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Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – March 7, 2008

Weekly link juice flowing forth and apparently ruining my website’s rankings… Ah, well. That’s the price we pay here at thinks for you fine folks learn about e-commerce and online marketing for small businesses.

  • Lots of chatter this week about the use of “nofollow” for “sculpting” traffic on your website. Michael Gray says “knock yourself out” when “sculpting” traffic on your site with a nofollow. Shari Thurow thinks you should “nofollow” that advice.

    I’m only commenting because of the point this debate raises about the value of expert advice. I don’t think either of these folks are technically wrong, at least at present*. They’re generally well-regarded and clearly demonstrate deep knowledge of their subject. So, how can two “experts” have such completely opposite opinions? Trick question. That’s not important. The real question is, are these activities worth your time as a small business? Personally, I think Search Engine Roundtable has the best approach: “why not [do it], if you have exhausted everything else you could have done on your site” (emphasis mine). Most small business websites have far bigger search engine optimization – and customer experience optimization – issues than this. In other words, know the basics of SEO. But once you get too deep into that rabbit hole, leave it to the rabbits.

  • While we’re all fired up and mired in controversy, now seems like a good time to talk about Google introducing competitive benchmarking within Google Analytics. Some folks think this is a really bad thing (I’m looking at you, Michael Gray). I think it’s less so. Google Analytics is a great program and remains so for most small businesses. Your web business decisions should always be supported by data. Right now, there isn’t another program on the market that delivers what Google Analytics offers for comparable cost, regardless of whether those costs are explicit or implicit. And, at least for now, the program allows businesses to opt out from sharing their information.

    I would recommend that you take a good look at Google’s policy and decide if it’s right for you. I would also suggest relying on a second source for analysis, if you can manage it, just in case Michael’s “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” scenario plays out. For instance, though it’s not the same type of tool as GA, you should take a look at Q4, a new qualitative survey tool from Avinash Kaushik and iPerceptions. Knowing why your customers choose to do what they do is often better than knowing what they do.

    Finally, not to pick on Michael specifically, but his logical inconsistency of taking Matt Cutts at his word on the “nofollow” thing and not on the GA thing proves my point above about expert advice. Not only can two different experts disagree. Sometimes one can do it all by himself. ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy your weekend everyone. And look forward to further adventures in e-commerce and online marketing next week.

N.B. – I say “at least at present” for one reason: the search engines have a long history of changing their algorithms to account for improved results (whose definition of “improved” – as ever – is open for debate), even in cases where their public statements favor a given action. Again, that’s not to say you shouldn’t do this. It’s more a question of whether it’s the most beneficial action you can take. Now, where did I leave my carrots?

Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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  1. Hi TIm,
    Just a thank you for your mention of 4Q. Much appreciated. We are hoping that small and large businesses alike embrace the tool as a way to capture voice of customer on their online properties.

    Jonathan Levitt
    VP Marketing

  2. Oh I’ve been sculpting pagerank long before Matt gave it his approval, so more of him corroborating than me following ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Also I probably deal with a lot more new sites than Shari does, so I say build it “right” from the start instead of coming back on a “rainy day”

  3. @Jonathon – It was my pleasure. It’s a very cool application and something the marketplace has missed at this price level (or frankly any reasonable level for small businesses) for some time. What’s particularly nice about it is the fact that the questions reflect true customer satisfaction and “purchase intent” (even though what defines a purchase might change by site).

    @Graywolf – I think you’re spot on when it comes to building it right from the start. Shari’s argument has some issues, but I think you both agree on that point. I also think that most small business owners should make sure their site is built right first – correct what’s most fundamental on their sites – then evaluate the cost-benefit of more advanced activities.

    Thanks, both of you, for great dialogue and great offerings. Keep up the good work!

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