This blog post is partly a public service to those wanting an iPad, and partly a walkthrough of how to screw up an exclusive deal by making a complete pig’s ear of your website execution. 

First the public service: Here’s how to find stores with iPads or ipad stock levels (note the careful use of anchor text to help Google understand the linked to pages are relevant to those words).

Now, the walkthrough.

The iPad went on sale in the UK on Friday – and DSGi has signed an exclusive deal that means that, apart from Apple stores, only Dixons, Currys and PC World will sell it for 60 days. I don’t know what they paid for this – let’s assume a lot.

A few days on, stock levels are generally low. So in an attempt to find a store selling an iPad, I turned to Google.

Dixons: no mention of iPads

Starting with Dixons, I searched Google for Dixons iPad and found this page at result three – a thin, content-less page with no iPads shown. In fact, the Dixons site doesn’t seem to have any iPads or any information about them. Well done. Money well spent.

Currys: how to hide your content from Google

Giving up on them, I turned to Currys and searched Google for Currys iPad. There are no results from the Currys website in the top 10 Google results.

Currys homepage iPad boxInstead, I click on the paid ad for Currys and get to the Currys homepage. There on the right is an iPad image and link.

Brilliant!

Not.

The iPad link is just a way of changing the tab on the box shown here. The rest of the box is one image, with an ALT text of “Default”. And the link to the next page uses anchor text of “more information”. Not may clues for Google there…

When you do get to the iPad page, every single bit of content is an image, all six of which have ALT text of “Apple iPad”. 

On top of this, the HTML title of the page (one of the key on-site optimisation issues for SEO) is “iPad_has_Arrived | Currys”.

I won’t bore you with my previous testing but if you separate words in your HTML title with underscores, then Google doesn’t recognise them as separate words. So it doesn’t see this as a page about how the iPad has arrived – it just sees one, meaningless word.

To sum up this page, therefore: the anchor text used to link to it is generic, the HTML title is gibberish and the content is six images, all with the same, generic ALT text.

If you do follow the link on that page, you finally get to the page that tells you stock levels for its stores. (This is, according to the phoneline, updated every hour – shame it doesn’t tell you this on the page).

In good news, this page does at least have some words on it. Again, though, the HTML title is “iPad_stores” which Google will not interpret as “iPad stores”. On top of this, it only mentions the word iPad three times on the page.

Conclusion: facepalm

If Currys had wanted to go out of its way to hide its iPad content from Google, some ways to do would be to:

  • Hardly use the word iPad on the pages.
  • Use meaningless anchor text when linking to the pages.
  • Use HTML titles that aren’t readable because words are separated by _s.
  • Hide most of the content in pictures with meaningless or identical ALT text.

It has done all these things. And it’s done exactly the same on the PC World site.

Maybe it’s no surprise after their copywriter’s triumphant “last place you’d want to go” marketing campaign.

Dixons Group: the last place search engines would want to go for an iPad.