Test Your Assumptions

Publication Date: 2012-02-20

While working on the launch of a new system, I learned a few things about web marketing and search engine optimization. Some of these things were obvious to me, but not obvious to others. Which means the overall lesson learned is:

Test your assumptions and look for assumptions you don't know you've made.

Examples of assumptions I and others made about the Internet include:

  1. People will read and retain information from a web page. This assumption leads to the secondary assumption that people will therefore not send you emails asking questions that show they did not read or retain the information on the web page. Accommodations providers often have trouble encouraging people to read the cancellation and booking policies. How to handle the situation? It's a bad idea to grumpily point out to people what they didn't read. I suggest quickly of the information and point them to the web page again. Also take a second look to see if your information is as short and clear as possible.
  2. People don't realize that Google results vary dramatically from day to day and location to location. If you do a search, then call a friend in a different city and ask him or her to do the same search, he or she will see different results on the first page of Google. For accommodations operators, this is frustrating because it's hard to know where you appear on Google at any given time. How to handle it when people are amazed: No matter how much you know, people may not believe you because you aren't an authority. I like to cite this authority on the Google results variation issue:

    Online Filter Bubbles

  3. People don't realize that web pages almost never have reliable date stamps. Have you ever done a search that brings up an old version of a document when there's likely a new one out there? Google generally displays first what's most popular, not what's newest. There are many dates for a web page, but only one that's consistent across the Internet. Date Created, Date Last Updated and Date Published are all of interest to us. The only date that is reliably sent to your web browser is date modified or (a.k.a. date last updated). What constitutes a change is anything on a page that's changed. For example you might not think a new link in a menu or a new advertisement is a change, but if the change modified the actual contents of the web page in any way, bingo, date modified is updated. A lot of web sites want to let Google know that the pages changed so there's a huge incentive to keep pages fresh.
  4. The Internet may have given us access to a vast amount of information, but we can't be as confident in it as we were when we walked into the public library and looked up something in the old dusty card catalogue.

    Robert Ford is a business owner and IT consultant based in Vancouver. His latest venture Dwindal is testing many assumptions. Robert@quokkasystems.com
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