Tag Archives: search marketing

When Good Things Happen to Bad Websites

You can find many good deals by searching online. If you’re looking for new eye glasses however, you’d do well to avoid the likes of DecoreMyEyes.com (DME). According to a recent report in the New York Times, the site not only failed to deliver, but harassed and threatened customers who complained about its bad service. Hapless customers found this store by searching for product brand names of eyeglass frames such as “Lafont.”

DME left a trail of irate customers, who fulminated against it on shopping sites and discussion boards. This seems to have left DME undaunted. Bad service or outright fraud are not unfortunately news. What was news was that the volume of these unfavorable mentions may have helped it rise to the first page of search rankings.

This is a new wrinkle on the old saw – it doesn’t matter what they say about you as long as they get your name right. That, at least, is the expressed belief of DME and ironically encouraged its abusive behavior.

An accepted principal of SEO is that web links to a site are in a way like a vote for that site. A site with more inbound links is likely to rank higher in search engine results, so legitimate marketers strive to recruit incoming links. To avoid an implicit vote for a site you mention online, either don’t link, or as Google suggested, modify links to sites you are mention but do not approve of, by adding a nofollow attribute to the link.

For example, instead of writing

Watch out for <a href="http://www.example.com/">Fred's Fly By Night </a> discount pharmaceuticals site.


Watch out for <a href=" a href="http://www.example.com/" rel="nofollow">Fred's Fly By Night </a> discount pharmaceuticals site.

In the case of DME, Google explicitly denied the effectiveness of negative sentiment to boost rankings by DME in a blog post. Nevertheless, it has tweaked its secret page rank algorithm to foil DME’s practices.

Google now suggests that before shopping with an unknown merchant, consumers protect themselves by doing an extra search: the name of the business plus the word “scam.” What happens when customers do that with your business?

Discontent With Content

More fresh content is a reliably effective way to improve the search rankings of a website. Blogs and other social media are among the easiest ways to do this, yet many businesses are reluctant to even try.

It’s certainly not that entrepreneurs don’t have plenty to say about their products and businesses. Start talking to entrepreneurs about their businesses or products and it’s difficult to get them to shut up. The enthusiasm and interesting nuggets of information bubble over. Why won’t they contribute some of it to a blog, tweet, or news release?

Part of the challenge is that we are asking someone to change behavior. Like diet and exercise, content creation is not a one time event.¬† It’s a way of continuing a conversation with your customers. Thus already busy marketers are asked to become content developers. How can we ask them to add anything to their already overfilled schedules?

Part of the challenge is that blogging with the most popular systems such as WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger is still too awkward, unnatural and difficult for many people. When you do have an idea and a few spare minutes to create that bit of news worthy content, the systems get in the way.

WordPress, with which I manage this blog, illustrates the problem. It offers a surfeit of options in design choices and features. Although WordPress is available as a free download or hosted service, configuring, maintaining and tweaking it take time – sometimes a lot of time. Time is usually an entrepreneur’s scarcest resources. Thus the forest of abandoned blogs with only a few old posts. These don’t help search engine rankings and can give site visitors the impression that nobody’s home.

Some organizations outsource content development to a consultant or assign it to an intern, either of whom typically know much less about the business than you do. More often than not their output has a familiar “me too” feel. This is evident to your site’s visitors and so doesn’t help converting them to customers.

Just do it (not to borrow a phrase from Nike) can be a good place to start. But how? Don’t think blog: think send a brief email. Even very busy people use email.

How about a content creation tool with limited features and options (so you can’t spend lot’s of time preening and polishing), which works just by sending it an email? Systems like this already exist. One I’ve seen used with some success is Posterous. It’s a free hosted service, so your IT department won’t need to do anything with it (other than perhaps adding a link from your site).

Still don’t have enough time? You can probably reuse¬† an email message you’ve already written as the basis for your blog post. Maybe what your content creation strategy needs is a Swiss Army Knife with just one blade.