Friday, December 19, 2008

Why building a website does not mean they will come

I'm pretty speechless. I just got off the phone from the owner of a website who wanted professional SEO Services so ther social website could be found on Google. I asked how they intended to generate an income stream or what kind of business model would they use to generate sales from this type of website and received the reply "We don't know".

I'm not fond of working with people who decide to go down the route of building a website with little thought on how it will bring them $$ (or £££) and how they will differentiate themselves and stand out from the crowd.

I'm getting "JAW ache" (Just Another Website ache) when I look at the site, its generic, looks templated and doesn't inspire me.

The industry is full of people who have these types of websites that typically have little invested in them and then go nowhere. The individual then thinks they have been taken for a ride by people in the web industry tarnishing our reputation. Sure the web designer responsible (if there was one) might have wanted to point out that building a generic website and jumping on the social networking bandwagon to hopefully make a few dollars won't likely work without careful forethought, but its not their responsibility ultimately is it?

I'm thinking I will be seeing this a lot in 2009 as people either with redundancy money or those without funds but desperate to take a chance will start coming out of the woodwork for poorly thought out websites that they think having ranked in Google's SERPS will change their lives. For most I fear they will be seriously disappointed. I am so hoping I am going to be proved wrong.

Royal Mail Automated Phone System SUCKS

I had the postie stick a Royal Mail "while you were out" card recently through the door and thought I would phone the local office to arrange redelivery. I wasn't convinced why Royal Mail wanted me to go online and hand over personal details I didn't think they needed (i.e. my email!!)...

So I rang the number they provide on the card and spent over 15 minutes in a continuous loop - each time the automated operator stating (after some longwinded advertorial nonsense) "press 1 for redelivery over the phone".... had to admit it gets frustrating, especially when I am busy, but made worse by a stupid automated phone system that sent me loopy.

Eventually I did what anyone else would do and chose the "Press 2" option to speak about a redelivery thats been booked already which got me through to a somewhat helpful phone operator, who then tried to convince me I should be the one to go into the centre of Swindon a week before Xmas to pick up the mail cause they were so busy. No wonder I get cross.

Why does the Royal Mail hide its poor levels of service behind the "its Xmas, we're busy" facade?
Especially when all we hear is how they are struggling to compete against competitors like TNT and email and demand for their service is dropping to an unprecedented level. Seems like the directors should pull their fingers out from somewhere dark and deep and get their act together, it might just give them that valid reason to be overpaid....

I'm told to expect the packages on Monday but I'm not holding out much hope....


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You're a "Cock", if its "Out of Stock"!

Online shopping should be our saviour from ignorant and greedy crowds, exhorbitant fuel costs, crappy parking and nightmare traffic but I increasingly find it frustrating that many online retailers when they run out of a certain item to sell slap "Out of Stock" in the product description.

To a degree I also blame the search engines, they are after all supposed after all to bring us relevant results. Yet time and again whilst searching for Xmas presents I use search engines to help me find what I am looking for, see the snippet in their SERPS, hit the link and reach the online retailers website page.

I then check out the description, image and price only to find at the bottom of the page the online retailer has entered into that product's details "Out of Stock".

If that's the case then why not suspend the product in your database, delete the page so that you can allow another retailer (who actually bothered to invest in enough stock) to achieve a high listing and make a sale?

I've looked around and it seems the general feeling on the way out of this with a search engine is to list other relevant, related items you feel the user might want to see if the product is out of stock.

I disagree. I don't want to see other products, in "Andy's" immortal words "I want that one"....

Yes, yes it means that the search engine will remove your page or reduce its ranking but why should I bother with your website when your items for sale are listed as "out of stock"?

I emailed one website owner who said that he didn't plan for such demand (even in this credit crunch) and that being a small operation (likely from his garage) he didn't have the space to store everything he wanted. What, you not heard of drop shipping?

Yes its more expensive but at least the customer gets their product with the minimum of fuss. Downside of doing business with a mom and pop operation I suppose. And I always try to go out of my way to support the small retailer so it gets tiring when you consistently reach a website to find the product you want at the price shown is not available. I feel somewhat cheated.

I suggest the search engines deal with this in the following way:

If a spider crawls and spots "Out of Stock" then in some way this is used at the start of the snippet shown in the SERPS or in the Title tag if possible.

That way it might attract less clicks and perhaps reduce in ranking. Once the S/E bot returns and finds the product no longer labelled out of stock then perhaps its ranking can be increased.

Only downside of this is where a retailer then decides not to label products out of stock for fear of losing ranking....

But something's got to give... so if you're running an ecommerce website please don't have half your products as "Out of Stock", it looks unprofessional and wastes so many peoples time, including mine!

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

All SEO's need a little creative. breathing space

Its that time of year again. Nope not Xmas, that's still to come (bah it just gets in the way of work!), nope, my wedding anniversary weekend, which the wife and I always head away for.

This year we were a little late - it should be back in mid November but what with the number of projects on in both of our careers we held off. Which was good as it meant we found a hotel we wanted to stay at rather than have to take the first one we found for fear of losing to someone else wanting to make a booking.

So we headed off for deepest, darkest Pembrokeshire in West Wales... as per usual I left the house with a million ideas/SEO things to do in my head and worrying about not enough time to do them all in... and this carried on all the way into Wales which left me quite tense and snappy. The wife being my only passenger bore the brunt - sorry honey!

But as we arrived at the hotel something strange happened.

I relaxed, my heart rate slowed down and all my worries were reduced, a great feeling don't you think?

Now we all like to find those great, little, romantic hideaways that we tell our friends about but never really share... and I could do this to you but that would be unfair to all you other SEO'ers maybe wanting some quality time with your partner or someone special.

So if you really want to find a luxury country hotel in Wales with gorgeous surroundings and attentive (and very hard working) owners Neil and Zoe then I recommend to you The Grove Hotel, near Narberth.

The welcome we received was positively warm, the John Pollard Seddon room we stayed in was of the highest class and the view from our bedroom window was most peaceful and serene - especially on a frosty Sunday morning, one which I regret not taking photos of for this blog. My wife also enjoyed the fresh flowers in our room and all around the hotel in fact, for me it had to be the log fires. Its the little things that always make the difference, including experiencing Calvados for the first time ;) (thanks Neil!)

We'll definitely be going back in the near future. I think we've found a hotel we'll revisit often to help soak the stresses & pains of SEO and life in general away. I thoroughly recommend it.

Enjoy the photos of Pembrokeshire below!

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