Monday, January 14, 2013

@Google: How is this a good search result for business phone system?

UPDATE 01/24/13 - Cisco finally fixed their CMS. The formatting is still broken on the content but at least it is back on the page. For Google, it does not seem to matter either way because they rank #2 as if nothing ever happened.

UPDATE 01/22/13 - The Google cache has been updated to show the blank page and it still ranks #2. Amazing. Talk about giving Cisco the benefit of the doubt.

Where's the beef?

UPDATE 01/21/13 - Cisco still in position #2 and they still have an empty page! At least a week with absolutely no real content in the page, which is clearly broken. You'd think that even if Google doesn't notice the problem, Cisco would at least notice by now. Does anyone actually manage this part of their website?

UPDATE 01/17/13 - Cisco has moved up to position #2 and they still have an empty page!  Both Google and Cisco are asleep at the switch on this one. It's been more than 3 days since their content has been MIA (I doubt I happened to find the page right when their CMS broke).
I wonder which will happen first:
  • Google will recrawl the page and update its rankings correctly
  • Cisco will realize that their CMS is serving up a bunch of donut pages and they'll fix it

I am getting familiar with the telecom industry in search as part of my job.  Each industry has its own nuances, players, and idiosyncrasies.  One thing that is common is that from time to time you will find head-scratching results in the SERPs (search engine results pages).  Often it is because someone is having a bad day (site is down, CMS error, hosting provider makes a DNS mistake, etc....).  Other times, it is because Google just has not yet gotten around to updating their index for a particular term.  They may get to it eventually, but sometimes they are a bit slow to update the results even though the underlying content and/or competition has changed for a given topic. It is impossible for Google to stay on top of each result and each page for every term at every second of every day.  But then again, when you listen to Eric Schmidt, he thinks that the whole concept of showing a list of search results is a failure.

Today, I found a good example of someone having a bad day leading to a poor search result.  If you search for "business phone system" you will see Cisco listed with the #3 position in the organic results:

Nice position, there should be good content behind that link, right?

You can' always get what you want....

You would think that after clicking on that highlighted result you would be presented with some sort of wizard/set of questions to help me find the perfect phone system for my small business. You would think that wouldn't you? Well, let's see what we get instead:
This is thin content

Now, that is what I call a generous use of white space on a page layout.

My guess is that the CMS is broken or someone at Cisco has inserted some code (perhaps to trigger the chat window) which prevents the main content from displaying.

After navigating a few different pages, it looks like the problem may be pretty serious because I found multiple "empty" pages today on their site.  I'm curious though at what point does  Google take this into consideration into changing rankings/indexed status of such a page.

The last cached copy from Google is January 3rd, which at least did have real content in the page (not great, but at least something).  So we know that it worked correctly 11 days ago, but not sure when the page stopped working correctly.

Even when working correctly, the page content did not satisfy the promise made by the headline.  It listed off some features/functionality that users should consider but it did nothing to actually educate visitors on what those features mean, not the tradeoffs or factors are to consider with regard to the list of features. It also makes sure to mention that you should talk to a trusted adviser (translation - Cisco reseller).  Why can't Cisco just clearly educate the visitor right on this page?  Furthermore, it lists the next step as a link to learn more about Cisco's solutions, but when you get to that page it is just a list of their products without any guidance to what you should be looking to learn or how it fits together.  Obviously, I am biased, but I think the content we provide is better. You be the judge.

We all have bad days

Sometimes our sites don't behave as they are supposed to. Let's just hope that if these problems persist, Google will get around to taking that into consideration in the rankings, even if the site is famous.  Otherwise, that is an unfair advantage for "big" sites.  Google should not protect the 1% sites any better than the 99% when mistakes are made.

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