Thursday, October 20, 2016

Content marketing shows its age

Online newspapers are now little more than blocks of ads extolling us to read about the '7 most ... ' - or something similar.

On such a site I came across this 'news' story ... only a couple of years old. 

 Note also the two poor examples of advertising. Yes, they are for cars - but nothing like the car in the ad, and so unlikely to have been of any interest to folk who chose to look at the article about the sports car.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

SEO incompetence

I get a number of this kind of thing – but if you do not have a blog, you will not be aware of the practice. 

This is a ‘comment’ made on an entry on my blog. I have my settings such that every comment has to be ‘vetted’ by me before I release it to the blog. Other bloggers allow comments to be published automatically.

This is spamdexing/SEO spamming, the intention of which is to develop inbound links to a website and so improve that site’s listing in the SERPs. 

Or should I say, the perpetrators think that such links improve their site’s listing. They don’t. 

Google looks to see if content on the linked-from page has any association with the linked-to page before ‘rewarding’ the link. If there is no relationship between linked-from and linked-to pages then Google actually penalises the linked-to site. 

In this case, the comment is automated and is there because the software used is matching keywords in the blog. In this case, the key term is ‘locked out’. But as you will see if you look at the blog entry in question, I was talking about being locked out of a website. 

Furthermore, if I was actually blogging about a problem that a locksmith might help me with ... I’m around 5000 miles from Denver. So Mr Crocker has used software that doesn’t use any geographic filters – or he hasn’t used the filters if they are there. 

So why do the likes of Mr Crocker use this kind of spam? Easy answer. They don’t know what they’re doing – or they have hired someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. 

Needless to say, I clicked on the tab 'mark this comment as spam'.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Do-it-yourself = bad website.

Bad website design seems to go on and on. This site – I am guessing – uses one of the ‘design-your-own-site’ services on offer. But something has gone wrong with the screen size ... not how the text on the left is cropped.

Furthermore, that text is recommendations from customers - so, potentially, the most important 'selling' content on the page.

And I’ll not even mention white on black for the text.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Limited availability on holiday dates

So it was raining outside and my thoughts went to a Christmas break in the sun. 

An appropriate search on Google had an ad at the top of the listings [ads, remember, only cost money if someone clicks on them -  but take time and resources to put them at the top of the listings] - so I clicked on the link and tried to find a holiday.

Sadly, the box into which you entered your required departure date was 'fixed' at the bottom of the page ...

No amount of scrolling would allow it to show the date I wanted - the 18th of December.

Perhaps only because of what I do for a living I sensed that the issue was the size of the usable screen - so I reduced the size of the page [control/-] and it revealed the full calendar. 

However,  you website developers at TUI - I should not have to adjust my PC to read your web pages. If you disagree with that statement you are an idiot and should not be paid to do the job you are doing. 

Disagree with that? Then consider where your wages come from. They come from people booking holidays via the web pages you developed. But if they cannot find the date they want to travel they move on to another website.

Are you getting the message here?

Friday, August 5, 2016 ... up the creek with no best price paddle

Travel search engine Kayak have spent a fortune on TV adverts which assure us that it will find the cheapest hotel deal.

So I gave them a try for a stay in Brighton. I got this result on ...

But when I clicked on the 'view deal' link - which took me to this listing on
Guess what Kayak? You've wasted your money on that advertising, I won't be using your site again.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Amazon: making returning a faulty product harder than rocket science

You'll need a comfy chair and cup of tea/coffee/whatever for this one. So, if you are sitting comfortably, I'll begin.

My new sat nav - purchased two months ago - was not working properly, so I needed to send it back to the retailer I bought it from - Amazon.

Naively, I thought there would be somehow that I could contact Amazon, state the problem with the product, and get a new one in exchange [as I would have done had I stuck with Curry's, see Navigating to a satellite navigator made hard ]].

So I went to,uk and found this page, with a link to 'returns and replacements'
 Which took me to this page ...
So I clicked on 'start a return'
Which took me to this page that required me to identify the item I wanted to return, 
... and clicked on the 'return of replace item' link, I got this page ...
Which said I couldn't return the product. 

So I went back to the returns support centre page, and clicked on the 'learn more about exchanges and replacements' link,
Which took me to this page ...

and when I clicked on the link to the page it told me I would get help on, it took me to this page ...

Yep ... back to the page I was on previously - from which I had sought help two clicks ago.

So I sought out the 'help and customer service' section, and came across a 'returns and refunds' page - and clicked on the 'replacements, exchanges and repairs' link.
Which took me to this page ...
 Which I had already been to on my tour of [see above].

So it was back to the 'help and customer service', this time; 'about warranty repairs' - and clicked on a useful-looking link
Which took me back to ...
 ... to which I was now becoming a regular visitor.

So I tried a new tack, and found the 'returns policy' page. And there - a good way down the page was a line that said: 'if a product becomes defective after more than 30 days you won't be able to create a returns label using our returns support centre'.

I can't really repeat what I actually said, but it was along the line of, 'well you don't say - that information would have been jolly spiffing to have been told on one of my many visits to that 'returns support centre' page. 
So, thinking I was getting somewhere, I clicked on the 'contact us' link, and got this page [which doesn't look anything like a 'contact us' page to me].
But still ... I clicked on the 'returns and refunds' link, which took to I page where I was asked to identify the item, and when I did so the page showed a link I had seen before: 'return or replace item'. 
This is it I thought: result. 

Oh drat, I said when it took me to that old favourite ... 
So it was back to the returns policy - with the thought that Amazon were actually breaking the law by not providing a method of returning faulty goods. And there, hidden on the left was a little link that said; 'contact us'.
Which took me to this page ...
... for which there should have been a big sign - and link - way back on the second page I was directed to. Note to self: but there wasn't, I wonder why not?

Eventually, I clicked on the 'phone' contact button on the bottom, got a form on which I put my phone number, and immediately I was contacted.

But that is not the end of the story. The lady who rang was very helpful, but obviously in the Indian sub-continent. Now, I have many colleagues who do not originate from the UK. And far many more students who are classed as 'international' - so I am very used to 'interpreting' English spoken by people for whom it is not their first language. But I really struggled with her accent.

Anyhoo ... the upshot was that she arranged for the sat nav to be collected by a courier tomorrow and I would be refunded for it. So, result - I hope.

So if it was that easy for them to do, why isn't that 'phone back' facility made available - and obvious - on the returns page?

Oh ... and she never asked at any time what is wrong with the sat nav - and no where on the email I have been sent does it request that I say what is wrong with it [but I put a note in anyway, 'cos I'm helpful like that :-) ].

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

This online service doesn't hold water

I just received my paperless online bill from Northumbria Water. After checking how much water I had used and how much I needed to pay, I decided to change my password too the site.

So I looked at the homepage header expecting to see [the normal] link to 'profile' or similar [note that they can't call it 'account' as the account in this example is my water usage account].
As you can see: no such link. Note also the live chat facility's hours. As I type this at 7am, it is a dead chat facility. Obviously it is designed only for people who can access their watre bill while that are at work or on a day off [but not Saturday afternoon or all day on Sunday].

So I put 'change password' into the on-site search, and got nothing relevant – the closest being 'I've forgotten my password'.

So I then posed a question in the 'ask a question' facility. Thinking that the answer to this question would take me to a 'profile' page, I asked; 'How do I change my contact details?' I got this response: 
So I clicked on the 'online form' link, and got:

Further investigation would suggest that:

* To change my password I will need to pretend that I have forgotten my existing one and re-set the whole thing [that will involve – I assume – and exchange of emails and me following a number of requirements].

* To change – say – my contact phone number I will have to ring Northumbria Water's telephone helpline.

Ho hum.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Website washout?

So after I discovered a pool of water under my washing machine this morning, I was checking out how much a new one was going to cost me. 

And I remembered the ads on TV  for 

So - via a search and ad on Google - I arrived at this page... 

If you look carefully - I've added an arrow - there is something chopped out of the page. 

I was using Firefox, so I checked the page was downloading properly on Chrome ... 

Nope - just the same. However, because it is part of my job [and I have this blog to write :-) ] I even had a look at the page on my iPad, and lo and behold - there was the missing content. 

Now, I would say that the missing content was actually some of the most important 'sales' copy on the page.  Oh dear.

But wait ... it gets even worse: take a look at the web page in Explorer. 


I wonder how much all those TV ads cost? 

I also wonder how much those Google SERP ads cost? 

And I wonder how much it would cost to make sure a website is downloading properly? Or to correct this error?

As a footnote: I shouldn't need to say it, but I've said it so many times before why should I break a habit of 20 years? 

If a web page does not download properly, it is not the fault of the user, their device or its software: it is the fault of the website designer[s].

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lost in the post?

OK, so I'm being picky - and it's not really a 'digital' thing; but ...

 RS Components is as close as you'll get to being a B2B 'retail' outlet - and generally it is not only very good, but is often held up as an example of effective digital marketing. 

Which is why I was on their website. As part of my visit I looked for my local RS outlet. It was listed as being; 'Newcastle'. 

But when I followed the link to the 'Newcastle' branch's details, I discovered it is in ... Gateshead. Next door - yes. But across the river Tyne and a completely different town.

Maybe it's a historical thing [was the branch originally in Newcastle?], but come on: it's a different place.

I know a number of folk from Gateshead and they are pretty much fed up with being identified as Newcastle's poorer cousin. This is an example of just why that is the case.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Navigating to a satellite navigator made hard

So I was looking to buy a new Sat Nav. Basically, it was to be an upgrade of the one I have now – so I had already decided the exact device I wanted ... a Garmin 2699 LMT-D.

Obviously, I could have ordered one from any amount of online stores [for around the same price], but this one was slightly bigger than the one I have and I wanted to check it would fit OK on the dash of my car – so I wanted a local bricks-and-mortar store.

I was pretty sure that Currys sold Sat Navs and as my local store is about 2 miles from where  live and a mile from where I work, I went online to check price and availability. But when I arrived on the homepage, I could not see any kind of navigation bar to get to the right department [a navigation bar is pretty much a standard design feature for online retailers]. After a while I realised I was going to have to call up the navigation feature, and clicked on the 'menu'. Which gave me this list ...

Hmmm, I thought, obviously I was wrong – Currys did not sell Sat-Nav systems.

So ... I put "Garmin 2699 LMT-D" into Google and searched on 'shopping' – and guess what the  'best match' came up as ...

Yep, Currys ... and note the message that it was available at my local store. So I clicked on the link, which took me to the following page on Currys' website.
The URL tells you where on the site Sat Navs are located.

I'll let you do the analysis of just why does not seem keen to sell 'broadband and Sat Nav' along with their phones.

FOOTNOTE: I went to my local Currys, and there discovered that they do not stock the Garmin 2699 LMT-D - but they could get one delivered to the shop for tomorrow. I took my £159.99 home with me and ordered it from Amazon. It will be delivered to my place of work in the morning.

I have a background in retail; I understand the cost of stock and stock control. I also understand online and multi-channel retail. I think Currys have just got this wrong.