URLs Out – Searches In

I was watching TV last night and an ad came on for continuing education. It’s one with fingers walking around the place. The ad was OK. I didn’t really pay much attention. But at the end of the ad the call to action was – “search for EMA online”. Not visit direct.gov.uk/ema or what you’d normally get, but just search for EMA online.

So I tried it. And it worked.

On Google both top natural search listing and the sponsored link would have taken me to the right place. On Live search and Yahoo.com the right link was the sponsored top link as well as being number 2 in natural search (not perfect, but good enough).

Then a couple of minutes later I stumbled on this article (via: BoingBoing) about how in Japanese advertising the use of search terms in posters is really kicking off. I quite like how they’re integrating a search box with a suggested search term into their ads.


Visit http://www.cabel.name to read the whole thing and see more pictures.

It does seem like a potentially smart way to go now that most of the short and memorable domain names with any meaning have been scooped up. But making sure you’ve got the right people looking after your search engine optimisiation / marketing stuff is EVEN more important than it was yesterday.

10 thoughts on “URLs Out – Searches In”

  1. Interesting. I was thinking the other day about the prequel to this I guess. Years ago ads used to have to literally spell out the URL: w-w-w-dot-mywebsite-dot-com. Whereas now the www is engrained in the language of people and it’s therefore not needed any more: mywebsite.com

    Telling people the search term is the next logical step from this I’d say.

    What’s the next step? Not mentioning a URL/ website at all? People would naturally search for it, so long as the title of the site and the 2 liner fit with the strapline and stuff people will put 2+2 together?

  2. This was one of ours. We’ve done it a few times now (after copying the Koreans – its massive over there apparently).

    3 reasons why it’s a good idea.

    1. People don’t remember URL’s but are more likely to remember words associated to an ad they have seen

    2. You can manage your keywords better. If you’re clever with the words you choose you can avoid bidding against your competition – which makes it cheaper

    2. You can measure the true effectiveness of your TV campaign by assigning a specific keyword to each ad (TV buyers be afraid)

    It’s been working pretty well so far – big uplift in response.


  3. Great observation Iain,

    I was thinking about this just this morning on my way to work. Interestingly, AOL used to do it about 10 years ago, they called it AOL Keyword. On any of their communications they would say ‘AOL KEYWORD GOLF GAME’ or something similar. It always really confused me. But that was more about the way they executed it.

    It makes total sense though. Instead of just assuming people will search for your product, make it as easy as possible for them by pointing out what is going to work best for them. Very Steve Krug.

    It’s quite a gamble though, both natural and paid-for search results are so variable.

  4. The problem with choosing keywords so that you ‘avoid bidding against your competition’ is that those keywords will be easy for your unscrupulous competition to rank for or bid on too… effectively hijacking the ad.

  5. So much better than the TV ad for a conference which (as I blogged yesterday) lodged a name but not a url in my head. Sadly, when I used that name to search for the conference, it yielded nothing because the url turns out to be slightly different from the conference name.

    And better than the council that tells you the search name to use but insists you use it in their extranet search engine!

  6. I created telldodo.com to serve exactly this purpose: replace URLs with easy to remember, easy to pronounce, easy to spell UNIQUE keywords. Perhaps I should hook up with someone in Japan to create a Japanese version of telldodo. Let me know if you have an interest in developing this idea…

  7. I saw examples of these Japanese search box ads in a presentation that Nikkei BP gave on the Japanese market at the end of last year.

    In Japan the Search box with recommended search terms is also used on TV ads and intriguingly press ads in newspapers / magazines carry these Search boxes too (even though it is much easier to just print the web address rather than print a search term and then optimise Search engine results accordingly!)

    Another form of quick link, the QR code, is also prominent in Japan – often running alongside the Search box on outdoor or in print. Ads feature a bespoke (QR) barcode and scanning / photographing this with a mobile phone results in your mobile browser going straight to the desired website. Few UK phones can deal with this yet but many new handsets have this inbuilt (eg the Nokia N95.) The beauty of this is not just that it makes it easy for consumers to reach your site from their mobile, but it also introduces a whole new level of interactivity for static ads on outdoor / in print (its easy to track respondents too). The Sun newspaper are experimenting with this technology and in December 07 ran a 4 page feature on QR codes – I don’t think it will be long before these start appearing regularly on UK ads / in UK editorial.

    Search boxes, QR codes and other developments like this seem to have the potential to fundamentally alter the way that consumers respond to ads and it will be interesting to see where this goes!

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