Montreal What Where Huh?

Let's say you live in Montreal, and you're desperate to move up a rung or two on the apartment ladder. You open your search engine and type in some words that reflect what you hope to accomplish. Something like "rent montreal apartment."

That's just what my friend Melissa Burdon, a Conversion Analyst with Future Now, Inc., did. In under a second, she was staring at over a million results and some pay-per-clicks.

What happened next should give you some serious food for thought when it comes to how you handle the concept of scent in your search engine marketing!

Push and pull scent trails

"Scent" is a catchy, suggestive synonym for relevance. The word gets your brain visualizing your customers, sniffers in overdrive, hot on the trail of something that matters to them. That's good, because scent - relevance - is critical to your customers and should be critical to you.

We've been talking about scent a lot lately. We've looked at how one banner ad campaign established and maintained scent from start to finish. We've looked at how one didn't. We've even talked about how you elaborate on scent so you can help different customers stay on your scent trail.

These are mostly push examples of scent: a business creates an ad or email, places it in the path of passersby and hopes folks are interested enough to click through.

But far more often, your customers identify for you the scent trail they want to follow. They try to pull your scent in their direction.

Keywords start a pull scent trail

That's exactly what Melissa was trying to do with her keywords when she typed in "rent montreal apartment."

Melissa used specific words that reflected her intentions - the scent trail she wanted to establish. She wanted to rent an apartment in Montreal. A pay-per-click from featuring two of the words, in the same order, in her keyword search caught her eye. She clicked through:

Montreal Africa Apartments??? Where the heck is Montreal Africa? Houses for Sale? What's a "Real Estate birdy" anyway? Nada about apartments for rent. Click on the "Montreal Africa Real Estate" tab along the top (the only clickable thing related to her query) and all you get are more paid Google ads, mostly house-related. Where they got "Africa" from is anybody's guess.

You, my loyal readers, know this is a dead end for Melissa and Real Estate birdy.

However, Melissa noticed the link following the useless paid ads. The copy read:

Below you find all the Web sites we (our human efforts) have reviewed for you. We always try to make sure that these sites are highly relevant for the real estate destination you have selected.

Wow! They personally review these links (yeah, right)! Wondering if there really is a Montreal Africa somewhere on the face of the planet, Melissa clicked on the Amazon link, hand-picked by humans and promising high relevance:

Oh boy! Amazon delivers Bruce Springsteen. Scroll all you want ... neither hide nor hair of the words "Montreal" or "Africa" on this page. High relevance indeed. Talk about a failed scent trail within a failed scent trail.


So what's a poor apartment-hunting Montreal girl to do? It's back to Go and a new quest for the company that can offer up the right scent trail. Except, here are some of the thoughts now living in Melissa's head:

  • Real Estate birdy loses: they couldn't pick up the scent trail effectively, so they lost a conversion (not that we're clear on how they measure success here)

  • Real Estate birdy loses: their credibility sucks

  • Amazon loses: have to rethink how helpful and relevant they really are

On top of that, pay-per-click gets a bad name. How many folks out there click on one of those ads only to discover it was an utter waste of their time? How many times do you think you can frustrate them before they stop clicking?

The scent trails your customers hand you on a silver platter - their keywords - are as valuable as gold. Make sure you don't blow 'em off.

Volume 128: 4/15/06

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