Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When Governments Go Wrong

What's £300,000 between friends? I suppose when it comes to government spending it's bugger all, especially on the IOM. That's the amount the DTI are willing to spend of our money on providing local retailers with a web presence. They've gone with an off-island supplier so in a creative double whammy not only are they chucking 300 grand of tax payers money off island but are also taking away business from the local website designers at a time when they need the business most. I'm not a website designer by the way, I don't do clients - well except the very privileged :)

What really really fucks me off about this more than anything else though is who made the decision to go with Venda? What qualifications do they have to justify making an educated decision on an ecommerce supplier? I'm going to talk about 1 aspect, the 1 I know best, SEO. Search Engine Optimisation, the Venda product has been sold to the IOM Government I'm guessing on the basis that is will provide excellent search engine visibility to the local retailers. My entire living is based on search engine traffic, if my websites don't get traffic then I don't make a penny. The mortgage doesn't get paid, food doesn't get bought etc etc It's an ass twitching industry. I guess that makes me qualified to at least have an opinion?

My opinion on Venda for SEO, it's shit. The first alarm bell is something that takes 5 seconds to figure out. Do a Google search for "ecommerce solution" (their primary keyword target) how far do you have to go down the results until you find Venda? I gave up at page 7. IF they can't rank their own website then they sure as hell can't guarantee great search exposure for the retailers. Maybe I'm wrong though? The next thing to do is to have a look at their existing clients - I'll pick 2 at random, Superdrug and Arsenal Football Club.

This is really basic stuff for anybody sourcing a website supplier, lets have a look at the source for the web pages created by Venda for these big name clients. I know that 85% of search ranking will be dependent on the link profile of the websites but if the on-the-page stuff isn't correct then no amount of links will compensate. Any CMS needs to create search friendly HTML in order to stand a chance. The search engines will punish or even at worse ignore shit. Venda was sold on the basis that it does SEO, let's see?

From extra white space characters in the title tag (enough to break some search robots), descriptions that are far too long, or too short, missing keyword values, duplicate keyword/description values. URL's that don't include the product name, instead using a product ID to the single biggest sin in on-the-page SEO - using the same description across the entire site. If you're not going to create a unique description for each page then don't include one at all! I've spent 5 minutes looking at this across their clients sites and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, they are dishing out some of the most search unfriendly websites that I've seen from any CMS. And we're going to give them £300,000 for this?! If their clients rank it's only because of their branding and the natural links that it attracts. Manx retailers will not enjoy that branding power.

If they've bullshitted on 1 aspect of their sales pitch then what about the others? They may be big, they may be well known, they are also very over priced for what they do and just love public sector money. Local retailers are going to sign up for this (subsidised by you and me) and expect to find their products online through the search engines, it's not going to happen. Don't believe me? Do a Google search for Arsenal shirt (that's gotta be the most popular term in terms of traffic for the Arsenal store?) and see where the official Arsenal store powered by Venda appears?

In 6 months time it's going to be another 300 grand down the drain and nobody ever mentions it ever again. So who made the decision, and how were they qualified to make it? More importantly why didn't they ask me, I would have at least gave them an idea of what they should be looking for, for free.


Sherrilynne Starkie said...

Just found your blog for the very first time. Keep up the hard work, it's great.

PaulB said...
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