Why do Websites suck? Ask a Hippo!

posted in: public relations, social media | 2

Last year at Blogworld, I attended a session entitled, “Just the Numbers: Understanding Analytics” with Google’s Avinash Kaushik. It was an outstanding discussion and Kaushik is a terrific speaker. Not only is he brilliant, he is super nice and even hung around to answer questions from those who flocked to meet him after his presentation.

Kaushik’s blog, Occam’s Razor, is a must read for anyone looking to crack the Web analytics nut. After all, it’s all about metrics, right? In fact, I hear this ALL the time: “Dave, I get the Web, but I can’t seem to sell it to those above me. All they care about is the return on investment (ROI).”

I agree. Some things are fairly quantifiable like traffic referrals, page views, media download numbers, and blog rankings. However, other things aren’t as easily measurable such as specific actions that may result from those who read a blog post, watch a YouTube video or join a Facebook group.

HippoKaushik is currently traveling and sharing some of his latest thoughts. At a recent stop last week in Columbus, Ohio, Kaushik spoke with roughly 200 including marketing execs from Procter & Gamble, Victoria’s Secret, Coca-Cola and Timberland. Advertising Age covered his remarks and ran this piece, Google’s ‘Analytics Evangelist’ Explains Why Websites ‘Suck’.

(As a side, ironically, the article is no longer available on the AdAge site. A quick search for it yielded several results of those who posted on it such as Joe Marchese, Shel Holtz, and HotelMarketing.com – and they all link back to the original AdAge article page.  So much for analytics here!  Good thing I made a hard copy because I wanted to share it on Tuesday night with the students in my class.  For you younger readers, confused by what a “hard copy” might be, I suggest you check out Wikipedia.)

During his comments, Kaushik explained that the reason why so many Websites “suck” is because of “Hippos” or the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.”  Hippos may see something they like online or read about the latest Internet trend in the Wall Street Journal and then jump to a “Hey, we need that!” approach without considering site goals or purpose. 

Instead, Kaushik suggests that when developing sites, marketers should get away from the “what” and focus more on the “why.” One way is to engage consumers and assess their needs via brief online surveys.  He recommends asking questions such as:  Who is coming to your website? Why are they there? How are you doing? What do you need to fix?

This is right on. We often ask clients, “What is the business challenge you are trying to solve?” Once that’s determined, we can identify the best digital strategy to employ in an effort to tackle it. When the obstacles are clearly defined, then the solutions are the ultimate measure of success!

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2 Responses

  1. Mary McKnight

    Right on. I think it comes down to letting the marketers do what they are supposed to do. When it comes to the web, every marketer MUST have an understanding of:
    1. SEO (getting people to the site)
    2. Quality content creation that offers easy to digest, scanable and useful text (tutorial marketing works best if your product is complex like technology or financial services) Content must also be down to earth and engaging. Boring content = high bounce rate.
    3. Landing page optimization (pages must be set up to promote conversion – so calls to action must be explicit, compelling and above the fold and design must be simple and easy to follow yet still guide readers to your lead conversion forms.)
    4. Metrics analysis. Every web marketer should be analyzing their pages for SERP, traffic, session path, click throughs and bounce rate.

    It amazes me how few sites are truly set up to do these things. I audited a number of Fortune 500 blogs and what struck me most- is how few followed basic conversion psychology or provided any real value to the reader.

  2. J.O.

    Outstanding Dave. HIPPO. Not only funny — but extraordinarily true. We didn’t have to worry about HIPPOs in the past — because they were focused on other things. Now that the web has become, well everything, HIPPOs climb on board without any understanding.

    Great column.

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