Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Are Web Sites now obsolete?

Last year I filled a lot of my Celtic Ways tours bookings through inquiries through my Celtic Ways web site.


This year, I am finding that most inquiries to me start from my blog and social sites placements. Business for me this year is as good, maybe a little better, than last year, but visits to my web site are way, way down.


At first, I thought it was my design, my coding for SEO skills or general text wording that was failing but from talking to others and looking at other stats I see there is a fast shift on how we use the internet today.


Ex Google Employees in Ireland try something different


Yes, some former Google employees in Ireland have set up a competing search engine called Cuil, which interestingly translates from Gaelic into Hazel or Wisdom. Though Irish based this is a world search engine with a mission to be far less discriminating than Google.


Though Google may not admit it, these days they seem to be geared to provide search results that may favour the balance of their Adwords and Adsense paid advertising programs. This means well visited sites generally get top ranking in searches.


Cuil’s mission is to provide searchers with the best content that suits the keyword needs which can mean top listing for good content sites that may have only had a few visitors.


I tried out Cuil’s search with some favourite keywords. First thing I noticed was the extremely simple search screen home page. Then the speed of search is dynamic followed by an unexpected layout of results that is unlike other major search layouts. I like it!


Information from the unexpected


The other main feature I discovered was that barely any of my Cuil search results featured independent web site links. Almost every result was a link to a blog post either engined by the major blog hosters like Blogger and Wordpress or posts on social sites like MySpace, NowPublic and even the short posts on Twitter and Facebook.


Most important, Cuil always sent me to very recent and current links to exactly what I wanted to know and never to sites primarily interested in selling me something before telling me what they really know and supply.


Most of the links from my Cuil searches were to blogs and tweets with links to expanded information which may be more detailed blog posts or pdf files and sometimes to content rich independent web site pages. If I needed to buy something then the links would be there.


To me this was all in wonderful flowing order


Finding what I wanted to know was instant, time saving and then easy to make an inquiry or purchase if I needed to.


Cuil is currently very simple and may even seem dated in its format to some people, but I see that it will have stunning potential. Cuil has already converted my to using it as a preferred search. When they introduce convenient web browser and social site bars I can see this search site becoming a strong leader in preferred keyword search. I can see a very close alliance to Facebook coming soon, for one.


So where do our wonderful web sites fit in?


I may be biased here because I have used online services for almost 30 years, many years before the first graphic browser was coded and distributed, but there is still a large population in Ireland alone that has still never sent or received an email and may never have ever seen a web site on screen.  Many businesses here do not have web sites or even a social site page of their own and many businesses still ask, “well why do we need one as we do ok without one because many of our customers are not online anyway”.


When folks do get online first the first time now I notice their first area of exploration is no longer around web sites, but around social sites. I find YouTube is incredibly popular with Irish first time internet users and so is Facebook. Several newbies seem to find MySpace too complicated. I’m not surprised as I do find the MySpace pages that open up with instant audio and visual overpowering and very irritating in the way they freeze computers, and I do have decent broadband plus a decent modern good “horsepower” computer.


So, I feel our trend now is that major social sites are the leaders in online activity, but this is a trend that will also change. I see this as being like the many independent record labels of the 50s who merged into being big record labels like EMI, Decca, Columbia, RCA etc. who could distribute millions of records around the world quickly and we loved being able to get the music easier through these big labels. Then from the 80s onwards when these major labels seemed to churn out “manufactured” music we returned to the independent labels to find the music we really wanted to hear.


Same today.


Millions of people that may have created independent web sites 2 to 4 years ago are now content to have pages on a major like Blogger and MySpace. In the future we will probably thirst for the independents online, but not today.


However, the personal web site is still important and should not be ignored.


I still think a personal web site is as important as a personal home address, but these days I feel we do not need to host as much as we used to on our web sites. Name, who we are, what we do, anything special we can offer visitors, snail addresses and phone numbers seem to be enough, plus links to where people can meet us on social sites.


It is important to keep email addresses off of web sites out of the eyes of spam crawlers but be replaced with scramble coded contact forms.


Video, audio and photo galleries are now best hosted on social sites, rather than on web site hosting space, as more people will contact them there.


So my idea today of the best sequence for web site presence is


1) Get up to date info, photos, video clips and even audio onto social sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Picasa etc. and get these linked to


2) your independent web site that clearly shows who you are, how to be contacted, how to be listed as an inquirer and how to buy something.


3) and then for deeper information provided by text, photos, audio and video linked back to the social sites that host these for you.


If you follow those three steps I am certain that those who search through Cuil will find you so easily.


Even now, post an updated YouTube video and you will be listed on Google search instantly, but if you posted that video clip on your independent hosting server it may be listed by Google within 4 to 12 weeks.


I feel that web sites today are no longer our shop windows but are our doors to our back rooms. When we go to a public bathroom we like to recognise which is for men and which is for women by information on the doors.


That’s where I believe our independent web sites are now. They are still incredibly essential but are now wasted if we attempt to dress them as our shop windows. The time has come where blogging and social sites can do this far better for us. 


 

2 comments:

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