Forsman & Bodenfors and Svenska Kyrkan Don’t Know Google

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If they only knew what a great idea they really had! Forsman & Bodenfors just came up with a new site for Svenska Kyrkan (The Church of Sweden) where you can submit your prayer to the site. The prayer is then keyworded on the site so that you can find other prayers on the same topic.

What makes this idea so great is that it suddenly makes The Church of Sweden relevant for a vast number of current topics like swine flu or economic crisis. Just like the church is relevant across a broad spectrum of topics in real life, it becomes equally relevant online. It also produces thousands of pages with relevant cross links. Brilliant.

Unfortunately this is also where the brilliance ends and it becomes apparent that Forsman & Bodenfors haven’t understood what a great idea they really had. Why is that? Well – much of the power of this idea, say a potential 20-50% of visits to the site, comes from the fact that the church becomes a relevant hit on Google for so many different topics. Or would have become just that, if they would have been at all visible to Google. And they aren’t, simply because F&B don’t know Google. Forsman & Bodenfors have chosen Flash as their technology for this campaign, which in it’s standard form isn’t indexable by Google. And they haven’t done any of the standard workarounds to make it so. To Google, this looks like thousands of identical and uninteresting pages with different names. Google looks at it, scratches it’s head, and throws all of them in the garbage without indexing anything. Let alone indexing on a wide variety of topics.

Svenska Kyrkan 1

You can see above what the site looks like. You can see the selected prayer in the middle with keywords in different colors and the share buttons. Pretty, but utterly useless from a Google perspective. Because if you take a look at how Google sees, this is what Google sees:

Svenska Kyrkan be på Google

Google sees three pages instead of the potential thousands. One containing the main page containing the Flash file, the Flash file itself described with this beautiful text: txt Header instructions txt1 txt2 txt3 txt4 Header instructions txt Header instructions txt txt Lorem ipsum. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, …”, and the fail page “the prayer doesn’t exist”.

In plain English this is a complete failure, and an awesome display of the problem most agencies are facing – they are smart, but they live in the past.

Besides the Google perspective, there is also the perspective of user behavior. Users want intuitive interaction. It is not intuitive to use an embed-code to embed text. For video, there is a purpose for the embed code, but for text? No. People naturally want to be able to copy and paste the text directly, preferably with links and colors and everything. That way we also get relevant links all over the web linking back to the Church of Sweden site on relevant topics. THAT would have been brilliant.

Conclusion – This is really an excellent idea, but the excellence is there by mistake, and is not taken advantage of at all simply because of lacking knowledge of basic SEO. It’s really sad. Especially since it would have been so easy to solve by using DHTML or even underlying indexable content.

One thing puzzled me though. How could something like this receive thousands of entries? Truly a mystery. At least until I switched on the television in my hotel room and saw television commercials for the internet campaign! Advertising for… advertising! What on earth?! To get traffic to the site you try to buy this traffic with television dollars?! A site like this one should get at least 20-50% of its traffic via search, which would have been free, self regenerating, and incredibly easy to achieve.

Suggestion – (Hi friends at F&B, I know you’re reading this and you know I love you, but I HAD to write this, since it’s such a great example to learn from. Please accept my free advice here as a return favor).

What if you would have used existing and established services such as Facebook status updates and Twitter posts (#whatever) to complement your web interface as a way to input prayers?  And an email adress (spam filtered of course) and an SMS-service (free of course)[edit: they have SMS-input]? What if your output of the prayers would have been much more flexible, mashable, widgetized and projected at the churches of Stockholm? Or whatever. Make it bigger. Give it presence.

But more than anything – learn SEO. Optimize that thing! Optimize it! Because really, what you came up with, apparently without realizing it, was a really good idea! You have great brains! But by implementing it the way you did, you created a bomb without a fuse.
For some reason, this image comes to mind. 😉


Yeah, we're down with social media.

[Edit: Article about the site in Swedish: ]

About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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