January 21, 2009
It was a few weeks before our annual trip to Pompano, FL to visit my grandmother and get away from the nasty New England weather. We had our plane tickets and hotel reserved, but still needed a rental car. I'd been reserving cars for years through a rental car aggregator website that I found many years ago when searching online for rental cars in Ft. Lauderdale. It was one of those websites that show you the best prices from the various companies in the area. Years ago it always showed up in a search for "rental cars Ft. Lauderdale" or similar searches, so I never bothered to remember their name.
And thus began my Twitter rants:
Everyone knows that I am a fan of making sure that people know they're at the right place on your website when they get there by having some descriptive copy, but this was just silly. It's not that the copy was overly keyword stuffed, it just wasn't necessary. If I'm searching for a rental car in Ft. Lauderdale, I'm already sold on the fact that I need a rental car. And I know I need it in Ft. Lauderdale. And yes, I also know that Ft. Lauderdale is a really cool place to visit (that's why I'm going there!).
At any rate, I decide to overlook the zealous SEO efforts (after all, they were #1 for the search query, so they must have been givin' ole Googly what she wanted), and I looked for the form to choose my car. There was nothing in the first screenful that allowed this. But there was a box in the sidebar with links to all the other locations from which I could order a rental car! Of course, this wasn't very helpful since I had already said at Google that I wanted one from Ft. Lauderdale – especially since I was on the Ft. Lauderdale landing page.
So I scrolled all the way down past the SEO text to look for the form. Ahh...there it was, way down at the bottom of the page.
Thus, my second ranting tweet:
Okay, so now I had found the form, but guess what? It wasn't pre-filled in with Ft. Lauderdale as the pickup location!
This led to my third Twitter rant...
...and the straw that broke the camel's back. I ranted once more to any Twitter followers who were still listening, and left Expedia in a huff:
I then went back to my original Google results, gave a quick scan and saw Thrifty there. I knew we had gotten good prices from them before, so I gave them a shot. So far, so good – their form was pre-filled out with Ft. Lauderdale Airport as my pickup location as it should have been – yay! Unfortunately, they were all sold out for the days of our trip. I scanned the search results again and saw Alamo, which we had also used in the past. Their resulting page was their home page, which I thought was weird. That also meant that their form was not pre-filled out with the location. I filled it in anyway, but their prices looked awfully high to me and I was pretty sure I could do better if I could just find an easy place to compare prices, like I was originally looking for.
I clicked through multiple pages of Google search results looking for the familiar website that I used to use, but couldn't seem to find it and still didn't remember the name (and was still was too lazy to look through old emails). I decided to change my search query a little bit and see if I could find it that way. Bingo! I finally found it, although it was pretty buried. When I clicked through, it was the perfect page. Not only did it have a pre-filled-out form and not a lot of useless keyword-stuffed prose, it even had a sample pricing chart for the most popular car rental agencies. Within 2 minutes of finding that page, I had my car reserved at a great price from Payless.
Figuring that I might be in the same boat next year, I wanted to ensure that I could easily find the website again, and remembered Google's newish SearchWiki function that lets you move websites up and down in the search results. While you only move them up in your own personal results (and must be logged in to your Google account to enable this), it occurred to me that this was exactly what SearchWiki was designed for.
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.
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