Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Case study: Marketing search terms rather than URLs

It’s no secret that good domain names can be difficult to acquire, expensive to buy (if bidding), and can sometimes be confusing to customers with all the dots(.), slashes(/\) and protocols (http://, ftp:, .com, .org, etc.).  Even when a good domain name is obtained, there is often a disconnect between the time the consumer has seen the advertisement and when they are able to get to their computers to view a website.  They frequently forget the URL or they may enter the wrong URL.  As a result, consumers may resort to using their favourite search engine to find the content they are looking for.

URL marketing versus search marketing

Recently we’ve seen a trend of advertisers moving away from URL marketing in lieu of promoting company or product search terms in their campaigns.  This is a marketing trend that originated in Japan but has also been growing in popularity over the last couple of years in North American ads.


Many web browser have also adapted to this trend as most address/URL fields now function as a search field as well.  Enter words into Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera’s address field and their default behaviour is to conduct a search rather than trying to resolve it as a web address. For example, enter the words Coquitlam relator into your browser's address or URL field now, hit Enter and see what happens.  You might expect it to self-correct by resolving to the domain Chances are that it went to a search result screen for your browser's default search engine.  Is this a coincidence or a usability statement about how brower manufacturers expect users to search rather than remember URLs? 

Marketing potential

The potential for marketing with this technique is huge, since no longer do marketers have to hunt down really slick and memorable URLs.  The marketing opportunities are expand when combining it with things like mobile marketing strategies. For those who prefer a more conservative approach, you can even combine traditional URL marketing with search engine marketing creating a hybrid approach.


Mind you this technique isn't without its caveats.  For example, your website must be optimized to appear at the top of the the results through keywords.  This is best done through unique words or a unique combination of words. If you cannot hold down that top spot you run the risk of your own marketing program referring customers to your competitors.

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