Sneaky SEO tactics and covert search engine strategies may be considered an art, a science, ingenious or sinister, depending on whom you ask.

Heineken Beer’s cameo in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was a blatant case of product placement within a movie that unabashedly crossed what was once a distinct and ethically impenetrable line between media content and advertising. The producers of the movie got away with it by being transparent in their approach to it. They incorporated the beer into a scene/advertisement spoof and wrote around the brand name to fit theme of the movie and add entertainment value. Everybody wins; producers were financially rewarded by the beer company, Heineken got its moment in a blockbuster movie, movie goers got a good chuckle and nobody was fooled into thinking that it was anything other than a pseudo-sinister advertising arrangement between the movie maker and beer brewer. If it was an ethical breach at all, it was surely a victimless one.


The advent of the Internet has taken covert advertising to a whole new level. While the lines that separated advertising from content have gradually been blurred in the traditional media, they have all but dissolved in cyberspace. Stealthily and purposefully directing (often unwitting) traffic to a specific website and ultimately a specific product has proven such an effective marketing strategy that it has spawned an entire new industry known as search engine marketing (SEM).

Manipulating the web code and content of a website with carefully researched keywords is a major component of SEM. This practice is commonly known as search engine optimization (SEO). Incorporating keywords into the web code and scattering them throughout the text is one of many search engine strategies that can significantly boost the Internet presence, web site visibility and brand name of an entity. How? By ranking higher on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Analogous to how a Houston storage company would name itself AAA Storage Units to be listed first in the alphabetically-organized Yellow Pages, it might insert the keywords “Houston Storage Space” and “Temporary Storage in Texas” into its web code for its website to show up high on the search ladder whenever anyone types in those phrases on search engines. Identifying the right keywords involves pinpointing the best descriptive terms and then performing a fine balancing act between search volume and advertiser competition of those terms.


Search engine optimization, at its core, simply raises the profile of an entity on the web at face value by increasing traffic to its website. But it can also be used covertly to steer potential customers to websites and products that they weren’t necessarily searching for to begin with.

Heineken, for example, might post a recipe for beer can chicken on one of their web pages to deliver aficionados of the hobo-inspired dish, who may or may not be beer drinkers, to their site. Heineken might also optimize one of its pages with the keywords “Austin Powers” with a clip of the movie designed to drive slapstick comedy buffs to their site. At the opposite end, Netflix might run the very same movie clip on one of its web pages optimized using the keywords “Heineken Beer” instead of “Austin Powers” to expose the movie to beer drinkers who have never heard of Fat Bastard or Dr. Evil.

On the same token, AAA Storage Units might deploy a similarly sneaky SEO strategy, optimizing a web page or two with the keywords “Comfort Zones for Newly Divorced Guys” and “Second Chances for Divorced Men” to drive recently-divorced males looking for romance to their site, knowing full well that storage space is usually in high demand for that particular demographic.


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