I was reading this story about a new “web2.0” site called WineLog this morning, and had several thoughts on it that I’d like to share with you. Frankly I was a bit surprised at myself. Pre- seven cups of coffee and shower I’m not generally this thoughtful, but I think there’s food for thought, and fodder for discussion here…
When I saw the headline in my reader, my first thoughts ran a bit like this:
- How much did they pay to get that mention?
- Is 53k partially targetted web2.0ers enough to kick this off?
- Wonder if they built that using Drupal?
In the course of reading the article, and taking a look at the site, I managed to answer those questions and draw some conclusions. It’s those conclusions I want to talk to you about.
Using the Web2.0 Bandwagon to Jumpstart a Real Site
The first question was easy to answer: I simply don’t know, and really don’t care too much, I just wondered why such a mediocre idea had gotten a full write-up on TechCrunch — And the answer to that, is probably as simple as “they put a few web2.0ish things like comments (gasp, horror…) and RSS on the site and made a good pitch to Arrington.” Which led to the second question, and some thoughts on web2.0, Search engines and bandwagons.
There’s no doubt that dumb as we may find some of the web2.0 “oooh, i made a website!” silliness out there, if you pitch it right, and get a kick start from blogs like TC and others where the blog/web2.0 crowd is dense (pun not entirely unintended) you can get an awful lot of link love. And I’m thinking that if you’re smart, and build your site with Search in mind, you may just be able to jump the “tech gap” (the gap between your first 25k users and real users.)
If you’re a bit lost, go check out Om’s summary of the 53k meme that was doing the rounds a couple of weeks back.
Using Search to Reach Real Users
So, you have your idea for a web2.0 site like WineLog — You want to get users submitting wines and commenting on them, and build a community of passionate wine buffs that will add content, buy wine and recruit thier friends. You don’t want much huh? Here’s how you do it:
- Build the site, put all the web2.0 crap you can think of on it (whilst not making it entirely useless to real people),
- Season with AJAX, but be careful not to overdo it, as you’ll want people to be able to actually link to individual pages
- Pay very close attention to the way your urls work, and make it easy for people to share pages by linking to them from their own sites using your preferred link text.
- Do everything you can to bill it as “web2.0”, really, these folks will link to anything. and pay particular attention to the A-listers in this category and delicious tags. Do all of the normal things you would to promote a site, but do it “web2.0 style”.
- Every couple of weeks, launch a new feature (an AJAX gimmick will usually do) and repeat step 4
- Rinse and repeat for 6mts.
If you do a good job on every step, chances are that you’ll be getting some serious Google love by the end of your first six months, and that should be enough to take you to phase 2 – Real Users.
Make it Easy for Real People
By the time you start getting real users in though the front door(s) you’ve created using Search, — every page is your front door — you’ll need to start thinking about them in terms of revenue. Real users don’t want gimicks, they want simple things like:
- To find what they want without having to think
- To know where they are and what they can do
Im not saying take useful features away, particularly not sharing features, but do go easy on the real gimmicks. At this point it’s all about usability, and ease of transaction. Think about the original web2.0 site: Amazon
Where WineLog have Gone Wrong
Ok, so we’ve been talking thusfar about using the web2.0 bandwagon, and the link frenzy anything with a few AJAXy widgets on it can incite, but you do need to get the Search engine bit right in order to jump the tech gap in this manner.
There are other ways of jumping that gap im sure, but tech folks tend to share with tech folks, and though making it easy to email a friend etc etc are all things you should do, they’re not going ot get you real users (the non web2.0 crowd) half as quickly as using Search, and you dont want to be paying for your users or doing the PR dance with traditional media if you can help it.
If you go look at WineLog, the Search savvy among you may notice a few fundamental mistakes:
1. Page Titles
The biggest, and most obvious, aswell as damaging mistake is this: Individual wines DO NOT have individual titles. Eeek! In Search terms that’s a cardinal sin, and it’ll cost them big time unless they correct it.
The correct title for that page is: 3 Rivers Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 with possibly a ‘| WineLog’ at the end for branding. Titles matter a lot!
Oh boy, as a proponent of clean, standards compliant code, and a recovering SEO™ I was rendered near apoplectic by doing a “view source” on their pages….
Lets do this one by one:
- Check out all the code in the
of the page. Completely unnecessary, and serves only to push the real content farther down the page. Not a huge sin in Search terms, but it’s not good for sure.
- Outdated, bloated code: They’re using a hybrid div/table layout that pushes the real content down even further (again) and makes little or no sense bearing in mind recent browser shares.
- What should be both title and headline of this page, actually looks like this:
3 Rivers Cabernet Sauvignon 2001— it’s a tag that has no place in modern web standards, but worse, it should be an
as close to the top of the page body as possible, not a million miles down. Useless.
Hmm.. well there’s nothing wrong with not having your keywords in your url. The benefit from such things is small, but when you’re making a bid for Search traffic, even small benefits are well, benefits right? urls like
http://www.winelog.net/wines/Red are great, but
http://www.winelog.net/wines/wine/963 is just a missed opportunity.
Tip: The reason keywords in urls DO make a difference, is not that Search engines think those urls are particularly more important than others, its becuase poeple paste whole urls on message boards and blogs that get turned into live links — those live links are gold, as they link to you with good link text.
I could probably go on, but im getting high blood pressure just looking at it heh…
By looking at where WineLog have gone wrong, you can (and so can they I hope) see what you need to do to get this stuff right. It’s not rocket science, there’s no seo-magic, (no seo is magic, its mostly either common sense or spam), just plain simple things you can do to increase your chances of coming up in the top 5 for 4/5 word key phrases on a community driven site like WineLog — which is, as this whole article has been about, the point.
Im sure the people from WineLog will read this, and I hope they correct these things and take the criticism as constructive and helpful.
Doing it On a Shoe String
The last thing I want to look at, is how you can do all of the above, every bit if ot, with almost no budget whatsover.
Remember my third question? “Wonder if they built that using Drupal?” Well, they didn’t. If they had, they could have avoided a lot of those Search mistakes without having to even think about them.
Having read some of their site, and Mikes review, the only thing they’re doing (planning on..) that may need some investment, is the “send to mobile” functionality. Even for that though there are relatively cheap web services that a drupal module could be built from easily. Everything else they’ve done Drupal can do pretty much out of the box.
Build a new module for the “wine” content type, and away you go, easy.
The funny thing, and it’s something that amuses me on a daily basis whilst reading about web2.0 startups, is that there is absolutely nothing new about this. It is NOT innovative to put comments and RSS on a site where people can submit reviews and send them to their friends — Amazon have been doing it for years.
But, this really is web2.0 — we’re doing a lot of the things we’ve already done, again. And this time, we’re doing it with new buzz words, and better communications (blogs) — it’s simply easier to spread ideas, and those ideas can spread very, very fast if you get the buzz right, and successfully hop on the web2.0 juggernaught as it motors by.
If savvy webmasters, bloggers and developers can weave a little Search mojo into their applications, then they may well be able to jump the web2.0 tech gap and actually make money.
Wouldn’t that be a shocker?
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