If They’re Searching, Give Them A Hint

Advertise keywords, not just brands, URLs

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I remember sitting in on a session at one of the Search Engine Strategies conferences as a befuddled metrics firm rep told a crowd of equally befuddled marketers that a significant percentage of the search population actually typed the URL of the desired website into the search bar.

The assumption then was that searchers were unsophisticated and weren’t aware of the difference between a search bar and an address bar. Later, I would watch with the same wonder as my stepson searched for Wikipedia or YouTube instead of just typing it into the address bar with the appropriate .com or .org. 

I tried to set him straight only to the get the average teenager response of, "It’s faster this way," which really means, "Shut up, old man, and go watch some VHS tapes or something."

I’m sooooo 1996.

I just thought he was stubborn (and he is stubborn) and wasn’t willing to listen. But he might have been on to something. It might not be lack of Internet sophistication that prevents people from entering addresses directly, but natural (and reasonable) laziness.

It’s easier and sometimes faster to type "youtube" or "youtube.com" into Google and then click on the link than it is to risk making a mistake in the address bar and bringing up a site you don’t want. If you screw up in the search bar, or misspell it by typing in "youtbue" Google anticipates that and adjusts in case you goofed. The address bar, in that sense, is unforgiving. Miss by a letter, or in some cases, by a dash or dot or number or slash, and you wind up where you don’t want to be.

Simple truth: Web addresses are hard to remember exactly.
Example: The TV announcer instructs you to visit http://www.mysite.check_out_our_site.net/deals/wtf

That’s a lot to remember. A couple of years ago, GM and Kellogg were on to something, too, when they instructed TV viewers to search for "Pontiac" and "Special K" on Google and Yahoo respectively. Even when that was going on, people tended to focus more on the legal nuances of trademark keyword use and the then epic battle between Google and Yahoo.

But not much attention was given to the idea behind those campaigns: It’s easier, if you’re certain about the search results, to tell a consumer to search for a specific keyword than it is to get them to remember a long string of seemingly arbitrary symbols—arbitrary to them, not a computer.

It didn’t help that Mazda hijacked the idea and bid on Pontiac’s trademark to lure searchers away, sparking a whole new controversy.

Our new friend Cabel has screenshots of advertisements on Japanese trains. When I was in Japan, I ignored these, generally, if there was only text and no people in them because I never learned to read Japanese. So I don’t know, but I also don’t remember if the ads then instructed consumers to search for specific keywords. The instructions in Cabel’s screenshots often appear alongside the website URL, of course.

I apologize if similar ads appear on New York subway trains, too. In addition to general ad blindness anyway, I live in Kentucky, where we only use trains to haul cargo, and if you’re lucky, you don’t have to go near a city bus or a Greyhound.

The point is (sorry it took so long) advertising not just your site’s URL but also search instructions for keywords you know you rank well for, will be, if it’s not already, an important part of advertising strategies. You can target a sponsored search campaign to correspond with other media efforts, and if the organic results are there, too, the effect is magnified. It doubles (at least) the brand association a company is already trying to solidify by offering the words you want associated with the brand. 


If They’re Searching, Give Them A Hint
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  • http://mistisandefur.blogspot.com Misti Sandefur

    Great advice, Jason! I don’t hear many advertising this way often, but I do hear a few, and who knows, you may have hit on something that is becoming a new advertising trend. Again, great advice!

  • David Williams

    I even find myself guilty of doing this kind of thing! If I open a new (empty) tab, I find it easier to simply type google into the google bar search box than to type google.com in the address bar!

  • http://www.kouroupis.gr Guest

    I have a lot of visitors to one of my sites that do just this, as you would expect my two top search terms are the name of my business and not the search terms which I really intended people to search for. 

    Typing into a search is great for sites where the name of the site contains the search terms but plays havoc with the statistics! The best bit is that most of the people who do this are actually friends who know the name of the site in the first place!

  • www.ex-klusiv.com

    I have traffic to my website, but not enough sales.

    • http://www.learn2earnfromhome.net Ina Stanley

      There are several things to take into account when you’re talking about converting traffic into sales. If you’re getting the traffic but not the sales, it could have to do with your site copy, navigation, checkout process or any number of other things.

      Some quick tips: I had a look at your site, and right off I was confused. Nice flash piece, but I can’t tell from anything on that initial page what the site is about, or what you offer. You may want to include a short description on that initial page explaining what the site is for, or what product or service you’re selling and how it can benefit others.

      Next, in trying some of the links under the "american" menu, I noticed that at least 2 don’t work. Make sure that you constantly check your links to ensure they’re working properly.

      Last and most importantly, there is no information on whether these custom vehicle accessories are for sale, and if they are, there is no order form or shopping cart. This will again confuse even the most savvy of browsers. There is also no call to action (i.e. "Call today for a free estimate," or "Customize Yours Today!" ). Once inside the site, there isn’t even any contact information listed, just some technical info about the item.

      Your site is very confusing to visitors, which is probably why it isn’t converting as it should be. Just fixing those 3 things should help! I specialize in teaching business owners and entrepreneurs how to convert website traffic into sales. If you’d like further advice or info, feel free contact me: info@learn2earnfromhome.net

      • http://www.lifelovesme.myttn.com Guest

        I would also like advice on how to turn "Just Looking" into buyers.  Thanks for all the great advice!!!

        • http://www.learn2earnfromhome.net Ina Stanley

          I took a look at your site also. This is a tricky one, as it’s also a home business. For starters, with the economy the way it is, it doesn’t seem like there would be too many people taking vacations right now. One of the main aspects of marketing is knowing your market patterns and how they relate to the current economic conditions. It will also be tricky because it appears to be a replicated site, which means several others out there are using the same site to promote the same services. In this case, a visitor wouldn’t necessarily be confused, but might not know the difference between your site or another agent’s site. But don’t let that get you down.

          Overall, your site is easy enough to navigate, and seems to load fairly quickly considering the video. I guess my question to you is, are you like the other guy and getting the traffic but not the sales, or are you struggling to get traffic? I can’t give much advice without knowing that. Since you don’t own your site, you can’t make changes to improve SEO (the worst thing about replicated sites). But if traffic is your problem, I can definitely help! Contact me at info@learn2earnfromhome.net if you’d like some advice on this!

  • http://www.sandytfox.com Sandy Fox

    I can remember watching TV back in the old days – the 1980s – and there would be ads for local businesses.  In most ads they didn’t just give you their name, they gave you their address and how to find the using landmarks (we’re across from the new cineplex, or whatever).  This just made sense.  I agree with Jason that Internet retailers have to help their customer find them.  Never assume that they will remember your URL -even if it is easy.  I use my name for my URL but I still optimize a page for my url / name so that fi/when people Google me they’ll still find me.

    Bottom-line, don’t forgte that lots of the "tricks" retailers used to use still apply to the internet as well.

    Great article Jason!


  • http://www.dynamicsignal.com Guest

    It is amazing to find the vast differences in criteria that each search engine uses to find sites. We have hired multiple "experts" to enhance our SEO and each has a different thought ~ none is 100% accurate. Google, MSN and Yahoo are the big 3, yet each searches in it’s own unique format, and changes periodically. Webcrawlers must get hung up everywhere…

  • http://www.hyenaonline.com Hyena Cialis

    Yes you are right…

    I always type the name or kewyords in the
    search engine than type in address bar…

    Give clear and help direct instructions to your
    customers to find you.

  • Chris Crum

    Such laziness (though justified) is also a prime reason to make sure you are using an effective domain name. For those old men stuck in ’96 using the address bar.

  • http://www.feoamante.com Feo Amante

    I’ve been doing this for a few years now. I realized that my URL might be too unique, and unfamiliar for folks to remember. So I thought about it and I realized that what my URL *IS*, is not directly related to what my site is ABOUT. Good thing too, as there are tons of Horror Thriller sites out there. So first I went through my entire site, making sure that my metatags were all correct. Then I enhanced my metatags by making sure I told my visitors just what kind of site they were visiting. My website isn’t just about Horror movies, but about Horror, Thriller, Mystery, and Suspense in all of its fictional forms.

    Then I waited the four to six weeks to see my results.

    POW! My website is now the Number 1 search engine ranked website for
    Horror Thriller.
    I would have been happy to get anywhere on the first result page, but to hit number one in the top search engines like Google.com, top aggregates like dogpile.com, and more – as well as hit No. 2 at Yahoo.com.

    It’s good to be No. 1 at something in the world, and your advice is right on the money. I can vouch for it!

  • http://www.adhocmarketing.com Scott Salwolke

    I’m sure there are some businesses that wish everyone would use search to find a business. There was an article a couple of years ago about a business whose web address was similar to You Tube. They were a plumbing company whose server kept crashing because so many visitors came to their site by mistake. Many of whom sent emails complaining about the lack of videos. I tell many of my clients looking to get a web address to keep it simple. If they can’t get their company’s name, then make it about their profession. For example anytown chiropractic. This way its easy to say and easy to remember.

  • http://www.johnnyfusion.ca JohnnyFusion

    All that late 90’s push to get the "right" domain name & did you also register the .net and  .org is finally over.  It’s content that attracts visitors and the Search Engines are heading that way.  Few retailers get their heads beyond their self-important store names to understand that online shoppers don’t care where they shop – it’s what they shop for based on more important criteria like selection and price.  The successful retailer should appreciate that unless they are spending billions to be a household name it’s their content that matters more than their precious domain names and users moving away from URL address boxes are the proof.

  • http://www.azgolfguides.com Addy Coleman

    I saw a TV commercial last night doing the very thing you’re talking about (including keywords + URL) and the clever marketing caught my attention. It seems like a very good method if you’re confident you can keep those high rankings for those particular terms.

  • http://www.top-edcgold-mentor.com Ina Stanley

    I can understand your fear, that competitors would steal your keywords if you freely advertised them. I wouldn’t recommend using this technique on mass-marketing that would be see by anyone and everyone. I think this technique would be best used with marketing that would go directly and only to your customer base, such as postcards, brochures, business cards etc. I wouldn’t recommend this at all for TV commercials, online video clips etc.

    But consider this…your competitors can find out your keywords anyway if they really want to. They would only need pull up the source code of your site, which can be done from any computer without much skill or knowledge. Unless your source code is somehow protected, all it takes is someone right-clicking and viewing your page source to pull up your whole list of keywords.

    When it comes right down to it, I’d rather my customers be able to find me than not, regardless of what competitors do. If you have a solid business, a decent product or service at a fair price and an informative and user-friendly website, your competition can be dealt with. But don’t sacrifice potential business just to keep your keywords a secret. The fact is that unless you’re already a well-known company or a potential customer has your flyer/brochure/business card right in front of them, the odds of them remembering your full website  are very slim. This is especially important for marketing firms or sites offering PPC or paid advertising of some kind. If a consumer will be paying for ad space on your site, or marketing services from your firm, they may want to know how your site ranks to determine if you can help them. If they don’t know how to find you in a way that they can compare your exposure with that of your competitors, you will lose out on their business. Period!

    Don’t sacrifice potential business for keywords. The keywords are there to get you the business, so let them do their job!

  • http://www.webtacs.net/page-rank/ Page Rank Info

    Heck, that is what I used to do when I started using the internet a long while back.

  • http://www.ourweddingproposal.com Dan Pooler

    I thought I had adsense all figured out, I spread the ads all over my multiple websites and had about $1 a day coming in.  Unfortunately a "friend" thought he was doing me a favor and clicked the ads over and over again increasing my account $15 that day.  After I found out I wanted to strangle him because I knew it would come back to me.  Google kicked me off months later after my account finally reached the $100 threshold and told me it was due to invalid click activity.  I think Google should allow the webmaster to remove their own invalid click activity especially if we find out a friend was trying to "help us out".  I remember telling him how the program worked and NOT to just go clicking on ads.  I guess I should have emphasized why.  I can’t believe I’ve been banned because of someone else’s B.S.


    Does anyone know of the 2nd best program out there that I can start to use?  Please email me: dan@ourweddingproposal.com Thanks.

  • http://www.robstk26.com/index.html Robert Cain

    Yes i’m a novice at web pages and I know I’ve probably put some stuff on that wasn’t as good as others, but I tried Google adsense too early,I believe. I had my sites up and had adsense on there, however some one decided to pound the ads and got me suspended. I do understand protecting the advertisers, but after the appeal and denial, i couldn’t even get the offending i.p.address to find out who kicked me. It seems that google is trying to do the right thing, but as a gung ho"Barney Fife".

    I’m not angry at Google, but dissapointed. As a novice "webmaster"(and I use that term lightly) I expected to make mistakes, but not get punished for those caused by others to me.

  • http://www.iwanted.ca Internet Marketing Strategy Website SEO

    Advertising a variety of things, especially keywords has benefit to attract traffic from all sources.  Great article.

  • http://www.swankigifts.com/article/cosmetics Cosmetics

    Great article Jason

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