My Week: Ling Valentine of

The contract car entrepreneur courts controversy with her radical approach to PR, cost-cutting and SEO...

Last Updated: 11 Apr 2013

Following a busy couple of weeks watching the Beijing Olympics, I'm now dealing with the aftermath of my spoof You Tube video which was a "rehearsal" of the Olympic Closing Ceremony, with me on piano replacing Leona Lewis. Unfortunately, some people took it rather too seriously and I was attacked for being anti-British, and then yelled at again for being anti-Chinese. Strange that no one mentioned pro-Nazi, as the tune I used was "Tomorrow belongs to me", the Hitler Youth song, from Cabaret. Maybe people were already seeing red from my insolence in choosing a red Biffa bin (along with my own red London bus) as a symbol of London 2012.
Citroen UK emailed at the end of last week asking if I could offer some advice on moving contract-hire Citroen C-Crossers (the Mitsubishi Outlander clone). "Drop the price" was my answer. That took 0.005 seconds to think about. But it's not just Citroen who are struggling in the current business climate. There is blood on the car showroom floor. Land Rover are panicking with a 57% registration drop in August 08 compared to August 07, and I managed to sell more cars on my own than the whole of the Dodge or Subaru dealer networks, which cheered me up. I just about equalled the whole volume of Lexus UK. Prepare for some car dealer bad news stories over the next few months. Remarkably, my sales are up, which is good news.
At home, my central heating pump has broken, and it struck me - what a great way to save energy. So, we've been having a clamp down at work and bulbs have been removed from many lights and I've simply disconnected some plug sockets. Some of my (British) staff have been moaning, but my Chinese people say it's just like being back in China - nothing works. I'm not sure of the benefit of having a light in the loos, but the girls have shouted, whereas boys have all said they don't care, although I notice an increase in mop activity. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have to offset all those Chinese coal-fired power plants, somehow.

Otherwise, one topic seems have dominated my week: Google. I’ve been trialling the new browser; Chrome; hopefully having a new process for every webpage will stop the memory-hogging problem, and it’s quite cool and fast to use. Later, Google called for information about my business – it’s not often you get a phone call from Google! Despite their political roll-over in China, Google is one company I am always happy to talk to.

Recently I’ve been attacked on the UK Business Forums by some SEO ‘experts’ over the way I approach the potentially expensive task of grabbing customers from Google searches (and it certainly can be expensive - I know some large car-selling companies who spend well in excess of £20k/month on Google AdWords). My argument is that people do not consult a dictionary of "standard search terms". Humans are mentally-crazy beings with fingers attached to their brains by a group of uncontrollable nerves and weak muscles. The range of things that gets people inspirationally clicking away is so diverse, quite apart from the fact that their minds are built like exploding cauliflowers. There are billions of crazy search terms entered each day into Google - from misspellings, to dyslexic attempts, to the purely daft. One visitor to my site yesterday managed to get three different full stops into one single word.
SEOs call themselves experts and have services to sell, and they can hardly admit that uncontrolled explosions of emotional interest generate massive random Googults (Google results). So, they subscribe to a neat theory of '10 key phrases' which, they assure website owners, will constitute the bulk of targeted traffic response. Creating a bidding war over these is how Google makes so much money on Google AdWords and is also how SEO people justify their charges. Companies end up bidding well over £2 a click to get to the top of the list for the exactly same term as everyone else. They pay SEOs thousands to dominate the free searches. Don’t they realise only one result can be at the top, for every search?
My firm belief is that creating masses of good content is much more effective, and much cheaper, than going for 10 or 20 key phrases at £££s a click. You also get less competition in the results, you get fresh customers to your website and you avoid standing shoulder to shoulder with the usual suspects. I find that an easy way to get clicked on after appearing on the Googults page is to generate the meta tag description (the two lines of descriptive text) from an array of amusing and worthwhile sentences. Two I use are try saying this car’s name after drinking 8 pints and not your average car saleswoman! Much better than Lease, Car Lease, Cars Leasing, PCP, Contract Hire, which is the staple fare in my industry.

Why companies think people are turned on by key words beats me. Surely humans respond to emotion and warmth?

Ling Valentine is the Gateshead-based entrepreeneur behind contract car business LINGsCARS, which supplies new UK Contract Hire (and sometimes PCP, Lease and Lease Hire) cars and vans. In 2008, she moved over £28,000,000 of brand new cars. We first came across Ling when we wrote THIS.

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