Hollywood Sites, Hollywood URLs

Posted by Tim Ireland at 28 May 2003

Category: Search Engine Optimisation

This entry was posted on
Wednesday, May 28th, 2003
at
2:27 pm and is filed
under Search Engine Optimisation.

The folks in Hollywood need a serious clue regarding the location and promotion of official movie websites. Most promotional material will drive you via one of the following methods… (Hulk used as example, because Hulk good. Hulk understand.)

‘AOL keyword: hulk’
‘Visit the official website at the thehulk.com’

In this case, the studio was lucky enough to be able to secure a solid and direct domain name, but in most cases, the studio would be reduced to using a URL like:

thehulkthemovie.com

All of this activity is a complete waste of time and money, and shows no concern for long-term strategy. Here’s why:

– In most cases, people do not navigate by URL. Even if they think that they know the URL, they will more often than not search for that URL in a search engine – usually Google.

– AOL is powered by Google. What the bloody hell are you wasting money on an AOL Keyword for?

– The precedent of location by named URL is open to use or abuse by cybersquatters, opportunists, and genuine fan sites. Even if you have the time and money to hassle such people, you can’t fight them all (and in some cases you haven’t got a leg to stand on). In this case, there is a notable fan site located at hulkmovie.com – and it’s very hard to see the difference between the two sites at first glance.

– This approach does not take full advantage of the link popularity generated by interest in any given movie.

If you run the official movie site, you would (or should) be the top search result in Google for searches relating to that movie, due to the official site being linked to from heavy-duty sites such as the IMDB and a bunch of other smaller sites – that’s the way Google works. It’s also why 90% of your search traffic will come from Google in one way or another.

(The Google system works better than any other, that’s why portals such as Yahoo! and AOL have been forced to integrate it into their systems. If anything comes along one day to beat Google, it will do so by beating Google at its own game. The approach of feeding valid content and generating link popularity is a sound one, and pretty much future-proof.)

Right now, most studio and/or movie sites are flash-heavy and impossible to index. That’s the first thing that’s got to change.

Phase One – Opening Up To Indexing

Urgh! Hulk released by Universal Pictures. Hulk look at Universal Picture site. Site make heavy use of Flash and not fully indexable. Google not able to see in and feed relevant information to Hulk when Hulk search for specific movies or other stuff Hulk need to know. Hulk go to Hulk site and Universal site and have no idea that studio also make good movie Bruce Almighty!

Folks, we know you often make excellent movies and spend lots of money on them. You do not need to impress us with great swathes of Flash. You certainly shouldn’t use Flash for primary navigation. Flatten it out, invite the indexing robots in. This allows people to navigate their way directly to the most relevant section of your site via a Google search.

You also need to remember that they call the main page an ‘index’ page for a reason. There should be navigation to every primary section of the site (with highlighted versions of the most popular/useful sections) right there on this front page.

Keep it simple. You’re big enough to get away with it, and we’re too cynical to be impressed by anything OTT.

Right. Once you’ve got that sorted out, you can move onto the most critical phase of this strategy:

Phase Two – Hosting Movie Microsites at Studio URLs

Forget all of that buying domain names rubbish. The hosting/naming format you need to adapt as the norm is as follows:

universalstudios.com/hulk
universalstudios.com/bruce_almighty
etc.

Why is this important?

– It makes it immediately clear which is the official site and which isn’t in any given set of results.
– This location will still be the top search result for queries relating to the movie.
– Using a folder approach such as this allows you to take long-term advantage of resulting link popularity.

Google not only takes note of who links to your site; Google remembers. Link activity around universalstudios.com/hulk not only benefits this specific location, but also the overall ranking of other material hosted at the core URL.

Why is this important?

There are other smaller movies that you release that may not receive significant link attention, but Google will regard your site overall to be a rich source of information, and will therefore rank you highly for any other information you choose to host correctly under this URL. This goes not only for specific movie titles, but general queries relating to types of movies (more on this later in Phase Four).

Phase Three – Microsite Format and Evolution

It’s all very well and good having a big Flash presentation, but the introductory page for any given movie needs to be standardised, indexable, concise and text-based. There will be other search queries relating to different aspects of the movie (such as those relating to the director or star) and you’ll want to collect a few punters on the basis of these searches as well.

This approach also allows you to present information about other movies from your studio that may be on the same theme, by the same director, or featuring the same star(s).

This page can then evolve with the needs of the film. A quick and quiet location detector can tell you which country the visitor is in, so it’s a snap to feed them info such as:

– When it will be released in cinemas, and where it can be seen.
– When it will be available on video/DVD, and where it can be purchased.
– When it will be on cable/pay-per-view, and which channel it will be on.
– When it will be on terrestrial television, and which channel it will be on.

All of this opens the way for some healthy partnerships. Why should the Internet Movie Database have all the fun? It’s your movie, right?

Also, most movie sites will arrive with a splash and then be suddenly withdrawn. Some may stay or return for a DVD release, but more often than not a new site is built for this purpose – usually at a new location. This is not only wasteful; it tends to piss fans off.

Again, it’s your movie. For as long as there is a fan base for that movie, your studio site needs to be the primary source of information. Feel free to change, reduce or improve the content as time goes by, but keep it in one location, FFS!

It saves you money, done right it stands to actually make you money, and further down the line it makes it easier for you to promote smaller movies, the inevitable sequels to your main movies, and – most important all, I would argue – related movies:

Phase Four – Generic Search Terms

Over half a million people search for ‘action movie’ or ‘action movies’ each and every month. Where is your ‘Universal Studios – Action Movies’ page?

Sure, it’s a pretty generic search term and saturation is high (Hulk say: saturation mean when big lot of people fight for top result on same search term) but we’re talking about some hefty cumulative link popularity here – you stand a much better chance of winning this battle than most independent sites.

That’s half a million people – using one generic search term – each and every month. Why aren’t you introducing these people to your wonderful selection of movies?

Do your mainstream promotion right and people will seek a particular movie out. This is to be expected. Top search results for this movie can almost be guaranteed. Let’s take that as a given.

However, you’re not reaching the people who may not even be aware that any given movie exists! Your current Internet strategy relies heavily on offline expenditure. Assemble and present your assets correctly, and this can change.








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