I was looking at different deposit rates offered by different banks in Singapore to see which bank i should set up new account with.
The first thing i realized was that it TOOK me a lot of time to go through every single bank looking for Interest Rates!
For most of the banks (OCBC, DBS, Citibank etc…) i had to click at least a couple of times to see the rates for different saving account types : Monthly savings, Smart Savings, Saving Plus, S$ Saving account…
Further more, for some banks, they don’t even display the rate on the website! What is that about? How am i supposed to decide which account to apply for if i don’t know exactly what the interest rate is and how it is being calculated!?
But then something strange happened, i realized that i didn’t even remember the brand UOB at all. I had been spending at least a couple of hours browsing through deposits, savings, investment products, insurance products offered by OCBC, DBS, Citibank, HSBC but i didn’t think of UOB at all!
This is really strange to me because I had a UOB card before when i was a student and used that quite often. At the same time, UOB is supposed to be quite big in Singapore. Everyday when i go to work i walk past UOB Plaza, which situates UOB headquarter! Every single morning, 22 days a month.
Then slowly it dawns on me the reason why UOB brand is lost on me. It’s because when i do searches on Google, i never see any ads by UOB! Bingo
You see, as human being, we are getting lazier and lazier. We no longer remember the bank URLs. Instead we just go to search engine, type in what we want and expect the results to be there. Like for this case, i either type in the brands: OCBC savings account, Citibank deposit, DBS asset management or generic terms like saving accounts, deposit account etc…
Please note that i have NO personal grudge against UOB whatsoever. I used their product before, but it’s just that it’s my profession and i spend quite a lot of time online so when i see something strange, it’s my instinct to investigate.
UOB currently does NOT have any ads on Google/Yahoo for savings account, deposit, credit cards, insurance or investment related products.
So the first thing i do is using Google Insights for Search to compare different brands
This is for the last 12 months
This is for the past 4 years
The above graphs show that the web search volume for keywords related to different brands in the last 12 months (the first graph), last 4 years (2004-to date) in Singapore market only.
This can be used to gauge the overall popularity of a brand from Search Engine point of view (how many people are inrested in your brand)
UOB is apparently quite popular (second position) in Singapore, higher than OCBC, Citibank or HSBC.
Secondly, i use Google Keyword Tool to see the actual keyword and their average monthly search volume
The above list of keywords are not exhaustive. I just want to showcase that there are an enormous amount of people in Singapore, searching not only for Financial products in general but UOB products in particular but they couldn’t find the information they want easily. There are no Paid Search Ads and the SEO is not that great.
For example, if you search for “UOB card”, you will see the following results on Google (taken on 19Feb09) in Singapore
I am no expert but as you can see from the screen shot, the link for uob singapore is near the bottom and it’s not even a page about “uob credit card”, which is the product i am looking for!
The tragedy is that UOB Singapore actually has a very nice website! I am not sure how long ago did they revamp the site but it looks much better now with proper sign up form in appropriate locations!
Yet i DO NOT even REMEMBER this brand because of their lack of exposure on Search Engine (both Paid Search and SEO).
May be i am different because i spend too much time online so my decision/perception is largely based on online information but i seriously doubt the effectiveness of UOB customer acquisition strategies. If you are not there when i am looking for you or related products, too bad you forfeit the possibility of me being your customer and worse yet i slowly forget about the brand!
Just my humble opinion!
P.S After i wrote this post, Lance LoveDay wrote a good article on Search Engine Land titled “Search: Too Boring for Branding?”. In this article he also highlighted the possible impact of not having any links (Paid Search or SEO) on the Search Engine Result Page to a particular Brand.