ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Search Engine Optimization (K2 #35)

Question of the Week
I am not getting many visitors to the website of my travel agency. Why is that la?
-- Dorji

Dear Dorji,

There are hundreds of tour operators' websites in Bhutan. And their number is growing fast! Websites are very important for travel agents, and a good website means increased web traffic and more customers. But what makes a "good" website?

Foreigners will often start their travel planning by searching the Internet. They might search the Internet for "bhutan travel agent" or "paro mask dance festival dates". If your website is properly done and appears in the first page of Google's search results, your website will get more traffic, increasing the chances that these visitors will become customers.

The art and science of creating websites that are highly-ranked by search engines (such as Google and Bing) is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Few webmasters in Bhutan are familiar with SEO. Most tour operators' websites (and also other Bhutanese websites) that I run into are not optimized for search engines. In addition to not being search-engine-friendly, many of the websites are also not user-friendly.

Here are three common website mistakes. Perhaps your website suffers from any of these? If so, try applying the suggested remedies. Tashi delek!

Mistake #1: Linking to other websites

OK, so you got a visitor to your website. Why include links that will cause your visitors to leave your website and check other sites, such as BBS, Kuensel, Druk Air, etc.? Even worse, why link your website to TCB's website, where the directory of all other tour operators, with their websites, is available? You are basically telling your visitor: Go away.

Remedy: Remove all external links unless absolutely necessary.

Mistake #2: Copying content from other websites

In Bhutan, it is common practice to create travel websites where the content has been shamelessly copied from other websites, usually other tour operators' websites. Big mistake! Google doesn't like copycat websites, and will penalize your website for it. And when a user searches the Internet, since your website's content is similar to others, you are basically competing with all other identical websites, lowering your chances of being displayed in Google's search results (in addition lowering your copyright karma).

Remedy: Use original content only.

Mistake #3: Being creative instead of effective

Yellow text on a green background, 21 different fonts, flashing banners, sliding photos... Webmasters like to exercise their creativity, but often at the expense of the website's effectiveness. Visiting some of the more "creative" websites is similar to watching NDTV: too loud, too busy, and totally ineffective. When visitors are blasted by visual noise, they will soon become impatient and look for information somewhere else.

Remedy: Make your website easy on the eyes. Take an example from Google's homepage.

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