The Stationers Guild

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Linking to Stationery and Invitation Companies that sell online

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Yesterday, I received the following question from Lori London of Write Impressions in Royal Oak, Michigan:  “I’m a guild member.  I have a question that I wish I could pose to other guild members and/or maybe you can help me.  I took down my web site a few weeks ago as we are ready to launch our much improved web site by November 1st. Did other members provide links to stationery vendors … such as Crane, William Arthur, Checkerboard … even though some of these vendors sell directly to the consumer?  I am curious how other stores dealt with this.”

Please find below my slightly edited response to this most interesting question:

Very good question.  I will answer your question (at least try to) as posed, but then if you will stay with me a bit longer I hope to give you a “better” but slightly more technical explanation that might influence your decision. 
 
First, based on my research just under two-thirds of the 285 guild members currently listed in the StationersGuild have their own website.  Of those that do have a website less than 20% have outgoing links to vendor websites.  Those that do link to a vendor’s website do so primarily with companies where  they receive referral commissions (Sweet Pea or Printswell, Birchraft and Checkerboard).  Based on a cursory observation of member websites, I would say that very few Guild members (certainly less than 10 and probably less than 5) link to a vendor website that sells online unless they participate in a referral program.    
 
Now, as Paul Harvey would say “Page 2″:   While incoming links to one’s website are important in determining “search” relevancy, it is the quality and relevancy of  links rather than the number of links that determine whether one site will get a higher ranking than another.  Without trying to bore you, an incoming link from the Chamber of Commerce or a Trade Organization (StationersGuild for instance) is perceived by Google to be more valuable than a link from a paid listing such as www.1Wedding.com.  Authoritative links  from sites with a .gov (government) or .edu (educational sites) ending or websites with consistently high Google Page Rank are generally perceived to be “higher quality links” that will enhance the value of your website (or at least a specific page on your website).
 
The ThereseSaintClair website provides links to most of our vendors.  The reason is quite simple:  People who visit our website are interested in what brands we carry.  We provide them a lot of choice, give them convenient access (i.e. links) to many Fine Paper companies and then give them very strong reasons to shop locally.  In fact, the Therese Saint Clair and Stationers Guild websites have been designed to provide  buyers with  information in one location that would be difficult for them to find elsewhere.  It would be presumptous and silly of me to assume that that an online visitor found “Crane wedding invitations” through a visit to my website.    In other words, we help buyers research online without any aggressive sales pressure in the expectation that a discerning buyer has the common sense to shop locally.
 
Now, most people seem to think that one runs the risk of losing prospective clients by providing links to online suppliers.  You may lose a few, but I believe the risk is minimal.  In fact, Fine Paper companies would be far better served by providing hyperlinks to their dealer’s websites on their “Find a Dealer” page.  It would help their dealers build credible links and it would also help the Paper company promote their brand to customers looking for a local solution with an experienced stationer.  As long as the industry (storefront dealers and the fine paper companies whose lines they represent) fail to act on this simple premise,  companies like www.weddingpaperdivas.com will continue to disintermediate and eventually destroy the industry by substituting fine paper for fine technology.

Storefront stationers and the many fine companies we represent simply must do a better job of giving people the necessary information on whether they wish to shop locally or online.  Burying our heads in the sand and pretending that the consumer is in one camp or the other (online or store) is painfully naive and will eventually lead to an industry where toxic recycled waste paper from China with designs developed from pirated copies of PhotoShop will innundate the market under the pretext that these “beautiful” papers/invitations are “green” and “eco-friendly.”  This is not science fiction, it is happening today!  Furthermore, wedding portals, self-appointed etiquette specialists and “born-again” environmentalists are all tooting the same horn in merchanidizing inferior products on the internet in the hope of prying loose the “green” from your wallet. 

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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