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Get a phone number – Yellow Pages vs Google

Remember the Yellow Pages – it was this thick book with yellow pages that you used to find businesses and get their phone number. It wasn’t a stand for your computer monitor.

In the drive (perhaps to prove they still provide value) to show customers that people do look at their Yellow Pages entries you don’t get to see the phone numbers in the listings. Yes, the Yellow Pages hides phone numbers now.

Yellow Pages listing with phone number hidden behind a link that says TelephoneYou have to click on “Telephone” for the number to appear.

Yellow Pages listing after clicking Telephone link displays the numberWhy do they do this?

They can count the number of clicks and let the business know how many times people have wanted to see their phone number – with the assumption that they probably called – number of clicks = calls the listing generated. This extra click, this little annoyance is not there to serve the customer it’s there for the Yellow Pages as a sales tool.

Compare with looking for accountants using Google.

Google search result for a business registered with Google Places shows phone numberProvided the businesses are registered with Google Places, the phone number is shown in results.

Who would have thought? Phone numbers visible in Google (a web search engine) but not in the Yellow Pages (a book and online phone directory). But the moral is – first serve your customer and then figure out how to measure.

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JAFA-centred design?

I have been researching garden centre websites to see what they do well, badly and the kinds of approaches that are taken. The first one I checked didn’t have its opening hours anywhere so I though I’d check out a bigger chain expecting that they would get it right.

Here’s their Store Locator page – a classic, especially if you live south of the Bombays or north of the Brynderwyns. An example perhaps not so much of customer-centred design but JAFA-centred design?

Store Directory - all Auckland stores listed first then all the rest

Why are Rotorua and Taupo in grey rather than black? No apparent reason. And, at Palmers L comes before K in the alphabet.

Let’s say you were looking to see if there is a Palmers in Wellington – if you zoom down the left hand side of the list no Wellington there so you might persist and zoom down the right hand side and bingo you see Wellington – but it’s Plimmerton, too far out from central Wellington so might easily conclude no Palmers in Wellington Central. Astute readers will have seen “Miramar” and know that’s in Wellington – except that when someone’s quickly scanning for Wellington they might easily miss Miramar and if they’re not familiar with Wellington (newly moved there) they may not know Miramar is in Wellington. Yes, these are picky little details but they make the difference between really serving the customer and not.

What’s the point? If you have a business that requires people to go to a physical location then it’s critical that your website unerringly gets them there – or lose them to the competition.

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Gaming Google – that’s short-term thinking

One of the key factors in the Google search algorithm (or this facetious explanation) is the number and quality of backlinks (links that go to your site).

Recently, an online eyeglasses store, DecorMyEyes, came up with a novel way of getting lots of backlinks – provide incredibly bad service to get customers writing comments all over online forums, blogs etc with links to the DecorMyEyes website. It worked a treat and their Google search results improved markedly.

Predictably, Google found out, were embarrassed and have since changed their algorithm to not reward links from unfavourable comment.

End result: DecorMyEyes loses pagerank and a bunch of customers and negative feedback all over the web. Effective search engine optimisation is a long-term process – dodgy short-term tricks can work for a while but will get hammered in the long run.

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The “go fetch” website model

Thanks to rharrison Flickr

This has been a dominant content model on the web for long time now. Simply, we put up all the content and you go fetch the bits you need.

Of course, it’s done in a rigorous manner with taxonomies and card sorts and other techniques to make it easier to fetch but the underlying philosophy is the same – “we’ve given you all the content and ordered it logically, what more could you want?”

The problem is that it’s content thinking not customer thinking. When the site visitor arrives they have to do all the work – figure out the navigation terms and find the pieces they are interested in – that may or may not be linked together.

Public sector websites are particularly prone to this model – because they have so much wonderful and important content that we are just dying to fetch.  A great excuse, of course, is that it’s a “statutory obligation” to provide everything they can .

You might think that private sector sites don’t deliver the “go fetch” model but no – “if we just provide as much information as possible about our products and services and who we are they’ll have all the information they need to engage us or buy our stuff”.

But – website visitors don’t give a toss about your wonderful content – they just want their question/s answered or to get their tasks completed.

Don’t start from the content – start from the customer and then they will engage with you and they will be way more likely to buy your stuff.

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It’s what the customer searches for that matters

Lou Truyens has a clever business, Mobile Onsite Shredding. He has a large truck that contains a powerful shredding machine. He takes it to the customer’s site and shreds the material then and there and the customer can watch the whole process if desired. Customers can see their sensitive material destroyed – safe and secure. The following video, from Lou’s website, shows it all.

A few weeks ago, Lou had a sudden realisation. He could always find his site on Google when he put in “mobile onsite shredding” – in fact, he was #1. But, on this day he realised that’s not what his customers or prospects put into Google when looking for his services. They searched for “document destruction” or “document destruction wellington” and not only was Lou’s website not on the first page, it wasn’t on any of the first ten pages – effectively invisible when people looked for Lou’s services.

We search engine optimised Lou’s site for the search phrase “document destruction wellington” and after a few weeks it’s appeared on the first page in Google – and it’ll go up further yet.

It’s what the customer is looking for that matters – ensure your site can be found on those terms not just your business name.

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Starting from the right place

There is an old Irish joke that goes something like this,

A tourist was travelling in the Irish countryside and got a wee bit lost. He asked a local for directions to Galway. The local fixed him with a stare and thought for a bit before replying “Now if you’re wanting to go to Galway I wouldn’t be starting from here.”

We might laugh and shrug it off thinking it doesn’t really matter where you start from as it’s the destination that matters. However, when it comes to building a website, a software application, a product, a newsletter or any communication it works best to start with the customer.

Customers aren’t interested in you, your business, your organisation, your products or services. They are interested in themselves. Fulfill their need or be ignored.

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