Congressional Challenges with Search Engines
Almost all of us use Google searches, but are you aware of some of the potential problems Google searches can now create for your business?
I recently read an article titled “Search Engines Are a Thorn in Congress’ Side.” The article was about some of the challenges search engines are creating in Washington. Search engines have apparently become a major public relations problem for some members of Congress. In spite of Congressional staffers controlling the content on their websites and social media pages, and the use of search engine optimization and advertising techniques, there’s little they can do about search engine auto-complete suggestions that pop up as users begin to type their query.
Here are a few examples from the article:
We live in a very transparent world wrapped up in an electronic-cellophane package called the Information Age. SEO and a smart social media marketing plan are certainly essential tools, but who is to say how powerful the imprint of split second exposure to negative terms really is on the human brain? And it’s a no-brainer that having users click through on negative terms can be tough on the PR of not only politicians, but businesses as well.
How exactly do these auto–suggestions work?
The auto-suggestions that show up for a particular user are affected by a long list of items, including some major factors shown below. For more in-depth information on how Google’s auto-complete gears are driven, check out this article from Search Engine Land.
1. Popularity: What other search engine users are looking for that is similar to your search.
2. Location: The region in which the user lives. This one can be particularly frustrating if you are looking for something outside your geographic area. Solution? Change your location, and you change the results.
3. Language: Have you ever looked up a foreign term or name and then had all your results show up in that foreign language? Now you know why.
4. Previous Searches: Whatever a user has previously searched for will alter the results of future searches.
Can anything be done about negative search engine auto-suggestions?
The biggest problem about monitoring or attacking the problem is how auto-suggestions work. What comes up even for a group of people in one part of the country may not be what appears for anyone somewhere else. The best key may be to monitor your social media for any advance warning, be honest with yourself, and then be proactive about any potential problems that could surface.
Media pros working with political celebrities like Herman Cain and Barack Obama have utilized Google AdWords to steer traffic created by negative auto-suggestions to information that could help diffuse the problem. Google AdWords can be used to display a preferred message or website first when negative suggestions are selected. Herman Cain famously did this on “Herman Cain Scandal” as well as “Sharon Bialek,” who accused him of sexual harassment. It obviously did not help him get the nomination, but may have helped him stay in the race a little longer.
Google AdWords and their counterparts in other search engines are based on pay-per-click purchases of key words and phrases. The more popular (and often effective) the word or phrase, the more expensive it can be to purchase. You can check Google’s Keyword or Traffic Estimator tools for the actual popularity of any word or phrase here. Keep in mind, however, that professional pay-per-click companies do a lot more than just look at these statistics. Once keywords are selected, a number of ads are written and market tested for effectiveness in driving the most traffic to your intended site.
The best strategy, however, is to avoid situations that would cause these types of problems in the first place. Google AdWords can also be a very effective way to put across other messages, such as to buy from YOU.