The Rando Stranger Event

Every company has inside jokes and special code phrases, and Rosie asked me to write today about one of ours. While we are still planning to put “Wait — I’ll get my SEO time machine” on a T-shirt, the Rando Stranger Event is an important thing for website owners to know about.

The Rando Stranger Event is when a random stranger says something about your website that causes you to worry.

Messages like, “Hey, it looks like your website is down” or, “Dude, your website has stuff about Viagra on it” are not things you should ignore, but most Rando Stranger Events are quite different.

They come in two main flavors:

  • Someone shares their feeling that you should have a flashing button for your call to action or that all the cool websites have splash pages or something equally new to you. Sometimes these claims are in a more general situation, such as a speech at the Rotary Club or a radio interview.
  • You get an email that begins roughly like this, “I’ve noticed that your website, which could be a major source of revenue for your organization, is not getting enough search engine traffic.” It goes on to tell you things that seem to be filled with special insights into your online presence and then offers to sell you something.

“These emails sound a lot more real lately,” Rosie observed. Not all of them, of course, but it’s true that we’re seeing more of this spam that reads like an actual email from a human being. As Rosie pointed out, “They’re in English!”

The sheer amount of spam we all get (Yale University estimates 200 billion spam messages are sent each day) shows that people respond to it. If no one were taken in by it, spammers would eventually give up.

Before you get taken in, here are some things you should know:

  • No one but you (and people you’ve given access to your analytics) can actually see how much traffic you get or what your real rankings are. There is software that can estimate, and websites that will do so, but we’ve checked many of these tools and we know for a fact that they are wildly inaccurate. What’s more, we see messages in this spam that announce data for websites that no longer exist, that claim sites with thousands of indexed pages are unindexed, and so forth. Those emails are mass mailings sent out the same way mailings asking whether you’re worried about baldness are — they’re designed to fool you into thinking that the sender knows something about you and your website. They don’t.
  • People who give you random advice about your website (even if they’re not strangers) are just as knowledgeable and useful, on average, as people who give you random advice about your hairstyle. I kind of like random advice, myself; I figure it gives me a new perspective I might not otherwise have ever thought of. The last bit of advice I got in this way suggested that social media icons should be at the bottom of the page instead of the top — something I would never think of. It’s right up there with, “You should dye your hair pink!” — advice I got from a student last year. Interesting, a new idea, not something I’m going to do.
  • Entertain new ideas, especially if you hear them from someone with credentials and expertise. Then test them. Don’t accept them unquestioningly or get worried.

You can be confident that changing your strategy or your approach in response to every Rando Stranger Event will interfere with your success. But it’s good to try new things sometimes. A/B testing lets you determine whether the new idea is a good one for you, your website, and your business. The cost of the testing should help you determine which Rando Stranger Advice resonates strongly enough to make you want to invest in it.

Pink hair? Not for me. Moving an element on the page? It could certainly be worth testing.







9 responses to “The Rando Stranger Event”

  1. Todd E Jones Avatar

    I’m not putting social media icons at the bottom either. I don’t know why anyone would do this, unless they aren’t sold on the effectiveness of social media. Good article Rebecca!

    1. Josepha Avatar

      I don’t think there’s a lot of concrete evidence to support it. We are testing a similar question about placement on email signups right now, so I’m hoping that helps to shed some light on it.

      1. Rebecca Haden Avatar
        Rebecca Haden

        Share the results with us when you finish! I’d love to know.

  2. Phil Avatar

    Let’s not forget about Rando Calrissian – the coolest stranger giving website advice ever.

  3. Brad Volz Avatar

    Rebecca, I like your new hairdoo. My research says that it has boosted your traffic by 5555%!

  4. Rebecca Haden Avatar
    Rebecca Haden

    Thanks, guys!

    Phil, I had to check the Urban Dictionary and now I’m not sure what to think.

  5. Kim Herrington Avatar

    Maybe that’s the problem with my website—not enough pink. Surely, that must be it.

  6. Julianne Darnell Avatar
    Julianne Darnell

    We can give clients this protocol:
    When a rando-stranger approaches- firmly jam index fingers in both ears and chant to oneself “lalalalalalalallalalalala”.

    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar
      Rebecca Haden


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