Ixnay on the Avengerhuntscay

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships

Please indulge me for just one more rant and then I’ll shut up for a while.

If there’s one thing I hate more than marketers using bad URLs in their ads, it’s replacing the URL call-to-action with a search call-to-action. And coming from a search guy, that’s really saying something.

Josh Catone covers this phenomenon in his post on Read Write Web -- The URL is Dead, Long Live Search.

He talks about the Special K television spots running now that direct people to search Yahoo for Special K and asks, “Has searching really become so natural that it is more effective to tell people to search for your site than it is to tell them to visit directly?”

Josh proceeds to point to data showing the rise in navigational queries as evidence that “search over URL seems to be a trend we're likely to see more of.”

I strongly disapprove of this tactic. Ad-weary (and inherently lazy) consumers are already unlikely to respond to a call-to-action that requires them getting off the couch and going to the computer. And they’re even less likely to do so when the directions they’re given amount to a scavenger hunt of sorts.

Yahoo has been partnering with marketers for some time now, offering them expanded paid search listings in exchange for cross-promotion in TV ads. One I picked up on last year was Hellman’s sending people to Yahoo to search for “Real Food.” This execution is even more ill-conceived than Special K given that the suggested query (“Real Food”) is not a trademarked term and, thus, much harder for the brand to own on the SERP.

It’s very likely that people searching for “Real Food” will find a brand other than Hellmann’s -- especially now that the program is over and the Hellmann’s sponsored listing is gone. Had Hellmann’s used Hellmanns.com as the call-to-action, they could be assured that their audience would not get misdirected during the promotion and would still be able to find them once the flight ended. Or, if people forgot the URL and just Googled, sorry… Yahooed “Hellmanns,” the brand would be right there in the top organic listing. As it stands, today, a search for “Real Food” on Yahoo does not return Hellmann’s anywhere on page 1.

As for the Special K example, if they’ve optimized their site properly and purchased paid search ads, they’ll reach the people that see the ad and can’t remember the URL (had one been used). And for those that do remember the URL, they’ll arrive right at the Special K front door, where a controlled brand message can be conveyed.

Bottom line, just because people can’t remember URLs doesn’t mean we should ask them to stop trying. I’m reminded of the days of yore when commercials featured AOL keyword calls-to-action because people couldn’t be trusted to figure out how to navigate the web -- or rather, everyone thought that AOL was the web. I hated it then and I hate it now. Its called a Uniform Resource Locator for a reason people!

OK, enough ranting for one week. Hopefully I’ll come across some more pleasant fodder in the trades so I can do some raving.


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