Posted by rebecca

I was chatting with SEO Hack and Syzlak (the Statler and Waldorf of SEO) when the topic of movie websites came up. When movie studios have a new film coming out, they typically launch a separate, unique website for that film. I played devil’s advocate and asked Syzlak why don’t studios launch movies on their own domain via a subdirectory (e.g., paramount.com/movietitle). He responded by saying, "if the studio links out to a movie then that domain will rank well, but the studio itself might not pull as high a rank if it had each movie as a microsite or subdomain, etc." Makes sense. Think about it: a movie theater is trying to promote each individual film, not necessarily the studio behind that film. Thus, it’s logical to brand the new movie by putting it on a separate website.

SEO Hack highlighted some potential downfalls to launching a movie on a separate domain:

The only problem I see with going the micro-site route is that they’re starting from scratch with a domain, which sucks for building link pop. Second, the movie name isn’t always available, so they end up with some weird-ass name that they have to work to brand as part of the movie too.  If they work with just adding it to the current site hierarchy, they get all the link-generation the movie buzz would build as well as the ability to use existing link pop to help usher spiders to content. Plus, since the studio’s domain already has age, they’re not fighting that battle…though, I would guess that they buy a domain and start building age for it as soon as they have a project, assuming that the movie’s title doesn’t change.

He makes a good point about the movie name not necessarily being available. Some studios try to get cute and register an obscure URL, like "lameassjokemikemyersmakesinthemovie.com" instead of "lovegurumovie.com". For linking purposes it’s generally a best practice to include your keyword in your URL if possible–that way, when people use the URL as the anchor text, the keyword’s already built in. However, I don’t see starting from scratch as a huge problem for movie studios looking to market their new movie. If the movie has built buzz for a while, it shouldn’t be too hard for the site to rank for the movie’s name. Plus, if the studio links to the new site, they’re funneling some of their hearty link juice over to the new web property.

My concern had more to do with what happens to a movie website after the film’s had its theatrical run. These websites pretty much sit there and rot, collecting dust and being largely forgotten. Take The Love Guru, for example. This movie looks like a heaping, steaming pile of excrement, and apparently the moviegoing public agrees with me because it took 4th in the box office its opening weekend, grossing less than $15 million. Undoubtedly the movie will leave theaters pretty quickly, and Paramount, the studio that put out the film, will move onto promoting its next batch of coming attractions. Its website will be abandoned, maybe updated slightly once the DVD comes out, but overall it will be ignored.

However…The Love Guru’s website has almost 19,000 links pointing to it. That’s a LOT of links. What if, after the movie’s theatrical run, Paramount (whose website has over 250,000 links) redirected www.lovegurumovie.com to a page on Paramount’s website (e.g., paramount.com/movies/loveguru)? This page could have information about the movie such as its plot, cast information, images, video clips/movie trailers, merchandise, and DVD information. Now, imagine if 2 years from now I catch The Love Guru on the USA Network. For some unholy reason I find the film to be incredibly hilarious (play along now, it could happen…if I’m drunk). I go online and do a search for "the love guru" in order to read more about the movie. Ranked at the top of the search results (hopefully beating imdb.com, but possibly ranked underneath it) is Paramount’s Love Guru page. I click on the result and read information about the movie. On the same page is a section that says "Other upcoming comedies coming to theaters." I check out the list and think, "Hey, these movies look pretty funny. When do they come out?" When one of the advertised movies (most likely Shrek 9 [*rolls eyes*]) comes to a theater near me, I flock to a sticky floored cavern near me and dump my $10 directly into Paramount’s pocket.

Thus, the redirect strategy would be beneficial to Paramount for long tail search term ranking and as a way to promote upcoming releases. As an SEO, I see this as a great opportunity for movie studios. However, Syzlak and Hack were quick to provide a cruel reality check:

Hack: Do the movie studios care about their sites in search? How many of them are doing it that intelligently or care?

Syzlak: Why should studios care about an old movie? They’re already focused on promoting the next film. They’re thinking, "I don’t care about Elizabeth the Golden Age, I’m all about Zohan now."

Well, you could make that argument about a lot of businesses who don’t understand SEO or know about the value/benefits of it. However, you could also make the case that clearly the current system seems to be working fine. Generally, movie studios don’t have a tough time getting their individual movie websites to rank and drive traffic. And I’m sure they have dozens of other releases to worry about, so implementing an SEO strategy on a site for a movie that they don’t care about any more seems like a low priority. Maybe I’ve just been doing SEO for too long and I see a great opportunity that in reality isn’t that huge a priority.

Still…I can’t help myself. Think about how many long tail searches a movie studio could pull in if they were to redirect all of their movie websites to pages on their studio site. They could compete with imdb.com and cross-promote their other films on these pages. Plus, all of the links that a site accrues before and during its theatrical run wouldn’t go to waste. Seems like a no brainer, right? What do you think? Am I onto something here, or is it just the SEO in me trying to complicate a marketing strategy that already works pretty well for movie studios? Are studios missing out on a great opportunity? Do they even care?

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