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When an advert isn’t. Or is it?

During one of my English language classes today we started discussing one of the projects that my students had worked on as part of their marketing master. This project happened to involve creating a marketing and communications plan for a holiday resort (tourist village/villaggio turistico) in Italy. During our discussion I mentioned Booking.com, one of the foremost on-line hotel booking sites in the world. In an attempt to justify stating that all hotels should be listed on Booking.com, I typed ‘hotels, Italy’ into Google and, lo and behold, the first sponsored ad was for Booking.com. However, one of my students noticed that Booking.com did not appear in the normal search results. Effectively she intimated that she would be more likely to click on a normal search result, than on one of the sponsored keyword generated ads. Indeed, had Booking.com appeared at the top of the normal results she would have visited the site most probably.

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Very interesting I thought, how ‘normal’ Google’ results were not perceived by this person as being adverts, even though, in my opinion, they function in much the same way. I wonder how many others think in the same way, and do not perceive search engine results as being advertising. Quite a few, I imagine, and this may indicate that SEO is potentially more effective than keyword advertising.

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