Act on SEO

The Department for Transport has kicked-off its Act on CO2 campaign, to enourage people to think more about carbon emissions when they’re driving their car, or choosing a new one.

I caught one of the TV ads tonight and the call-to-action at the end was one I’ve not seen before. Instead of telling us to ‘visit for more information’, the commercial directs us to ‘search online for act on CO2’.

When you put that phrase into Google, it seems they’ve bagged the top natural search spot, as well as the top sponsored link. Fair enough – they’ve picked a tag line and optimised the site so it’s highly ranked for it.

This approach does make some sense. It’s often easier to remember a phrase instead of a website address, and if you can’t recall the exact wording, a close approximation will often get you there.

But it does leave an obvious route for someone to mount a counter-campaign. A bit of concerted search engine optimisation work could probably push a different site to the top of those Google search results. And then the Department for Transport could find its ads promoting exactly the kind of behaviour they’re trying to discourage.

It would be interesting to hear if they’ve thought of this – and if they think the gains they’ll make from not quoting a specific URL will outweigh the damage done by conflicting websites appearing alongside their own.

(To give you some idea, the Association of British Drivers are already 5th-placed for that term, and I think it’s fair to say that they are slightly sceptical of the whole thing. With some work, I bet they could rise up the rankings.)

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