WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK: SEO will never be the same

The Federal Court has ruled in the ACCC’s favour in its case against Google over misleading and deceptive ads that were shown on the site back in 2006.

The problem was that whenever a user would search for certain terms, ads would appear that would use those same words in their headline, but actually take the user to a different site. That’s because some businesses bought the keywords of their competitors.

This case has wide-reaching ramifications, not only for Google, but for small businesses as well, and it acts as a key warning – don’t even think about doing the same thing.

The ACCC will catch on, and now that Google is under more scrutiny, it probably will as well.

It’s easy to see why such a scheme might work, but don’t bother trying. You’re only going to do your business more harm than good.

Online bulky goods require extra care

Last month Gerry Harvey claimed people wouldn’t buy furniture online. This week we spoke to two entries on the Smart50 who dispute that approach – Milan Direct and Fidarsi Furniture. Both have revenue in the millions of dollars.

We’ve all heard the arguments about why people don’t want to buy bulky goods online. They can’t touch or feel, for instance.

But speaking to these two companies, it’s obvious people are buying furniture online – and they’re doing so because the sites go out of their way to show as much of the product as possible.

This is where high quality photography, demonstration video and interactive features are critical. Shoppers want to take away as many variables as they can. High quality photography and other features go a long way to ensuring the purchase is a successful one.

If you’re selling bulky homewares goods online, it can be done. Just remove the risk factor as much as possible.

More online channels are never a bad idea

David Jones has been declining offers left and right. Late last month it rebuffed an offer to sit down and talk shop with Catch of the Day and last week confirmed it had declined to pursue a strategy on eBay.

It’s easy to understand why – it doesn’t want to devalue the brand. But a quick glance over at the eBay Fashion Gallery suggests there are plenty of businesses that can maintain their high-end feel while operating on the popular auction site.

But this lesson has nothing to do with eBay. These businesses understand they can maintain a sales channel apart from their professional website and still give it the same branding and feel as the official page.

Don’t shy away from selling your goods in as many places as possible. Sites like eBay are just one example, but even on Facebook businesses can create well-designed stores without compromising their brand.

Be nimble enough to move

Catch of the Day’s Gabby Leibovich has always been keen on expanding the company’s reach. It’s been successful doing so too, with its group buying and grocery offshoots doing very well.

Last week it announced plans to launch a dedicated wine site. And although it’s still weeks away from officially launching, online wine sales are a popular category in Australia and Catch of the Day certainly has the logistics to pull it off.

There’s a key lesson here – your business needs to be nimble. Once you spy an opportunity, go for it and don’t waste time.

Catch of the Day is nimble enough to pursue new categories when it identifies the lucrative model underneath. Don’t be so slow you can’t capitalise on a good idea.

Don’t be pressured by suppliers

The latest figures from eBay released this week show just under one third of businesses are still being pressured by suppliers to sell goods at a certain price online.

It’s discouraging that the same number of businesses are experiencing this as last year. And it’s equally discouraging that more retailers aren’t coming out and identifying who’s behind these practices.

The ACCC is on the side of retailers, having identified online retail and price maintenance as two areas it will be investigating keenly this year.

If you’re a retailer coming under pressure – don’t give in. Contact the ACCC and let them know what’s going on. 

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