BP Bought “Oil Spill” Search Terms to Direct Users to Official Website

Volunteer Bart Siegel cleans an oiled Brown Pelican at a rescue center at a facility set up by the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fort Jackson, Louisiana June 7, 2010. Two hundred and ninety two birds have been brought to the center over a six week period. Eighty-six have been brought in on Sunday. One hundred and ninety six were Brown Pelicans. These birds are being rescued and transported to the Fort Jackson Rehabilitation Center by well-trained and knowledgeable wildlife responders, veterinarians, biologists and wildlife rehabilitators. BP's out-of-control Gulf of Mexico oil spill could threaten the Mississippi and Alabama coasts this week, U.S. forecasters said, as public anger surged over the nation's worst environmental disaster. REUTERS/Sean Gardner

BP Buys ‘Oil’ Search Terms to Redirect Users to Official Company Website (ABC):

Be careful where you click, especially if you’re looking for news on the BP oil spill.

BP, the very company responsible for the oil spill that is already the worst in U.S. history, has purchased several phrases on search engines such as Google and Yahoo so that the first result that shows up directs information seekers to the company’s official website.

A simple Google search of “oil spill” turns up several thousand news results, but the first link, highlighted at the very top of the page, is from BP. “Learn more about how BP is helping,” the link’s tagline reads.

A spokesman for the company confirmed to ABC News that it had, in fact, bought these search terms to make information on the spill more accessible to the public.

“We have bought search terms on search engines like Google to make it easier for people to find out more about our efforts in the Gulf and make it easier for people to find key links to information on filing claims, reporting oil on the beach and signing up to volunteer,” BP spokesman Toby Odone told ABC News.

But several search engine marketing experts are questioning BP’s intentions, suggesting that controlling what the public finds when they look online for oil spill information is just another way for the company to try and rebuild the company’s suffering public image.

According to Kevin Ryan, the CEO of California-based Motivity Marketing, research shows that most people can’t tell the difference between a paid result pages, like the ones BP have, and actual news pages.

“If you look at it from BP’s perspective it’s a brilliant move,” Ryan said. “The other option BP had was to just not do this and let the news interpret what’s going on.

“But they’re getting so much bad press that directing traffic to their own site is a great PR strategy,” he said.

BP buys ‘oil spill’ sponsored links for search engines (New Scientist):

As daily clean-up costs to BP spiral to $37 million per day and its chief executive is vilified in the press, the company is trying to fight back – by buying search terms.

So each time someone enters a relevant query – say “oil spill” – into a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, their results also include a paid-for link from BP. Typically, these sponsored links sit above the genuine results.

Studies of the effectiveness of sponsored links suggests perhaps as many as 30 per cent of people will head to their marketing material.

BP must hope that its marketing campaign to stem criticism produces results faster than its efforts to stop the leak. It has been suggested that the media coverage is more damaging than the slick.

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