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The Tale of a Link Whore, a Mobile PC, a Site Review, and some Clever Market Disruption

Posted in: Blogs,JavaScript,Keywords,Link Bait,Marketing,Technology by Richard Hearne on January 24, 2007
Internet Marketing Ireland

I got an email from Pat yesterday which led to a short rally:

Pat: Hi Richard. Would appreciate any mention. Am beginning to feel like a link wh***

Me: May I ‘dismantle’ it? It might not be pretty :)

Pat: Lmao Please do

Of course I’m not one to turn down a free sacrificial lamb, so…

Before I start…

Before I go any further here’s my policy on posting and linking out on request. If something is worthy of a post or a link I’m normally quite happy to oblige. There, that was easy.


Roam4Free.ie is a great idea. I’ve been with O2 since they were Digiphone, and for many years was always over-charged on my roaming. And I received many a refund to prove it :D

(Fortunately all O2′s roaming partners ‘set’ the same price a year or two back – how anti-competitive can they get?)

I think Pat is on to a winner. But I also think he really has to nail the website because (and I’m assuming here) it is the primary sales channel.

Oh, and by the way, my comments here could easily apply to any website, so I hope they might be useful to other readers, not just Pat.

What’s the first thing you see on any website?

Well more often then not it’s the page title. As one of the top elements in any HTML page, the title is very first on-screen element to be populated in your browser.

When I visit Roam4Free.ie I see this title:

Welcome to Roam4free.ie – The end of sky high roaming charges !

Two things strike me. First there are no targeted keyword phrases in that title. Other than ‘roaming charges’, which I doubt people search on, there are no reasons for people to discover Pat’s service via the number #1 Internet gateway – Search Engines.

So what phrases might I suggest to Pat?

Well I can see that ‘roaming charges’ and broad matches have very little volume. But the terms ,’international sim cards’, ‘mobile international’ and ‘cell international’ (cell = mobile in the US) and a number of long tail derivatives of those phrases have fairly good volume (000′s per month).

Now just for a minute I’m going to take off my SEO cap and put on my marketing cap. Pat is doing a great job of promoting this (Read/WriteWeb just popped up in my reader). So he’s going to get traffic. Therefore he needs to balance the SEO stuff with pure marketing. And the page title can be a powerful marketing tool.

The title has to quickly establish the product’s benefits for visitors. It should also attract some Search Engine Love if possible. Here are some of my suggestions:

Reduce your International Cell & Mobile Roaming Charges by up to x% with Roam4free.ie

or maybe:

Turn your Mobile into a Free International Cell Phone with Roam4Free

Both of those titles include some relevant keywords that might help with SEO efforts. But more importantly, they both tell the visitor exactly what the product does in simple English, and include a clear call to action. I always think the best way to get your message across to the widest audience is to speak in plain simple language (and pop a couple of nice high-volume keywords in there for measure :mrgreen:).

I posted about the benefit of using good marketing copy in your META description tag a while ago, and I think Pat could look at editing his current Description:

Works in over 115 countries. Receive calls for FREE in over 65 countries. Up to 90% discount on standard mobile rates

I would spell it out – mention ‘international sim card’ somewhere in that copy. (Good use of upper-cased ‘FREE’ though.)

One other point worth mentioning here is that different pages can effectively become honey pots for various search phrases (you should always try to target different phrases on your various pages) . And while I’m on the subject, remember that people can land on any page, not just the homepage, so you should consider every page a selling opportunity.

The Homepage Itself – Quick to Figure or Quick to Leave?

The homepage makes good use of contrast and visual boundaries to break up the main page areas:

Roam4Free homepage

I think I have made it clear on numerous occasions that I am not a big flash fan. The flash image on the homepage (sorry, you cant see it in the image above) really doesn’t reinforce the copy on the page. A static image of a sim card will have the same effect in explaining the product. And as for placing static text within the flash file – silly, silly..

And then there’s the font colour, which I feel is too close in contrast to the background colour (blue on blue in places).

This product is crying out for a ‘Sell It To Me Homepage’

Personally I think the homepage should be the seller. If you can convert from the homepage you’re on to a winner. The more pages people check out the more opportunity they have to reconsider that purchase decision.

So how would I make the homepage sell? Perhaps a three point storyboard that explains the product, how to get it, and how to use it:

  1. Get a Sim card
  2. Add credit
  3. Roam4Free

Yes I know all that info is all ready there, but I think it needs to be simplified and given more prominence on the page. Make it feel as simple as possible – 1, 2, 3. Get prospects into the comfort zone.

I would place all the ancillary info into the appropriate story element above, e.g. ‘Use in over 115 countries’, ‘Compatible with most mobile phones and networks across the globe.’, ‘No call set up.’ in step one Get a Sim Card

‘Easy to use. Top up from where ever, when ever.’, ‘Per-minute billing. Save up to 90% on standard mobile rates.’ in step two ‘Add Credit’.

‘No line rental. No minimum contract. No hidden costs – Just FREE incoming calls in over 65 countries, and up to 90% off standard mobile rates’ in the final step.

OK, you might have to edit this last group a little. But the point is to keep the decision process as simple as possible and the purchase path short. Give customers the info needed to make the all important purchase decision without leaving that homepage. (Not sure if implementing the pricing would be possible here though?)

Did anyone else notice the critical navigation flaw?

Take a look at the image above. Apart from there being no obvious homepage link (we read left to right and expect the homepage link to appear top right LEFT of the page), (oops, a little typo there – I’m slightly dyslexic…) I can see the most glaring Achilles heel. But before I declare my hand, some history.

The Internet has been around for a while now, and over time a number of conventions have formed and been widely accepted. The most widely accepted convention is how to link. Unfortunately Roam4Free.ie breaks that convention, badly.

Take a look at the navigation bar:

Navigation Bar

Do you see the link for signing up? Well it’s there all right. But if you are like most Internet users you glance rather than read, and you’d be forgiven if you missed the sign up link.

It’s actually there at the top of the navigation bar: ‘New User ? Buy a sim to get an account today!’.

The link is not underlined, and worse still, it uses the same color as the labels on the login form. One of the most important links on the site, ‘Sign Up’, doesn’t look like a link at all, it looks like plain text.

Click Here To Purchase

This page is straight-forward and to the point. In fact it’s a little thin on content – there’s a lot a free real estate there, so I would consider increasing the font size to make reading easier. The font size should also be varied to give a visual cue as to the importance of various text elements.

But this next bit pisses me off. When you visit a site you have a goal. You want the shortest and quickest path to achieving that goal so you can move to your next goal.

So every moment of time waisted due to poor design reduces the goodwill you have toward the site in question. On the purchase (sign up) page I am given a link to ‘More Details’. Here’s what I get:

More Details link

How has that improved my experience? I just waisted 2 clicks – one to view a useless page, and another to go back to go back to where I came form. And a small fraction of visitors wont bother to go back.

Call Rates Page

Try this without Javascript. OK, maybe I’m a little pedantic on this one, but what about mobile browsers? After all, mobile users are the target market here, and I do think mobile Internet might catch on sooner or later…

Nice use of XMLHttpRequest though.

Have I anything good to say?

Yes! It’s a great idea, and I hope it catches on.

My criticisms of the website might seem harse. I only checked a few pages TBH, and I’ve seen far worse. It’s a nice site, and with a few tweaks could probably really pull in traffic that converts.

I see an affiliate system also in the offing. That should push the boat out further as those clever affiliate people target some of the juicy long tail phrases I noticed.

Something I won’t mention…

On a final note, the site has one thing I haven’t mentioned that I think could be a huge asset and very serious linkbait. I’m not going to say what, but I might whisper it to Pat at some stage :mrgreen:.

(If anyone can guess what it is I’ll give them any link they request – no baddies though.)

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  1. Time to take on my favorite SEO I think.
    Cheers Richard
    appreciate it.

    Comment by Pat Phelan — January 24, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  2. Hi Richard,

    I presume you’re talking about the phone unlocking page? I hadn’t seen anything like that before; thought you had to take your mobile to some dodgy, back-street shop for that. That could do with a site all of its own!

    Comment by Eoghan McCabe — January 24, 2007 @ 7:25 pm

  3. Hey Richard,

    Great post, was all that advice for free? :-)

    I seen the news coverage today and the first thing that popped into my head was the use of a Skype number. I think Pat’s idea is great and I am sure its going to really take off. Even I might become a customer as I travel North every chance I get so I carry two sim cards!

    Anyway, as for he hidded asset on his site? I think it would be the affiliate section ;-)

    Comment by Gavin — January 24, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

  4. Sorry on my spelling :-(

    Comment by Gavin — January 25, 2007 @ 12:00 am

  5. @Pat – believe it or not but I had countless other ideas about the site. I just took the first ones along the the initial click path.

    Oh, and most of the above is all about usability (which in my view is SEO’s big brother). Usability is what turns traffic into customers IMO. I have a draft blog post (yet another one :() all about this relationship which needs to have the cobwebs blown off.

    Still on Thai time ATM… grrr

    BTW what is the target geographic market for this?

    Best rgds

    Comment by Richard Hearne — January 25, 2007 @ 6:21 am

  6. Hmm, I’m intrigued. These lads should race to partner with the student travel companies.

    How does this actually work then?

    (Apologies for hijacking the thread for something totally non-SEO related :-))

    Comment by dylan — January 25, 2007 @ 9:11 pm

  7. Aha, he reveals himself :grin:

    Not 100% sure, but it involves a new sim, and I presume a new number. You can then top it up as often as you want. So sort of a ‘pay-as-you-go’ international sim card.

    You can then receive free incoming calls and fairly serious reductions on outgoing calls made while abroad.

    Great idea and it has gotten tremendous exposure in just two days – mentions all over the place.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — January 25, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  8. @Gavin – my spelling is pretty bad at the best of times. I use both the FF spell-checker and Google toolbar spell thingey. Normally sees me through. Why am I not surprised about your affinity for the affiliates program :mrgreen:

    @Eoghan – I owe you that link so just let me know what you’d like. Feel free to keep the offer for a rainy day if you like!

    Comment by Richard Hearne — January 25, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  9. Interesting and incisive analysis.

    I signed up for the affiliate program :)


    Comment by Michele — January 26, 2007 @ 2:27 am

  10. Well I did mention the ‘clever affiliate people’. Did you notice the link Michele?

    Comment by Richard Hearne — January 26, 2007 @ 6:45 am

  11. Richard

    If you mean the link to their affiliate program – I’d already read about it somewhere else and posted about it last night on http://www.monetise.it

    If you mean something else, then I’m obviously too tired :)


    Comment by Michele — January 26, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

  12. You need some sleep :mrgreen:

    What I was looking at was the unlocker. However, after speaking with Pat, now I realise it’s not free. But even still I think it would be a great little honey pot for search engine traffic – thousands and thousands of searches every month for ‘unlock’ mobile related search strings. And people who unlock might also me interested in Pat’s product. He might even make an extra couple of quid from the unlock service :grin:

    I still don’t get the RAID 0 LOL

    What’s monetise.it? You? That’s one sweet looking theme.

    Why isn’t there an Irish group blog on Internet marketing? Along the lines of Search Engine Land with different specialists contributing, but with a broad Internet marketing theme.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — January 26, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

  13. Richard

    monetise.it is my latest little baby :)

    I’d be more than happy to let other people post to it – I just didn’t know how to approach them about it

    Email me directly if you are interested!

    Regarding the phone unlocking – that’s a HUGE market if any of the other sites I’ve come across are anything to go by


    Comment by Michele — January 26, 2007 @ 6:59 pm

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