Big and bold but still lost on the Web

Your article “The battle to be the sexiest site starts here” (e-volve, MW August 31) spurs me to say I have great doubts about some of the drivel that is being said about websites and the Internet. Many companies rightly expect to increase sales by having a website. Yet the most brilliant, all-singing, all-dancing site in the world is useless if no-one can find it.

True, there is a place (and a big one) for sites like Disney, Big Brother and so on, but many companies are being persuaded to go down the line of big, pretty websites that are never listed on the major search engines and they are missing out.

After all the press and hype about the Internet (and Virgin now having the nerve to design websites), why is it that if you enter “flight tickets to America” or “buy air tickets online” in one of the major search engines, you don’t find www.virgin-atlantic.com?

Many companies develop Internet strategies, some of which cost millions of pounds, yet substantial search engine listings would cost a tiny percentage of their budget and bring huge benefits. Have they not heard of return on investment?

Another term I often come across is “our Internet strategy”. But wake up – you cannot tell people how to use the Internet; it is free and unregulated. Companies must study the way it works and the way their prospects use it, before developing a strategy.

This brings to mind that well-known scallop fisherman Ivenot Gotaclue. Ivenot, realising drag nets were costly when they kept getting ripped and the cost of fuel was continually rising, decided that if he sewed a really nice looking net and painted his boat pink, it would persuade the obliging scallops to swim into it.

Substantial listings on the major search engines will bring significant business for certain sectors, but the majority of so-called designers who develop websites have little or no perception of how the search engines work. Equally, the companies which retain them fail to ask for evidence of their knowledge. Perhaps such designers think they understand the search engines, but I suspect the subject is never considered as they get so comfortable with their own power and self-gratifying, home-grown knowledge (and have the gift of the gab).

By way of comparison, we have found that through substantial search engine listings some hotels whose websites we promote get as much as 40 per cent of their bookings from the Internet. Yes, 40 percent!

There are companies out there, weighed down with bureaucracy, often with Internet departments protecting their own backs. These companies have clear strategies that take them … wait for it … clearly in the wrong direction.

Alan Eager

Commercial director

WOH

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