At RedFlagDeals.com we tend to deal with a lot of other companies’ customer service issues. For example, last week I spent 10 minutes on the phone explaining to someone that I couldn’t help him fix his Prima TV because I didn’t work for Prima or have any relationship with them. Turns out that the local Wal-Mart had told him to contact Prima and he had simply Googled them and ended up on our website. For a lot of
Internet users, search is not only the best way to find things on the web, it’s the only way; to the point where many users don’t use the address bar to type in a domain, they simply Google the entire domain.
Normally, this sort of behaviour isn’t too much of a problem; however there are cases where this can cause trouble, such as with unique campaign URLs. We recently saw this with a rewards campaign that Rogers ran for its wireless customers. To reward long time customers, Rogers ran a direct mail campaign offering a free music CD. All you had to do to claim your CD was go to www.rogers.com/gift and enter a unique code.
The only problem was if you went to Google.ca and typed in "www.rogers.com/gift", a thread from the RedFlagDeals.com forums came up first and no Rogers page whatsoever was listed.
The first mailouts started arriving at customers’ doors on July 17 and within the first three days we had over a thousand visitors arrive at RedFlagDeals.com looking for their free CD. We first clued in when we started getting emails from frustrated visitors asking how to get their
free gift. Through the end of August we’ve had over 5000 visitors and dozens of customer support emails as a result of the Rogers campaign. It took over two weeks for Google to index the URL.
The reason this happened is because the rogers.com/gift page was simply a redirect and since there were no links on the Rogers webpage to the gift page, it took an extremely long time for Google to find the URL. While we did our best to point those who contacted us in the right direction, only a small percentage of the visitors bothered to email us and a great many more probably just gave up.
What could Rogers have done differently? They could have either pre-seeded the URL or used a directory rewrite so that the gift page actually resided at www.rogers.com/gift. Neither solution is technically difficult and implementing one of them would have saved their customers
a lot of headaches.