How do you determine whether a manufacturer is being “good” or “bad” about maintaining their old URLs?
“Good” URL maintenance means simply that the URL presented years ago still links through to something relevant. Take, for example, the old Pontiac.com and Oldsmobile.com URLs mentioned in this article. They’re “good” because they link through to a page maintained by General Motors that provides relevant information about those brands. It might even be acceptable to link through to another GM brand like Chevrolet or Buick (though that’s not great for Search Engine Optimization). As long as they are doing something productive with the URL, all is good.
“Bad” URL maintenance happens when that old URL goes to a 404 Page Not Found error. Or the URL now brings up some irrelevant content. Or is parked by some domain-selling site. The “why” behind the loss is a great unknown. Did the company not re-register the URL? Maybe. Did they change their Web Content Management System? Maybe – it’s very common to lose old site sections this way. Did someone in the marketing department forget? I suppose anything’s possible. Either way, it looks sloppy.
Why only U.S. market manufacturers?
That’s where I’m based, and all of my old car magazines are from the United States, so it’s my point of reference. If someone wants to do similar research for manufacturers in other countries, I think that would be great.
Are you intentionally avoiding any URLs?
Yes. I’m skipping over any manufacturers that are currently selling in the United States if their ad is pointing simply to current sites like www.lexus.com or www.dodge.com. These are their standard domains that they have owned for years (or decades) and are not really all that interesting for the purposes of this endeavor. Instead, I’ll focus on specialty domains (like www.themostawesomecar.com — that’s not a real site, by the way, just an example), subdomains (like accord.honda.com) or site sections (like www.lexus.com/models/RC). I’m also ignoring parts suppliers, motorcycle manufacturers and other advertisers — I’d rather stick with main-line car manufacturers.
Who are you to pass judgement on this anyway?
I’m just a car guy in Missouri. But in my regular job, I deal with this very issue for local media companies around the country. I have helped dozens (hundreds?) of sites relaunch onto new platforms, or redesign under their current platform. In each case, documenting past URLs has always been an issue. I know how easy it is to lose old domains and not maintain redirects. I also know that with a little bit of effort and attention, even the most obscure old domain can be set to do something productive.
(Insert Car Brand Here) isn’t listed in your navigation. What gives?
There are three reasons why you won’t see some brands listed in the navigation. Some, like Bugatti and Lamborghini (and other exotics) don’t really need to advertise in car magazines or, if they did, their URL was something ordinary and still their primary site. Secondly, these magazines are all from a very specific time period. Brands like Studebaker, Pierce-Arrow and AMC existed before the Internet so their ads wouldn’t have domains. Or, companies like Tesla and Rivian didn’t exist when I was subscribing to these magazines. And the third reason is that I just haven’t posted an article about that brand. Yet. But it’ll happen.
How do you determine the order of the articles?
Oooh, that’s actually a really great question. So here’s a bit of a glimpse into my process. I have already created a spreadsheet listing every unusual URL that I discovered in this exercise. Then I went through that spreadsheet and determined which URLs should be lumped together into articles. In many cases, a single URL will be featured in an article. In other cases, several URLs will be featured (probably because they’re all extremely similar or touch on a specific theme). Those groupings each have a number starting with 001 through the end. I then created another tab of the spreadsheet and randomized those numbers. This eliminates any bias or other prejudices I might have — I’m posting articles based on the random order generated by the spreadsheet.
A lot of these ads also have toll-free phone numbers. Why aren’t you checking those, too?
In my normal job, I deal with websites and have been doing so for many years, so I understand quite a bit about what it takes to preserve and redirect old URLs. I have little to no experience with the telephone industry (other than my convoluted cell phone contract – whoa!) so I would defer to someone else on the viability of maintaining old toll-free numbers.
I’m noticing a bit of a bias toward Honda here. Is that right?
Full disclosure: yes, I’m a Honda fanboy. I’ve only ever really owned Hondas (though we do have a 1964 Triumph Spitfire in the garage, too). I, or my immediate family, have owned nine Hondas over the years, and I still own three of those, plus there’s a fourth in our driveway that I’m storing for a friend. That said, I’m not letting Honda off the hook for having dead URLs. In this exercise, I’m going to scrutinize Honda’s URLs the same way I’m investigating everyone else. That said, if you’re looking for a great car, I don’t think you’ll regret getting a Honda.
I’m an automaker (or ad agency) and I know you’re going to feature our old site one of these days, so we went ahead and resurrected the domain/subdomain/section before you can accuse us of letting it die. Ha! Joke’s on you!
Well, yes and no. In late June 2020, I took screengrabs of just about every site I’m going to feature in this exercise. The only ones I skipped were ones that were incredibly redundant (looking at you, Maserati) so I didn’t see the need. So those June screengrabs are the baseline that I’m going to use for these articles.
And if you went ahead and brought new life to an old URL, I think that’s fantastic! That’s the whole point of this endeavor: To preserve corners of the World Wide Web that had been lost to history. It would make me extremely happy to give a shout out to a manufacturer who found renewed value in an old website.
Anything else you want to disclose?
I take no ownership of the advertisements featured in this exercise. All ads profiled on this site are the intellectual property of their respective brands. I present these ads here under Fair Use laws but make no claim of copyright over the advertisements themselves.