Google Rank and website basics: a practical example

Photograph of Dunlop Volley tennis show (black)

The shoe in the photograph is the Dunlop Volley Classic tennis shoe. A black one. If you’ve met me in the flesh, you may have noticed that it’s my default footwear. Comfortable. Practical. Cheap.

Thing is, the Volley website, which I’ll talk about shortly, exhibits everything but those attributes. Fail.

I don’t play tennis, or any sport for that matter. The thing about the Volley Classic, though, is that its rubber sole offers a firm grip on all sorts of surfaces. Even in the wet. Indeed, I’m told that people in certain SEKRIT professions like them because they’re perfect for scurrying across rooftops on dark, rainy nights.

And they’re black.

If you use a black felt-tip marker, you can colour in that white flash at the rear of the shoe so it’s completely black, and at night you’re totally invisible just like a ninja.

From the ankles down.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because this morning I bought a replacement pair of these truly awesome shoes. I’m sick of my chiropractor giving me grief about the holes in my current pair. Yesterday my usual supplier was out of stock, at least in size 11. But just now I bought new shoes — before 9am on a Sunday — without even getting out of bed.

It’s a lesson in the importance of making sure your website is properly indexed on Google, and that you concentrate on what really helps make a sale.

The thing is, these are simple lessons which need to be repeated over and over again — because so many “web designers” just don’t get it.

I typed “black dunlop volley sydney” into Google. I clicked on the first link in the search results because it looked Australian. It was a page at a shopping aggregator site. It had a photo of the shoe and I went “Yes, that’s what I want to buy.” It linked to a shop which looked trustworthy because they listed their physical address and had clear policies. The price was cheaper than my usual supplier, so I bought a pair right then.

Elapsed time: 45 seconds.

Actually, it was longer than that, because I got out of bed to tell ’Pong how awesome the Internet was and he told me to fuck off because he was running late for his video shoot but that’s not the point. This is my story and the truth is irrelevant.

The point is that I relied totally on Google to send me somewhere useful. And because Google delivered, I didn’t spend a single second looking any further.

The point is also that I trusted The Tennis Shop not because their website has fancy graphics — it doesn’t — but because they told me who they were and how they do business.

Every dollar spent on making sure those basics are right helps sell product.

Every dollar spent on graphics, animations and other distractions is a dollar wasted. Indeed, if the fancy crap slows down the process of me being able to buy something, you’re actually spending money to reduce your sales.

And with this in mind, something needs to be said…

Dunlop? Your website for Volleys is fucked. Please take your agency out the back, shoot them all twice in the head, and dump them in a river.

I wanted to link directly to a page explaining the Volley Classic. You know, show the folks a few pictures, tell ’em a bit of history. Instead, there’s some tiny little drop-down menu where I select “shoes”, and then you piss me around with some lame-arsed Flash menu where I have to pick my “environment” (huh?) and leg type (double huh?) without you even telling me the name of the shoes!

And how the fuck am I meant to link to anything when everything has one URL, What use is that?

And, to top it off, you fucking well play country music at me at 9.30 on a Sunday morning! Did I fucking well ask for country music? I want to look at your shoes!

What sort of morons are you? Are you deliberately trying to drive me away from your website? Because that’s what you achieved! I will never be back.

35 Replies to “Google Rank and website basics: a practical example”

  1. Another pointless immature rant by a consultant trying to drum up some work.

    Top marks to you sir, will be search/replacing some social media powerpoints for them in no time!

  2. @Joseph: By all means call my commentary “immature”, that’s your prerogative as a drive-by flamer — though it contributes little to the discussion, playing the man and not the ball.

    But no, this isn’t an attempt to drum up work. I have plenty to get on with, and in any event I don’t do “social media PowerPoints” — as even a cursory look at this website would reveal.

    [Update: I also see you didn’t leave a real email address. Seems… spineless. However you’re more than welcome to discuss the actual issues we’re talking about.]

  3. My point, a bit too briefly made perhaps, is that you bought the shoes because of their known value to you — is not that the brand? Isn’t the job of marketing to reinforce that value relationship? An agency should be used to reinforce that message.

    My favourite bit of theory, partly because of the pseudo-gravitas of the phrase is, cognitive dissonance. You can’t get away with calling a sow’s ear a silk purse. I guess, putting words in your mouth, that you were annoyed that the silk purse was being marketed like a pig’s ear online.

  4. I thought I’d check them out, but all I found was this: is being updated and is offline temporarily. Please come back soon!

    Uh, no. I won’t. Sorry.

    “Please come back soon” works for some companies. Apple, for example, seems to have trained its customers to desperately want to know what they’re about to release. When Apple takes its store down, their countless fan blog authors hit “Refresh” once a second for as long as required to be first to brag they’ve seen it and report on what changed. I don’t think the downtime hurts Apple that much.

    I don’t think an online shoe shop commands the same kind of reaction when it takes its store down. People just go elsewhere. Hence, the multitude of well-established techniques for updating web sites without having to hide under an “Under Construction” sign for an hour.

  5. @madcom: I get what you’re saying. Maybe it’s a left-brain right-brain thing. When I look at the shoe’s value to me, it’s about practicalities like comfort, price and durability. When I talk about brands, personally I think of that as my emotional response and how associating myself with that brand as a tribal marker enhances my self-esteem, or whatever.

    But is left-brain practical value also “the brand”? I guess after a series of good experiences with a specific product, I’ll be more likely to trust the brand, and would consider them if they also offered a product in a different category. “Well, their shoes were good, so I’ll give their t-shirts a go.”

    In that sense, then, it is indeed impossible to separate the product from the brand. The association will have been made in my brain — and our brains to jumble up all those responses.

    I like the “cognitive dissonance” angle. And yes, that was precisely how I started my piece:

    [T]he Dunlop Volley Classic tennis shoe… Comfortable. Practical. Cheap… Thing is, the Volley website… exhibits everything but those attributes. Fail.

    I do like how discussions in blog comments help clarify understanding. Unlike drive-by flamers…

    @Garth Roxburgh-Kidd: The other problem with that message is the “soon”. Is that “soon” as in minutes, hours or days? You’re right, there are other shops open if that one’s unclear about when it’ll be back.

  6. @ Garth & Stil: We had to redeploy the whole site as changes were made across multiple platforms to fix an error.

    As we don’t know the time frame for the site to be down, any other suggestions as to what the holding page should show?

    At any rate, we’re up and running again now for those interested.

  7. @Kate Richardson: I don’t care all that much. They were really just an example to make a point about website design. However the conversation has taken on a life of its own, I’m enjoying it, so it continues.

    On reflection, it’s not so much that I love Dunlop Volleys but that I dread the thought of having to shop around for something else should they not be available.

  8. @Kate: Personally, I think the trick is just to be as transparent as possible, revealing specifically what you know and using concrete nouns. What kind of “update” and what kind of “soon”.

    You had the core of it in your comment: “Redeploy the whole site as changes were made across multiple platforms to fix an error”. Just translate that out of corporate-speak like “redeploy” and “multiple systems” into the language of your target audience. And say where the information is coming from.

    Compare: is being updated and is offline temporarily. Please come back soon!


    9am Monday: Something went wrong overnight and broke computer systems all through our business. Shopping carts are going “missing”. We’ve taken offline until we’re sure it’s fixed properly. We don’t know exactly how long for yet, but the web developers looked worried. They said they’d have a better idea in a hour or two — so maybe check back this afternoon.

    and then:

    10.15am Monday: Aha! Our web developers have found the problem. An automatic software update went wrong, so now they’re fixing it manually. They reckon we’ll have back online before midday Melbourne time.

    If something’s broken, say it’s broken and say what you’re doing to fix it. None of these vague weasel-words like “issue” and “difficulty” and “update”. Use the same language you’d use to a friend who wasn’t in you business.

    Lawyers hate this language, because it’s being specific and to them it sounds like you’re making a commitment. Indeed, corporations generally seem to find it hard to use concrete language. But that’s what builds trust: facts, and a recognisably human tone of voice from a recognisable human.

    This is the kind of thing I covered in The Importance of Authenticity, the whole “being human” thing. But I’ll stop there, otherwise Joseph will complain about something. 😉

  9. Thanks for the feedback and suggestions, we’ll speak to the developers and try to get a more interactive holding page up that allows us to make changes on the fly…

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