WWTT? The North Face Fails With Wikipedia Stunt

A marketing stunt either pans out and seems like some kind of clever guerilla marketing tactic, or it falls flat, illustrating how poorly a marketer understands good taste, or, well … marketing. And now this week, we can add outdoor retailer The North Face to that list of failed marketing stunts.

A marketing stunt either pans out and seems like some kind of clever guerilla marketing tactic (for example, the Palessi store or Deadpool being in everything last year ahead of Deadpool 2), or it falls flat, illustrating how poorly a marketer understands good taste, or, well … marketing. And now this week, we can add outdoor retailer The North Face to that list of failed marketing stunts.

According to an article on Wikimedia, as well as the Twitter thread that was shared, the outdoor brand The North Face acted as if it had collaborated with Wikipedia (it had not) and replaced images on a variety of Wikipedia pages with those from The North Face … bragging in a video published by Ad Age that the brand had ““did what no one has done before … we switched the Wikipedia photos for ours” and “[paid] absolutely nothing just by collaborating with Wikipedia.”

So, the retailer and its agency lied about a collaboration AND went against the site’s terms of service.

In its “Top of Images” campaign, The North Face aimed to have its images at the top of Google search results pages … and since usually the first images on these pages are from Wikipedia, the retailer decided to photograph its brand in specific locations, and then swap out the original photos on Wikipedia for those with The North Face products and/or branding.

First off, this is shady. Secondly, to produce a video that BRAGS about how slick you were, and then put it out in the world (again, check out that Ad Age link above) … just how dumb did they think Wikipedia and its editor are?

Doing the thing that is against the site’s terms of service and then actively talking about the challenge of getting away with it is not “collaborating.” And it’s certainly not good marketing, or even a clever marketing stunt. The video on Ad Age also states that The North Face “hacked” the results to reach the top of Google … which leads me to believe that The North Face and their agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made don’t know what “hacking” means, and also, again, contradict their own statement about “collaborating” with Wikipedia.

This is sloppy, and feels like a brand trying too hard to attempt guerilla marketing and falling horribly flat. This campaign did nothing but make the retailer look foolish, make the agency look even worse, and earn the ire of Wikipedia and its editors.

The retailer apologized, but honestly, how hard would it have been to think this through and realize it was a bad idea for a marketing stunt? In the tweet above, The North Face states, ” … we have ended the campaign and moving forward, we’ll commit to ensuring that our teams and vendors are better trained on site policies.”

Hey The North Face … not saying that Wikipedia would stoop so low, but you might want to keep an eye on your own Wikipedia page. And have a long chat with your agency.

Marketers, what do you think? Drop me a comment below!

How Google’s Paid Search Layout Affects Organic Search Results

Changes to Google’s paid search results are making it harder for SEO experts to get traffic to their websites the old-fashioned way. As always, though, online marketers are finding ways to adapt — but with less real estate available, it isn’t easy. The big change came earlier this year, when Google stopped showing paid search results on the right side of its search engine result pages (SERPs).

search-engine-76519_640 googleChanges to Google’s paid search results are making it harder for SEO experts to get traffic to their websites the old-fashioned way. But as always, online marketers are finding ways to adapt — but with less real estate available, it isn’t easy.

The big change came earlier this year when Google stopped showing paid search results on the right side of its search engine result pages (SERPs). Google made the change to streamline the user experiences for mobile and desktop, following the announcement that mobile searches now outnumber desktop searches worldwide. But all changes have consequences. To make up for losing side-rail ad placements, Google added extra ad space to the top of some SERPs. Organic search results had already been forced down the page by videos, images, news listings and the Knowledge Graph. The additional ad listing is enough to force organic results completely below the fold, requiring users to scroll down to find them.

Obviously, the change is a huge win for marketers who invest heavily in AdWords. The prices for those top-ranked positions have increased, but suddenly you can buy your way to what used to be the top organic search result.

What does this mean for marketers who focus on organic results? The short answer is “it depends.” The full answer is a bit more complicated, and it starts with understanding Google’s goal of delivering the best possible experiences for people that use its search engine.

Imagine that it’s the dead of winter and your furnace stops working. If you don’t know much about furnaces, you might immediately grab your smartphone and search Google for “furnace repair” or “emergency furnace repair.” Try this now, and you’ll likely see four above-the-fold ad placements above a map with nearby companies beneath it. You’ve got to scroll pretty far down to find your first organic listing.

On the other hand, folks who are handy around the house might do their own troubleshooting before finding a repairman. They might end up making search queries such as “Bryant furnace blower won’t turn on.” They’re not actively seeking help; rather, they’re looking for answers for a DIY fix. Try that search query, and you’ll probably see a full page of organic search results without a single ad in sight.

Starting to see the big picture?

Organic SEO definitely took a hit when Google reshaped its ad layout, but only for buyer-oriented search queries. By showing more ads with these queries, Google realized it could increase its profits while still providing a high-quality user experience. Meanwhile, Google users in search of product details, research materials or other types of information are more likely to value organic results.

This leaves online marketers with several approaches to the change, and we’ll consider each one below.

Solution No. 1: Invest in AdWords

If you’re not already using Google AdWords, now is a great time to get started. Getting a top placement in the paid results can be much easier than organic SEO. In fact, savvy advertisers with compelling ads, strong landing pages and high bids can instantly get top-ranking placements.

Of course, paid search results have an obvious downside: They cost money. The days of converting tons of free traffic directly into sales are long gone. That said, don’t be intimidated by the thought of paying for traffic. With help from Google Analytics and tools offered within AdWords, it’s easy to monitor your advertising accounts and determine which campaigns are boosting your bottom line.

How Google AMP Is Changing SEO: The Good and the Bad

News content is highly popular during presidential election years, especially following an election. And if you’ve browsed your smartphone for the latest scoop, then you’ve probably noticed the AMP carousel that appears atop Google’s search results. What exactly is AMP, and why should online marketers pay attention to it?

News content is highly popular during presidential election years, especially following an election. And if you’ve browsed your smartphone for the latest scoop, then you’ve probably noticed the Google AMP carousel that appears atop search results.

What exactly is AMP, and why should online marketers pay attention to it?

The specific goal of Google AMP, or accelerated mobile pages, is to streamline content on mobile Web browsers, dramatically increasing page loads and driving user engagement. A webpage coded with the special AMP HTML displays with simplified formatting and basic images; meanwhile, complex page elements are loaded secondary in the background. In addition, Google caches AMP content on its servers around the world, which further enhances page speed. Some AMP pages load up to 10 times faster than standard Web pages.

But there’s a bigger picture here. This is yet another effort by Google to provide answers rather than just search results. Think of this like the Knowledge Graph system through which Google shows answers to basic questions in large, highly positioned info boxes. Above-the-fold real estate is even more valuable on mobile SERPs given the smaller screens and steep orientations of smartphone screens. Google’s efforts to preempt organic results with new widgets and placements should always be viewed skeptically.

That said, any marketer worth his salt should also think about opportunity. How can businesses take advantage of the Google AMP Project? Here, we’ll review how AMP HMTL might affect SEO for better and for worse.

Google AMP: The Good

A person who clicks an AMP link wants to be engaged by compelling content, so you’re halfway there already. The AMP further guarantees a positive connection by greatly improving page load speeds. In addition to racking up views and shares, here are reasons for marketers to embrace AMP:

1. AMP pages get premium SERP placements.
AMP pages show up on mobile web browsers without any need for vertical scrolling. Even better, they’re formatted to display in what’s clearly a horizontal swiping carousel, offering fantastic visibility for top-ranked AMP webpages. Any option for above-the-fold real estate on smartphone screens is worth pursuing.

2. More people will read content.
Thanks to AMP, Google is doing for publishers what Facebook did with its Instant Articles. People who click on AMP articles are less likely to bounce and more likely to get engaged. It’s great for publishers who want to use long-form content to build connections and relationships with Web users.

3. AMP isn’t completely static.
AMP pages can be designed with audio, video, social sharing buttons, dynamic content and more. Publishers can even display ads on their AMP pages, although ads resolve secondary to the primary content. Over time, the technology behind AMP will undoubtedly allow for more complex page elements.

4. AMP is supported by Google Analytics.
Just like with other kinds of webpages, you can track how users interact with AMP pages using a special tag that’s supported by Google Analytics. Use this to measure page views, social interactions and clicks on different parts of your landing pages.

Google AMP: The Bad

Of course, not everything about AMP is sunshine and rainbows for SEO. The whole point of AMP is to hasten load times by simplifying landing pages, which can limit the usefulness of webpages. Also, there’s the issue of AMP links on SERPs. Here are some reasons to be wary of AMP:

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: The Search Engine Results Page of the Future

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Search engine results pages (SERP) continue to evolve before our eyes, consistently becoming more relevant to consumers. Marketers seeking to stay ahead of these advancements in usability and relevancy to own more of tomorrow’s SERP should focus on developing three types of content:

  • paid content: paid search ads;
  • owned content: native websites, videos, social media, local information and blog posts; and
  • earned content: user-generated materials like YouTube videos, tweets and consumer reviews

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Real-time owned content from blogs and social media; user-generated earned content from blogs, tweets, and videos; and such local brand information as addresses, phone numbers and maps will likely all continue to be important in the SERP of the future. These represent just a sampling of the trends directing SERP evolution, but let’s take a closer look at the following three other likely influencers:

Sitelinks and deep navigation
.The SERP of the future will continue to incorporate more anchor links and clickable ad text, clickable search snippet text and clickable URLs. Sitelinks and deep navigation enable users to more easily find the exact page they’re looking for right from the SERP. Incorporating sitelinks into paid search ads, utilizing breadcrumb navigation, clear URL structure, and clear sitemaps helps spiders display more links in natural search listings. Expect more links in body content to permeate the SERPs moving forward.

The growth of mobile
. Predictions say that mobile search will rise to 73 percent of the mobile ad market by 2013 (Kelsey Group, Sept. 2009). With more than 140 million worldwide mobile social network users, consumers increasingly hold the future SERP in their hands; therefore brands must ensure visibility in mobile search by catering to an altogether different and separate SERP experience.

Personalization . Based on the search results that users click, Google already changes the results over time to make them more relevant and personalized. Google’s social search also pulls in results from the searcher’s social circle, such as tweets or Picasa pictures from friends. The highly personalized SERP of the future makes search marketing more complex—brands must have a deep understanding of their consumers to be able to most effectively target them, and this only becomes truer going forward.

How can brands manage the SERP of the future? Simply put, marketers must create and embrace holistic strategies to fully manage owned, earned and paid content that lives on the SERP of today to succeed on the SERP of tomorrow. A working combination of these trends – and more – can help marketers develop a comprehensive search strategy to take advantage of the SERP, while enhancing user experience and relevancy.