diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 14, 2010

I received an email earlier this week from a bloke I'm calling Kevin. Kevin had just read a post I wrote last year about Woolwich (when the DLR extension opened), and had a few concerns about what I'd written. What I'd written was this.
"The Woolwich Permanent was one of the UK's first building societies, launched in 1847, and also one of the country's biggest. But when it demutualised in 1997 it aimed too high. The Woolwich was bought out lock stock and barrel by Barclays in 2000, and now exists only as a mortgaging brand name."
Kevin told me he worked as "part of the web development team for Woolwich" with a particular interest in "constantly trying to improve the Woolwich site’s user experience". "Part of this improvement", he continued, "involves meeting our user’s expectations when they are referred to Woolwich.co.uk from other websites". Which is where, apparently, I'd gone wrong.

Kevin felt that folk clicking on my blog, on the words mortgaging brand name, might somehow be ill-prepared for the website they were about to view. He thought, in particular, that the customer experience might be improved if the phrase I'd used for the link was changed. "Could this please be amended to read “mortgages”?" he asked. And the he provided an example to show me what he meant.
“The Woolwich was bought out lock stock and barrel by Barclays in 2000, and now exists only as a brand name for their mortgages.”.
I considered revising this link in line with Kevin's request for approximately nought point one milliseconds before deciding against. Why should I amend something I'd written twelve months ago because some corporate apologist asks me? No chance, sorry.

On closer inspection it turned out that Kevin didn't work for Woolwich at all, he worked on their behalf. Kevin's an employee of iCrossing - "a digital marketing agency with search and social media at its core". I suspect he's one of their Social Media Strategists, charged with "understanding where the strong relationships that affect brand reputation emanate from and how they are interconnected". I also suspect he'd been using "NetworkSense Mapping", which is iCrossing's "innovative brand visualisation tool", to discover whereabouts online the Woolwich website was being linked to. And I suspect that my sub-optimal link text caught his eye, and failed to meet brand expectations, so Kevin hoped he might be successful in asking me to tweak it.

It's in the Woolwich's interest to maximise the online linkage they receive relating to key words and phrases. "Mortgages" is good for search engine optimisation, whereas "mortgaging brand name" patently isn't. Had Kevin persuaded me to change my text then Woolwich might have appeared higher in Google's search results, and Kevin might have been duly patted on the back by his superiors. But sorry Kevin, I don't abdicate my blog's independence for mere SEO.

Still, Kevin, it could have been worse. I could have described Woolwich mortgages using phrases like "greedy bankers", "Barclays puppets" or even "loan sharks". I could even have described Kevin's own company (iCrossing) as "e-chancers", "web manipulators" or "digital whores". Which would have been sub-optimal in the extreme.

It appears that linktext is a valuable commodity which some of us in blogland take too readily for granted. I frequently use linktext without further thought for the corporate-boosting optimisation of those I choose to hyperlink, which is clearly sheer online incompetence. But sorry, Kevin, I'm not with the Woolwich, and your surreptitious editorial-changing methods suck.

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