Orange search disaster or sly ploy?

On UK TV and on posters around the country (my rushed London Tube photo below) the mobile network Orange are encouraging people to search for [I am].

Trevor Ginn is calling it an SEO disaster because of the microsite's dreadful SEO score.

I'm not sure about that. Did Orange expect to do SEO here?

My hunch is that Orange simply decided the business case to try and SEO a microsite wasn't there - perhaps they're planning to retire it in just a few months1. In fact, you could argue that Orange have done well in coordinating their SEM with their off-line media buying and TV. So many companies still fail to do so.

I've been spot checking Yahoo, Live as well as Google over the last few days and Orange are running the ad across all three and seem to have enough budget. The 'I am' creative is usually there.

You can see the 'I am' ad in the top slot... but look to the right. Notice also the advert for Orange's shop.

Google's rules on double serving are pretty clear. You only get to run two ads like this if the web sites each ad points to are very different.

Yeah... the 'I am' microsite certainly isn't an Orange shop. Feel free to check out the site and let your eyes drift to the top right again. There's a very clear call to action to go visit the Orange shop.

So, is this double serving?

To be honest - it's a grey area. If I was running the PPC for a competitor to Orange I would be on the phone to Google to argue that it is. I'd note that the rules for gambling and gaming sites were pretty clear on this; when Google UK banned such sites that also included sites that advertised gambling even if they didn't have the functionality themselves.

Of course; Google may also rule that this isn't double serving. The 'I am' site clearly isn't an Orange shop. However, if this is the case then it opens the doors to the microsite/biography site tactic being used again and again...

1 Yeah; there are very good SEO tactics for this sort of microsite. If Orange do retire the site shortly then we'll have to see how well they do.

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