Rethinking Style Me Prettys Vendor Guide Little Black Book

Yesterday Style Me Pretty launched its new website, and while it may look aesthetically pleasing, it continues to fall short of the promises made to the vendors from whom it so easily took advertising dollars.

Being a small business owner is tough so rethinking my investment in Style Me Pretty’s Vendor Guide Little Black Book is not something that I am doing lightly. But when I noticed that all traffic from SMP’s LBB to my site had essentially dried up, taking the possibility of inquiries with it, I realized that it was time to do some serious analysis.

After all, spending $1,875 in a year for zero conversions is a complete waste of money. 

DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE THAT I DID.

*Before this post really takes off let me just say that Analysis is tough and boring for creatives, I  KNOW, but I implore you, before you throw your dollars away, or blindly throw them at a marketing channel that you think may work, talk to someone. Reach out to a more seasoned professional, learn the basics of web and marketing analytics, or just email me and I will be happy to provide you with resources to help you. Small business owners are constantly taken advantage of because of lack of resources or background knowledge, but collectively we can and should help one another. *

Warehouse XI Film Digital Photography Styled Shoot

Background

I’ve been a full-time wedding photographer for the past 4 years, initially taking as many weddings as I could mentally manage. As the years progressed, my goals changed and I shifted from a “take all of the weddings that I can manage” approach, to one in which I accepted high quality leads (higher budgets, attention to details, preferable venues/locations). I also wanted to pay more attention to my SEO.

I’ve advertised on The Knot and Wedding Wire in the past, but their sites were cluttered and didn’t really convey that elevated look that I was hoping clients would aspire to have at their weddings.

So I looked to Style Me Pretty.

The work that SMP displays, from vendors that submit to them, is arguably the most aesthetically consistent on internet. There is a clear vision, one that projects the idea of an elevated wedding; A wedding that I would not only want to have myself, but also photograph. So in July of 2015 I joined their Little Black Book.

From Conversions to Crickets

My first year as a member of SMP’s Little Black Book was incredibly successful to say the least. Inquiries rolled in just about every other day and a significant number of those inquiries converted to actual clients. It was worth every dollar of my $1800+ investment, so I renewed my contract in July 2016.

When September of 2016 rolled around, inquiries from Style Me Pretty felt a bit more quiet than they normally did for a very high traffic time of year, but I let it pass as perhaps an anomaly.

It was only towards the end of the year and beginning of 2017 that I noticed that NOT ONE of my inquiries listed Style Me Pretty as the way in which they had found me. 

New England Wedding in the Woods

Finding an answer with Google Analytics

My first thought was to check two years worth of traffic in Google Analytics in the Dashboard with this path:

Acquisition > Overview > Referral > Style Me Pretty

While I noticed the traffic was consistently downwardly trending, I wasn’t actively alarmed until I noticed these results on the geography-based vendor pages:

The complete drop to zero visits from these geography-based pages was consistent for all of the locations on which my vendor profile was listed.

Around July/August of 2016, there was a detrimental site change in which SMP removed all location-based vendor listing pages and centralized the operation into one query based vendor search here: http://www.stylemepretty.com/vendor-guide

These location specific pages, on which my business was listed, were removed and redirects were added – but there’s a catch, the tool on the redirect page is broken.

stylemepretty.com/little-black-book/new-england/photography/

stylemepretty.com/little-black-book/vermont/photography/

stylemepretty.com/little-black-book/new-hampshire/photography/

stylemepretty.com/little-black-book/rhode-island/photography/

stylemepretty.com/little-black-book/maine/coastal/photography/

Redirect is broken

If you click on any of those links above and attempt to use the search tool, YOU CAN’T.

THE SEARCH TOOL ON THE REDIRECT PAGE IS BROKEN <<Insert facepalm here>>.

Why this matters to you and your site’s SEO

The existence of those location pages were important to all Little Black Book Vendors’ SEO. When a couple is searching for a wedding vendor, a default search is often “<location>wedding vendor” – examples: New York Wedding Planner, San Diego Wedding Videographer, New England Wedding Photographer.

By removing all of those pages and redirecting to that query tool, SMP destroyed all of the SEO link value that was attributed to those pages for location. Style Me Pretty’s vendor search tool does not rank in Google searches when the keyword includes location. 

It’s important to note here that the results of a query search are ignored by Google. This is the resulting URL from a search for Boston Event Planner on the SMP vendor guide search:

http://www.stylemepretty.com/vendor-guide/search/event%20planners?location=Boston%2C%20MA

Unfortunately, Google stops reading after the question mark, making Style Me Pretty completely uncompetitive for geographic based wedding vendor search terms.

Style Me Pretty’s Response

I’ve emailed the Little Black Book team and received responses that are incredibly vague in nature, mostly saying that they will forward my work on to their tech team. While each response has been incredibly kind and thanked me for being so helpful, I found the most recent response – to an email full of analysis – particularly disheartening:

For a site that exists and thrives as a result of the content that is provided by many of these vendors, there is a certain expectation as to quality of response. This does not meet that expectation. But thanks for the smiley face.

Looking Forward

  • I’ve reached out to other vendors to ensure that it wasn’t something with my content that drove traffic down, and sure enough, everyone that I’ve spoken with has mentioned that they’ve have almost no inquiries in recent months.

There is simply not enough benefit (return) to justify the investment in Style Me Pretty’s Little Black Book at this point.

  • Sites constantly change and perhaps these changes weren’t malicious in their intent, but they simply were not executed with SEO and Vendors best interest at heart or on the mind.

With the new SMP site, placement of the vendor page is incredibly difficult to find.

  • It’s filed under “More” on the Menu bar or below the fold/scroll on the homepage. On The Knot and Wedding Wire, the vendor search tools hold the most prominent placement on their homepage.
  • The quality of work (as seen in their portfolios) by some of the vendors included within the Little Black Book also seems to have deteriorated, while the number of vendors has increased, essentially diluting the value of any one vendor’s individual listing.
  • At this point I won’t be renewing this summer as there is no benefit to my brand, but I’m always happy to reconsider if adjustments are made.
  • In my opinion, for SEO purposes solely, it’s definitely worth giving other sites a look. The Knot seems to have cleaned up a bit and the prominence of it’s vendor listing is enticing.

Paying attention to analytics may be boring, but it’s essential. Don’t continue to throw money at investments that aren’t worthwhile.

Nicole

St Patricks Cathedral New York Wedding