Tuesday, July 19, 2005

13. FINDING A PATCH COMPANY

• Ask a friend
This is almost too obvious to mention. Make part of your homework asking about what patch companies your group has used in the past and the quality of products and service they have provided. Get several opinions. However, don't let that be your sole guide. You don't know if they did -their- homework. They could be recommending a good patch company but not the best.

• Mine the internet
Any patch company worth considering will have a website. However, mining the internet for the company best suited to your needs is tricky business. So, start with the 800 pound gorilla of all the search engines, Google. Google worked its way to the top of the heap by simply being the best - by returning the best search results. And use the key words "Girl Scout® patches" (including the quotation marks).

Click here to see the results of that search.

• Swimming with sharks
Be careful when selecting sources from the internet. It's an unpoliced marketplace which favors the seller, not the buyer. Don't just go for the top listings. Browse through the search results and look for high quality websites which display high quality patch art and samples. Don't even consider "blind" sites with no physical address. Be wary of those using superlatives and making outlandish claims; no company can be all things to all people. Heed the warning: Caveat emptor...buyer beware!

• Avoid sponsored links
Finding the best patch company for you can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you find those few nuggets in that huge pile of dirt.

Google SearchClick here to enlarge picture

If you click on the link/picture above, you'll see the big picture of a Google search which shows the subtle difference between the "organic" search results and paid-for advertising. As tantalizing as the ads are they should be used last. They are great for Google and good for the advertisers. But, they're bad for you. Here's why.

It is the purpose of the search engines to ferret out the websites you want from the millions of websites on the internet based on site content. They do this with very sophisticated super computers and search algorithms all competing with each other to make sure you get what you want quickly and easily. The sponsored links, on the other hand, are just people paying money to get your attention just like spam and junk mail and other commercial advertising. So, stick with the "organic" search results and dig through that big, wide column of black and white info on the left picking out the commercial websites from all the patch traders, link farms, web rings, and other sites which do not sell patches. The best company I know for stock patches is, at this writing, 56 down from the top of a Google search. That's because Google can't tell from your key words if you're interested in buying, selling, trading, displaying, or what. So, you may have to work a bit, but avoid the temptation to start clicking on the sponsored links. They are all about making them money, not getting you good patches.

If you have to use the sponsored links, use them all. The top to bottom order means nothing. The best company could be on the bottom and the worst on the top. Visit all the websites and make note of the two or three which appear to be the most credible sources for custom Girl Scout® patches. Then put them on your short list.

Finally, be aware that search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN will not conjure up all of the companies. There are good patch companies which will not be found in either the "organic" search results or the paid-for advertising (sponsored links). To find them, you'll have to use other resources such has asking friends, other patch companies, on-line "link farms", etc.