Love Chips: what the site says about government spin and SEO
The government is to close 600 websites in order to save £100 million it was announced last week - including the lovechips.co.uk site run by the marketing department of the Potato Council to encourage us to stuff our faces with fat-soaked portions of starchy foods with no real nutritional value.
Poking around a bit, it soon became clear that:
- The government is lying about the saving
- The people who commissioned this website are idiots.
- This website should have been shut a long time ago for lying
The government is lying about the saving
The lovechips site is run by the Potato Council, a division of the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHBD). (I like the Potato Council website - at the bottom it says "If you can read this your browser is standards complient". I don't really like it - as well as being bad at spelling, it's awful.)
Anyway, the AHBD is funded by a statutory levy on producers, growers and processors. Although its chief exec's £150k salary (plus £30k bonus) used to be paid by Defra, this arrangement was stopped after 2008 according to the last annual report.
Which means that (1) the government has no real power to shut the lovechips site and (2) if it was shut, any saving would benefit AHBD and not the government at all - so it could not form part of any efficiency saving that could go towards reducing the budget deficit.
The people who commissioned this website are idiots
It might be AHBD's money, but it's still a waste of money. For instance, here is a page to find a chip shop in London. Apparently there are 5 chip shops in London (Update: there are 6 I see. Lambeth is listed separately to London).
There is also the lamest game ever. Honsestly - I challenge you to find one lamer than this.
In some ways they are getting value for money, as if you go to lovechips.com you can see the whole site all over again. Actually, they are framing the .co.uk site - so as you move around the .com version, the URL at the top stays as lovechips.com, making it impossible to copy any URLs to link to. Try it. (They're not really getting value for money - I was kidding).
A chip on my shoulder about their poor SEO
If we do a site: search on Google, we can see how their pages look. As you can see, the HTML titles of their pages (the bit of meta data that the website owner sets and which Google shows in its results) are mostly meaningless. Pages like "Scotland" look fairly ridiculous in Google's results - who would imagine you would click a page called "Scotland" and get a list of chip shops?
Then there's the page called "Chip Inspector", which has some chip films, none of which appear to involve inspectors.
Anyway, I'm not really sure of the point of the lovechips site. But the people who built it also built the Love potatoes site and did some SEO on that:
"Allies Design worked with GPMD [some other agency] on a Search Engine Optimisation strategy which we implemented through the design and content of the site. Within just 5 months of launching the new site, we'd more than doubled the number of visitors through Google every month."
I'm not going to comment on the meaningless of this statement (EG was it from 1 to 2 visitors?). But you'd have thought that they would set up the HTML titles properly so that the pages looked sensible in Google (and so that Google could work out what they were about). Maybe I do them an injustice and they gave some very clear rules but the potato people couldn't get their heads round them? Or the Alt text for images, which is also very poor. Or the fact that meta descriptions are missing from nearly all the pages?
Either way, I'm not sure how both the design agency and GPMD persuaded the potato lot that they should both have a design / build credit link at the bottom of every page. Or why they felt they would want one.
One measure of its success would be traffic I guess. I'm not fan of the accuracy of Alexa's data, but it will have to do for the lovechips site. Apparently it's the 2,553,642nd most visited site in the world. Which given this blog is the 136,515th according to Alexa is pretty lame.
Oh, and as for the lies ...
According to the lovechips site, chips are healthy:
Chips are rich in vitamin C which scientists say can help fight off cancer
There is also a panel that says "Click here to find out why chips have all the goodness of potatoes!" However, according to the Food Standard's Agency's Eat Well site:
Potatoes ... don't count towards our [five-a-day] daily fruit and veg portions ... And although potatoes don’t contain much vitamin C compared to other vegetables, in Britain we get a lot of our daily vitamin C from them because we eat so many of them.
So there we have it. It lies about the nutritional value of potatoes. The people who commissioned it don't know or care that hardly anyone visits it. But shutting it down won't save us a penny.