70 posts categorized "website"

June 30, 2014

No Diving Allowed: Putting Performance First to Make Sure Your Projects Start Right

Starting a new client-agency relationship can be very exciting. It isn’t uncommon for a new pairing to be jointly celebrated with announcements given to a cheering crowd, toasts, and cake. Once a company has decided to invest in a new digital marketing project, those responsible for its completion are under considerable pressure to speed up the development cycle and start getting results. The primary result project managers seek is the conclusion of the project. However, in all of the excitement about the new project and the rush to get it done, design teams must not neglect the first step that will make it possible to determine the project’s success in the first place – the business objectives against which it will be measured. Going forward with design without a structured measurement model is like diving into a pool without knowing how deep the water is – and not being terribly confident that you even know how to swim.

The beginning of a digital project is critical. Take, for example, a website redesign project. The motivation that initiated the request often is no more complicated than an executive team’s general dissatisfaction with the look and feel of the company website. They may have a sense that the site is not “user-friendly,” and they might even have a few anecdotes to support this theory.

This seeming lack of accountability to concrete, measurable results may seem to be a blessing for the team responsible for building it, but it produces a lack of clarity that is actually quite detrimental – and costly.

How costly? 

According to an article written for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), avoidable errors in software design waste billions per year. Some of the more egregious examples include a $400 million purchasing system abandoned by Ford (2004), $3.45 billion tax-credit overpayment by the UK Inland Revenue (2004-2005), and the explosion of a $350 million rocket by Arianespace (1996).

In fact, claims IEEE, the total estimated yearly cost for faulty software is enough to

“…launch the space shuttle 100 times, build and deploy the entire 24-sattellite Global Positioning System, and develop the Boeing 777 from scratch – and still have a few billion left over.”

The scope of the losses is difficult to put into context when accustomed to considerably smaller budgets for digital projects, but since digital marketing consumes 17% of a typical marketing budget for the year, it had better not be wasted. Regardless of how meticulously it was conceived, no effort is without risk. However, the IEEE study suggests twelve ways to mitigate that risk.

Two of them deserve special attention:

  1. Set and document realistic and meaningful project goals, and
  2. Craft well designed project requirements.

Think about that for a moment. Two of the major reasons software projects fail (and a website is a form of software) – costing billions to the organizations who initiate them (passed on to everyone else through higher prices, taxes, or debt) – have to do with the act of defining the thing the team is building. Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik (Web Analytics an Hour a Day, Web Analytics 2.0) put it this way

“The root cause of failure in most digital marketing campaigns is not the lack of creativity in the banner ad or TV spot or the sexiness of the website. It is not even (often) the people involved. It is quite simply the lack of structured thinking about what the real purpose of the campaign is and a lack of an objective set of measures with which to identify success or failure.”

 The problem, more often than not, isn’t the lack of a definition, but an abundance of them. To make sure your team working toward the same end, your company needs a well-designed, structured measurement model that follows the project through each stage of the development cycle. This will keep the entire team focused on the objectives and guide the user experience strategy.

 There are 5 steps to building an effective measurement model.

  1. Define Your Objectives – There are three outcomes that can be defined here. Only three. Increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer/audience loyalty. Everything else is in service of one of these three. These objectives must be specific, measurable, achievable, and they must deliver value to the organization.
  2. Assign Goals for Each Objective – Goals are the ways to achieve the business objectives. They represent the strategy (not the tactics) the campaign is delivering on. To demonstrate this, consider that one of your goals may be to generate leads. A company can debate the way to get that lead based on effectiveness and resources. Is a simple contact form sufficient, or should they require contact information to download a whitepaper?
  3. Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPI) – A KPI is just a metric on steroids -- one that ties performance directly to your business goals. There are a number of metrics that it’s a good idea to track, but if a metric you feel is critical to your success doesn’t meet that criterion, either the metric is wrong or the model is.
  4. Set Targets – These are specific, numeric goals for your KPIs. In order to know whether the target is achievable, you will need to know or be able to find out what it is worth to your organization. Get the finance department involved. Look at your historical metrics. Use one of the lifetime customer value calculators floating out there.
  5. Segment – This is the key to getting actionable intelligence out of the data. It allows you to see who your most valuable consumers are. It allows you to see which advertising is most effective, under what circumstances, and how long it takes to convert and what the most common paths are.

It seems paradoxical, but the best way to improve your business quickly is to slow down. Do not rush right past the definition stage into the project design faintly hoping that it will provide executives comfort that the project is moving forward. Instead pace the progress appropriately to help them understand the activities that are necessary to improve their business. This will save you time and money in the design process by eliminating rework as each team member attempts to identify all of the incongruous assumptions on the fly, and will increase your opportunity for success for the entire project. 

September 27, 2013

The Google Encryption Dilemma

If you've been only moderately interested in looking at your search reports in Omniture, Google Analytics, or whatever tracking software you're using for your website, you've probably noticed an alarming growth in the number of referring search keywords that are (not provided) for you to see. If you're in this space heavily, you're probably well aware of it, and you may be  a bit miffed at Google for taking away these insights from you.

I've also come to enjoy the sorts of insights made available by this data, but take some comfort knowing that the sky is not falling. Your jobs just got a little more interesting.

Why did Google do it? Folks are saying it is a response to being dinged in the public arena for cooperating with NSA's prism program to track what people are doing online. 

If you understand how we actually get our data in Google Analytics, you know this explanation is curious. Excepting third-party CRM applications, we can't actually see who is searching. In Google Analytics, we can only see what they are doing in the aggregate, once they get to our site. Why can't Google send the aggregate data as they have been, so we can see which keywords are having the greatest success, so that we can optimize our site for the better-performing keywords?

Happily for us, there is a solution, which unfortunately means more specialization and attention than before, with fewer actionable insights. But it isn't nothing.

Note for beginners: Always have a Google Analytics profile with no filters applied. If you don't know what this means, I recommend picking up the excellent Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0. I may address this at a later date, but he's your man, if you want to learn how to do this stuff.

Essentially, you have to "trick" Google Analytics to tell you what landing pages people are arriving at, when you're examining keywords from Organic Search. This doesn't tell you the keyword, but you see where they're going. Here's an excellent tutorial by Kiss Metrics that explains how this is done.

Also, install Google Webmaster Tools. From there, you can see which keywords are bringing people to your site. Even the "encrypted" ones (See? Was that so hard, Google?). What you can't see is what they did when they arrived at your site.

Examine your paid search performance to use as a proxy for organic search. In this case, Google isn't really telling you what people did, they're telling you what you're paying them for.

Continue your keyword research using whatever you've been using to try to identify opportunities for content development and writing. 

Rinse and repeat.

So what's coming? I have no idea. It's crossed my mind, however, that either Google is leveraging this unnecessary move in the name of a specious allegience to "privacy" to sell more stuff -- either more AdWords, its DoubleClick advertising platform, or access to Google Analytics premium -- meaning free access to Google Analytics basic gravy train would be on the way out (Hopefully a lower-cost option than GA Premium or Omniture, or else smaller companies just wouldn't be able to afford it).

Until that happens, the sky is not falling. And if it does, it will be time for smaller companies to look at other solutions. It's always good to be prepared.

March 11, 2011

Can You Compare Apples to Oranges?

Looking for some ideas for using imagery to communicate complicated subject matter, I stumbled across this site that curates or creates infographics from around the Web. This post from Smarter.org shows that infographics are so great, they can even be used to compare apples and oranges.

Apples versus Oranges.

Infographic by Smarter.org

Bon apetít!

- Cam Beck

October 20, 2009

Beware of Zombies

Facing a deadline for my contribution to the Click Here blog, I finally settled down on a subject. However, it was a bit different from the one I previously said I'd write about. John Keehler asked to see it before I posted it, so I took the opportunity to tell him that I had changed subjects, but -- not to worry -- he'd love it.

"Is it about zombies," he asked.

And I thought about it.

No, it really wasn't, but it with a tweak here and an insertion there -- it very well could be. Or at least I could use them as an analogy to make the point.

Home pages have historically been a hotbed of contentious debate.  Because of this, they are what Steve Krug called “The First Casualty of War.”

Why are they so controversial?

Because everyone wants a piece of the action. Because organizations typically work in silos, different departments feel slighted if their discipline isn’t “adequately” represented on the home page. One would think by all the name-calling and weepy eyes that the home page is kind of a big deal.

And they’re right. The home page is – kind of – a big deal. But not for the reasons people tend to get worked up about. After all, typically, only 40% of traffic to a website comes through the home page.

But as a consequence of their inability to set boundaries and priorities, they compromise the very purpose of the page. Every piece of real estate is up for grabs. The result of all the haggling may actually, as Krug suggests, kill the home page. But unlike a typical dead thing, it doesn’t go away. Like a zombie, it is reanimated into an unrecognizable abomination of its formal self.

Read the rest of Your Home Page is a Zombie at the Click Here blog. - Cam Beck

January 29, 2009

What's Your Blog's Personality?

I heard on the radio that there was a site out there that analyzed the text on blogs and determined from your writing style what your personality is.

A short Google search later, I found Typealyzer, which had this to say about the writing style of ChaosScenario:

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

To help give the analysis context, the site gives a "scan" of the brain parts presumably most heavily used. Here's what ours looks like:
The site doesn't claim to test the actual personality of the site author, but rather the personality of the role that person assumes when writing the blog. Hence, on another blog I author, though my brain diagram was similar, my analysis seemed much different:

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

It's an interesting exercise and you should really try it out, but without a clear view of "the man behind the curtain," I'd admonish you to take Typealyzer's advice and "don't take it too seriously."

It doesn't measure the quality of a blog; it just gives you something to think about. - Cam Beck

P.S. Typealyzer would do well to turn its results into distributable content. I'm sure a lot of bloggers would be glad to spread the word if it were easy to do so -- even if, like me, they don't completely understand it.

October 16, 2008

What "Joe the Plumber" Can Teach Us About Internet Marketing

In last night's debate between Senators Barrack Obama and John McCain, the "undecided voters" were introduced to a person some of us political junkies had known about for several days. Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber and hopeful entrepreneur, confronted Obama at a campaign stop in Ohio about the higher taxes he'd pay if the Senator from Illinois had his way.

Joe felt cheated. As if he were being punished for having some success in life.

After all, he'd been working about 15 years to get to the point that he could afford to buy a business and improve his family's quality of life only to have someone come in, under threat of penalty and imprisonment, to take away what he earned through his hard work and effort -- not to mention the capital he put at risk.

Obama responded, (paraphrasing) "Well, you'd be taxed more now, but for the 15 years leading up to this point, you'd have been taxed less under my plan. I just wanna spread the wealth."

(Or, as Joe heard it, Obama wants to spread Joe's wealth.)

Now, before you run away, this isn't about Joe's, Obama's, or McCain's politics.

It's about Joe's desire to be free from someone telling him that they're restricting his freedom for his own good. 

It's about the audacity of anyone to suggest that people perched high in their offices (political or corporate), know better than the Joes of the world how their time or the fruits of their labor should be spent.

Sadly, in spite of a wealth of information that should discourage the practice of such tactics, companies still fall victim to the same, navel-gazing mindset -- particularly on the Internet.

  • They hide critical information (such as price) because they're afraid the customer might get "sticker shock."
  • They force users to complete a form that requires more information than is really needed.
  • They bloat a website with marketing fluff instead of clear, concise content germane to the user's task.

The intent of the marketers is not to "punish" their visitors. Quite to the contrary. They covet and need these people as customers. So why do they insist on getting in their way? Don't they know that damages their brand?

They just don't understand what's required of them with respect to visitors who have plenty of options to get their questions answered.

Hint: It usually starts with a Google or Yahoo search.

But the marketplace doesn't succeed or fail on intentions. Its success rests on the the participants' ability to deliver. Since Web users are absolutely ruthless in pursuit of their goals, companies need to check their egos and their fears long enough to get out of their customers' way -- or else they'll be gone before the company even knows what happened. 

And once gone, it will be terribly expensive to get them back. - Cam Beck

August 21, 2008

A New Perspective to Career Advancement

Through Facebook, someone I chatted with awhile back (through a different platform) sent me an invitation to a private beta for this interesting career-related social networking site called FDCareer.com that mixes some elements of networking, education, and gaming.

(Use invite code 11323)

It has a few bugs still, but they’ve been very responsive so far.

Despite the bugs, I think it’s an interesting approach to professional advancement that facilitates and rewards participation and learning. In particular, the “quests” include a mixture of networking tasks that help grow the community and learning tasks that both increase the participant’s status, or “level,” and at the same time, if the users take it seriously, it can really get them to think.

In addition, the participants get to review the companies they’ve worked for according to several criteria. In that way, it can also be a useful listening device to see if there might be cause for concern about employee morale.

Check it out. I’d love to see a career platform succeed that is built on encouraging self-improvement and is more than building the biggest contact list. - Cam Beck

June 02, 2008

Don't Visit Our Website

Images Awhile back I had to give a presentation on experience planning to a bunch of traditional advertisers. In preparation for this, I asked the audience to email me examples of bad websites so that we could discuss what it was about them that made them bad. One of them was so bad that I was sure it was a mistake -- that it was a relic of a company long gone out of business. However, as it turns out, not only is the company still in business, but they actually promote their website on the product, or at least, they promote the fact that they have the website, and then trust that people wouldn't bother to check it out.

The product, Toast 'Ems, is almost identical to Pop Tarts. I'm sure someone with a more distinguished palate can tell the difference, but I'm at a loss.

At any rate, I chanced across them as I was walking by the dollar aisle at Albertson's, a grocery chain here in the deep south. I looked at the package, and on the back noticed the invitation, "Visit our website at www.toastem.com." (Please note: You MUST put in the "www.")

Go ahead. I'll wait.

It's fairly generic. Besides the gaudy animated gifs on the home page, the main sections are:

  • At a Glance
  • Milestones
  • Vision
  • Products
  • Employment Opportunities
  • Questions and Comments

Now, I don't have any idea what their marketing plan is or how they're doing financially. It would be a colossal mistake to assume that, just because their website is "horrible," they are in a poor position. We have thousands of years of history to prove that the Internet isn't the only way to make money.

I bring this up only to point out why they can get away with building a bad website. The reason is this:

Their audience doesn't care.

Granted, the website doesn't give them any reason to care, but even if they did, what is the likelihood that, while eating toaster pastries for breakfast before school, kids are going to see the website, decide they just have to visit at that moment to see what the company has to offer?

It is so statistically small that it really isn't worth considering. The world doesn't operate that way. People don't operate that way, because they don't care nearly as much about your brand as you do.

I have no doubt that the Internet could be used in this company's marketing mix effectively. For not a whole lot of money, they could hire a student to redesign the site they have to make it more aesthetically pleasing, if nothing else.

However, this company has decided not to jump into a space to invest in something that, even if they did everything right, may not produce a return that couldn't be beat by investing in other things.

If nothing else, I have to admire them for not thinking so much of themselves that they have to overwrite, overproduce, and overspend -- just because everyone else seems to be doing it. They have a Web address. And (in the name of made-up statistics) for 99.9999% of the people who are exposed to the address, that will be enough, because only .0001% are going to bother to visit, and they won't care that it sucks. - Cam Beck

May 21, 2008

The Navigation Exception that Proves the Rule

Via Tangerine Toad's post, I came across this website for The Brooklyn Brothers, which, as far as I can tell from a brief look, is some sort of marketing agency. In a lot of ways, the website is unfortunately typical for a marketing agency. However, they do something good that a lot of companies are afraid to do -- that is, inject an interesting personality.


Usually I caution against getting cute with symbology and navigation names. It rarely aids in navigation and ease of use. I have to admire the personality they injected into their work, though. They're not goofy, but they don't take themselves too seriously, either.

None of it is really persistent navigation anyway. It serves as the content -- which allows them to get away with being more clever within the context of page than typical persistent navigation would allow them.

Of course, the first thing I clicked on was the skull and crossbones icon warning users not to click it. How could I resist?

Some of the payoff the site offers could use some work, and I can't hyperlink past the home page because they didn't build their Flash file in a way that would allow it. However, that's not to take away from the positive lessons we can learn from it.

For more on how to find and incorporate your personality in your marketing communications, see Rohit Bhargava's excellent book, *Personality Not Included. - Cam Beck

May 06, 2008

Get mom to a screening

Next Sunday is mother's day. Write it down now, don't forget!

So why get mom to go to a screening? Not a movie screening but a cancer screening. Yeah, it's not fun to talk about but cancer screening saves lives. Screening exams allow cancers to be diagnosed at the earliest stages and then treated when treatment will be the most effective.

This Mother's Day, send a gentle reminder to your mom to get those screening done:


This is self-promotion, the company I work did the work for this campaign. However, it's true, the early cancer is detected, the better the chances of successful treatment. You can learn more about cancer screenings and checklists here.

For my fellow bloggers, if you're so inclined, help us spread the word. - Paul Herring