Cars, Restaurants, Financial Services Top Study Of “Complaint Searches”

Among major brands, those in the automobile, finance, and food service industries attracted the most complaint-related searches in 2010. That’s according to a new study from the marketing agency Web Liquid Group.

The 2011 Customer Complaint Index measures search activity in the Google Keyword Research Tool involving complaints (i.e., broad match results for “(brand name) complaints”) and applies the data to Interbrand’s Best Global Brands report. Web Liquid recognizes some of the limitations in this approach: the study doesn’t reflect non-Google searches and the Keyword Tool also has some drawbacks. But the data is interesting nonetheless.

Raw Complaint Queries


When it comes to raw complaint searches, no one beats the auto industry. Toyota received the highest amount of complaint-related searches in 2010, and four of the top seven brands are car manufacturers. Beyond the top 10, Web Liquid says four others — Hyundai, BMW, Volkswagen and Lexus — were all in the top 30.

Three of the top 10 as shown above were restaurants: McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Burger King. More on that in a moment.

Complaints Compared to Overall Search Activity

When looking at complaint searches as a percentage of the overall searches for a brand, the financial industry dominates. Even though several car companies are on the first chart above, complaints represent a relatively small fraction of the overall search activity for Toyota, Ford, etc. But that’s not the case with financial services brands.


In addition to the finance brands, the same three restaurants make this chart, too. And that’s not all….

Mobile Complaint Search Activity

Web Liquid says four of the top five brands getting complaint queries from mobile devices were restaurants.


And the same trend exists when comparing mobile complaint searches as a percentage of overall mobile search activity; in that case, the top five brands are all in the food service industry (Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFC).

The Web Liquid study also looks at complaint searches during the holidays (’s number of complaints doubles then) and who advertises against complaint queries (automotive companies do that more than others).

The study can be downloaded from Web Liquid’s website; your name and email address are required.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing: Search Term Research | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Sean-Skipton

    Wasn’t it Toyota who had to recall their latest model from the USA because of a spider (a genuine arachnid not a web spider) that’s very fond of nesting in the fuel pipes? And presumably remained undetected for some time, so nobody knew what was causing the problem. Which might explain it’s top ranking. One has to bear in mind of course that a proportion of the Google searches may be from researchers researching complaints, rather than people actually complaining.

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