Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe The Plumber Does PPC

I know I'm not the only one writing about this, but it's too much fun to pass up: All the buzz over Joe the Plumber from Wednesday's presidential debate has spilled over online in a very interesting way. Since lots of writers are covering the Google Trends aspect, I wanted to comment on the PPC side.

Before I get into that, let me say that, as most of you know, this thing is evolving and will continue to evolve. I'm reporting on what I'm seeing in my office in Michigan on Friday, October 17 - not to be confused with what I may see tomorrow, or what any of you might be seeing right now! Isn't search great that way?!?

Anyway... here is a screen capture of my search on "joe the plumber":
The ads are all brilliant (even if I don't agree with all of them, wink wink). At the top is the GOP. Good for them - they're promoting their online poll and the ad copy really encourages people to join in the conversation. Great social media angle - points for that. Too bad whoever is doing their PPC doesn't know how to use keyword insertion properly! Sorry, gotta give you a point deduction for an ad title without a single capital letter.

Then there is John McCain's site. Whoever Senator McCain is using for his SEM has been doing a great job throughout the campaign of getting relevant ads onto a wide variety of searches. Big points to you, McCain's SEM! Interestingly, despite all the hype about McCain conceding Michigan to Obama and stopping ads here, they've obviously got a geo-targeted PPC campaign still running. Not a bad strategy - if indeed it is a strategy, and not just an oversight.

Oh, and McCain's SEM? You lose points for not using keyword insertion correctly either.

Following the McCain ad is an ad for Network Solutions that appears, at first glance, to be totally irrelevant. That is, until you read in the news that the guy who owns the domain has been offered up to $800,000 for his domain. Pretty sneaky, Network Solutions! Bonus points for creativity.

Of course, Barack Obama's SEM can't let McCain get all the attention, so next you'll find a brilliantly worded ad for Obama's campaign. Well done! Bonus points for correct usage of keyword insertion.

Finally, no liquid-hot search would be complete without the totally irrelevant PPC ad. Today's contestant is Holiday Autos, with a non-sequiter ad for international getaway cars. Huh?? How did that get there? Points to them for getting visibility on "joe the plumber;" major point deduction to Google for actually allowing this ad to appear.

So there you have it. I'd like to thank today's contestants for playing. Come back in an hour, when a new cast of PPC ads will undoubtedly be running...

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Searchinig for Charity

Now that the bottom has officially dropped out of the US economy, people are looking for easy ways to help others. Microsoft has stepped up to the charity plate with its Search and Give website. Apparently this has been around for over a year, but I just read about it last week in my local newspaper. As stated in the article, "Search and Give generates revenue for participating schools and charitable groups" by donating a penny for every search done on the site. The reason this made the local paper is because one of the Lansing elementary schools recently received a check for $0.01 from the program. Nice.

And that's what got me thinking about a couple of things. First off, while this is an interesting and easy way to generate money for your church, school, or whatever, clearly it hasn't been promoted well enough to generate any buzz - or any meaningful money. My kids' school participates in a lot of fundraising programs, but this one was new to me - and I work in the search industry. And there are 2 key barriers within the Search and Give program: one, you have to search from their website. Most people are used to going to Google or Yahoo, or maybe even Live Search, when they need to find something on the web. Getting people to change their habits is not easy, especially if you're not promoting the benefits of changing. And for your organization to get credit, not only do you have to search on SearchandGive, you have to be logged in with your Windows Live ID. If you're not signed in and you try to search, instead of generating a SERP, you get what is essentially an error message saying "Sign in now so your searches generate donations to your selected charity or school." Ugh. While there's a link to "just go to your search results," this is what those of us in the industry call a "stopper." If I get that box, I'm thinking "forget it, I'm gonna click that little 'home' icon and just go to Google."

Secondly, even if this program ran off Live instead of, traffic volume is so low that it barely matters. We can't get enough traction from MSN/Live for our e-commerce clients, much less traction for something that's nice to do, but really isn't going to move the needle for businesses or these worthy charities.

But I give props for good intentions. The donations are coming from Microsoft, and this really is a nice gesture on their part. And, if promoted correctly, it can be an easy way to raise some needed funds for charities who need it now more than ever. It's just a shame that, as usual, Microsoft has made the tool just about as difficult to use as they possibly can.

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