I mentioned Avis’ new blog in the News items recently and so I was particularly interested to see that e-Consultancy have published an interview today with Xavier Vallee who is Avis’ UK Head of Marketing and presumably the person responsible for the Avis blog.
I was glad to read that Avis has been adopting the methodology I recommend in the Green Cross Code of Blogging. They have taken the time to examine and listen to the conversations which have been taking place about Avis around the internet / blogosphere before starting their own blog and have clearly thought through their own goals for creating a blog.
Equally, judging from the interview, Avis have defined what they want to achieve from the blog and presumably the criteria which they intend to use. The aims are quite wide covering “branding, PR, customer service and product development” so keeping track of responses will be important though they appear to be working with Market Sentinel here which is good.
Critically, they also seem to be doing the right things internally. The queries are streamed to relevant departments to be answered properly and presumably this is then followed up offline where appropriate, as well as on the blog itself. The blog also seems to have the backing at board level which will no doubt help those running it to maintain its impetus and development.
Avis Blog Review
The Avis blog has a very clean look, lots of white space (in a good way) and is in line with Avis’ corporate branding from what I can see. The “We Try Harder” domain name and imagery comes from corporate Avis, though it is more apparent on the global site rather than the UK one. It is running on WordPress which gives it excellent functionality and future proofing.
The “We Try Harder” name is good though the .com version, although owned by Avis, is used for different corporate purposes – it may be appropriate to make sure that there is a link through to the blog area on that page in case of people typing the name directly into their browser and getting the .com rather than the .co.uk
Writing – the content seems to have consistency and yet is varied enough to hold interest. It does reflect the multiple aims of the blog, covering corporate fundraising activities together with advice and tips when hiring a car as well as comments on motoring in general. I think that, in particular, the posts looking at overseas destinations has the making of a good mini series.
Navigation and Linking – the main navigation is a little confusing with some links going back to the main site and others linking to static pages on the blog itself. While it might be work in progress, it’s a little disappointing to see the blog homepage and “go to avis.co.uk” links below the main navigation rather than built into it or placed in the sidebar. This may be in the process of being changed though as there is currently duplication of some of the links and one is pointing to the wrong page.
The sidebar has a relatively standard set-up and could be used more effectively, perhaps by using the prime “real estate” to highlight particular points of interest either within the blog or in terms of what Avis is doing in general. Showing different elements in the sidebar on the single post pages might be positive as well, though they should retain the “Topics” (ie. categories) for the sake of consistency.
Conversely, is there a link to it from the main Avis UK site? I couldn’t find one. If there isn’t, then that’s a big opportunity missed from a basic marketing perspective.
Permalinks – currently the permalinks use the default format which is a real pity (though simple to change) – therefore the page and post IDs are currently being used rather than using a customised and “friendly” permalink which would display, for example, the post names. Friendly URLs will be better both for readers and Search Engines alike.
RSS subscription – RSS is getting much better known but still a bit of a mystery to many, so therefore with such a prominent placement of the RSS logo and subscription link, I would have included a link to some sort of explanation as to what RSS can offer to encourage users to subscribe. Since the RSS feed is through Feedburner, I would have also incorporated an option to sign up via email using one of the services that Feedburner integrates with. That way, all bases are covered and you are giving your readers the choice.
Title Tags and Meta Tags – while it may not be seeking out Search Engine rankings as a primary goal, there would be no harm in changing the Title Tags’ format and wording in particular to make them more useful and relevant. I think that I would also include the word “Avis” at the end to help the individual posts.
Summary – overall, a positive feel to the blog which I have no doubt will develop over time. The branding is consistent without being in your face and the writing so far has variety without veering towards selling which is the portent of doom for any blog. The writers seem to work well together and the writing styles don’t obviously clash.
I would certainly look at working at the blog based marketing activities which could help enhance the visitor rates and also use the sidebar areas to better effect. However, these will come with time and in the meantime the challenge will remain keeping the posts consistent and interesting.
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