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.


Anonymous said…
Yeah, perhaps I did over state things a bit. I was just a bit surprised that see that they were not number 1 considering they mentioned it in their advert.
Andrew Girdwood said…
Either way; it's going to be an interesting case study!
Anonymous said…
Wasn't the idea really just to anchor outdoor advertising to search and ensure they keep the click price cheap? That's the basic idea in Japan.

After all, saying search 'mobile phone' or 'phone tariffs' would have triggered an expensive bidding war instantly. In fact you can already see other sites cashing in on the 'I am' campaign now. A risk i'd hope they had already clocked.

Have to admit that i did expect them to have SEO'd the site better than they have.
Andrew Girdwood said…
Shouldn't they be directing the traffic to the Orange shop rather than a micro-site then?
Anonymous said…
Which, as you pointed out in your post, they basically have done. They get clicks to their microsite and collateral clicks to their shop for cheap.

If it were me, i'd definitely make a microsite to ensure i was on the right side of the ad guidelines and quality score.

Also, there's still the matter of relevance and continuity for the user. Based on the campaign messaging, a site about successful UK entreprenuers is what you'd expect to see and that's what you get. I'd feel pretty sore if i'd gone to all the trouble of investigating the offline ad, online, only to find it's a disguised ploy to drive me back to the shop i probably already know about or could have searched for anyway without a gigantic prompt on the tube!

At least a totally new site, rewards my curiosity with something hitherto undiscovered. And when you get clicks so cheap, you can afford to take a few more risks and give potential customers a gentler ride to the checkout :)

Moreover, the fact that the microsite paid ad is highest is most likely because the CTR is better, rather than a lower bid on the shop ad.

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