Yesterday I received an email telling me that I'd had a profile entered for me at the 'small business directory' Hotfrog.
I'd never heard of the site before, but never one to pass up a promotion opportunity, I set about checking it wasn't spam and seeing what it could offer me. According to the spiel in the email each profile gets an average of 280 hits a day, which sounded encouraging... but after much tearing of hair I've concluded that most of those hits are frustrated advertisers trying to *find* their profile, rather than potential customers.
The email itself was distinctly unprofessional. There was no link to the main Hotfrog page, nor was there a link to my newly created profile. Instead, having told me that I had a profile, it invited me to create one of my own. Huh? And the only link anywhere in the email was to a 'create a profile' dedicated webpage... which also had no links to the main homepage or to anything else. If I wanted to access the main site, I was told, I had to search for it on Google or one of the other main search engines.
I didn't think I needed to create a profile since one already existed. I did, however, need to amend that profile, because the address they'd quoted for me was actually for one of my publishers, Byker Books, and there was no mention of a link to my web site (surely one of the main reasons for being on a directory like this in the first place). I went off, dutifully, to Google for the main site.
Once found, this proved to be an even bigger disappointment. The home page looks amateurish, with a couple of search boxes, a few non-clickable links and a lot of Google ads. You can't search the directory by name, only by place/post code and category - and there's no list of categories. So if you want to find your own profile (or that of anyone else) you have to guess which category it's been created in and you have to know the address. You can't search on one or the other - both boxes have to be filled in. I tried a couple of different combinations, including writer/Newcastle and publisher/Newcastle, neither of which brought up my profile. What they did bring up was an uninspiring 'Yellow Pages' style listing, in no apparent order. Where this ran to more than one page, the back button didn't work. And each page I visited was awash with yet more Google ads.
So. I have a profile, but I can't find it. If I can't find it, what chance have any of my readers of stumbling across it? How is it ever going to be seen by those '280 hits a day'? More worrying, I couldn't see any sign of a link to amend a profile, which means the incorrect address on mine is presumably there for all time. Even more worrying than that, there appears to be no way of getting a listing removed if you don't actually want it. All you can do is unsubscribe from the email notification service.
As I said above, I'm all in favour of new ways of promoting myself and my writing - but they have to work for me. I'm left with the impression that Hotfrog is much less about promotion for its participants, and much more about yet another way to cram Google ads down internet users' throats - and presumably get paid for the privilege.
I'm not impressed.