BP buys oil-related search terms as attempts continue to stem oil spill

Beleaguered oil giant BP has been buying oil-related search terms as it continues to receive criticism for its attempts to plug a leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Buying up search terms: BP
Buying up search terms: BP

The company has bought terms including ‘oil spill' on Google AdWords and Yahoo. The move will allow links to BP's oil response sites to appear first before any other websites' when terms relating to the oil crisis are typed into Google or Yahoo's search engines.

A BP spokeswoman said it is buying the terms in an attempt to ‘assist those who are most impacted and help them find the right forms and the right people quickly and effectively'.

Bite Communications head of broadcast and digital services Daniel Sands said: ‘I think you can question the motivation of BP buying up search, but from a purely communications perspective I think it's a sensible move. There is no getting away from the association of the brand with the disaster. Implementing a search strategy to ensure it is prominent in results around the disaster would take time, so purchasing keywords is a quick fix.'

He added: 'Given the huge public anger towards BP, there is going to be much less opportunity in traditional media for BP to demonstrate anything positive it is doing. So discoverable, regularly updated online channels are a good way to achieve this. Particularly putting Tony Haywood front and center with a video apology.'

BP has made the headlines again today as shares in the firm have plummeted another 12 percent at the start of London trading, amid fears President Obama will impose massive penalties on the company.

BP's share price has almost halved since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on 20 April.

In his latest comments, President Obama suggested that the oil company should pay unemployment benefits to thousands of oil workers laid off during a moratorium on deep-sea drilling triggered by the spill.

Last month, BP's digital strategy was called into question when its official Twitter site was hacked into and a joke posted onto the site.

The offending comment remained posted for about 30 minutes before being deleted, prompting an explanatory statement from BP spokesperson Mark Salt.

A fake Twitter account has also dwarfed the official account in terms of followers, racking up almost 150,000 compared to close to 13,500 for the real Twitter feed.

Sands added: 'BP's digital response strategy was initially slow. Its YouTube page wasn't started until 18 May, almost a month after the disaster, and there is no mention on its Twitter account until eight days after the disaster. This points to an old media approach of containment. However it is now getting up to speed and embracing a multichannel, more open approach. It  might not be enough to win them friends online, but it is a step in the right direction.'


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