photo from: http://travelationship.com/united-states-holocaust-memorial-museum/

When Algorithms Go Bad

Filed Under: What were they thinking?

Google Information Box for Hall of Faces

When You See What is Wrong: Share

Last night HBO premiered a teaser two months from its premier of Game of Thrones. It is entitled ‘Hall of Faces’ Teaser. So naturally wanting to remember what the name of the actual temple is we did a search.(Actual answer: House of Black & White) When the ‘Google Information box’ above showed up to the right of our search results we were shocked. Do you see what might be out of place there?

Again maybe it is a matter of preference, or most people either won’t know or don’t care, but the most prominent featured image on the right has nothing to do with the Spa listed. In fact it most disrespectful to anyone who lost family or loved ones during the Holocaust. That picture is of the ‘Hall of Faces’ exhibition at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC on the Mall. It is not only out of place here, but where would normally show up pictures from the below listed establishment which is an esthetician seems like a particularly bad match.

The solution? Crowdsourced via Google of course is to give ‘Feedback’ and tell them what is out of place:

Feedback option for Google Information Box

Feedback option

The curious case of: Hall of Faces Skin Care

That works, obviously, but since Google has launched a big effort to put more businesses ‘on the map,’ it would seem that in this case where we have photos of the outside that the other photos should match better. This is something, oddly enough, a computer or algorithm is not going to do well. It can’t tell one from the other. Yet since that is a branded & watermarked photograph too, and really should be reported by the museum and legal action taken, this is obviously maybe not something rising to that level of scrutiny. But why not?

when you click the photo_Hall of Faces Skin Care (comp)

That is until you actually click the picture. Notice it is plucked from sciencesource.com, an image sourcing site. Yes, it gets worse. The link leads to a parked page on GoDaddy & entices you with what looks like an actual business but everything about the page seems off. We’ll not link to it, for obvious reasons, and because we don’t want you lurking in shadowy places of the internet, but here is what the Hall of Faces Salon (a sketchy name for a business anyway) looks like on that page:

even more offensive is the page it leads to

Notice the GoDaddy message

Just Gets Sketchy & Weirder

When you call they tell you via a recorded message that ALL APPOINTMENTS are booked online and if you are having a problem to email Denise. Does this sound like a real business to you? That photo shows houses not even an actual business. But then you check the url (which is not the one in the screencap above that opens a blank page) but instead heads to something called Locu from GoDaddy, which has a main page that looks like this:

the whole shenanigans is handled by locu a godaddy team

Locu by GoDaddy

Which makes the whole thing seem like some scam by them to take local businesses that don’t have an online presence and create one. We’ve encountered the people who run these, and Yelp! is also very good at this, of wanting to charge you a rather hefty amount of $$$ to maintain what can only be described as one of the worst webpages we’ve seen. Yet it publishes to Yelp, Facebook, and others. All for the low price of $11.99 a month. Or $143 a year, which somehow doesn’t include the SEO. Who thought that was a good idea?

This is what we find most offensive about these schemes. They promise one-push publishing, with all your information *magically* updated everywhere. Which probably does work, but each platform holds differing challenges, represents and prioritizes that information differently, but somehow they have come up with a wonderful piece of software that eliminates all that work & worry for you. Nothing is ever that easy & you get what you pay for.

Obviously it helped a rather specious company to the top of the Map & Google search and for this they should really be investigated by the good people at Google to figure out why. A business that isn’t in any way relevant to my search, that might be a fly-by-night operation since they claim I should email them at their @halloffaces.com email address. Well since the above Google Information Box has a link but leads to a blank page, we typed in the address: www.HallofFaces.com and apparently they do have a site WITH ACTUAL PICTURES that google *could* have used. And links, bless them, to their social media profiles. Facebook & Twitter which have neither been used since 2013.

So they are now apparently paying LOCU to host exactly the same info on their website only presented awkwardly, plus their website looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2005?!? Or they did it themselves, or had a cousin do it for nothing with very limited resources in 2012. The “news” page linked to hasn’t had any news since 2012! So you are left with a choice, what to do? And if you try to book an appointment online with them (the only way according to the phone message above) that is also handled by a third-party software embedded into the site called Spa-Booker. Look, we know how hard it is to manage all these moving pieces, coordinate all these different sites, and keep it all up to date.

It gets worse and more complex

Then on this website they have a page dedicated to listing all their products and guess what, there is a skin-care line,with its own website link as well which proclaims that it is in “Beta” but has a copyright of 2008. Which means this site is even older than the main site!?!? The levels of confusion here, even if I wanted the services would have me seeking more modern approach. The site (visited on mobile) was alright, but lacked basic and best practices for a commerce site. Further, when searched on mobile again, the same picture came up, and the top result was the Yelp! page, with considerably more photos there than on her site or elsewhere. Those should and would show up if they were included elsewhere. Also the reviews seemed to have stopped in 2014, and most are good. Yet to invest the photos & energy there instead of on your own site seems a waste.

Moral of this Story

You never know when a name you chose for your company, brand, or product will trend for reasons wholly unrelated to you will suddenly start trending. So before that happens, as with the viral art post we recently did, spend some time, either quarterly or at least yearly, honestly reviewing your site(s) for incongruity. You can’t brand yourself when you have a million different entry points, and no unified message. You can’t recreate or reinvent it with each different property either. You have to somehow manage to go through all of the and see them as a curious buyer might. If you can’t do that, then hire someone to give you that information. Let a professional show you all the ways you are leaving money on the ground, and losing customers by trying to do it all, and failing miserably in a million different ways.

For small business owners & solo-entrepreneurs there is never enough time to do it all. Don’t fall into the Superhuman trap where you think you have to, and you have to do-it-all because everyone else is. Know your market, think strategically, formulate a plan, develop workarounds that are tailored specifically to what you can accomplish.

Finally, each and every one of these properties can tell you what your return on investment (ROI) is and it is up to you to have a system to track the key performance indicators (KPIs) but again that is something they don’t teach you when you sign up. If you look at the financials for your business once a month, then you should surely look at the analytics for these sites as well. They will (or should) show you where to concentrate your efforts. What is working, and worse, what isn’t.

Remember, the answer is never a third-party (GoDaddy, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc…) service, or even worse putting all your eggs in one basket/platform (Facebook, InstaGram, Twitter…) because you can be blocked from these and lose every bit of it. These approaches only make your digital identity and branding more convoluted. When what is needed is clarity; of vision, execution and style. They need to complement or work with one another, not be wholly different floundering attempts repeated over and over anytime something new pops up. This requires some time and effort spent on the big picture not all the tiny little bits. That requires strategy and purpose, unified by a singular branding message. When you have a website, a commerce site, appointment booking, products, services, and all the other different social media platforms it takes time, the stuff we usually don’t have enough of.

So let this little example remind you that in the land of search, and more specifically local search results, that your sites can turn up in the strangest of ways at anytime. Checking how & where people visit your sites from is essential to understanding how they find your business and will then hopefully spend their hard-earned money with you.

Have you seen any similar oddities in your search results? Tell us below:
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