by Steve Plunkett
In June of this year Google was added to the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb, then to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in July. Here is the definition:
“to search for information on the Internet, esp. using the Google search engine”
Before this, General Motors ran a commercial during the Super Bowl for its Pontiac brand. The TV spot showed the letters p-o-n-t-i-a-c being typed into a Google search field instead of giving the Web address www.Pontiac.com. The voiceover said, "Don't take our word for it. Google ‘Pontiac’ to find out!"
You might think “Gee, that’s clever and hip!” Well, someone else obviously did – and sold the idea to Pontiac. It may be clever and hip, but Pontiac is sending people to a place where it has no control over the content.
The agency representing Mazda, on the other hand, knew a little bit more about search engines. It bought ads on Google because Mazda had information that compared its models to Pontiac models. When car shoppers Googled “Pontiac,” like the Pontiac commercial told them to do, the search results included a webpage that sold Mazda as a better choice than Pontiac. In essence, Mazda used Pontiac’s investment to “piggyback” some of its own advertising. Pretty shrewd move by Mazda. And Pontiac didn’t learn anything from the experience.
Which brings me to, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.” Pontiac now runs similar spots in local markets. While watching television the other night, I saw a Pontiac ad that said, “Just Google ‘Pontiac dealers dallas-ft.worth,’” so I did. The results were pay-per-click ads for a few local Pontiac dealers. Problem is, studies show that quite a few people never click on pay-per-click ads. (Think about it; do you?) So, out of the predictably tiny percentage of viewers who actually did go to their computers and Google “Pontiac dealers dallas-ft.worth,” perhaps a fraction actually clicked the pay-per-click links to learn more. What a waste.
And for Pontiac, the story gets even worse.
When publishers announced that they would include the verb “Google” in their dictionaries, I blogged about the story. And because I used the phrase “Just Google Pontiac” in my post, guess what came up first in Google’s search results for “Pontiac dealers dallas-ft.worth.” Yep, my blog beat out the actual Pontiac website and the local Pontiac dealers’ websites.
Being the SEO specialist that I am, I decided to experiment and try some of my Internet magic. Today, when you Google “Pontiac dealers dallas-ft.worth,” the first result will be the article you’re reading right now. Still not Pontiac or Pontiac dealer websites. I can’t tell you how I did it. It’s a trade secret. But go ahead and try it.
The point is Pontiac has given up entirely too much control over its own advertising. A competitor or a prankster with the right Internet skills could hijack all of the company’s hard work, actually using Pontiac’s investment to take business away from Pontiac.
Pontiac spent millions producing TV spots, buying airtime and reserving pay-per-click ads. To put it mildly, someone is spending a lot of money poorly.
Pontiac should have hired an organic SEO specialist simply to optimize the websites for individual dealers and, in place of pay-per-click ads, the website of the North Texas Pontiac Dealers. If they had done that, the company would’ve saved itself a lot of money – and they’d be number one in Google instead of me, an SEO specialist with a blog.
At a time when GM needs a happier ending, “the rest of the story” could’ve been far more profitable.