Monday, December 10, 2007

a bit too clever ?

My local radio featured an ad for the city of Newcastle - specifically, Christmas shopping. The ad ended with reference to a web site. Nothing wrong so far. The domain name they gave out was [I thought] "any one for newcastle dot co dot uk".

So I typed in '' - which delivered a re-directed site on the domain '' - which as it is the used URL seems to be the tag line for the promotion. For those who don't know [and I assume there will be many], NE1 is the post code for Newcastle city centre.

But here's the thing, I can think of two scenarios for this

1 'any one for newcastle' makes sense as a tag line - so why complicate the issue with this NE1 business? If that is the case, put this one down as 'ooow, double meaning, what clever marketers we are'. Sorry, but too much of an 'in-joke' to work.

2 They developed the NE1 campaign without realising that when spoken it sounds like 'any one' - but surely not? On the plus side, at least they had registered the relevant domain names if this is the case.

Either way, it all seems a bit complex to me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

excellent email marketing

I use CuteFTP to maintain my web site - and last week I had trouble oploading things. As it turned out the error was [probably] with my hosting company, but by then I had emailed GlobalSCAPE [who provide the cuteFTP service] asking them to take a look for any problems.

When the thing started working again I sent an email to say thanks ... but everything was OK. They replied, and a couple of minutes another email arrived - with the following adNow that is targeted direct marketing ... even if I'm not interested in my own FTP server.

Monday, December 3, 2007

poor identity-protection practice

I have signed up to Google Alerts [if someone searches on my name in Google, they tell me] and got this one.

So I clicked on the link - and got this on zoominfo.
comThe thing is, that's not me - but look what I got when I clicked on the 'this is me' link.
As I have the same name as this 'Alan', I could easily have filled in the form - my email address even has the right name on it, so zoominfo would think I'm genuine [or someone else could open up a hotmail - or similar - account in that name]. I could then go on to submit any details [lies] about this person. Hmmm - might be worth checking this site to make sure you haven't been listed, and if so, YOU fill in the details.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I said 'no' twice - take the hint

Close to home again with this one - Palgrave publish one of my books. As is common practice in HE, I had been sent a copy of a new text so that I might adopt it for one of my modules. A few weeks later I received an email asking me for my thoughts - no problems there, good practice. However, for reasons I won't make public here, I decided against using the book - and left some [what I hope were] constructive comments on the web page. Sadly, when I clicked on 'send' I got the following 'error' message. Apparently, I should have entered the date of the module I was not adopting the book for. Check your form fields folks - the first two answers on the form were negative - making this question [and answer] irrelevant.

Monday, November 12, 2007

bad search result - or selling out?

In many instances I promote Amazon as the flag-carrier for online retail. However, while on their site today I came across a worrying search result. I was thinking of buying a Sam Cooke CD, and so put in the name of the song I particularly wanted to be included - 'a change is gonna come'. And look what came out on the top:I had a look at the the 'Casket Letters' Amazon page and guess what - no mention of the term 'a change is gonna come' [except at the bottom of the page where it informed me of my latest search details].

So ... was this a hiccup in Amazon's search algorithm or are they accepting payments to 'feature' certain artists? I hope it was the former - if it was the latter they are gambling with their brand name.

there is communication and there is gibberish

I was searching for something on the Times Online site. After clicking on 'search', this is what I got:Nice one, the Times - would you let that go out in your 'printed' version? No? Then why do you not apply the same vigorous editorial standards to your online publication? Oh and by the way, I was accessing this from home - I have no 'network support team' - and if I did, I doubt they could do anything, the problem is with the Times' server.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

pop ups aren't all bad

They are much maligned, but used properly they really can work - this is an excellent example. I was looking at a model of car on the Daihatsu web site. The car details were covered on four pages (overview, features, technical & accessories), and when I opened the the fourth, the following pop up appeared.
It might just be the nudge - call to action - that someone needs to take the next step in their purchase path.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

no parkin' integration

The following was in my local newspaper:
So I went online to book - and got this:

Hello left hand, can I introduce you to right hand

Footnote Nov 22nd : when I rang up to make a booking they honoured the 'special offer' - it would seem you only got the special rate if you asked for it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

how did I resist this?

Not strictly e-marketing, but the ad was online, so ... I saw this as a 'Google' ad on a web site.

Guarantees 14 thousand pounds a week. Hmmmm - must be using a different dictionary to me for the definition of 'guarantees'.

I'm guessing it says that you set up a web site and charge people £39 pounds for the secret - and the secret is that you set up a web site and charge people £39 pounds for a secret ....

so poor, it made me laugh

I will assume you all know how important the subject line is in email marketing - it is the key to whether or not the receiver opens the mail. With that in mind, take a look at this one that got caught in my spam filter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

doh ..... doh, doh, doh, doh, doh, doh, doh, doh, doh

I have no problems with this organization - they host my web site and most of my domain names - and that is the cause [I think] of this problem. As you can see, at the same time I received the same message 10 times. That I have 10 domain names with them is a bit of a coincidence, I feel. They should have set up their auto messaging software to ignore repeat addresses.

Monday, October 15, 2007

product : good - buying it : bad

In recent years I have travelled enough to make it worth while taking out annual travel insurance cover. For the last couple of years I've had a policy with ASDA - a competitive price for a good product [I think - I've never had to make a claim].

Any hooo - as my last policy had finished a couple of months ago [you don't automatically renew if you've no holidays due] I went back to the web site to start another year's cover.

Issue one is that I had to start from scratch - no 'previous customer' link that I could use - or is that a data protection act issue?

So I filled in all the details - and along the way I came across this:

Note that there is no option for 'previous customer', or even 'other', so I picked one at random - which will mess up their data on that issue.

Then when I finished filling my details and clicked on 'get a quote', I got this:

Grrrrrrrr. So I went back to the home page, and hoping I wouldn't have to enter all my details again, clicked on the 'retrieve a quote' - but got this.

As I had not been given the opportunity to see a quote, never mind get a folder ID, this was useless.

On the plus side, I went straight back to the quote form, the predictive text [my PC or their software?] made it quicker to complete and I went through with the purchase - the price having gone down since last year's policy. But ...

... in a very competitive market, had I got the site through a search engine I could easily have gone to a rival when I got the 'sorry ... ' notice.

Friday, October 12, 2007

wasted advertising opportunity?

This one confuses me a little because surely the technology is available to sort it out [IP recognition?]?

When I'm using my PC at work I usually have music on my headphones. I use a variety of sources, one being Yahoo!'s LAUNCHcast.

The thing is, it has ads - no great problem with that, there aren't many - but the ads are for listeners in America - there is up to 60% off men's sweaters at JC Penney this week, apparently. No good to me though, there is no JC Penney's in the UK.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

excellent PR [and branding] - practice

Back in April I made a comment about folks making it hard to seek permission to reproduce their content [see bad PR-and-marketing practice] - well here's someone who knows how to play the game properly. I get the Hitwise newsletter and intend to use some of their stats in my next book. Do they make it hard to seek permission? On the contrary - they have a section in the newsletter which says:
Job done. Guess who will have their organization featured in a text book to be used by people learning about e-marketing - some of whom will end up working in that field and so may become clients of said organization.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

excellent corporate blogging response

September 19th saw word starting to spread around the 'search' blogs about some anomalies with Google's search results. The first one I saw [though it may not have been the first of its kind] was by Barry Schwartz on

The fifth comment on the blog - sorry, I couldn't work out how much time had elapsed as I'm not sure whether the blog was recording the local time of the commenter - there was an entry from the head of Google's webspam team, Matt Cutts saying that they were on to it and things should be sorted in 2-3 days.

Now that is the way to address negative issues about your organization.

Of course you have to be monitoring the web - blogs and all - to pick these things up. My bet is that around 99 point something of organizations do not. It's not rocket science, you can get software to do it for you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

ditto below - and childish - practice

After I had finished the previous entry I went back to reading blogs - and found this ...

... yep, three of the four comments were from these folk. They must be teaching SEO at infant's school now.

Postscript - a few weeks after this posting, I came across this article - online brand protection best practices
- which explains what's going on.

amateur - and shoddy - practice

I was scanning around the online version of auto express [while I was having my lunch-time sandwich, honest] and I visited a few of their blogs - including the replies. On one I came across the following ...

... but just dismissed it as an entry [perhaps] from an non-English speaking reader. But I soon realised it was on every blog.

What's happening is that the company [] - it's a poor 'domainers/parked domain name' site - is trying to generate links to its site to raise their PageRank. Guess what? This is amateur SEO stuff. Grow up people, produce some good content and you will get legitimate links. Oh, and by the way, Google will recognise it as a sham - like I said, amateur.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

facebook doesn't recognise academic staff

I can't say I've ever had anything but a professional interest in the social media - but today I finally got round to registering on Facebook. Which I did - but because without at least one you are pretty much anonymous, I tried to join a network. I had three choices, see below:
I didn't like the 'regional choice' [Newcastle - there is a certain rivalry between the cities]. I'm not a student, so 'college' was not an option - so I went for the 'work'. Problem is, it asks for my work email address - and as I work at a UK university, it ends in And apparently facebook thinks I'm a student, not an employee [see below]. Harrrumph.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

holy-bad-website batman 2

Sadly, it gets worse for Lincoln Cathedral [see previous entry] - the site is 'dynamic' and it works in IE, but not Firefox. See below. I'm grateful for the example for me to use when emphasizing to students/trainees/anyone-who-will-listen how important it is for web sites to run on all browsers.


Internet Explorer:

holy-bad-website batman 1

Web sites can be configured so that the 'www' is included in the URL, or not. Most are set up on one with the other redirecting to it - ie which ever you type in you get a web site. This one, however has gone down the route of configuring only one - sadly, this one is #1 in Google when you search on 'Lincoln Cathedral'.

Try it with the 'www' and you get this:

Not only is this bad web design practice - there is also the issue that Google [and some other search engines] only index one or the other - so isn't listed on Google. Could be quite an error when you consider how many De Vinci Code fans will have searched for it when the cathedral was used as a location in the movie of the book.

no-news-is-bad-news practice

File this one under 'always check to see everything is OK'. The error is probably a techie one somewhere along the line, but no matter how boring or mundane you may think it is, always check to see if your web site is actually online - and check it on various browsers. If you update pages infrequently this isn't going to take long, if you're a news site that is constantly changing it needs to be an ongoing task. Maybe if every member of staff had the site as their 'home' page someone would have picked this up before I did.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

good scam practice

I'm not sure whether this is good or bad practice. It is a scam - so it is bad. But compared to some that arrive in my in-box, this one is well performed. Here's the email:Note that the 'from' address looks real [the bad guys can do this fairly easily], and the message seems genuine [not full of spelling errors, as many are].

I am certain that if I clicked on the 'log in' button I would be taken to a similarly believable web page where I could enter my log in and password details - it might even ask me to confirm other personal details [eg my mother's maiden name] in the cause of this 'security check'.

So why am I so sure this is a scam?

Well, one thing is that the banks continuously tell us that they never practice this kind of thing.

But the killer is ... I don't have a Nat West account.

Monday, August 20, 2007

excellent customer-service-that-rejects-plaudits practice

I recently noticed a payment for £1.55 to Amazon on my credit card statement - as I have an order outstanding [waiting for availability on a new book] I assumed the that the payment was related to that order, so I fired off an email questioning it [I'll not mention that finding the 'right' contact page was tricky].

Within an hour I had a reply pointing out that the payment related to a different purchase where I had used a gift certificate, and the £1.55 was the sum over the value of the certificate.

Hmmm, 'plonker - that's my mistake', I thought, and sent an email back apologising for wasting their time, and thanking t
hem for the prompt response. Sadly, the following immediately appeared in my inbox:

Couple of points:
  1. I can appreciate that they need to keep incoming emails to a minimum, but what if I wanted to query their response?
  2. It must be a harsh place to work where you spend time dealing with idiots like me, but are denied the 'nice' stuff complimenting you for your efforts.
BTW - I was on - in the UK we spell 'cancelling' with two 'l's. Small point, but worth getting right.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

good-PR-bad-product practice has been around a while, but August 07 saw them 're-launch' after a deal with Ordnance Survey saw their entire database of street maps republished. The PR also included that its mapping service included aerial photography of almost all of the UK in fine detail - allowing you to pick out detail as small as garden furniure.

Well, Google's picture of our house is a couple of years old, and we have done a lot of work on our garden, so off I went to find 192's picture of our garden furniture. And here it is:
Or rather, here is a picture of the foundations of our house on the building site that was our estate around four years ago. Now, given that I know this is years out of date am I likely to use to look at anywhere I have never visited before? Would I confidently book a hotel based on its surroundings in a picture? Erm no. Have I bookmarked No. Have wasted a lot of money marketing a product that does not live up to its own hype?
You decide.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

poor merchandising-and-more practice

I use a laptop at home - and it's not much good for use as a word processor [bad for your neck/back]. So I thought I'd look for a really cheap PC. One site I arrived on was The 'computing' link on the front page took me to a page that gave me this choice:You will note that 'monitors' has its own section - so I assumed that 'PC and monitor' would be combinations of the two. 'Fraid not - the first seven listed under 'home PCs' were PCs without monitors. Harrumph. But it got worse. Take a look at the page presented [below].

Yep - that's 'sold out' on the first two [the cheapest] and a broken image on the third. The image - or lack thereof - speaks for itself. But the 'sold out'? Its funny, when I was in retail, we often had customers come in and say "that is cheaper at X", so we'd say "why not go buy it there?" - and they'd say "X is out of stock". "Oh", we'd say "that's funny, when we are out of stock ours are MUCH cheaper than X". In other words, if you ain't got it, don't flaunt it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

poor geography

I'm sorry - I'm back with KLM again. Not only do they not seem to be learning, they're getting worse. Usual thing, email message promoting cheap flights. The subject line in this one was:So I clicked on the link, and found this - Amsterdam for less than £100 isn't bad, so I clicked on the link: [note - I'm not even going to start on that link text]:
Which took me to this:
Need I say [again] - I have only ever flown with KLM from Newcastle - because I live just down the road. Heathrow is two hundred and odd miles away, hardly my 'local' airport. Harrummmph.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

just-a-little-extra-thought-required practice

I'm registered to receive the newsletter [BCTips, you should sign up] which raises issues about web site design.

I really liked this one, so I thought I'd add my comment.
The site in question is for German central heating system supplier Saunier Duval who have translated their site into a number of languages, including - to their credit - Chinese.

Problem is, the picture used on the 'Chinese' web site is of a western family. Harrumph.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

poor verbal-domain-name practice

As readers of some of my other stuff [not least, domain names - a marketer's perspective] will already know, I have always considered the choice and use of domain names to be greatly under-valued.

In my writing on the subject I warn about careful consideration when communication domains in a verbal medium. This example comes from the radio. As with most [all?] counties and regions of the UK, County Durham is trying to generate income through tourism. Their radio ad featured all the expected promotional content then ended with a sentence that went 'for more information, visit County Durham online'.

As I once was involved in a project to develop 'virtual communities' based on the counties of the UK - and was one of the domains we had - this took my attention, and I went to that domain. sadly, I got a 'domain for sale' sign.

The problem? The web site being featured on the radio ad was actually - but the inflection in the voice-over didn't make that clear. A simple change to something like 'go to our web site [pause]' or even say 'www' before the domain name [kind of redundant these days, but in this cases it might be worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I-know-what-I mean-so-you-must-do-as-well practice

Sorry Barclays, but you are up again. Just a small thing - but its another one of those 'you wouldn't do something like this offline, so why is it acceptable online?' issues. I had conducted a transaction and wanted to print the page for my records - and the instruction read:-
Yes, I suppose most of use have a print icon to print - but not everyone. 'Use your computer's print facility... ' might be more generic. Oh, and while I think about it, I know what a 'browser' is [I write about e-commerce] my wife does not. She would ask me what the instruction meant. She is far from stupid, she is simply an online newbie.

And in the same vein, this instructio
n was on another one of their pages:-Again, I know what it means - would every customer? If the answer to this is not 'yes absolutely' then it is not good usability practice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

don't-blame-me practice

I've said before that in general I am satisfied by the service offered by the online banking service offered by Barclays. However, for the last couple of days I've been trying to transfer some money from one account to another, but clicking on the relevant link just leaves the page 'hanging' - you know, just an egg timer going round and round. This goes on for so long that, eventually, the page 'times out'. And there's today's problem - the [obvious] issue with the web page is one thing - but look at the message that comes up:
Yep - not their fault at all. Amazing how I managed to 'click twice' or use the back button when I was working on the other side of my desk whilst waiting for the page to download.

I was going send a message through the 'contact' form simply asking if there was a problem and were they aware of it, but the form would have taken more time than it is worth. Why no 'web site problem' direct email contact?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

website-over-engineering practice

I noticed in this morning's paper that VW are launching a new car, the Tiguan. As I like to know exactly what I will buy when my premium bond comes up, I keep track of new cars that interest me. So I put 'VW Tiguan' in a search engine and followed a link to the VW 'mini-site' for the car. Then I did some work on my next book while it downloaded. Then I made a cup of coffee. Then I did some more work - and I was still looking at the page shown below.
Now I have broadband at home. How fast? I don't know, but I've never had problems with websites downloading before - and given what I do, I look at a lot of sites. Eventually, repeated clicking on the 'skip' button took me to a registration page. So I registered. And tried again to look at the new car. I clicked on the '360 degree' view. And again, got on with something else while the page downloaded. Well at least I think I was waiting for it to download. I tried clicking on anything and everything to get the page to rotate around the car. Eventually - of its own accord - the picture of the car 'jerked' to a different view. I then tried 'gallery' and got a series of pictures of the car in different colours - but no interior shots.

Now here's the thing. I know it is a hooby-horse of mine, and I appreciate design technology has a place, but I went to that site to find out about the car - and yes I teach marketing strategy, I am aware of the process of new car launch promotion - but I came away with nothing more than I had learned from the Sunday Times article.

I do not know:
  • What the interior is like
  • What size engines are available
  • What emissions the engines have [unlike many, I'm not big on green issues, but in the UK car taxes are determined by emissions]
  • When the car will be available
  • Any specifications at all eg available in automatic
  • Any idea of the price range
So, [a] maybe VW don't want to tell me ths information - if this is the case, why have the mini-site - what are its objectives?, and [b] everything I wanted to know could have been presented on a web site written in plain html with clear pictures and well written text.

In the car industry there is an issue called 'over-engineering'. This is where a car costs more in development and building costs than the target market is willing to pay. In this case the website was over-engineered - and the 'cost' of its development [my time] was more than I was willing to pay.

Because I have already told you, you know I cannot afford one of these cars. But - and it is a big but - whoever signed off on that web site does not. Tomorrow morning, I could be off to the nearest Nissan dealers to pay cash for a new Quashqai, and that website gave me no reason to stop off at the VW dealers on the way.

For all its fancy design work, that website is not helping to sell VW Tiguans. So why does it exist? And here's a twist. Its cost [part of the car's marketing cost] will be included in the price customers pay for the car. Sorry VW, I like your cars, but I don't like your online marketing.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

poor tool-hire practice

As my wife has decided another section of our lawn is to convert to 'border' - and that when I did the other side [manually] it nearly killed me - I was looking online for a machine I could hire to do the job. One local hire company is Lord Hire. On their website they divide the tools into sections [eg 'gardening equipment'] which is good - but each section had no 'html' content - only a link to a pdf file, as shown below:
OK, include a pdf for folk to print off if they wish - but pdf files are designed to read offline, not online. And the web is for web pages, not print-outs.

I should also add at this point that maybe all hire companies could take a look at the usability of their websites. Common errors on the sites I visited included that their database-driven sites only worked in IE [I use Firefox] - and why have a database-driven site when you only have a few dozen products on hire? What's wrong with good old html and well constructed navigation? But the most common fault was that any search facility expected me to know what the searched-for tool was called. I didn't even know that a 'turf cutter' existed, never mind what it was called - 'machine for digging up grass' didn't work in any of the searches.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

me-too wannabee-practice

July 07 saw a number of press reports - like this one from the Sunday Times - telling how grocery retailer Waitrose were re-launching their web site with a new social networking facility dubbed a "facebook for foodies".

Now here's my thought on the subject: The site is reputed to have cost one million pounds plus, so where is the ROI? Even if the social element works - a £M1 return? And will it work? One of the things about social networks is that they should develop organically. By making it part of an organization's web presence - and presumably driving customers to it - the ethos of the site is starting with a potentially fatal flaw. Visitors, probably. Visitors trading recipes, sure. Visitors using it as an online store for their recipes, hmmm. A new facebook? Naaa.

Or maybe I'm just an old cynic?

Monday, June 25, 2007

bad [non-existent?] new-product development

Not strictly e-marketing, but I got it online, so ...

Yesterday I was killing time in Waterstones and came across a series of business books called 'essential managers:' which covered a series of subjects [eg marketing]. Being only small [and cheap] I wondered if I couldn't rattle off an e-marketing-related title. So today I went to the publisher's - Dorling Kindersley Books - web site to check them out. Now, normally on publishers' sites there is a section that tells you how to submit a proposal for a book. Or at least contact them to discuss a book. However DK - or their parent company, Penguin - do not want to hear from potential authors. No unsolicited manuscripts, they say. OK, fair enough, they do not want piles of fictional dross arriving at their office. But - and it is a big but - they also publish non-fiction. Whatever the subject, there must be an element of review, discussion etc before such a text is even OKed, let alone published.

So I went to the US site. On its site the rather blunt message re submissions is finished off with:-

"Different markets demand a different approach, and non-fiction, reference publishers such as DK require writers to be experts in their fields. However, we wish you the best of luck and hope you have every success in placing your work."

But I am an 'expert in my field' because I have already got my name on two academic texts [academic texts being some of the hardest to get published]. What about a simple line " ... but if you have a track record in publishing in a subject area we would like to hear from you" ?

Guess what DK / Penguin? This 'expert' takes your attitude as an insult to what I have already achieved. It is also presented in a somewhat rude fashion. I only wanted to create a dialogue about writing a book for them. Surely writing and publishing is mutually advantageous - one can't do without the other? Perhaps this explains why the
'essential managers:' series' latest title is 2003, with most being published in the last century?

I would normally drop this at this stage, but I am intrigued as to how DK recruit new authors [they have a lot of 'reference'-type books] so I am going to send some emails. I'll let you know the results.

And if anyone from DK reads this [yeah, 'cos I bet you monitor online reputation management software
] maybe you need at least one 'essential managers:' book - on social marketing [look it up in one of the books. Oh, no you can't - there isn't one].

Update #1 - I couldn't find any email addresses suitable, so I wrote a letter.

Update #2 - reply to letter within a week, inviting me to send in a CV.

Friday, June 15, 2007

poor-intellectual-property practice

I'm not overly sure of my legal basis for this one [if you know better, let me know], but I've always told organizations to hold the copyright over both their web site's content and the code used to write it. Although copyright automatically exists for web site content, I advise organizations to have 'copyright companyname' at the bottom of each web page [or at least on the front page with 'all content of ... ' ], just to be on the safe side. So when I saw the following at the bottom of every page on a web site, I was a bit surprised.

In case you are missing the point, the web site is that of HCA International [on], the web designers are EHC. Who do you think should have copyright of the contents of the web site?

Thursday, June 14, 2007


This one might turn out to be embarrassing as I know the folk who run the organization concerned - I'll mention it next time I see one of them.

Like many organizations, the university where I work filters spam before it reaches my inbox. Part of that system allows emails that it is not sure about into a 'spam report' - which then lands in my inbox and offers me the chance to have those emails delivered. Today's spam report included the one below.

It was [probably] rejected for having 'cheaper' in the subject line, but more significantly, the system was unsure of the sender - not Newcastle Airport [from whom the message came], but If you put www.c-f-1-com into your browser then you are 'bounced' to the web site of Communicator Corp - and email marketing company. Which means the domain name is simply a domain used to facilitate direct marketing through email.

Come on guys, I'm sure there is a valid reason for this practice, but is it worth while if your emails aren't reaching recipients' in-boxes?

Monday, June 4, 2007

bad-[or no]-landing-page practice

Now that I'm an established author [clutches sides with laughter] I've decided to set up our smallest bedroom as an office. As you may know, laptops are not overly good for your back/neck when used on a desk - so I thought I'd look into a getting cheap PC to use as a word processor. So I typed both 'cheap PC' and 'budget PC' into Google - both producing similar results.

As you would expect, there were several 'sponsored links', nearly all responding to the searched-for term by quoting low prices. Sadly, clicking on them all took me to the front page of the advertiser's web site. This meant I had to go looking for the 'cheap' PC deeper in their site. On one I couldn't find a listing for a PC at the price they headlined [see 'bait and switch' elsewhere on this site].

So, no naming and shaming - or even screen shots of the relevant pages - on this blog [to be honest, there were too many examples] but to all those concerned, look up 'landing pages' to see just how important - make that essential - they are to online advertising.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

good-cause-bad-implimentation practice

I like to check out unusual domain name use in TV ads - which led me to type into my browser [which, by the way is on my 3 month old laptop, complete with Windows Vista - ie it is not an old machine running out of date software]. When the site opened I was presented with a page, the main part of which was:

Now here is the thing. The TV ad was part of a campaign for the children's charity the NSPCC - and part of the message was that help stop child cruelty we should report any that we come across with the web site being part of the communication options. I am a long time advocate of [a] not putting any barriers in the way of potential customers, [b] not using technology that isn't necessary, and [c] web designers showing off. Stopping customers buying something is bad, it costs the business money. Preventing someone aiding a charity - or a child - is not just incompetent, it might cost a child's life.

And without being too dramatic - and I know child abuse is not income specific - but what are the odds on an abused child not having the latest Flash installed when they finally pluck up the courage to go to that web site? If the odds are one percent - that is one percent too much.

Footnote: this annoyed me so much I figured it deserved a wider audience - so I sent it in the Keith Craggs to see if he would consider including it in his BC Tips. He did - see his comments in
NSPCC: Slowing down uptake.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

puzzling-[or stupid?] practice

Our washing machine bit the dust last weekend. After wandering around the shops I hit the web to check out some prices [hmmm, I'm an e-marketer, wasn't that the wrong way round?]. Wifey liked one in particular - the Indesit Moon - so I put the name into Google. The return is shown below.

You will note that had paid for a top listing in the sponsored links. Thing is ... when I clicked on the link to the site I found that Sainsburys Kitchen Appliances don't sell, or even list, that product. Take gun [A], take foot [B] - and pay to shoot [B] with [A].

bad content-and-online-reputation-management practice

I am signed up to the Bowen Craggs best practice newsletter [you should be too] - and I came across this article last week. I'll not repeat it all - that is not the reason for me covering it here - but essentially it identifies poor content management on P & G's. My point - and I have waited a full week - is that the errors are still on the site. Yep, that's a company recognized as one of the best at marketing in the world and not only do they not get their web site content right in the first place, but they're not running any kind of online reputation management software that would have picked up the Bowen Craggs article. I'll go a stage further, why isn't someone at P & G subscribed to the newsletter just in case one of their [many] sites appears in it?

Friday, May 18, 2007

good taxing practice

The UK govt has been very proactive in its EU-driven 'e-government' initiative - and overall its has done a good job. An example is the way UK car-owners can renew their car tax online. The web site is an excellent example of online usability. For example, the first page [below] includes an image that makes clear that the user it starting off on a five stage process and that they are on stage one - that a car is used to indicate this is a nice touch. It also makes clear where users can find the essential reference number on the form that have received through the post.
I also liked the prominent message [below] that warns users about not using their browsers 'back' button. The same message advises on how to change any of the details you have entered. I find both of these issues to be problematic when completing online forms - this spells out both issues clearly and succinctly early on in the process [even if starting again after an error might be a pain, at least you know what the score is].

Friday, May 4, 2007

good [but could be better] practice

OK, so it's Friday and I'm being a bit picky, but this would take someone only minutes to sort out [I think], so file it under 'in the great scheme of things it doesn't really matter, but why not get it right anyway?'

I use my bank's online facility all the time - and generally it is very good. However, one thing just bugs me. As with most similar online applications its forms have predictive text, which is good. Type in 'C' and it predicts 'Charlesworth' and saves me having to type the whole word [excellent for us folk that can't type]. That's the good bit. The 'could be better'?

When completing the 'pay someone' function the sysyem also predicts numbers, so when you come to enter the year [remember bank instructions cannot be retrospective] you type in '2' .... and are offered '2005', '2006' and '2007'.

Hello bank - even if I wanted to pay someone last year - or the year before - you wouldn't let me. Take the year options away - preferably on the first of January each year [Oh, OK - the second, the first is a bank holiday] so that the predictive text offers only the current year.

[maybe] poor-journalistic practice

OK, so this isn't strictly speaking an e-marketing issue, but it is about e-commerce and it is something that bugs me - and my students might learn from this.

In an article about online sales in the Sunday Times on April 29th its author, The first-ever online transaction was a CD sale in America in August 1994.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

another bait-and-switch practice

In the words of one [in] famous England football manager - did I not like this one.

One of the great benefits the web has brought to the consumer is the ability to search for the best price for a product. This is particularly true if the there are 'shopping-comparison' sites for that product - where you enter your requirements and the site then searches the web and gives you results from multiple vendors. One industry well covered by this practice is that of car insurance. And my wife's car needed insuring. One of the sites I used was After putting in the details of the car, my wife and me this is the 'quote' that was listed:

Onequotedirect was the best price I came across, so I followed the 'buy online' link. I then had to either confirm or re-enter details I had put into I changed nothing, the details were the same, and at the end got this:

Yep - the quote had suddenly gone from £238.35 to £428.21. A hardly noticable 80% increase.

My first reaction was to phone them up demand an explanation. But I had a meeting to go to. And I calmed down a little. So I did what all consumers should do when faced with an issue like this. I took my business elsewhere - it was only slightly more than the original £238.35 anyway.

Sadly, for most businesses this could be [is?] happening every day. I have to suspect they don't care, because they do little about it. The web logs at should raise the issue because I abandoned the 'purchase' right at the end of the process - I wonder if they will follow it up? Similarly, should care - they are losing both income [from click-through commission] and brand value.

If either are switched on companies they will be running some kind of reputation management software that picks up their name in blogs - in which case I'll let you know if they get in touch with me after reading this.

Error - human or technical - or deliberate bait and switch strategy? I do not know. Was the error with or I do not know. As a consumer, I do not care about either. I am now the satisfied customer at another insurer, accessed through a different comparison site. Ho hum.