Google + SEO = The New "AOL Keyword"?

Google and SEO is the new AOL Keyword

We all remember TV, radio, and even print ads back in the AOL era that left us with an AOL Keyword for finding their site. Over time, and as AOL became less important, TV/radio/print ads gave you a domain name instead. Today on the radio I heard a commercial from Honda Certified Used Cars that sounded eerily similar to “type in the AOL Keyword”. The radio ad said to visit Google or Yahoo! and type in the keyword “Honda Certified Used Cars”. Searching for this in Google brings up Honda’s Certified Used Cars site ( as the first listing in the results. Obviously telling us to search for the keyword in Google/Yahoo! is much easier than telling us to go to “automobiles dot honda dot com forward slash certified”.

Plus, they can always control the PPC page. Their PPC page appears to go to the same place, but it actually goes to a page hosted on, so they must be doing some landing page testing.

As I was pondering this, my mind brought me back to last year’s PubCon when John Battelle talked about Google (et al.) as “the new interface to technology”. It literally is our yellow pages, our 411 service, our encyclopedia, our calculator, etc.

Some cautions are in order

1) Obviously if you’re buying radio and TV spots, you need to give out a keyword that you can realistically be in the top for a long time. It should probably include your company name. But if your company name is weird, hard to spell, hard to remember, or just plain dumb, you’re probably a good fit.

2) You’ll need to make sure your SEO is in tip top shape. Honda isn’t going anywhere ranking for that term, but you’re not Honda. Content alone is not going to do it, you’re going to need to build and/or buy some links.

3) You must also realize that you are setting yourself to lose some advertising dollars from your consumers finding alternatives on just their first look into that search space. Hopefully you control more than just 1 listing in the organic results, because otherwise the search results page has 9 other results just on that front page alone, and probably 9 more advertisers running ads on that page.

Is it a Good Idea?

I think we may see it be more common, especially for advertisements about specific products from a company. Honda sells new cars too, but this commercial is to boost their used cars product, and because it takes two clicks (on small text even) from their home page to get to the same place, it makes a lot of sense just to direct them to Google.

Another advantage is that in Honda’s case, they have local dealers selling Honda Certified Used Cars and the ads are geo-targeted. So I can not only find Honda’s site, but I can also find my local Honda dealer and search their inventory from their site (hopefully).


  • Billy says:

    Very observant. I never used the AOL keyword feature, but do remember that if you typed in NFL it would bring you to the NFL website as advertised in older radio spots.

    The Honda radio spot should say type in “Honda Certified Used Cars” and click “I’m Feeling Lucky” – now that would be exactly like the old AOL keyword feature.

  • Great point Billy. I’m so used to using my browser bar for my Google searches, I almost forgot that was even a feature! I’d love to be able to see stats on how often that feature is used.

  • Jim Hobson says:

    Everything old is new again . . .
    This is a great method to further leverage offline advertising to increase traffic to a website. Now, about the “old part”, this is essentially a new twist on the old method of promoting “alpha phone numbers”, i.e., 1-800-BUY-CARS. If you can find a simple way to help prospects remember how to find you it will improve the results. If a SEM client has a substantial offline advertising budget this is a worthwhile tactic to employ.

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