Published on Wednesday, November 17, 2004

TravelMole Fast Conference: Make sure your website can be seen

ENSURING your website can be found by customers far outweighs the design and even content when establishing a presence on the Internet, a Travelmole Fast conference was told yesterday. Speaking during a debate of how to increase sales on the web, Great Hotels Organisation chief executive Peter Gould insisted the structure of the site was the number one priority. Good links and a healthy number of pages would enable web “spiders” – which scan Internet sites and give them rankings – to recognise the site, he said. “The higher your pages are ranked the higher you’ll come up in searches,” Gould told delegates. “You need to have links that are relevant – although any link is a good link unless its bingo or porn - and the more pages the better.” He dismissed as “so wrong” a view from Cheapflights director of business development Liz Faherty that the initial priority was to consumer-friendly. “The site needs to be friendly to these spiders so they can get into your site,” said Gould. Without that, the site will be low down the pecking order with search engines. Faherty advised companies looking to launch a website that simplicity was key. “You should first ensure it is user-friendly and that it does exactly what it says on the tin. It must be easy to navigate,” she said. Earlier, moderator Paul Richer, management consultant for technology consultancy Genesys, said sites should be kept simple and straightforward. “Gone are the days when you need animated websites with flashing graphics,” he said. “Use simple images. You don’t want people to go to the website and be stymied because it’s too slow or complicated.” Companies need to look at their website from a dispassionate viewpoint, he said. The conference also heard from Simon Chamberlain, general manager of Hitwise UK which analyse web-based market sectors. He told delegates how customers are becoming more sophisticated in how they search the Internet. “One word searches are beginning to disappear,” he said. “Around 50% of successful searches are made using with three words or more and only 20% with one word. The results of single word searches are very cluttered. Customers are using three or four to find something more relevant.” The answer, he said, was for companies to include key phrases on their website which are likely to be used in searches.

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