In the past few years, advertisers have started to grab on to the idea of "buzz marketing" as a great way to generate interest in new products, or to spark renewed interest in old products. While buzz marketing can be a great way to drive up interest levels and prepare the marketplace for a new product arrival or a product re-release, I've started noticing a serious problem with buzz marketers.

They are ignoring search engines and sending their buzz into a giant black void.

Case in the last few weeks, I've started noticing an increase in television ads for something called Rebel. Rebel touts itself as a new cell phone service provider that offers unlimited calling, text messaging and picture messaging for less than $50 a month with no contract. Now that's obviously a pretty compelling offer for anyone addicted to their cell phone. The problem is...the company spent all their money creating buzz and didn't bother to spend any money making sure that people could follow that buzz.

When I first saw the commercial, it piqued my interest. So, like any other Internet junkie, I headed to Google and ran a search for "Rebel cellular." Nothing. "Rebel cell phone." Nothing. "Rebel mobile." Nothing. Another dozen variations...nothing. Same thing on Yahoo, on MSN, even on the blog search engines. That's right...Rebel put what could amount to millions of dollars toward generating product buzz and interest and then ticked that same customer off by failing to give me any way to find out more information about the product.

Rebel isn't the only company having this problem either. Just this morning, Anthony Iaffaldano, the Director of Marketing for Reprise Media pointed me toward some new data that they've published about how the Super Bowl marketers have used (or failed to use) search engines to supplement their advertising campaigns. After all, the Superbowl is one of the biggest opportunities of the year to make an impact with potential buyers and the best ads tend to make the rounds throughout emails and blog posts for days and even weeks to come.

In Reprise Media's Superbowl Scorecard, their team takes a look at the different advertisers that paid for space during the game and then rates them on how good of a job they do in making sure that their customers can find them via search engines. The score card takes a look at things like how well the commercial ties back to the web, whether or not the ad included a URL, whether or not the advertiser has a strong search presence for their keywords and whether or not they use landing pages that highlight their promoted offerings.

Some companies like, Burger King and several of the advertised movies do a fairly decent job of having a strong search presence to match their advertising. Others, like Motorola, Dove, Fidelity Investments and Outback Steakhouse seem to miss the TV to search tie-in completely.

So why would these companies spent so much money working to create interest in their products and then not take the time to make sure that their customers can find them? With companies like Mazda already playing the game of buying ads based on keywords for Pontiac products, it's quickly becoming clear that television (and other forms of) advertising are simply working to spark interest. It's the search engines that are leading people toward more information and toward the opportunity to convert that potential buyer.

Ask yourself if you're in the same boat. Are you running radio ads, yellow page ads or newspaper ads that don't feature your URL? Do your ads promote a product name or product keyword that you don't rank well for? Are you sparking interest in a product or service and then leaving your competitors to pick up those potential buyers when they conduct a search?

Why? Search marketing needs to be integrated into your overall marketing plan the same way that simply having a web site is. It's not enough to throw a page up there and then advertise your products and services through traditional means. You need to make sure that people that head to the search engines to use the terms you tout your service with are able to find you.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

February 7, 2006

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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