In honor of the jewelry shows in Tucson, Arizona this week, I decided to search for a website review candidate in that area. I began my search with the phrase "jewelry stores tucson az" and saw these results on Google:
The goal of these weekly reviews is to point out problems that retailers are making on their website so everyone can learn from those mistakes. This week, I spotted something important on McGuire's Jewelers, the first one listed in the above results. Their website is https://mcguiresjewelers.com/.
This is what the McGuire's Jewelers home page looked like when I visited:
(click to enlarge)
I immediately recognized this template design; in fact, my own company was offering designs using this theme about 6 years ago. I was curious to see how long they've been using this design, so I jumped over to the Internet Archive at this address: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://mcguiresjewelers.com
I found out that they've had a website since 2004, and it's gone through several permutations over the years. It looks like they originally had a basic information website, then a Flash site of some type, then a vendor provided product catalog, and now this version. Those are the usual evolutionary steps as business owners struggle to figure out how to make their website work for them.
I do want to specifically point out that the previous incarnation was a vendor-provided site, which had an automatically populated online catalog of different products. Those types of sites are managed by the website company and/or by the jewelry vendors directly. This type of website frees up the jeweler's time because they don't have to manage the product catalog, but you also can't see the website statistics to tell how good or bad the website is performing. All of the vendor provided sites I know of cost several hundred per month, or require a minimum volume purchase per year from that vendor. McGuire was using a vendor provided site from about February 2012 through December 2014.
From what I can tell, the hero image on the home page is the only thing that has changed on the McGuire website since December 2014. In fact, since December 2014 their Events page has had the message "Come out to our Levian trunk show December 9th." I suppose that seems accurate at least once per year. Here's a screen shot of it:
Jewelers who are aggressive in their marketing usually transition from a vendor site to a full ecommerce site that they manage, while the jewelers who have limited workforce will usually transition to the type of site that McGuire has today, specifically a no-maintenance site.
What's a No-Maintenance Site?
In the ancient history of the internet (1994-2002), websites were usually small with limited features. Not many companies could afford the big budgets needed for ecommerce sites and custom programming, so most small businesses were attempting single page or small DIY sites to create some type of online presence.
Oftentimes, you'll hear website professionals referring to those simple sites as "business placeholder sites" or "business card sites." Essentially, they are nothing more than an online brochure or business card.
There are many free ways to create those business card sites today, or you could pay services like Yellow Pages and Hubu for something similar.
A no-maintenance site has a little more information than those business card sites. There are several commonly accepted pages that all websites have now, including pages like About Us, Contact, Directions, Services, and Policies. Depending on the business type you would also have a few educational pages and some simple product pages.
The expectation is that this type of site will save a lot of money because they won't have to update the site for a while, perhaps even a few years. From what I can tell, the McGuire site hasn't been updated for 25 months.
I do not agree with this practice at all.
Although the jewelry store owner might view this no-maintenance site as a lowering of monthly expenses, what they are really doing is hurting their marketing. Google has a way to measure the age of a website and they use that as part of their ranking algorithm. My own research shows that websites without updates for more than a year are eventually phased out of the search results.
Therefore, while you might expect to save money by avoiding monthly website maintenance fees, the longterm net effect is the loss of online visibility and therefore new customers.
Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face
Another way to cut website costs and maintenance fees is for retail jewelers to embed their vendor websites within their websites. Using a small bit of magic HTML code you are able to make another website appear within the same window of your website. Done correctly it appears as a seamless integration that people won't notice.
A handful of jewelry vendors have created special websites specifically for embedding, and they look good. I know of several diamond vendors who have fantastic embeddable diamond search sites for jewelers.
Over time, many jewelers started to use this simple embed method to insert their supplier's full websites into their own. Here's an example from McGuire's website:
At best, someone looking at this page would be confused by the appearance of a website within a website. At worst, the internet generation will view this as damaging to McGuire's credibility and reputation. The purple box shown in the above screen grab is the Scott Kay newsletter signup. I expect that most people looking at this would be confused.
On the other hand, those who click past the email signup request could start browsing the Scott Kay website and even stumble across the Store Locator page. A quick search by state reveals that there's another jeweler within driving distance of McGuire's, shown here:
It seems silly to me that any jeweler would embed vendor sites like these into their site when it's so easy to lose a potential client to another local jeweler, yet this is becoming a growing trend for many jewelers who are trying to save money on their website maintenance costs.
Try as I could, I was not able to think of any other industry with a similar growing bad trend. The main street in my own home town is filled with dozens of small businesses and restaurants. Several of the restaurants use online menu ordering services instead of creating their own website, while most of the rest have different size sites depending on the services offered.
Furthermore, I didn't find any embedded websites when I did a quick peek into the sites for several of the stores at my local shopping mall.
It sure seems like this bad website trend is something only retail jewelers are doing. Remember, the reason for doing this is simply to save website maintenance costs.
The belief is that you can just embed someone else's site and hope to benefit when those other sites are updated with new products. However, that's not how it works. Using the example shown above, Google would recognize a new time stamp for the Scott Kay website when it is updated, but that new time stamp does not translate to McGuire.
McGuire eventually loses.
No Hidden Princes
There's no control over the content shown on a vendor website when you embed it into your site. There's also no guarantee that the website will appear the way you expect it to appear.
The McGuire website has 17 different pages with embedded designer websites. I assume that they tested all 17 embedded sites when they originally launched this site back in December 2014 (25 months ago). What McGuire probably didn't consider was that those 17 designers were not going to sit still with their website marketing. Unlike McGuire's, each of those designers continue to manage their online brand identity in order to broaden their exposure and reach more retailers and consumers alike.
I've witnessed several times when an embedded website looks oddly out of place, for example, this one:
The frog statues you see above were on the home page of the Hidalgo website at the time I wrote this. They are out of context for a jewelry site which would lead to customer confusion. With so many other options available, confused customers will leave the site instead of trying to make sense of it.
Screwed Up Security
Another factor that Google includes in the website ranking algorithm is whether or not our website is secure. It's a small factor that could make a big difference in highly competitive industries. You can recognize a secure website by the "https" that appears in the website address bar like you see here:
I don't often mention secure websites when I write these reviews because the typical secure website also has ecommerce. However, the McGuire site didn't have ecommerce and it doesn't have any apparent reason for the security at all.
Someone had to pay for the secure certificate for this site, and someone had to manually tell Google that the security should appear in the SERPs. Sadly, the person who set up this security has no concept of the detrimental affect it has on the appearance of this website, because, secure websites and embedded websites don't play well together.
In order for me to capture all the above screen shots, I had to force my computer to use the non-secure version of the McGuire's site, i.e. the "http" version instead of the "https" version shown in the Google SERPs.
Look again as the screen grab for the Scott Kay embedded page when viewed with security turned on:
The entire page is blank, except for the header. Not only are all 17 designer line pages blank like this, but they also have 8 pages for watch brands that are also blank.
In other words, when someone clicks the McGuire link from the Google SERP they land on a website that has 25 broken pages. Did I mention yet that this website only has 34 pages?
From what I can tell, it looks like someone well educated in SEO went through the McGuire website and did their best to tweak every page. I assume that that same SEO expert also set up the secure website without considering how it would kill 25 pages. There are ways to mitigate these security problems, but they are becoming harder and harder to implement as security on the internet becomes tighter.
Many retail jewelers are trying to cut costs out of their website budget by implementing no-maintenance websites. Sadly, those no-maintenance sites lead to their eventual decline in ranking.
In a world where everyone worries about becoming first in Google's rankings, I have to wonder why anyone would choose to implement a website that leads to their inevitable downfall. I always assume that they are either trying to pinch pennies or they don't believe all the website hype they hear about.
Although it might seem like I've beaten the topic of embedded websites to death, the truth is that I only just touched on the tip of this trending problem that is financially harming retail jewelers. Their secure website is compounding the problem even further.
McGuire's boasts that they been in business since 1947 and have 3 generations of jewelers working there. In the past few years industry news has reported on several long standing jewelers that have shuttered after financial difficulties. As a business coach I can tell you that floundering websites are one of the initial dominoes in a long chain of events that lead to a loss of customers and loss of sales.
McGuire has one thing going for them that I could find. Even though they have not touched their website in 25 months, they are quite active on Facebook with more than 52,000 people who like their page. Although that number sounds fantastic, Facebook's policies for business pages also make it difficult to reach your followers without paying for it. Looking through all their posts from the last week, couldn't find any that had more than 19 likes, and none of them had comments. In other words, they are not very engaging.
That's it for this week; I'll see you next time...
FTC Notice: I randomly choose this website and won't be telling the retailer jeweler that I'm giving them these flop fix ideas. Unless someone else tells them, they will only find out about this Nugget if they use Google Alerts or examine their Google Analytics and Google Search Console. I'm not doing this to solicit business from them, but rather as an educational exercise for everyone. This #FridayFlopFix is completely impartial and all my comments are based on previous experience in my website design and marketing agency, and from my personal research data.