• Why you should bid on misspellings of your company name & brand

    by  • January 15, 2008 • Advertising, Branding, Google, Pay Per Click, Yahoo • 7 Comments

    Not all of us have hit the household status we all wish our company names had. So if you aren’t a Sony or a WalMart, have you ever considered the fact that someone might be trying to find your company or product and either spelling it wrong or searching for a slight variation because the person who recommended you pronounced it incorrectly? And even the best SEO can’t rank your site number one for every single variation of your company name or brand. The last thing you want to do is lose those potential customers to competitors, when they were trying to find your site in the first place.

    If you are lucky, Google might direct some of those misspellings to your site via their “Did you mean: ____” hint that it shows above the results when they believe there is a good chance that someone made a typo. But you have to be pretty well known to have Google do that for all your potential misspellings and typos of your company name.

    Think your company name is too well known to possibly fall victim to being misspelled? Well, when Yahoo published their list of most misspelled words in their search engine last year, Wal-Mart was top on the list… but surprisingly, it is not being misspelled as Walmart, but as Wallmart. The other company names in the top twenty list? Amtrack (Amtrak is correct) and Travelosity (correct is Travelocity). And if your site has the word genealogy or tattoo in the name you will definitely want to be covering the misspellings of those two words as well (misspelled as geneology and tatoo).

    The same goes for Britney Spears, where her name is her brand. Ever wondered how often her name gets misspelled? Google published this list back in 2003, but it shows that while the correct spelling had nearly 489,000 searches, the most common misspelling of her name still had over 40,000 searches. Now if that was your company name, that is a huge percentage that spelled it wrong… then look at the rest of the list to see how many other people spelled it wrong as well as the huge number of variations in the ways people spelled it, and that percentage of people who spelled it wrong versus who spelled it correctly just keeps on going up and up.

    So now you can see how big an impact misspellings can be. But what about once someone does the search? Do they end up where they want to go or are they led astray?

    In some cases, the misspelled company name will come up first in the search engine results. An example is Wal-Mart, where their main site ranks number one for Wal-Mart, Walmart and Wallmart and they also have the added bonus of a “Did you mean” at the top of the search results. If this is the case for your company name or brand, you don’t have as much to worry about, although playing around with other misspellings that you do not rank number one for is probably worthwhile, even just for an experiment.

    But what about Travelocity? They are no where to be seen in the natural search results for the misspelling of Travelosity, and they surprisingly don’t have a “Did you mean” listing above the results. Now with that many misspellings on a unique name, you can bet those people wanted to end up at Travelocity and not any of the affiliate sites and forums that dominate those serps.

    So now that you know it is potentially an issue, what should you do about it? One solution is to include all the misspellings on your index page or elsewhere on the site. However, not only does this come across as pretty spammy with the potential to trigger some spam filters that you are better off leaving alone, but because it makes the site look unprofessional and gives the impression that it lacks in credibility especially when someone tries to weave the misspellings into the content. And this was a trick webmasters did circa 2000.

    The better solution is to bid on those misspellings in paid search to ensure you are not losing any traffic because people are spelling it wrong or accidentally typo it. This is exactly what Travelocity does. Travelocity has the top paid PPC position for the misspellled Travelosity with their ad title of “Travelocity Official Site” to ensure people know that is the real site they are looking for. And not surprisingly, there are many other advertisers also advertising on PPC for the same misspelling. And also worth noting is the fact that Travelocity does not advertise for the correct spelling of their brand name in PPC.

    If you have a company name that you know gets misspelled, definitely bid on those names in your PPC search ads utilizing all the misspellings and mispronunciations you can think of. Be sure to turn off content networks, as you don’t want to be paying for ads targeting mispellings showing up on other websites. This is strictly a campaign to catch those customers who aren’t spelling your company name right. That said, you might want to site target certain sites or pages where other advertisers are showing up because the site or page has also misspelled your company name – something that shows by the number of non-commercial pages that rank for the misspelled Travelosity.

    Don’t forget to actually do your own research by doing searches for those misspellings. You might find some websites or some pay per click advertisers already bidding on your misspelling in hopes of capitalizing on the traffic that couldn’t fund your real site when they tried to search for it. You can also use one of the many keyword research tools to see if any of those misspellings are registering traffic on those as well. I have more on finding and targeting keyword variations here.

    And when you create your ad copy, follow Travelocity’s lead where they make it clear to visitors that “Hey, this is the official site, not that site that is listed at #1” because they clearly use “Travelocity Official Site” at the top of their paid ad, as the title. It is also worth paying a premium amount to ensure you are in the top position for your misspellings, although chances are good if enough people click your ad because you do make it known that your site is the official site, the quality score will likely do its work and you will see either your PPC going down or the competitors also bidding on those terms get priced out of the market.

    Should you worry about quality score with these campaigns? If anything, you will run into problems because of lack of traffic and searches on those misspellings you submitted. But since no one is searching for them, those particular ones shouldn’t be as much of a concern anyway! And if your site is the official site for whatever the misspelling is, your click through rate should be high enough to prevent problems on the ones that do have traffic.

    You could run into problems getting caught up in a keyword filter and end up with your ads disapproved. You can file an appeal on those keywords, and explain there is actually a rhyme and reason to those keywords, and that they are for capturing misspellings of your brand by customers.

    Now, as you determine what misspellings to bid on, you should consider a few things. You will want to look at common letter swaps when people type in your name or brand. If it has the word “the” in it, it is commonly typoed as “teh”. It can be as simple as knowing what letters you often switch around when typing quickly, or ask other people in your office what ways they mistype the company name as they go about their daily business. This can help identify common ways that others could be mistyping your company name, simply because they were speed typing and not paying close attention to the keys.

    Don’t forget to take into account regional spellings across countries, such as color and colour, as you could be losing traffic that way if someone else is ranking better for your company name with a different regional spelling, if your business is targeting those areas too. People in the US will spell color as colour, as Canada/UK people will often spell it color. So even if you are only targeting the US, do consider the regional spellings of words, and then geotarget so then you don’t end up paying for clicks outside your target country or area.

    If your spelling is unique, you have to also consider that people will be searching for you with the word being spelled how it should be spelled. So you may need to bid on the “correct” spelling of your company name, because people might not realize that you have decided to spell a word in your own way. Using a unique spelling isn’t always a bad decision, but it can make things trickier in the beginning, especially if word of mouth is playing a factor in how people find your website. Think “Google” which is a misspelling of the word “Googol”.

    When you start running your campaign for misspellings, then you want to keep an eye on it to see which ones are getting impressions and clicks so you can act on it. If you notice that a ton of clicks and impressions are coming through on a particular misspelling, you should definitely investigate why. Start off by looking at the serps. Is it a coincidence that there actually is a company or product that is spelled as your misspelling? If so, it might make more sense to change your ad specifically so it is apparent to those doing the search that your ad is for your site and not for the company whose correct spelling is one of your wrong spellings. Or is this a case of Travelocity where a huge percentage of searches spell your brand wrong? If so, you might want to consider snapping up the misspelled domain name, if a speculator hasn’t snapped it up already, because chances are good it won’t be long before a speculator, competitor or affiliate does. I am sure Travelocity wishes they had the foresight to register Travelosity.com before competitor TripFox did.

    Many companies are surprised at just how much traffic they are losing to competitors. Until you start bidding on misspellings of your company name or brand, you won’t realize the scope of the problem. If you are lucky, the problem won’t be too significant, but you don’t want to discover that you have a problem as significant of Travelocity either. It is worth throwing a $50 or $100 budget at the campaign for the month and see what happens. Chances are good you won’t spend much of that budget, but it is an easy way to highlight and find what kind of misspellings are being searched for without having to rank pages and/or sites at the top of the serps for each and every one of those misspellings.


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    7 Responses to Why you should bid on misspellings of your company name & brand

    1. January 15, 2008 at 10:15 am

      I like Aaron Wall’s free typo generator to generate misspellings for PPC campaigns…the link is here: http://tools.seobook.com/spelling/keywords-typos.cgi

      Misspellings of keywords (not just company names) are an excellent way to get cheap paid traffic.

    2. January 23, 2008 at 9:57 am

      Great post. I know in PPC that was one of the first things I learned was to include misspellings and it turn out to be a great theory to follow. Thanks for the link too.

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    5. May 3, 2008 at 6:00 pm

      It’s another of marketing, i saw a lot of people register those domains

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    7. July 15, 2008 at 9:06 am

      We have had success following this logic. The key thing is to monitor ROI for the spend.

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