I took part in some market research a while back, discussing some Transport for London posters advertising a new bus route finder service on their website. The poster included a feature that pissed me off quite a lot, and I ended up giving out about it. TfL, as it turns out, didn’t listen. The other day, I saw this poster on the tube (excuse the bad picture quality – the old iPhone doesn’t exactly do magic):
“Search ‘TfL Travel Tools’,” it ends, and anyone who’s ever used the internet knows what it means. Google it.
There are many sides to SEO, some of which are nicer than others, but one thing can’t be argued with: it’s built on intuition. You want to find a DIY shop in Camden, so you Google “DIY shop Camden”. You need to know how much a certain amount of US dollars is in British pounds, so you Google “currency converter”.
There are two reasons why you find what you’re looking for. Firstly, the website belonging to a DIY shop in Camden is bound to have all of those words on it, more than once, and probably in the headings. Secondy, they’ve had some search optimisers fiddling with their meta tags, adding those same words to the code.
Google is built around intuition, because that’s the only way it can really work, but TfL’s search optimisation agency has either ignored this entirely or completely failed to communicate to TfL what their job is all about. By telling prospective customers what to search for, they’re side-stepping intuition altogether, instead hoping that users will remember the exact phrase they’ve decided to optimise for.
I’ll tell you one thing: if I wanted to check for tube disruptions, I wouldn’t Google “TfL Travel Tools”. Travel tools? Really? What language is that? Who thinks of tools when they want to find out if the Piccadilly Line is running or there are delays on the overground?
The “search for…” trend in marketing is backwards and lazy. Stop telling me what to search for; get your SEO agency to do its job properly, and let my intuition do the rest.