The importance of a strong online presence has been highlighted this week in an article for the Times which suggests internet promotion is now not only the domain of business.

The newspaper reports that where in the past traditional methods of spreading word about a product or service have been sufficient, it is now becoming apparent that online marketing is spreading to members of campaigning groups wishing to promote their own message.

It is reported that recent search engine results for Marks & Spencer would not only return the official page of the popular retail chain but also return a Boycott Israel website.

According to the article, this is indicative of an increasing trend for all types of messages to be spread on the internet by employing a web site and using search engine optimisation to boost the number of people it reaches.

It states that online search engines are now a key area for charities, unions and other groups looking to generate interest in their policies or targets – an area, it suggests can be effectively utilised to take premium search results based on the inclusion of paid advertising and site optimisation campaigns.

However, it is noted that people wishing to speak to the world using such things as pay-per-click advertising may fall foul of their own campaigns should they be found to infringe upon another company or brand’s image.

With businesses investing so heavily in online campaigns and search engine optimisation there will inevitably be circumstances where there is a conflict of interests and it is thought that those worried about the image of their brand can stop anyone "unsuitable" from appearing against ads that bear their trademarks.

However, the fact remains that these conflicts of interest still exist. For example, A UK Google search for another major retailer, Ticketmaster, will not only return a link for the company’s British and US sites – but will return one site offering a ‘Ticketmaster Alternative’ and one featuring an essay that posits why it believes the global ticket provider "sucks".

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