Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

July 29, 2008

Why Are Advertising Agency Sites So Awful?

Why Are Advertising Agency Sites So Awful?Ad agencies are an endangered species in a cost-conscious, metrics-driven world ruled by Google. Today's ad men are in a profound state of denial about how much their comfortable world has changed, and there's no better evidence of this than by examining their web pages. Here you'll find cluelessness across the board. Here's a quick and sickening report on the search engine readiness of some major agency sites. Read it and weep.
Frames deprive content pages of unique URLs, the home page has practically no content at all, and the only indexed content seems to be in uploaded PDFs. These sins are typical of Flash-heavy, search-engine ignorant sites. Perhaps no serious agency types care whether folks come in through search engines. If so, they're making a big mistake.
Usability/Searchability Grade: D

Draft FCB
Better than the other sites in terms of having SOME text content on the home page; worse but commits sin of making text content images. (Are they worried that somebody will steal the big idea? Or just paranoid about the fonts? Hint: Stylesheets can work wonders.) What's ironic is that DraftFCB is actually buying the keyword "advertising agency" from Google. But the back button doesn't work, which means you're trapped.
Usability/Searchability Grade: D-
Home page text content? Nope. Consistent navigation? Nope. Search-engine unfriendly fames, over-reliance on Flash and PDFs? Triple yes. SIte must be doing something right, because it ranks very well organically on Google for the search term "advertising agency," so it's not a total wash. If only these guys had made proper use of their Meta tags, the listing would be much less cryptic. Usability/Searchability Grade: C
The late David Ogilvy would have kniptions if he could see his company's current site. The home page has a text count of zero, clicking on links results in annoying pop-up pages, the URL structure is a mess (although it could be worse), and content is duplicated on several Ogilvy-owned sites (which will cause Google's Duplicate Content Filter to have kniptions!). May not inspire confidence that Ogilvy is digital-ready.
Usability/Searchability Grade: D

Young and Rubicam
No surprise here. Texts live only as images, without ALT tags. No worse than the other sites, but no better. I suppose this bad situation is due to the consensual wisdeom of the ad men, and other B2B types, who reason that it's unlikely that any real client is searching for their services. WRONG!
Usability/Searchability Grade: F

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Fun With Search Engines: "Tarnished Internet Portal" Proves Google is Best

Fun With Search Engines: Tarnished Internet Portal Proves Google is Best
After seeing Yahoo referenced as a "tarnished Internet portal" today in a news article, I examined the search engines to see which of them properly associated this characterization. Neither nor nor nor newcomer had any data, but Google, in its infinite wisdom, correctly revealed a smiling picture of Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, along with a bunch of stock charts in decline. Does anyone need additional proof about Google's superior search prowess?

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Even With Bugs Fixed, Cuil Doesn't Cut It

Even With Bugs Fixed, Cuil Doesn't Cut ItI revisited today after Blogging very negatively about it yesterday, and the results were a little better than those reported ealier. But after doing several searches, it appears that the results are still easily bested by Google. I don't think this is a technical glitch: just a direct result of an algorithm which doesn't properly take into account site popularity. Yes, popularity isn't a perfect proxy for site worth, and it can be gamed by SEOers. But factoring popularity (PageRank) out of the picture has serious consequences that unfairly discriminate against site publishers. For example, another site I run,, hardly even makes an appearance for the keyword search "wild parrots in Brooklyn." My site FYI is the only site that deals with this topic systematically, has been up for more than three years, and has excellent rankings in Google and the other engines. But for some reason thinks it's completely irrelevant. I'm sure there are thousands of other site owners who've been pushed off the page one SERPs on This hardly serves the needs of users or publishers.

Search results do matter, and the mere fact that claims to index more pages than Google doesn't necessarily translate into increasing accuracy. Cuil's failure to provide accurate results isn't a bug: it's a feature that was designed in from get-go. For this reason alone users should shun it, and I expect that once all the PR dust has settled, we'll all quickly forget that even exists.

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New Mediapost Article: An Open Letter to Steve Ballmer

An Open Letter to Steve BallmerI wrote a new opinion piece entitled An Open Letter to Steve Ballmer in which I argue that Microsoft must restructure its entire approach to search and online advertising. While it's a serious topic, I tried to inject as much humor as possible into this piece, which was published Monday, July 28th, in Mediapost.

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