Unless you were living in an undersea cave, you know that “King of Pop” Michael Jackson passed away last week. As has been reported, websites around the world were affected when the story broke around 4:30pm EST. Visitors per minute to new websites worldwide increased 30% and social networking sites such as Twitter experienced network lag and outages due to the thousands of users simultaneously trying to update their status. The phrase “Michael Jackson died” became the highest search query on Google that day, which was so overwhelmed by the query volume that they initially thought they were experiencing a network attack.
This made me wonder about the impact of current events search queries on search marketing campaigns. On Thursday evening I searched ‘Michael Jackson died” on Google and saw a paid search ad in 1st position for Yahoo Shopping:
The ad led to me a Yahoo Shopping page with various Yahoo SEM links – all of which were devoid of any content relevant to Michael Jackson:
My first thought was astonishment at what had to be a large chunk of budget being wasted by the Yahoo Shopping campaign. On top of that is the negative impact on bounce rate and quality score the Yahoo paid search campaign is accumulating from lack of relevant content.
Based on this information, it appears that Yahoo is using Google paid search to drive traffic to their paid campaigns with highly trafficked trending terms. Other companies with a large online presence, such as eBay and Amazon, use similar tactics to grab a large chunk of the search audience but it looks like Yahoo is more concerned about quantity rather than quality of traffic.
In Yahoo’s defense, I searched the same query on Google the following day and did not see the ad appear. This leads to a different scenario: the possibility that Yahoo left Michael Jackson keywords on unknowingly and found themselves blowing through budget in a hurry. That is simply poor campaign management and shows the perils of a “set it and forget it” approach to paid search.
In a recession where marketing budgets are being scrutinized more carefully, it is important to show clients a positive ROI/CPA and the best method to achieve that goal is to reach the correct audience. Researching qualified keywords and match types is a great start and as a search marketer, I would recommend a thorough evaluation of Yahoo Shopping’s campaign keyword list to prevent this from occurring in the future.