design & marketing blog
Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.
Really!?! “SEO Expert” Spam
This blog post was inspired by Saturday Night Live’s, Really!?! with Seth and Amy.
We receive inquiries on a regular basis asking about unsolicited emails received from self-proclaimed SEO experts. This topic has come up in previous blog posts of ours over the years but since you may not be a devoted fan of our blog let me just cut the suspense and fill you in about these types of emails—they’re complete scams; if you receive one promptly delete and add the sender to your blocked sender list.
Take this real example of an email received by an unsuspecting small business:
A quick look at your website’s home page [a community bank] reveals the need for optimization for better rankings. Your website has a total link popularity score of 505, which is low, and is poor on Google and Bing/MSN and weak on Yahoo. In comparison, Wells Fargo has a popularity score of 672,016 and Bank of America, 1,004,188 . . . Please reply to this email or call me to set up a meeting to learn more and MSI will provide a free website analysis, a $300 value.
Really!?! Does this email really have any logic or legitimacy to it or are these guys just one of the many scammer predators prowling the Internet? Consider the following:
- Comparing a small community bank with two branches to some of the largest banks in the world? Really!?!
- “Popularity score of 505” . . . really!?! Given the your logic as demonstrated above why should we give any credibility to a “popularity score” that you made up? Why wouldn’t we want to use the free and reliable Page Rank score provided by Google? Really!?!
- “Free website analysis, a $300 value,” Really!?! Is that the same exact free website analysis that anyone can get by simply typing in “site:http://mydomain.com” in Google or using any of the free (and legitimate) Website tools provided by Google?
- And the biggest Really!?! of all . . . if you’re company is so darn good as SEO why are you looking for sales using the most desperate and bottom-feeder method of all, Spam! Really!?!
To my recollection, I’ve never made mention on this blog of a specific Website as an example of being truly great. While no one has elected me as the design judge of the Internet, nor will any great people likely take notice of this post, I am compelled to call out a Website that I’ve been captivated by for some time and that serves as a great example of the principles that we here at RisingLine advocate every day.
No, it’s not RisingLine.com (although I have to admit I think quite highly of that design), and before I continue I should disclose that I have absolutely no ulterior motive in praising the site I’m about to mention . . . no referral fees, or kickbacks of any kind.
So enough with the rambling, MediaTemple.net is the site to which I am directing my compliments. The first thing a visitor to their site will notice is that graphic design is extremely powerful but not overpowering. . . minimalist, detail oriented, clean, modern, just plain classy. It does what a graphic design is supposed to—provide a professional backdrop to the content of the site which beams credibility without distracting from the message.
I have to assume by the continued proliferation of shabbily designed sites on the Web that many don’t realize just how important design is. As we like mention, over and over, research has shown that a shockingly high percentage of people make a judgment call about the credibility of a company within seconds of visiting a Website based primarily on the graphic design (see the Stanford Web Credibility Research site for more insight on this topic). While my high school history teacher did not find it amusing when I offered to turn in a picture instead of the assigned 1,000 word essay, it really is true that a picture (or for our purposes a design) is worth a 1,000 words of credibility, and all that communicated in the blink of an eye.
A very common misconception is that an effective design is one that has a lot of swirls, colors, moving things and flashy graphics. While those types of sites might be appropriate in some instances (although I can’t think of any of the top of my head) professional Websites have a demanding purpose to concisely communicate value propositions and persuade their prospects to buy. Much Web design we see out there does more to distract from those goals than reach them. Media Temple offers us a great example of a well refined goal-oriented design that delivers their message with just a touch of panache.
Even the best graphic design is of no real use without concise messaging, clear communication flow and easy to understand navigation. These disciplines are collectively known as usability and are achieved exceptionally well by Media Temple. What’s even more impressive in this accomplishment is that the unique value of Media Temple’s hosting solutions are considerably more challenging to communicate than their competitors because they really are unique. Media Temple provides virtualized hosting accounts that are spread across a grid of resources as compared to the typical shared hosting company that sticks customers on a server in their farm to fight with the other squatters for finite resources. Based on my experience using their product, Media Temple’s solutions live up to the grand impression they make on their Website.
While I’m not going to get into the details, the usability of their client-side administration panel and knowledge base impresses me even more than their front end. I recently spent some time in Media Temple’s Grid-Service environment testing the CMS platform we develop on (coincidentally their hosting platform provided the most consistent high performance of any of the many shared hosting environments we’ve tested in) and I had a hard time tearing myself away from their administration panel when our project was complete.
Hats off to Media Temple for their great achievement and many kudos for providing us all a great example of what the Web should look like.
Graphic design is the first thing that many Web site owners and managers think about when they seek out the services of a Web developer. There is no denying that the graphic design element of a Web site is important, in fact research shows that design has an immense and immediate effect on your visitors. Within moments, about 1/2 of those visitors will make a judgment on the credibility of your company based solely on the quality of your graphic design. So design is immensely important, just like a foundation is important for a building. The foundation must be solid and it must come first but without the building on top it acheives little.
Without design being part of a holistic strategic approach to communication, it becomes impotent. A site with no design will trump the most artistically original site if the former has quality content and offers intuitive and easy to use solutions to its target visitors needs. The classic example is the most visited and arguably most successful Web site in the world: Google.
Web sites are a lot like people, their success is ultimately based on the value they contain, not their outward appearance. This is vital to understand so that design is put into its proper place. Web design is still important, it just has to be the dressing for content of real value.
Google is like one of those geniuses who are so recognizable and brilliant that they can get away with wearing an old t-shirt and jeans to deliver a key-note speech. It’s fair to say the brilliance of most of us is not as common knowledge.
Web design is the same, once the foundation of quality content is present, professional and usable design is an excellent catalyst to facilitate communicating the value of your site. In my next post I’ll get into some specifics about our philosophy and methods for designing Web sites that are modern, appealing and clearly communicate the values of your organization.