Search Diary: Searching For Climbing Holds
As readers of my personal blog know, I’ve been
building a tree house over the
summer for my kids. It’s about to come out of beta, with me needing to add some
climbing holds to one of the outer walls to largely finish it off. That means
ordering some, and when I started searching today, I thought this would be a
good time to begin something I’ve long wanted to do: a regular search diary.
Below, I look at what I got in response to my search: the good, the bad and the
I’ve done this search before in the past, so I’ve learned those fake rocks
are called "climbing holds" and so searched for them that way. Since I’m based
in the UK, I also went straight to Google UK for my search, to increase the odds
that I got UK results. I didn’t use the "pages from the UK" option because the
default search already was skewed towards UK results (which makes kind of a
mockery of offering that UK-filtering option. Google’s going to pretty much do
it for you whether you wanted it or not). I also ignored Google Product Search
despite being in "shopping mode," as I wanted a more general sense of what was
The results, for
Looking At The Ads
I’m going to start with the ads. I’m ready to buy, not research, so the ads
are places that should be ready to sell me some holds. As I talk about them,
I’ll number them in order that they appear on the page, 1 & 2 across the top,
then 3 and onward down the side.
Number 1 was Mock Rock, with some sets that would be
suitable. On target! At 2, Climbkit also had some good sets, though with a
delivery time of 2-3 weeks, I won’t be buying. Both are shown above.
Down at number 5, NCDS delivered me to their home page rather than a more
targeted page about their various climbing hold sets. Still, I found that page
and felt I got a relevant result.
Number 3 and 4 (above) both delivered me to sites that would provide
mobile climbing walls, not what I needed. They seem to be running their ads
against any search for "climbing," which is why I got them. Somewhat similarly,
8 and 10 are for places that build climbing walls — not really what I’m looking
At 6 & 7 (above), I got auction ads. OK, eBay DOES have relevant listings, but some of
what I was shown seemed to be from the same
companies I already found advertising directly, like Mock Rock. Then I’ve got Everysell, which seems to be a meta auction search engine, which further seems to
be just dominated by eBay listings. I already had eBay in Google’s results — I
don’t need them again.
DealTime, above, promises me climbing holds in the title of the add, but when
I arrive on the site, it’s disappointing:
No, I really didn’t mean "Climbing Hoods" — and since you’re running an ad
telling me you’ve specifically got "climbing holds," trying to change my
spelling is less than impressive.
Meanwhile DealTime, if you’ve got any matches, why not
show them? Why make me have to click on the links to open these up? Could it be
because you’d rather just get me to click on those big sponsored listings at the
bottom of the page — you know, which are exactly the same sponsored listings I
already saw at Google?
Maybe I’ll buy some of those climbing holds that come in
the shape of letters and then spell out A-B-I-T-R-A-G-E to explain to my kids,
as they climb the wall, how arbitrage means you buy traffic for less money than
you earn after getting someone to your site where you just push them out through
Overall, the paid links score a 40 percent for relevancy, counting the three
good matches plus adding in eBay, which while ugly was relevant.
Looking At The Editorial Results
Now for the organic results, this time numbered in order of how they appear
from the top downward.
Number 1 and 2 (above) are both sites in the UK selling holds,
exactly what I want. Number 3 also sells them, though Google really should
have just listed one page from the site and that being the "indented" result
rather than the home page, which while it promises to be about Beacon Climbing
holds is actually about Beacon Climbing (which sells holds among many other
There is no bad. Continuing down the page, every one of the listings is one target — not only
do those listed sell climbing holds, but they are all also based in the UK. I might complain
about Google forcing UK results upon me even when I used the "search the web"
rather than the "search pages from the UK" option, but that skewing did make for
a better experience.
eBay is in at number 5, and I initially dismissed it as
Google being bad by showing a single page for an auction that probably expired. Instead, this is the eBay UK
category for climbing hold products. OK, relevant, but a description that makes
me want to go away:
That description comes straight from eBay’s own meta description tag, so
here’s a tip, eBay. Lose some of those commas and give me a nice, easy-to-read
sentence describing what this page is about.
Overall, the editorial links scored 100 percent.
DO NOT take this single test as how Google performs overall for relevancy or
against competitors. It’s simply mean to be a anecdotal look at a search, from
the perspective of a searcher, albeit it a savvy searcher. Overall:
- The editorial results rocked, pun intended!
- The paid results left much to be desired. Google uses broad match by
default primarily, in my view, to make more money. If broad match was off by
default, I’d have seen fewer ads but had a better experience.
- Advertisers need to think about landing pages more. Most place just dumped me on
their home pages. C’mon, folks, give me a custom tailored experience. You’re
paying for it, after all.
By the way, I just got off the phone now after placing my order. The winner?
Beacon Climbing, which I originally had rejected as perhaps being a mismatch, a
place that only offered courses. Several of the places I explored had nice kits,
but they also seemed to have long delays (sorry,
Custom Holds — you looked great, but
I need them now!).
What got me going with Beacon was over off, barely noticeable, the
Budget Calculator option. I’ve never built a climbing wall and have no idea
how many rocks I need for it. Custom Holds, which I already mentioned, had
good advice (and
here), but as I said, the delay
in ordering put me off. So the Budget Calculator at Beacon reached out to my
confused mind and promised an easy solution:
If you have a set budget then you can use the BEACON CHOICE page as a quick
and easy way to decide how many holds of each size you can afford. Simply choose
the type of wall that most closely fits what you are planning and add the number
of holds in each size that you want to your basket and juggle the quantities of
each size until you reach your desired budget.
I didn’t have a set budget, but I figured I could start plugging in numbers
to get a sense of how many holds might come to for different types of walls.
Following through calculator oddly took me to the
main catalog, where
after some reading, I realized I needed to go to the "Beacon
Choice" area. Once there, I’d seemingly reached the promised land, an option
for "Kids Wall Ply," telling me:
For kids climbing walls on ply wood you need a good mix of medium to mega
large holds to make the climbing interesting but achievable.
Sadly, clicking on this option left it to me to figure out how many holds of
each type I wanted. That put me off — but I could tell at this point that I’d
found a company used to dealing with the types of holds that work for kids. I
abandoned the web, picked up the phone, talked a little bit about what I needed
and the holds come later this week!
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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