Inside the Net: Superstitions and Secrets

It’s not that you won’t find anything. If you go looking, you’ll find something. But what you find can be worse than nothing. At least that’s been the case for several unlucky adventurers who’ve met their fate seeking riches in the Arizona desert.

In 1931, it was Adolph Ruth, an amateur treasure hunter whose skull was found with two bullet holes in it, six months after he vanished.

In the early 1940s, it was James Cravey, whose body was found without its head. Mr. Cravey was a victim of the same quest.

And in 2009, it was Jesse Capen, who went missing for three years and was eventually found in 2012 by Arizona authorities. Mr. Capen had long since passed.

Those three men all went searching, and they all found something worse than nothing—they found their end. If you’ve read this month’s Get the ‘Net column, you know where this is headed.

Each issue, I’m honored to write a column for the print edition of Fishing Tackle Retailer. It’s been a stalwart of the tackle trade for 35 years now (yes, we’re throwing a little party), and it is by all accounts a fine publication. But, sometimes, print is print and a story can be expounded upon online: that’s where I come in.

This is Inside the Net. It’s a new monthly follow-up to “Get the ‘Net” that delves deeper into my monthly print column.

Today, we’re talking about Bassmaster Elite pro John Murray, eCommerce, and superstitions.

I’m going to catch heat for comparing eCommerce to the deaths of actual people, and that’s fair. But the subject of eCommerce can be deadly serious for a business that dives in half-heartedly. Many of you are doing just that. I’ve seen your websites.

You’re playing a risky game. Whether you welcome it or hate it, people are searching for you online. And what you show can either help you or harm you.

Trust us, we know.

Just three years ago, was a shell of what you see today. It was a barely-functional, non-responsive website that could have been pulled straight from the pages of Geocities. A sticky-note taped to your computer screen would have sent a more positive message to the people who visited. In short, our website was a turnoff to potential readers. It certainly wasn’t up to par with the quality of our print magazine. But we fixed it. We modernized, and perception and web traffic increased almost immediately.

This was totally unacceptable.
The old FTR homepage. Vomit-inducing, yes. Powered by Joomla, which you should avoid.

The adventurers in our story all perished looking for fortune. They were all trying to find the Lost Dutchman’s Mine—a fabled horde of gold lost somewhere in the mountain passes near Phoenix. Your customers aren’t looking for a treasure trove of gold, but they are looking for a treasure trove of information about your store: Where are you located? What are your hours? What’s working for people on the water right now? What if they want to buy product online?

They are looking for an online storefront that makes sense. Like this one, or this one.

If you haven’t updated your website in years, it’s time for a refresh—it’s time to modernize and improve your perception. With any lucky, web traffic will follow. If your website doesn’t adjust for mobile devices, you need a new one. If your website looks like the 1990s, please stop the madness.

Every one of those common mistakes is sending potential customers to a dead end. And independent tackle stores aren’t the only ones making them.

  • Walmart’s online sales have floundered behind poor web design for years.
  • K-Mart’s website shows why they’ve been a mostly irrelevant player in retail for over a decade.
  • The homepage of Bass Pro Shops looks like a newspaper leaflet attacked your computer screen. (What are we supposed to be doing here?)

None of those websites are responsive to mobile devices. All of them are littered with clutter. And yet, they’re better than some of the websites I’ve visited from independent tackle dealers. And that’s a shame because many of you have better stories to tell and more loyal customers than they do.

The great tragedy here is that owning a bad website is unnecessary. Unlike Walmart or Bass Pro, most of you don’t need corporate approval to launch a redesign.

The days of spending tens of thousands on a quality website are long gone. A budget of around $5,000 should be enough to get your store a quality website from a reputable design firm. Do some digging for one in your town. If you can’t find one, email me and I’ll point you in the right direction. You can even build a website for yourself for much less on website builders like SquareSpace, but beware — results may vary.

When John Murray talks about the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, he tells you not to go there. “Don’t go looking for it,” he’ll say.

It’s a tactic that works for avoiding mysterious and untimely fates, but it doesn’t fly in eCommerce.

Out here, in the digital world, someone is always looking for you.