Thursday, May 01, 2008

Trouble Right Here in River City

The new Ruidoso Visitor's Guide was just released. It's a well-intended guide to the Ruidoso scene for the visitor and tourist. However it pays a great disservice to some of the local merchants listed in the guide. Lets look at why.

This is all about websites and internet marketing. First of all there are two basic kinds of websites. The first is the vanity website. This is some type of presence on the web where the only people that ever run across it are the ones you tell. It doesn't show up well, if at all in any of the search engines. It exists just for the sole purpose of being able to say "Of course we're on the web"!

The second type is a working website that does show up in the search engines and brings new traffic and sales to your business on a daily basis. It can result in thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of new business annually, and can easily eclipse the input from print media, yellow pages and outdoor signage in importance to a businesses' development. If you fall into this category, or ever hope to be in it, listen up.

As a public service, the Ruidoso Visitor's Guide publishes a "Lodgers Guide" at the back of the book. This is a free service to the lodging community sponsored in part by the publisher, Canyon Productions who sells ad space in the guide and the villages "advertising agency" TKO Marketing who receives part of it's funding from the Ruidoso Lodgers Tax Committee. That being said how could a free listing possibly be bad? If you have a working website it could easily be a nightmare, costing you hundreds...if not thousands of dollars.

The guide publishers have chosen to truncate or eliminate the "www" in the listing to your website. No problem, right? If I type:
the same page show up. It's the same thing, right? It is to you or any of your website visitors. If you have a vanity website it means nothing to you. But if yours is a vital ecommerce working website this could cost you a lot of money.

Unfortunately the above example is not seen by the search engines quite the same way as a human might. The search engines see two different websites, each with their own set of links and traffic. Part of the equation for a working website is to accumulate links and traffic to be ranked higher by the search engines because...they like that kind of thing and reward you with a higher position in search engine results.

This is a slight over simplification, but let's say that a bunch of people access your website as: All the work you've spent seeing your rise to the top of the search engines through link and traffic building could be cut in half and your site starts to plummet to the bottom of the pile on the search engines. And that's the best case scenario. The search engines deplore duplicate content. While it would be rare, they could ban both sites from the search engines. Again rare, but I've seen it happen.

What most probably would happen is the search engines would arbitrarily eliminate one of the the sites from their listings. Would it be the site most important to you, with all the links and associated traffic? It may or it may be the lesser used entry. There's no way of knowing. You're at their mercy and once they decide it's very hard to change their minds. The point is this, why put yourself in this situation to begin with? For a "free" ad that may cost you more money than you make from it? For this year, you're on your own. But at the end of the year, when you're asked to make changes to your ad copy make sure whatever standard you've selected is the one that shows up in print.

I explored this point last year with Brad Treptow, then with the Chamber of Commerce who had volunteered to proof read the current book prior to publication. I also spoke with Joaquin Falcone of TKO advertising who pledged to be diligent in "...making the guide bullet-proof". Both understood the concerns as I've explained them above. While Brad is no longer with the chamber, Mr. Falcone has failed to provide the diligence he promised in showing the slightest concern for one of his clients...the Village of Ruidoso.

Wouldn't it be nice if all these entities had some guidance?

Incidentally, as of this date the featured prodominantly throughout the guide is a page parked with godaddy. My kinda town!