EDITOR'S FIELD REPORT: Mom & Pop hopeless, clueless spammers


Every year or so, due to the "guide" part of one of my family resort area vacation sites, I'm forced to clench a thick leather strap between my teeth and then dive into the dark, swirling maelstrom of related sites, i.e., SMB "local" websites. I'm in the midst of the site-reviews now and decided I'd better report my whereabouts as I'm not sure how much of this punishment I can withstand and may simply be swept away.

It's bad, folks. Really bad. Horrific. As a class, I think restaurateurs should be banned from the web. Bed & Breakfast innkeepers are almost neck-an-neck with restaurateurs, though. Real estate companies with vacation rentals? I think they certainly must already be banned, and I can vouch that there is no hope of redemption.


LOL, and like any good

LOL, and like any good journo, you're just retreading an old, old story here, RC ;)

I have to do this

I have to do this periodically. It's decidedly worse this go-round. Specifically; [1] Domains. The domain names they are now using are so generic and kw-laden that they've lost any hope of being memorable as a brand. [2] Title tags. Damn, what seo resource told them to write a (stuffed) novel in their title tags? [3] Hype. I don't know about you guys, but I can't remember ever seeing words like "awesome," "wonderful," "nestled," or "lovely" in the keyword suggestion tools. Yet these sites dilute their kw density to something like .00001% with this crap.

Lots of mom and pops know

Lots of mom and pops "know" SEO is just about having hidden text and links on your pages.

So who gets a thumbs-up?

So who gets a thumbs-up? Overall, if I was forced (at gunpoint) to pick a group from these that are doing a pretty good job on the web, it'd be 1-man/1-boat fishing guide sites. They are generally descriptive of their services. Offshore charter boats aren't bad (well, that's relatively speaking), but with more money involved they slip into marketspeak and hype more often than their poor cousins.

In one of the

The mom and pop hospitality and real estate segments are just ripe for the pickings by the churn and burn boys. Instead of "it's hard to find a good SEO," it all turns on the fact that it's much easier for a bad SEO to find the mom and pops.

Amazing, Asounding One-Of -A-Kind

What is truly amazing is the proprietors of low quality sites see nothing wrong with them. On the contrary, small hoteliers are quite proud of their sites: can you believe no one had registered hotel-by-the-sea-california-coast-beach-dreaming.com! And they are equally proud of the acres of semi intelligble text covering every available space of screen real estate.

A solution is to force them to use & compare small budget sites with quality travel sites such as hotels.com

30 referrals per day

30 referrals per day post-SEO, compared to 6 per week on average for over a year: that's a success story by all accounts in SMB land.

And when the referrers are plausibly relevant long tail, there's no talking to those SMB owners. They're doing great.

Must be a motor home...

>Bed & Breakfast innkeepers are almost neck-an-neck with restaurateurs

So, I get fed up one-liner emails that ignore the request for required information and just say "please list my site, mycrap.com, in your guide. thanks!" This week I wrote a very locked-down, very narrowly defined TOS for the free listings. The form is primarily driven by multiple checkboxes to limit marketing hype and lyi.. ummm, embellishment. Because the guide covers a large geographic area, much if it rural, I did allow them a textbox for the city or town where they are PHYSICALLY located (it's in all caps on the form, too).

The first one received is for a Bed & Breakfast inn. They list their hometown, yes, and also all the towns in their market area. Aaaarrrrggghhh!

NY, New York, new york, newyork

That's why you just ask for a zipcode and look up the city in your database of zipcodes.

I like to make them do some

I like to make them do some of the work, Bill. It's sort of a mandatory (very) minimum threshold of participation. In short, I like to see how they respond to web-only directions, make them handle stuff so I can see their fingerprints. It's maddening, but the quality of submission is very telling, particularly if one has some background knowledge of forum and directory spammers.

Agree there gimpy

Not only the issues you have, but the fact that the government changes the county boundaries and even abolishes counties from time to time. Someplaces such as Berwick on Tweed can't even stay in the same country all the time.

I wonder what would happen if the US Gov proposed abolishing Rhode island and making it part of Connecticut or tidying up Oklahoma by removing the Boise & Guymon panhandle and moving it into Texas.

>Locations have been the

>Locations have been the bain of my life for sometime

I hear you. I didn't really get even modest control of the situation until I developed my own crude geo-tagging system. It's based more on travel times and a logical/likely range of travel distances from whatever the "focus point" the visitor is interested in at the moment. That has some big negatives, though. It takes pretty good first-hand knowledge of the area and it doesn't scale easily.

HHH! I just got another one. This one was from outside the area we cover, but they have an online store for antique postcards they wanted to get listed ...so they lied about the location.


Yeah, it happens here. Massachusetts has nuked a few counties that couldn't pay their bills. Other counties get absorbed into sprawling cities.

Happens in US

>>I wonder what would happen if the US Gov proposed abolishing Rhode island

Happens in the US too sorta. I've lived in an Indiana/Illinois border county most of my life. I know people that live in rural Illinois on the border, and have an Illinois drivers license that says they live in Indiana, cos the post office that delivers their mail is in Indiana and the Feds don't respect boundaries. Causes massive confusion mainly with other Fed agencies.

Small business owner doesn't

Small business owner doesn't show physical address on site, wants in to Google local.

"put your address on your site", I suggest.

SMB owner puts business address on site, submits to Google local.
Google local sends post card to client, with acceptance code.
SMB owner calls... it's been months. Why no local listing?

"Did you get the post card, did you enter the code?", I ask.

SMB owner says no. I click to have Google send a new postcard.
Months later, still no local listing. SMB owner whines again.

"Did you get the post card, did you enter the code?", I ask.

SMB owner says "no, but I don't get mail at that address. I use that address because I don't want people to know my real address."

Yes folks, this was a "professional" in a local market. Your competition. Rest easy.

>no, but I don't get mail at

>no, but I don't get mail at that address. I use that address because I don't want people to know my real address

We have a remote island here that is, well, quirky. Some of the private inns have toll-free numbers but will not put them on their websites "because people will call and run up the phone bill."


From the results so far combined with local knowledge:

[a] 90% of small biz sites are in a total fog and have no idea what-the-hell they are doing, have done, or will do on the web, i.e., totally clueless.

[b] 8% will lie through their teeth to get a listing. We'd have to mark them up as web-savvy, I'd say. Ruthless, but they've apparently heard somewhere that they need links.

[c] 2% know what they're doing, follow instructions, etc. Well, when I say "know what they're doing" I mean they properly submitted the listing request. The sites have problems ranging from "Contact us by email" with no visible email address or form on site to what appears to be the web equivalent of a prekindergartener's refrigerator art.

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