As I look back on my internship experience, I feel a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of failure. One of the best experiences I had was working at the 17 Mile Café just off the lobby of the Ctrip building, world headquarters for the China online travel giant (think Expedia+TripAdvisor). I enjoyed the time I spent working there on my laptop (the main office lacked space for all of the interns) for the relaxation, stress-free environment, and also their great food and drinks–their chicken cutlet with rice and vegetables was one of my best meals in Shanghai.
Being in the office was also not as bad, either. It was always filled with friendly people (who can sometimes be a bit hard to find in Shanghai). There was Aimee, my supervisor, always there to help and answer my questions without hesitation. There was Sean, who always handed out snacks on Fridays. Kevin knew the most about search engine optimization (SEO) and always took time from his busy schedule to help me with my SEO questions. I accomplished a lot during my internship, helping with SEO tasks designed to help more people find the Ctrip site, like rebuilding the Ctrip link categories on ChinaTravel.net, an online travel guide and community, and providing suggestions on how to improve Google PageRank.
However, there was also the sense of failure. One of my main goals coming into my internship was to improve ChinaTravel’s PageRank. Even though it usually takes a few months for rankings to change, I noticed that after I made changes to the links page, their page rank actually went down. I was perplexed. Recategorizing the links page should make boost PageRank because Google's search algorithm should reward a site where newly added quality links are arranged correctly with their affiliated categories. Although the PageRank may improve over time, I couldn't help feeling that I was leaving Ctrip on a bad note.
Aimee told me that it would just be a long process for it to change because many of the links were placed in different categories, which could break inbound links from partners who had previously linked to the old links page. In other words, the links on ChinaTravel were not in the same place as where its partner agreed for it to be therefore making the page rank drop. Despite Aimee's explanation, I still felt like I failed, but she was happy that I had helped so much in rebuilding their link exchange in a way that was more visually appealing and user friendly in addition to being organized with SEO in mind.
So, despite the PageRank disappointment, I left Ctrip on a good note, and I'm planning on continuing to do a little work on SEO projects for them. During the summer I plan to check up on the site as well as provide additional feedback on SEO and their link exchange. SEO is an increasingly important part of how companies do business online, so the additional effort should help me, as I continue to gain experience, as well as Ctrip. Ctrip, the people, and the café will always be one of the things I remember during my time in Shanghai, and I expect it to be those learning experiences that I look back on later and realize how important it really was.