Guess what? This post has nothing to do with linking. So if the idea that LinksManager is pontificating about something other than links makes you a bit queasy, you might want to quit right now.
For the rest of you, the topic for today is websites. Big Fortune 1000 websites and small business websites, like yours and ours.
– Visit http://www.sony.com/index.php and you’ll find no hint that Sony manufacturers a full line of consumer/business/professional audio and video capture, editing and processing software. Products such as Sony Sound Forge, Sony Acid, Sony Vegas and Sony DVD Architect are fully the equal of — and in some cases better than — competitors like Abobe Premiere Pro, yet they don’t even appear as a footnote on Sony’s U.S. home page.
– Not to be outdone by its arch rival, Panasonic chooses to host information on its 128- and 256-line corporate PBX phone systems on its consumer electronics website ( http://www2.panasonic.com/consumer-electronics/shop/Business-Phone-Systems/IP-Business-Phone-Systems-(max-256-lines).list.75075_11002_7000000000000005702) where end users are offered a dead shopping cart link and a huge “Learn About It” button that links to the home electronics site’s index page.
– And then there’s Microsoft.com, which contains enough wholly irrelevant content and overall confusion to fill this post — and five or six thick books — all by itself. We’ll limit ourselves to one example, an attempt to download Windows Media Player 11.
First step was the usual error message telling us we couldn’t download from http://update.microsoft.com via Firefox and would have to either go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/default.aspx or use Internet Explorer.
Opting to be brave, we fired up the 64-bit version of IE 8 and eventually (after a great deal of effort) found the Media Player 11 download page. Clicking on “download now” we were directed to a page informing us that since we were running Windows NT 4 we would only be allowed to download Media Player 6.4.
Clearly, since we were actually running XP 64 Professional, we had some kind of failure to communicate. Undaunted, we decided to press on and see what would happen if we downloaded MP 6.4. For all we knew, it might just install and immediately offer us an upgrade to the latest version, MP 11.
But, alas no. It wouldn’t install. Because, because according to the official Microsoft Update website, our Windows XP computer, which had — according to said official MS Update website — been running Windows NT 4.0 prior to downloading Media Player, had mysteriously shifted to running Windows 2000 after downloading it and Microsoft didn’t offer — according to the update website — a Media Player version for Windows 2000. (This, further research determined, was also total nonsense … Media Player for Windows 2000 has been available for more than six years.)
– You, Steve Jobs! Stop looking so smug. We also visited http://www.apple.com/support/ and searched for “iTunes portable player compatibility.” The first ten returns contained four documents about Xgrid Admin 10.5 (whatever that is), two about Image System Utility, one each about iPhones, Main Stage, OS X and Server Monitor 1.5.5 and not a one explaining that iTunes officially supports only the iPod among current portable players.
– And, finally, the ever wondrous Costco.com, a top contender in every “Worst Website” contest on record, gives you a page of electric barbecues when you search for “electric drill.” (Never to be outdone, Walmart.com returns hundreds of responses for “electric drill”. The first 48 of them — all we looked at — offered everything from salad shooters to bicycles but no drills a’tall.)
What’s going on here and at most of the other big-buck, full-time multi-webmaster-staffed super sites that leave so many end users babbling to themselves in frustration? If you ran your site so cavalierly you’d soon be out business, right?
One answer is that none of the top executives of Fortune 1000 enterprises — and very few of the middle managers directly below them — ever visit their websites. Which means the people actually tasked with working on those sites know they won’t be held to anything resembling a high standard of accountability.
Another common answer is that top and junior executives do look at their websites, but only at the graphics and Flash and home page text. Since they never try to find anything on the site or buy anything off it — there is, after all, no way to claim employee discounts in consumer shopping carts — they never actually work with the sites and therefore miss all the functionality and interface flaws.
A third, related, answer, is that Fortune 500/1000 top managers are still largely retro-beings with backgrounds in brick-and-mortar marketing and old-media product presentation. Therefore, this theory goes, they really have no idea what they’re seeing when they visit any website or what they should be looking for if they want to find out how well it is working.
Any or all of these answers could be correct. But we believe these idiocies exist because Fortune Whatever sites are owned and operated by Big Business. Conversely, these kind of really stupid errors can’t be found on your site because you operate a Small Business. And small businesses — businesses built on the heart, soul and sweat of their owners and their owners’ families rather than government bailouts and foreign investments — have historically been and still are what makes America great.
Or to put it another way, you and us and the tens of millions of other small businesspeople in the U.S. didn’t drag the economy into the merde it’s in today. The big guys, those Harvard Business School grads who can’t produce a website that knows the difference between “grill” and “drill,” are the ones who did that.
To test this thesis, we checked in with http://www.agmcontainer.com, the internet home of AGM Container Controls, winner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2009 Small Business of the Year Award. Studying the menu of products and services AGM offers, we selected “tie downs” as the most generic and likely to fool a search engine into providing off-target returns.
We also challenged the AGM site’s search accuracy by deliberately selecting “search for any word” as opposed to search for “all words.” (All the examples above were based on searches for a specific phrase — electric + drill rather than the more general electric or drill.)
Low and behold, the AGM search engine was perfect. Every return was not only on the topic of tie downs, but related that topic to some aspect of AGM’s tie down business, be it a product description, a catalog download, a FAQ page, etc.
Why are we telling you this? Because, for what it’s worth, we’d like you to know that we consider you a better business manager than, among others, Rich Waggoner, late of GM, and Vikram Pandit, still clinging to the top spot at CitiGroup after paying himself almost $11 million for (mis)managing the company into sucking up a $45 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008.
And we’re telling you this because we want you to know that we at LinksManager are determined and dedicated, as we have been for more than ten years, to helping you grow your small or mid-sized online business by constantly adding additional value to your subscription by improving old features, adding new ones and streamlining our user interface.
Most of all, we’re telling you this just a few weeks before Father’s Day because 206 years ago, on June 8, 1783, the father of our country, George Washington, officially notified the governors of the 13 original states that online businesses like yours — and ours — “increased the blessings of society.”
Sure, no one, not even an unusually intelligent and perceptive man like Washington, had heard of the Internet back then. But that’s a technicality. What GW actually said was that the blessings of society were increased by an “unbounded extension of commerce.”
And if you can think of anything — ever — that has released commerce from as many regional, national, international and logistical bounds as the web, you’re a far, far better thinker than we are.
All website findings / research noted in this post were accurate as of June 1, 2009, so there.