On July 17th this year, a chap called Marshall asked “Will Mainstream Users Ever Learn About The Browser’s Address Bar?“. He was of course referring to the kind of average Internet user that opens up their browser, and types what they’re looking for straight into a Google homepage/the search bar built in to their browser. Anyone who’s ever watched their grandparents — or maybe even their parents — use a computer will know there’s nothing new about this browsing “technique”. I’m sure there’s probably a statistic for the amount of users who never type URLs directly, and I’m sure it’s high.
Given how quickly knowledge spreads on the Internet, it is no surprise therefore to see advertising companies applying this logic to their campaigns. Internet promotion, and more recently, television advertisements are encouraging users to search for “xyz” online rather than providing a specific URL. One particular ad’ that I recall quite vividly is for the Royal Navy. The careers advert ends with
search for ‘navy jobs’ online, and as an Internet user this stuck in my mind more easily than a complex URL might have.
While I’m always excited to see any company embracing what is actually the norm rather than forcing a user to do it “their” way, I can’t help but consider the possibilities of abuse that are being opened by this approach.
There are many people who make a small fortune marketing their skills as a SEO consultant. So what is to stop one of these SEO experts from using an advert — funded by someone else altogether — from boosting their own rankings? Assuming they have the know-how and networking capabilities to successfully target a given set of keywords or keyphrases for normal clients, this same knowledge can be applied to ‘stealing’ high rankings away from someone else. The result would be a boost in the organic traffic from search engines, because of the probably unrelated advert, and all without spending a penny themselves.
I don’t have the time to even begin trying it out, but I can see that if we are going to start accommodating regular users habits more readily, we have to consider the potential consequences too.