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by Kapil Ohri

If you happen to search for the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, on Google, the landing page with results on Sonia Gandhi will also display a message by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – “Do You Know Why Advaniji is a better leader, BJP a better party? If you don’t, visit Lkadvani.in.”

This message is a part of the search marketing technique adopted by the BJP for many political leaders. The political party has used search marketing and contextual advertising tools on Google (AdWords and AdSense) so that whenever anyone searches for Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh or even Mayawati, the landing page will have sponsored links from the BJP.

For instance, when you search for Manmohan Singh, the sponsored link on the landing page says, “Do you share the dream? 21st Century India’s Century, Advani for PM – Lkadvani.in.”

This strategy is also called brand-jacking on Google.com. The BJP has actually bought 850 keywords, including the names of its rivals such as Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Mayawati, Congress and Samajwadi Party to run search ads on Google.com.

“Already 619,695,254 ad impressions promoting the LKAdvani website have been served on Google.com and its network of sites since the inception of the campaign on January 2,” Prodyut Bora, chief, IT, BJP, tells afaqs!.

Speaking to afaqs!, Ansoo Gupta, head, global business, Pinstorm, says that the practice of purchasing keywords related to the competition is not new in the world of search marketing.

A Google search for ‘Taj Hotel’ results in sponsored links of ‘Oberoi Hotels’. Similarly, a search on Go Air leads to sponsored links related to Jetlite.com and SpiceJet.com, the rival airline brands.

However, a Google search on Jet Airways only generates sponsored links for JetAirways.com. JetaAirways.com is registered as a trademark. If an advertiser owns a trademark on its name or brand, it can ask Google.com to block the usage of its trademark keywords by its competitors. A complaint can also be filed with Google in case any advertiser uses a particular keyword owned as a trademark by its competitor.

“Usage of keywords such as ‘Sonia Gandhi’, ‘Rahul Gandhi’ and ‘Congress’ implies that these words are not registered as trademarks and that’s why the BJP is exploiting and capitalising these keywords in their SEM campaign,” says an industry observer.

Interestingly, the US President, Barack Obama, owns copyrights on his name.

It seems that search marketing strategy will work for BJP, as the search volume patterns derived via Google Insights for Search, clearly indicates that ‘Sonia Gandhi’ and ‘Rahul Gandhi’ keywords received 1.5 times more searches than LK Advani.

This means higher number of searches for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi can help BJP to drive traffic to the LK Advani’s website. Bora claims that on an average basis, LKAdvani.in receives 20,000 unique visitors daily.

Google.com is managing the SEM campaign of BJP.

© 2009 afaqs!