Does verbing your campaign equal getting a leg up in the SERP?

The dream of every keywords advertiser is completely owning a popular word – just imagine having the term “SERP” – you’d pull every SEO-interested person to your landing page at least once.

Getting a good unique word and owning it is kind of hard, though. All the good ones seem to be taken somehow. So what to do?

One step towards both getting an unique keyword and getting people to indirectly talk about the product is connecting it to an action, or rather: making the product the action.

The process is called verbification or simply verbing, and for most, it’s a passive act – neither Google nor the iPod launched with campaigns for to “Just google it” or “Got something to say? Pod it” with the hopes that within the decade they would end up in Merriam Webster as things you actually do regardless if you use the product or not.

A successfully implemented verbified campaign not only means you own the term, but you’ll also have the #hashtag  on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ (as well as any other place that uses the hashtag functionality).

One huge caveat

A major thing in verbifying a brand is doing it in a way that the brand name itself doesn’t become the verb. Of course it’s attractive to have your brand as a proper word in daily use, but then it’s the danger of your brand name becoming the general term for the action and in the process causing the trademark being rendered moot (Google recently took legal action trying to persuade Språkrådet, the Swedish Language Council, to change the definition of the adjective “ungoogleable” to specify that it references Google and not just any old search engine).

Also, avoid verbing if the result is plain silly. A decade or so ago, a big search company launched the campaign “Do you Yahoo?” and the answer from the public was as you might expect a resounding “No”.

Basic verbing

To make sure it’s a naturally formed verb, it can be tested with the short Q&A “How did you do that?” – “I […]’d it“. For instance, if the “computational knowledge engine” WolframAlpha would run a verbified campaign, the sentence could be tested with the following:

“How did you get the mass of the moon so quick?”

  1. “I Wolfram Alpha’d it.”
  2. “I Wolfram’d it.”
  3. “I Alpha’d it.”
  4. “I Wolf’d it.”

Of the above four variants numbers 2 and 4 are the ones that roll off the tongue the easiest, but to keep the link to the service more clear, number 2 would be the choice as number 4 is too far removed from the original brand for people to make the connection.

Of course verbing doesn’t fit all brands or products, but for the right campaign it might be the stuff that takes you from the ads to the conversation.