Rant: Why Are Big Companies So Bad at the Web?

by on November 30, 2007 · 4 comments

Some of the best video on the Interne is Mr. Deity, a blasphemous but wickedly funny series of shorts about religion and politics. It started out as a independent viral video series, but was signed by Sony to promote their new Crackle video-sharing site last year. I was recently excited when they launched their second season; they’ve been releasing a new video every couple of weeks.

But if you click the link above, you’ll be hard pressed to find the latest video. It’s “Mr. Deity and the Voicemail,” Episode 3 of Season 2. It’s inexplicably #7 in the list of the dozen or so episodes released so far. Even more inexplicably, if you search on Google for “mr deity,” you’ll be hard pressed to find either the Crackle Mr. Deity link or a link to the latest episode. The top hit is the pre-Crackle Mr. Deity home page, which hasn’t been updated in month and gives you no hint that the second has started. The next link is a YouTube video of the first episode, with again no hint that a new season has started. Crackle finally makes an appearance in the third slot, but the Mr. Deity home page doesn’t appear on that search page and is way down the list of Google results on Crackle. Finally at #4, we get the unofficial fan blog, which actually gives you one-click access to the latest episode. And at the very bottom of the first page, we see that Digg has pointed to the latest episode. In other words, the only sites that give you ready access to the newest episode are sites not run by Sony or the Mr. Deity team.

The Yahoo results are even worse: Crackle didn’t even crack the top ten. To It’s credit, Microsoft’s Live Search actually does include the Mr. Deity Crackle page as its seventh result.

This is an amazing degree of incompetence. Sony has presumably invested a significant amount of money producing this content, to say nothing of creating their video-sharing website. Yet they can’t even get the official Mr. Deity page to show up on the first page of Google search results for “Mr. Deity.” Compare that to, say, our podcast, which is the top hit for “Tech Policy Weekly” without us having made any explicit efforts to improve our search engine ranking.

You shouldn’t even need SEO help to come up as the top search result for your own product’s name. But if for some reason you’re not coming up as the top result, it’s worth investing a bit of money in making that happen. Especially if the whole point of producing the product was to drive web traffic to your video-sharing site. By the same token, One I get to the Mr. Deity Crackle page, the latest episode should be at the top of the list and prominently marked so I can grab it without having to wade through a long, randomly-organized list of videos.

I really don’t get it. These companies are investing millions of dollars to build these sites, yet they seem unable to get even the most obvious details right. Any halfway competent consultant should be able to point out these problems and explain how to fix them. So why are they so broken?

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