Monday, 2 March 2009

Adverts Featuring Search - With No S.E.M.

I have noticed an increasing volume of adverts in the press and outdoor media that feature the image of a search bar with the text of a search relevant to the company.

In theory, this is a great way in which you could drive traffic through search engines to you site, taking advantage of cheaper sponsored link terms (even if they are typically generic words in themselves). Orange did this very well with their "I am" advertising (see below):

Orange I Am AdvertOrange "I am" Billboard
Hat Tip to Peter Gasston at

By featuring a very simple phrase to remember, these adverts were easily remembered for later searches once commuters reached their destinations. The "I am" search then produces a top-position sponsored link from Orange that links directly to their "I am who I am because of everyone" microsite:

'I Am' Search Results'I Am' Search Results

Clicks through this sponsored ad would be relatively cheap due to the lack of any real competition (it is unlikely any other competitors would bid on a term that has nothing to do with their business!) so would work well as a brand-awareness campaign.

However, there are a number of ads floating around that are missing a couple of steps in this process.

In today's Metro I came across an ad for They are a train price comparison site, where they will check the prices of all train operators within the UK and return the cheapest price for the route you wish to take.

In the advert they feature a large search bar, quoting "I'm looking for the cheapest train tickets - no booking fee":

crosscountrytrains advertCrossCountryTrains Metro Advert

Firstly, this is not exactly the easiest search term to remember. Unless you take the Metro with you to work. I understand that the picture may just be there to reinforce exactly what the service is that they provide, but it is a wasted opportunity if you do not actually appear against that search:

Google Search Results for Train AdGoogle search results for the long search query found in the ad

As you can see, the Cross County Trains website does not actually appear anywhere within these search results. This means that the company is not taking full advantage of the power that search could provide them. It would be much more effective to either have a shorter term to remember (particularly if it features the brand name - this gives extra bonus effect of increasing brand awareness) or having the sponsored link highly present so that they convert those that actually search for what they appear to want you to search for!

There was also an advert running on the underground a month or so ago on the LCD displays running along the escalators at Tottenham Court Road Station. These ads were for a website called, and whilst advertising great prices on flights, they were prompting commuters to search for "worldwide airfares from". The animation that ran actually showed this term being typed into a search bar and the "search" button being clicked.

However, just as with the previous example, searching for this sentence produced results that were void of any netflights sponsored links:

Netflights Search Results PageNetflights Search Results Page

This example is little better than the previous one, in that it is a little shorter and does feature the company name, but it is still hard to fully remember when you move past the ad on an escalator. It is also slightly better as the search results does have the natural listing for the website. However, I am sure that they would have much rather have been in a higher position than under 3 sponsored links and 1 other natural search result (that is of a competitor!).

It is great to see that companies are beginning to understand the power of search on the minds of the consumer, but some are still a way off from understanding how to use it effectively and how to incorporate it into a media strategy to achieve good returns.


Anonymous said...

It's a little cheeky to hotlink this image from my site without even a credit, isn't it?

Ryan Fitzgibbon said...

You are indeed correct. Apologies for the oversight, and this has been amended. Many Thanks.

Others should go here:

Anonymous said...

Very good of you; thanks.