Phones4U went into administration recently, after losing contracts it had with network operators Vodafone and EE. 

One of the first acts of the appointed administrators was to close the website and replace it with a customer notice.

While it's understandable that no more orders could be taken, did this act devalue one of the company's most valuable assets? 

Here's the Phones4U site as it looks now, with information and contact details for various customer queries. 

This means that all the pages from the site, which was built up over the last 17 years, are now inactive. 

Of course, it couldn't continue to take orders, but it could have kept the pages alive to preserve the value of the asset. 

While the administrators are busy dealing with the company's offline assets, they have allowed some fantastic positions to drop in the SERPS. 

The chart below shows ten high value search terms, all of which the company ranked in the top five on Google for.

Now, as we can see, these search rankings have vanished as Google has no pages to index. 

These are highly competitive and valuable search terms, as this chart from Google's AdWords Keyword Planner shows: 

 

The phones4u domain has almost 1m inbound links and has probably had hundreds of thousands of man hours spent on it to achieve excellent search positions in a highly competitive sector. 

The question is, what would this domain be worth to a competitor, a new player, or someone who wanted to take it online only, as others have done with brands like Woolworth's and Zavvi

Should administrators be more aware of the value, and take more care in preserving a company's digital assets in future? Let me know below... 

Graham Charlton

Published 7 October, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Dipesh Shah

Dipesh Shah, Digital Consultant at Data Translators

This is all new to me, what is the difference in how the administrators dealt with Zaavi compared to Phones4u? Did the administrators have better knowledge on what to do or were they advised on the best practices to save guard all the work that had been done and potential value invovled?

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Dipesh I'm not sure the administrators did do anything differently with Zavvi. I was just using it as an example of a business which was taken over (by the Hut Group in this case) and existed as online-only after administration.

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and GDPR Geek at Fresh Relevance

Were administrators too quick to close Phones4U's website?

Yes, because the market is not just about locked phones sold with a contract. For example anyone who travels regularly is in the market for an unlocked phone, so they can swap between local SIMs as necessary.

Currently the market for unlocked devices is split between the manufacturers' own sites, supermarkets, Amazon, and electronic retailers. The phones4you online brand had value for any of these planning to expand.

over 3 years ago

Suds Singh

Suds Singh, Founder at InterestingContent.co.uk

Hmm interesting point regarding the administrators maybe not seeing the full value of keeping the website open.

I guess they are more adept at dealing with traditional bricks & mortar businesses.

I just checked out their social media accounts FB. Twitter, YT et all they seem still to be going. I wonder what will happen to them?

Suds

over 3 years ago

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Dambuster

It wasn't to soon for the administraors to close the site down, it's common practice now, espically when it comes to knowing they may not have been able to fulfil orders, same with a lot of other companies going under in the case of administration, they close the site off so no one can order, look at game retail, there site went offline!! Untill a buyer was found

over 3 years ago

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Rhys Davies

At the very least the administrators could have consulted a media agency to understand the potential value of advertising on this page during a heightened period of media fuelled interest, or taken a customer first approach and provided some more advise and recommendations to existing (and potentially still loyal) customers who no doubt are concerned, or even auctioned off a redirect to a competitor. Who knows what conversations might be going on behind closed doors around the value of the digital estate, but what's been done to date feels clumsy.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@dambuster I appreciate that no orders could be taken but it's possible to achieve that without taking the whole site down. It may be common practice, but the question is whether that's the best thing to do.

over 3 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

Graham - I think you and Pete are quite right.

I guess there may be practical difficulties: if HQ staff are being shown the door, it may not be easy to find someone who knows how to switch the site to not take orders, and to put a banner up on each explaining.

over 3 years ago

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Matthew Jackson

The administrators have at least used a 503 status code which, should someone buy the website, allow Google to quickly get back into the site and re-index it. However it has probably been too long since the site was placed into this state and Google has now likely given up recrawling the site.

I wrote a post about Comet a few years back on what to do if anyone is interested. http://www.branded3.com/blogs/comet-goes-into-administration-what-to-do-with-its-digital-assets-during-administration/

It can however be done right - look at HMV about to overtake Amazon as the UKs largest music retailer and their search visibility is back where it was before administration.

over 3 years ago

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Martin Adams, developer at manheim

i worked for p4u as a technical seo. I spent a lot of time building the equity on that domain. Making sure the page rank flowed well from one page to another.

If they had any sense then they should have sold the domain to carphone and then 301 it to their site.

This would have done them no end of favors

over 3 years ago

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