Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Target"ed search

This may sound extremely stupid (don't you love sentences that start with clauses like that?) but I'd like to think that what I do (interactive strategy) is a gift. Not everyone has this ability (more likely interest) and I've been told I'm good at it (after much fishing). So on dark nights, when the hour is so late that the actual hour doesn't matter, I find myself absorbing the radiation of my laptop screen and believing that I am a superhero. I stand for Internet marketing justice, albeit not very tall and of the minor super power variety. Yes, my destiny is clear: The Internet will be saved, the world shall be a better place...

[You hear a loud popping noise, as if an overinflated dream bubble had just burst]

Umm yeah. Right... OK. Where was I? As I was about to say, you should know that I'm more often just your average Joe Schmoe online. I don my nerdy glasses and surf amongst the common folk, who are oblivious to my powers. I prefer the lofty heights of superness but one must stay grounded to stay good. Like everyone else, I do my online shopping one keyword at a time. For example, last night's keyword was "chimenea" (my patio has been nagging me for weeks to get one).

Googling it gives over 2million results and a page full of sponsored links. The links make sense because the word is the name of a product. If you're an online retailer and you carry this product, it may make sense for you to buy the keyword and show up on the sponsored links. That way, someone like me looking to buy a Chimenea might just click on your link and see what you got. This is the most basic tactic for a web-savvy marketer engaging in search marketing.

Anyway, the Google result page looks like this:

Note the listings on the right and note the third one down. That's a placement bought by Target. This is where branding really kicks in. Since I don't know any of the names of the other retailers (though I'm sure I know what I'll find if I go to Chimeneas.com), the only "safe" approach is to go with someone I know. So I click on it. This is what I get:

"There is no Target.com page matching your request." There isn't? Where do you keep your Chimeneas? Are you saying there are no Chimeneas here?

The page continues to say, "It's possible that you typed the address incorrectly," Oh, now it's my fault?! I don't think so, I clicked on your link.

"Or that the page no longer exists." Obviously! But why would you buy a keyword and get me here if you don't have the thing I want? You are so wasting your money! My super-powered senses are tingling. Must look into this!

According to the Google keyword tool, a 4th -6th placed ranking on the keyword "chimenea" costs $0.22 a click. No one is going to buy a Chimenea from that keyword so, Target, you just wasted $0.22. Or did you?

"Shop Target.com" Wait a second, is this some kind of trick? Did you bring me here for some branding effort? Are you just trying to create awareness for Target.com? You madman!

It turns out, this is more than likely their exact strategy. I randomly picked words representing products and found ones such as "lawn darts", "candle bottle", "metal wall", "ceramic pitcher" etc. where Target has bought the keywords but when you click on the link, they don't carry these products.

I imagine that this tactic must work for them. You drive people to the site, no matter how obscure your keyword placement and hope to create enough awareness that they come back later for some other reason. Given the short attention span, very aggressive pricing and loads of comparative shopping that online consumers do, I'm baffled that this would work. Again, my assumption is that it does since they're doing it.

I had thought the age of "traffic" as a measure of online success was over. That businesses now look for things like effectiveness and conversion. But perhaps I (and other strategist right now) are wrong. Given the incredible expanse of the Internet, we may be back to the time when traffic is everything. Once you go somewhere, it's easier to find it again later. Traffic could reaffirm the brand identity and or begin a new relationship. Maybe we've come full circle with Internet marketing.

Or maybe Target has a more devious plot that I have yet to figure out. Yes, that might be it. I must go, there is much to learn. WHooOSH!

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