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Why Do Big Brands Slack On SEO?

Update: In May 2014, OUTsurance has finally made it back to page 1 of the search results after 2 long years of Google Policy compliance.

Update: Sep 2013, Santam has since changed their page title and by doing so have jumped to 10th in the SA Ranking

Update: In April 2012, OUTsurance took a huge hit by the Google Penguin update. It has since dropped from page 1 to page 5 in the results.

I was thinking of switching my insurance company and decided to do some research on the web to find out a little more about the different insurance companies, naturally I did a Google search for “Insurance” and the  well know brands like “Outsurance”, “MiWay” and “Hollard” came up on top.  I was surprised that I did not see “Sanlam” so decided to investigate further. I eventually found “Santam” listed at about 30th position and was horrified to see that they had committed most of the deadly mistakes associated with bad search engine optimisation or no SEO altogether.

Now I know that often big brands feel that they can slack on SEO, but surely they will at least take the time to do the basics. Above the Line advertising can do wonders for big brands but an organic listing for words like “Personal Insurance” and “Insurance” should be sought after keywords by these big brands. Santam is listed about 12th under “personal Insurance” due to someone in the past making a good title for the page but today the title reads “S A N T A M”  so I am sure that Google will soon pick up on the title change and then they will slowly fall back further in the results. No sure who is making the decisions but if they do not step up to the plate then a lot of damage can be done because of bad SEO and bad advice. There is no reason why they should not be up there with the big boys.

I will give you an example of this simple yet crucial mistake. Lets take the top insurance companies and see what they have going for them:

Outsurance Overview

Outsurance Organic

outsurance ppc

Outsurance Adwords



Looking at the above search engine result for “Insurance” you can see that Outsurance has done some title optimisation and has even put some effort into paid advertising with some Adwords displayed in the side column.


MiWay Overview

MiWay Organic

MiWay has also done things right and at least have the word “Insurance” in their title. MiWay are spending a lot of money on their Adwords and seemed to have grasped the importance of Adwords for big brands.

MiWay Adwords

MiWay Adwords

Santam Overview

Santam Organic

As you can see from the search result above, Santam have decided to go with a single brand name (with spaces between the letters) rather that using a descriptive title. What makes this worse is the fact that this title is the same on every page which weighs heavy on the  “Duplicate Content” factor. Sanlam has also chosen not to run Adwords. With big brands I always encourage the use of Adwords to enhance your products and your brand.


If you have a strong brand name company this does not mean you need to spend less time on your SEO. Often these sort of companies will say that most people search them by name, however, they need to understand that a good majority of people search for a product and not a brand. It will benefit them more if they boost their products and mention their products in their titles.

Google will pick up on brand names automatically and will give them preference around the products that they sell. If someone is always searching “Sanlam Insurance” then Google will eventually tie Sanlam and Insurance together and give them more value for the word “Insurance” , however, this is only one factor so it does not hurt if you help Google out a little by writing a descriptive title.

I have used Santam as an example for my findings, I do this as constructive criticism and do not mean to bash Santam and their marketing team for wrong doing, I am pointing out what I think are the faults so that others can learn from this and not make the same mistakes in their strategy.


  1. Robert Bravery October 1, 2009 Reply

    Yeah it’s amazing that the big brands think they are big enough to be found. Perhaps they do not need the business. Perhaps they have enough. But what I find is that most see no RIO on SEO
    .-= Robert Bravery´s last blog ..10 Stupid Twitter Mistakes to Avoid =-.

  2. Christopher West October 1, 2009 Reply

    Hey Bryan

    You make a good point here – I thin with time, the big brands have grown arrogant and don’t believe its necessary for them to spend time or money on SEO.

    Huge loss for them….

  3. Stephen Graham October 1, 2009 Reply

    It’s unbelievable big brands don’t take time to do basic SEO.

    Sorry to knit pick on an eye opening article but your example SANTAM was spelt SANLAM at the conclusion.

  4. Author
    Bryan Casson October 1, 2009 Reply

    Thanks for the heads up there Stephen, I have edited it. I always get the two mixed up as I am sure most people do.

  5. May 27, 2010 Reply

    IMHO, I believe that this is so because big brands don't think that they need to get the attention of people. Because they have a well-known brand already, they feel that most people know about them already and they just need to wait or people to go to them. Which sadly is not the case.

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