Search-Engine Ready Corporate Communications

Driving to work the other day, I listened to talk radio. Sister Mary Adele Robinson was promoting the Labouré Center’s Christmas House Tour.

I’d never heard of the center or the event. In its 14th year, the tour visits upscale and historic homes in South Boston. Money raised is for the Labouré Center, a Catholic charity serving the Boston area’s needy.

As the interview continued, my interest grew. I was hooked. But I was driving.

If your corporate communicator is interviewed on the radio, it’s reasonable to expect a significant percentage of the audience is behind the wheel. If he’s talking on TV, you should anticipate the audience isn’t simultaneously online.

Not to worry, though, Robinson provided listeners with a Web site address. Here’s how it sounded: “W-w-w dot c-c-a-b dot org slash la-bore-ray.”

Hey! I’m driving!

As the interview progressed, I pulled over and jotted down the information as best I could. I wouldn’t ordinarily take such an action, but in the instant Robinson stated the URL, it dawned on me: She wasn’t losing her audience, her audience was losing her — literally!

Listeners won’t remember an URL. It’s a group of meaningless letters and a file extension. The words are hard to spell. She didn’t spell out “labouré.” Even if she had, most of the audience probably wouldn’t have remembered unless they wrote it down right then and there.

There’s a new, immutable corporate communications law in this age of search:

Interested listeners who don’t remember exactly what you say will search for it in a major search engine.

Excited by my revelation, I raced into the office. I repeated the interview highlights to our company receptionist. I asked her to conduct a search, right there, to find enough information about the tour so I could attend.

First she searched “laboret.” Search engine response: 10,900 matching documents. Site not found.

Next, she searched “laborette.” Response: 827 matching documents. Site not found.

Then, she searched for “laborette center 14th annual.” Response: 63 matching documents. No site.

Next, “laborette 14th annual south boston.” Still nothing.

Then, “laborette center south boston.” Four matches. Still no site.

Finally, she gave up.

When you speak, you string words into sentences. Keywords. In search engine marketing (SEM) terms, you communicate snippets of information, concepts contained in keywords and keyword phrases.

These bits of information are turned into pictures and stored in the audience’s memory. Later, after memory degrades somewhat, they’ll seek that information by searching for it on a major search engine.

Trouble is, they can’t put a picture into the search box. They can only use words.

What words do you use when talking to the press about your business or product? Have you tried searching for them? Do you come up, or does a competitor?

Corporate communications, whether PR or advertising, drives keyword search behavior. Keywords used in both should therefore be intentional and consistent with SEM efforts.

Smart marketers know they can be very intentional in this regard. By using one keyword phrase to describe a product or market, they produce one set of search results (hopefully one they’ll be on top of). By using another keyword phrase, the audience either will find nothing useful and give up, or find a competitor.

(Sometimes, this works in reverse. Keyword query behavior appears on your Web site’s log files, and you discover a keyword you weren’t targeting, but should. More on that in a future column.)

That said, have you done the following?

  • Circulated a list of SEM keyword targets to other departments?

  • Briefed corporate spokespeople on which keywords and keyword phrases they should drop in interviews, and which they should avoid?
  • Intentionally constricted print, radio, and TV ads to contain keywords consistent with your SEM campaign to drive the right search behavior?

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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