LONDON: Hitwise, a unit of database management and marketing giant Experian, is among the first to spot what almost certainly signals a sea-change in search advertising.

Surfing Britons, the firm discovered, are increasingly replacing generic internet searches such as "cheap flights" or "broadband" with brand-specific choices such as "easyJet" or "Tiscali".

According to a new report from Hitwise, searching via branded keywords now accounts for 88% of all internet searches, a 20% increase from 2005.

This, the firm's research director Robin Goad  attributes to Google's search trademark changes earlier this year, prior to which "sites had to rely on effective search engine optimisation [SEO] to pick up large volumes of traffic".

But one in ten people searching for the UK's top brands still end up at a website that isn't the brand owner's, says Goad. "However, SEO can now be complemented with a paid search strategy for branded terms.

"Consequently, with branded search continuing to rise in the UK, the only way companies can protect their brands is to fully understand how they are searched for online. Successful integrated marketing campaigns lead to a significant increase in the volume of searches for the featured brand."

To which highly desirable end, readers will be relieved to learn, Hitwise can guide them.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff