I Hate Online Malls

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I try to write about three times per week. Most of it is pretty good and will probably help you grow your business. If it doesn't, then I probably can't help you.

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You can use a traditional RSS Feedreader with this fancy-dancy link. I think this approach is harder but if you want to do it the hard way, who am I to say otherwise?

posted this on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at about 9am.
Orange Julius

I had spent two years in Europe and when I came home in mid 1995, I was amazed at this new-fangled thing called the “Internet.” It took a bit of work for me to get my head around it.

I remember my father explaining to me the concept of inter-related Web pages and how it worked and nothing made sense. It started to all click for me when he talked about the concept of an online mall… even though the analogy was a bit off.

Online malls came into our lexicon in the mid 1990s. Their purpose was to help people transition from the traditional understanding of a mall to what the World Wide Web is. Even though I began to understand the concept, I still struggled because an online mall really isn’t anything like a real mall. There is no main aisle in the middle of the mall, there aren’t really storefronts and you can’t buy an Orange Julius.

Before the days of Google and Yahoo, the WWW was in its infancy and as people were trying to figure out what in the world the “Internet” was, an online mall sort of made sense. It was a place for people to go and see local businesses in a directory and shop.

The problem is, online malls have lost their value and are really a waste of money. I thought I’d give you my top ten reasons why online malls are a form of advertising you should never, ever consider.

  1. It’s not a mall. You aren't going to see Radio Shack, The Gap or The Apple Store in an online mall. They understand it’s not a place that you can get traffic to because of the mall. There is no such thing as a prime location in an online mall.
  2. It’s the mall that benefits not you. You pay an annual leasing fee for a page of content but the mall only cares about their bottom line, not yours. They work to optimize the mall for the search engines — not you. They work to get traffic to the mall — not to you. In fact, they don’t really care about traffic unless it comes to their mall.
  3. If you like to set it and forget it, the mall might make sense because you give up control. However, if you want to be successful, you can’t live by your mall listing alone. You'll need need a separate website anyway. You'll need to control the layout, the design and the presentation. Even your content options are limited by the mall’s standards.
  4. One positive on an online mall is that you get an inbound link to your location. However, it's a pretty darn espensive link but it’s not worth $50 per month let alone the $750 - $1,000 many online malls are charging. Getting something custom is even more. Even the Yahoo! directory is only $300 per year.
  5. If you like to advertise other businesses but not get paid for that advertising, then the online mall makes sense for you. This is amazing to me because even a real mall doesn't make you give up space to advertise other businesses. In fact, in an online mall, you’ll often see competitors to you on your page. I recently took a screen shot from an online mall. Notice all the advertisers on the left side of the page. This is the sum of the entire listing that this company pays a fortune for. (click the screen shot for a full size version of it).Online Mall
  6. Most often, the directory listings are confusing at best. Then again, maps in malls are not the easiest to read either. They aren’t designed for the user to find you easily. They are designed to be easy for the developer.
  7. An online mall will not prevent you from being high in Google. In fact there are plenty of listing that make it to the top but usually they are the companies that pay a lot more than the minimum. In the end, there really is no way to compete against Google in providing a listing. Google is the ultimate online mall. That’s what you should worry about.
  8. Find out what the online malls are in your area. Then go and ask ten potential clients if they ever go there to find things and I’d bet you a nickel that the most you’d ever get to say yes would be one.
  9. Call ten of the businesses in an online mall and ask them how many calls they get from their online mall listing or how many refers they get to their website from the online mall. I bet it’s a very low number. And this is a service designed to drive traffic (supposedly).
  10. Online malls are outdated concepts. People don’t need the mall analogy anymore… especially since it’s a phony metaphor.

I think that if your favorit song is 'Gangsta's Paradise' and you'd prefer to live in 1995 then you can probably stick with the online mall. For the rest of us, they are a waste of money. There are too many free places to list your site and Google is really where you want to be.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Consulting firm.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

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