Saturday, March 31, 2007

not-so-smart practice

I was looking for a cycle rack for my wife's Smart car - so used a search engine to see if any were available online. One site that was near the top of the returns was However, I could find no reference to Smart within the site - even the search facility returned pages for 'generic' cycle racks rather than one for the Smart. Now at this point your run-of-the-mill user would have probably [certainly?] have gone back to the search results and clicked onto other pages. But given what I do for a living I looked into this a bit closer. One thing that I thought odd was that the 'home' page was returned by the search engine, so I looked for 'smart car cycle rack' in the source code. The meta tags 'keywords' listed nearly 200 terms [in itself, not a good piece of search engine optimization] - but not Smart. So I did an ctrl+f search on the page - and low and behold, there is was in some text. But why didn't I see it on the page? The answer was that there was a whole load of 'hidden' text - that is, white text on a white background - which simply shows in the user's browser as a blank page. See picture below to see how the text shows up only when hi-lighted.

Now this is poor web design in that there is a lot of blank space at the bottom of the page. It is also generally recognized to be poor search engine optimization as the search engines [should] penalize the practice. And yet it seems to have worked in this case? Ho hum.

Oh and while I'm at it ... each carbox page features an ad for the web site's developer - internetagency - something I would never allow a developer to do [unless they gave me the site for nothing]. In this case, of course, it simply identifies the folk guilty of poor web design practice.

Friday, March 30, 2007

oh-dear-it's-KLM-again bad practice

In my email in-box today - this email from KLM. It sure makes a tempting offer - for whatever it is that's on offer. And isn't it aesthetically pleasing? [as Homer * would say - "hello: sarcasm"].

Oh and by the way, the URL which goes off the page [as indicated by my red arrow] is actually 180 characters long. Snappy huh?

* Simpson, not the Greek philosopher.

Monday, March 26, 2007

close-to-home bad practice

Today, the publishers of my book [Key Concepts in e-Commerce] sent an email to all lecturers on their mailing list informing them of the new text [good practice].

Sadly, the message included a link to the book's web page - which, when clicked on, returned a 'page cannot be found' message.

Harrumph - hope it doesn't cost me sales, I have an expensive wife and large mortgage to support.

Footnote : it was sorted out inside a couple of hours.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

badly-dated practice

My wife was considering a new hairstyle, and a search on Google led her to part of the web site. she followed the link shown on the right for 'new hairstyles' - which returned a page with the following headline.

Out of date content [or was it just the headline?] is bad enough on any web site - but on a site that is about fashion?

bait-and-switch practice

'Escape for Easter with Opodo from £75' said the email's subject line. So I clicked on the link to the landing page and had a scan. My wife keeps saying she wants to go back to New York, so I clicked on the 'from £482' listing.

Now I do know that the 'from ...' holidays are always flying at strange times on unpopular days and the hotels are a bit iffy and no where near the city centre ... but on the resulting page the cheapest deal was £667.40.

File this one under (a) bad practice, (b) very poor marketing [am I likely to bother even opening future Opodo emails?] and, (c) borderline illeg
al practice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

foot-shooting practice II - the sequel

The newsletter featured in the previous entry was fowarded to me, and I signed myself up for it. Sadly the use-us-we-are-the-experts foot-shooting continued with the confirmation email. This is how it appeared in my email in-box.

Just in case you weren't aware - the two most important elements of an email that help convince the receiver that the email is not spam are (a) the subject, and (b) the sender. There is no subject and the sender - - is unkown to me. It actually looks more like spam than spam does.

foot-shooting practice

This was part of a newsletter that was promoting 'e' consultancy services. I wonder if one session was on browser compatibility / email rendering? Oh, and if I want to be picky, it is common practice to leave a space between the month and the year.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

bad in-so-many-ways practice

My wife read an article in the Sunday Times 'Lifestyle' magazine that mentioned the Prada mobile phone. Deciding she wanted one [I said 'wanted', not 'could afford'] she put 'prada phone' into Google - where the predictive text added 'by lg'. Top of the sponsored listings was an ad for 02.
Clicking on this took her to an 'LG' page on the site - but there was no sign of the 'Prada' phone.

So she used the search facility on that page, which returned this page:

Thinking that the 'LG L343i' might be the Prada phone, she clicked the 'more details' link - and got the following page:

I wonder how many genuine customers might have been willing to sign up for the £35 per month offer in the sponsored ad - but ended up giving that money to a different company? And remember, this is a very competitive industry. Take (a) foot. Take (b) gun. Shoot (a) with (b).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

better practice

On my blog of Feb 20th I criticised KLM for sending me emails with details of discounted flights from London. Well, in a similar email received today, I noticed a small message asking if I wanted to "change local airport". Has this always been there? Not sure - I think I would have seen it before had it been there, though it is pretty small [see below]. And I am a 'Flying Blue' member - shouldn't it part of my email permission sign-up details. Whatever, I've changed my local airport - I'll let you know if it makes any difference. Watch this space.

Monday, March 12, 2007

more-thought-required practice

Today I signed up for a ‘free’ white paper from one of the many sites that have them on offer.

Downloading these papers is a common experience for me – many are featured on my web site. This practice - sometimes called ‘white paper marketing’ – is used primarily as a lead generator in that anyone wanting the paper will normally have to complete a form – so giving the company some information about yourself.

And here’s the thing. I have yet to come across one that acknowledges that I am unlikely to ever be a customer because I am an academic [or I could be a student] doing research on the subject area of the paper. So when they ask for the industry I work in and what I do, why not include academic / student / researcher in the list? In their metrics I will be showing up as a potential lead, which I am not. And they are not recording how many lecturers are downloading the material – and passing them on to students. [therefore one download might = many views].

Postscript May 9th - I like WebTrends, I've downloaded [and distributed] lots of their stuff. So when, today, I received an email inviting me to watch a complimentary 15 minute webcast on paid-search marketing I clicked on the link. Oh dear, mistake. Some minutes later when I had finished completing all my personal details - name, department, job role, inside leg measurement ... - I clicked on the 'continue' button - and another page. This time wanting more details about the organization.

Harumph. Hey guys and gals, I have no authority to buy in your services. I'm a lecturer. I'm just trying to keep up with my subject - and not only could I not be bothered to complete the next page of details - I didn't even know the answers to some of the questions.

And no, I didn't get to hear your comp web cast.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

good-practice-spoiled-by-sloppy practice

After I entered the competition [see below] I was presented with a ‘close’ screen that invited me to follow a link to read about the destination of the competition prize. No problem with that – good marketing practice. If the techies had entered the destination URL properly it would have been even better.

optimistic practice

Today I entered a competition on As is the norm on these things [the trade off for the entry is that I hand over some details about myself] they asked for my age – and the drop down menu was as shown.

I wonder if Lastminute do travel insurance for one hundred and seven year olds?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

bad practice [no, make that very bad practice] - Travelocity

While having a cup of tea, I thought I'd check to see if there were any cheap holidays available when my wife is off work in July [us lecturers, we're always off]. As an email had just come in from Travelocity, I thought I'd give them a chance to take my money. So I completed their 'seach' form, as shown below:

And the top of the returns was this:

1 For those of you who don't know [which obviously includes everyone at Travelocity] Gatwick is SOUTH of LONDON - it is NOT in the North East or Yorkshire.

2 Wednesday
2nd of May is not within three days of the 6th of July.

Did Travelocity think that I would change the dates and place of departure of my holidays to snap up this bargain? Frankly, I do not know what they are thinking. One thing is for sure, that was the end of my search for a holiday in that site. Probably forever. To Travelocity's marketers - how much did you spend on various forms of promotion to get me to your search form? Whatever the cost - IT WAS WASTED

A very poor example of bait and switch ?