TopRank Marketing Editor

ONLINE POKER or The Marketing Folly of Using Highly Popular Yet Unrelated Keywords to Drive Online Traffic

TopRank Marketing Editor     Keyword Research, Online Marketing, SEO

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Early in my marketing career I sold classified advertising for a large and influential alternative weekly newspaper in the Twin Cities.

A true benefit of this job was experienced by friends of mine, met through occasional dabblings in the local comedy scene, who turned to me to get the word out about an upcoming show via a line ad on our back page.

Anyone familiar with an alternative news weekly’s back page is certainly no stranger to the type of ad typically represented there. Without providing too much in the way of detail, let’s just say that anyone – ANYONE – will say anything – ANYTHING – just to get found.

It was this type of environment that fostered a good friend’s idea for an ad regarding his upcoming sketch comedy show – which appears word for word, minus identifiable info, below:

“Free Porn…Bring Your Own Chair…Stick Around For Comedy…This Friday.”

Getting found is half the trick, right?

What happens, then, when someone shows up early with their own chair, and doesn’t get the joke? (Note: This happened, by the way. Exactly as described. It was an unpleasant situation for the group, the venue, the embarrassed patron, and probably the chair).

What does this story have to do with search engine marketing?

While this story comes courtesy of a more traditional communication channel, it serves as an example of the methods employed, or suggested by, those with an inadequate or corrupt understanding of effective SEO. With adequate resources and/or the right connections, black hat flavored tricks and blatant use of highly popular yet unrelated keywords can serve to drive the occasional online traffic spike. However, is this good SEO practice? More importantly, is this effective marketing?

SEO is not just about getting found and SEO is not a means to an end within itself. Rather, it lives within a full marketing framework – a framework about more than just driving traffic, whether it be brick & mortar or online.

Marketing at its core ensures the right people find you for the right reasons. It’s about ensuring the strength your messaging deserves resonates throughout the language of each of your tactics whether they be marketing with social media, email or public relations.

An objective marketers should hope to achieve with their branding and promotion efforts is a message so resonant that it will migrate from the communication channels your prospect frequents all the way to their thoughts and dreams. In the end, they will not be able to think of your industry without remembering your message.

But does this really apply to search engine optimization, where we pull a prospect in using a relevant keyword phrase as opposed to a full board message?

Of course. While a television commercial trying to “pull” customers in to a big sale may be easier to dissect in terms of the message and outcome being communicated, of equal importance is that anything we use to “pull” a prospect leads them somewhere with just as expected of an outcome.

To reflect back on the traditional media example shared earlier in this post, what good is bringing customers to your show expecting “porn” if you’re only selling comedy? In the same sense, what good is driving traffic to a blog post about marketing using the keyword “online poker” if poker is the farthest thing away from what you are talking about?

(Note: I’m taking a chance that regular readers will understand the joke. For casual readers that do not, even in online poker – nothing beats a royal flush, pictured above. Hence, your relevance.)

Search engine optimization is a set of tactics that can significantly increase the likelihood your message will be discovered in any of a variety of communication channels. It should be handled with the same level of importance, and message reverence, as any other tactic marketers employ. No more, no less. To think otherwise is to resign yourself to sort through an infinitely random number of errant searchers who will soon overwhelm you. On the plus side, they’ll probably bring their own chair.

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Comments

  1. You realize that sooner or later this post might rank for “porn seo” in the SERPs… That was the plan, wasn’t it?

  2. Hey Garry, good point and one I discussed with Mike. It’s just his form of humor and not meant to be ironic. 🙂

  3. This is a great posting because it truly highlights one of the common misconception regarding brining more traffic to your site. I think that the often neglected issue is that the goal is targeted traffic, not just an increase in random visitors to your site who are not in fact looking for what your site has to offer. As Mike explains, the objective is to creatively lure visitors that are searching for the exact product or service that you are able to provide them. If your looking for eventual profit as opposed to an out of control PPC campaign, you need to avoid using unrelated keywords at all costs and instead focus on as site-specific keywords as possible.

  4. 1. CityPages Large and Influential? I have to strongly disagree there… I’m from the Twin Cities and the CityPages is good for nothing more than glancing at while I’m waiting for my coffee in the morning.

    2. I do agree with about 95% of the premise of your post… However one of the most successful marketing tactics (amongst mostly affiliate marketers) is obtaining traffic from unrelated keywords to an attempt to see what converts, and what doesn’t. If it converts – regardless or whether or not its directly related to the search term – then it is a successful campaign.

  5. Dude, my entire blog is a lesson in this. So true.

  6. “CityPages is good for nothing more than glancing at while I’m waiting for my coffee..” Interesting. I do that with the Wall Street Journal and no one would consider that paper small and un-influential. Of course, I don’t read CityPages either, so it’s a bit of a moot point for me.

    Derrick, your comment misses the point of Mike’s post, especially with the spaghetti against the wall observation. No legitmate or experienced company marketer would reasonably justify such an approach.

    It’s short sighted to think a conversion is the end of the story, but then again, that’s all an affiliate marketer cares about.

    Mike’s post is not about affiliate marketing. It’s about the marketing of products and services online by the companies that fulfill those orders.

    What’s short sighted you say? Well, getting a large number of conversions on irrelevant, but high demand keywords usually means a customer service nightmare when products are delivered and they’re not what the customer thought they’d be.

    The cost of returns and handling inbound queries/complaints makes such a shotgun effort nothing more than the kind of immature tactics that give the SEO industry a bad name.

    Affiliate marketers can afford to be far more experimental and can “get away” with whatever it takes to get conversions because that’s all they’re accountable for. Corporate marketing and lead generation is another matter entirely.

  7. Adam Taylor says:

    Yes most of my traffic seems to come looking for harry potter porn…

  8. “No legitmate or experienced company marketer would reasonably justify such an approach.”

    I’m sorry, but I have to strongly disagree with you Lee.

    Are television commercials directly related to the show during which they appear? Do outdoor billboards have anything to with where they appear, or what you, as the observer, are currently doing? No…

    “What’s short sighted you say? Well, getting a large number of conversions on irrelevant, but high demand keywords usually means a customer service nightmare when products are delivered and they’re not what the customer thought they’d be.”

    I’m not sure what you’re point is here. Unless you’re being completely misleading with your offering, you shouldn’t have a problem.

    Many commercials that I watch on TV are not relevant to the show I’m watching. Say, for example, I’m watching The Colbert Report and I see a commercial for Geico car insurance — If I happen to be in the need for car insurance, I may engage with the ad. If not, I’ll ignore it.

    Likewise, if Geico setup an Adwords campaign and “Tonight Show” was one of their keywords – regardless of whether or not it’s what a user was searching for – if it fulfilled a purpose and the user is satisfied, then I don’t see the problem.

    “The cost of returns and handling inbound queries/complaints makes such a shotgun effort nothing more than the kind of immature tactics that give the SEO industry a bad name.”

    Two last points:

    1. You’re assuming that bidding on unrelated keywords is a “shotgun” approach when it may, in reality be the result of many different tests. Just because “ABC” converts for “XYZ” doesn’t mean it’s a ‘shotgun’ approach.

    2. Regarding your reference to SEO; I’ve been referring to SEM, or the paid side of search in this case. SEO is a different ballgame, obviously. I wouldn’t necessarily put much effort into a longer-term, organic seo campaign given the above examples.

    We can continue the conversation at MIMA’s upcoming summit, assuming you’re going.

  9. Well, I can tell you this post “ranks” for Google Alerts today. Your link was in the daily email I get, keywords “porn seo.” Well written, btw.

    Damian

  10. “Your link was in the daily email I get, keywords “porn seo.” ”

    – Too funny.

  11. Derrick, you’re making an apples to oranges comparison using PPC when the blog post is clearly about SEO.

    I just checked GA and 9,190 unique phrases brought visitors to this blog in the past 30 days with more than a few unusual queries.