11 Digital Marketing “Crimes Against Humanity”

vortex Every presentation I do is customized for the audience in the room. That means I get to spend loads and loads of time across many industry verticals, see many many campaigns, translate many many foreign websites (thanks Google Chrome for auto-translate!) and meet many many many executives and hear about their digital marketing strategies, challenges and outcomes.

That means I experience a lot of really great stuff, and repeatedly see things that cause me deep and profound pain. This latter category contains things that are so obviously sub-optimal that no one should be doing them any more. Yet there they are.

The issues of course include people and jaded mental models and bureaucracy and a lack of time and the missing desire to be great and org structures, and bosses.

But maybe the issue is that you (and the Marketers and Leaders. . . my beloved Digital Folks) just don't know all the ways not to, pardon me, stink.

This post is to solve that problem. I'm going to present a cluster of what I think are digital "crimes against humanity." A mighty term, used in a very unmighty sense here, but I hope it makes you sit up and take note.

How many of these things is your company currently doing. . .

1. Not spending 15% of your Marketing budget, every month, on experimenting with new techniques / channels / ideas.

We hate change. Why not keep sending emails / spending on AdWords / running affiliate programs / buying display only on MSN.  Super lame!

Our world changes at immense speed. Consistently allocate 15% of your marketing budget trying things you don't currently do, things "gurus" talk about (yes I said Guru!), ideas from your kids or neighbor. I can't think of a better way to ensure your relevancy and fat bottom-line.


2. Not having a fast, functional, incredible mobile-friendly website.

There are 6.9 billion homo sapiens on the planet and 3.7 billion of them actively use 4.3 billion mobile phones. What's your excuse for not spending a few dollars making your site mobile-friendly?

You deliberately want to stink?


3. Gratuitous use of Flash.

It is not Adobe's fault, it is your fault for using Flash for the most pathetic things mankind has known. Why? Because your agency can win an award? Because you believe that the Web is essentially TV? Slow sites make your management happy?

Remember every time you use flash on your website, a cute puppy dies. Think of the puppy!


4. Writing campaigns your website can't cash.

It is soooo easy for me run a query on Bing, click on a banner ad on Yahoo!, follow a link on an email and land on page that has no connection to the promise made in the ad.

More than that, sites are full of pages with unclear calls to action, massive pukes of fields in the checkout process, slooooooooow loading as it waits for the Facebook + Buzz + God knows what API calls to come through. WHY! Would you treat your mother like that?

Have a balance in your spend between acquisition and website. Spend loads on acquisition, but also spend loads on creating websites that deliver on your promises.


5. Not having a vibrant, engaging, non-pimpy blog.

In a world of Like and Follow where every TV ad and billboard is directing customers and prospects to third party destinations it might seem insane to suggest this.

I fundamentally believe that having a vibrant bi-directional conversation on a destination you control with policies you set and data you control is not just insurance, it is your duty to your customers.


6. "Shouting" on Twitter / Facebook.

We live in a world of "and," not in an "or" world. Having a vibrant blog does not mean not being on Twitter or Facebook (or every other place your customers congregate).

But if those accounts exist to shout a variation of your press releases, or a massive self-massage. . . then shut it. If you can't initiate or participate in conversations, close your account.  Trust me it is a lot less embarrassing that way.


7. Your SEO strategy is buying links, expired domains, et. al.

Sophisticated Search Engine Optimization is mandatory in our world of Bing / Yandex / Baidu / Google. It irritates me to no end when I hear perfectly smart SEOs stuck in the 1940s.

Life is a lot more complex (and sexy!). Evolve.


Now switching to something a bit more near and dear to my heart, analytics "crimes against humanity". . . .

8. Not following the "10/90 rule for magnificent web success."

I'd postulated this rule in 2005, it is even more true in 2011.

If you have $100 to make smart decisions on the web, invest $10 in tools, spend $90 on people. The 10/90 rule.

People matter. Even the most basic insights you need will come from people. Hire smart people. Hire smart consultants. Give them Yahoo! Web Analytics, 4Q, KissInsights, Insights for Search, AdPlanner, and all the other glorious free tools. You will almost die of happiness when the results come in.

When a majority of your budget is invested in tools and data warehouses, rather than smart people to use them, you are saying you prefer to suck.


9. Doing anything on the web without a Web Analytics Measurement Model.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. And you'll be miserable.

Does that describe your life?

Bring a structured approach to your measurement strategy, bring some process, let a Web Analytics Measurement Model be the foundation of your program. Your children and their children will thank me for telling you this (because you'll leave them millions of dollars of inheritance from all the business success you'll achieve by following this advice!).


10. Making lame metrics the measures of success: Impressions, Click-throughs, Page Views.

They, and their brethren like video views and emails sent and # of followers on Twitter and Likes on Facebook and. . . all stink worse than Amorphophallus Titanum.

Use metrics that matter: Loyalty, Recency, Net Profit, Conversation Rate, Message Amplification, Brand Evangelist Index, Customer Lifetime Value and so on and so forth. Each a glorious magnificent metric that truly tells you that value was delivered, or delivers the swift kick in the pants that we all need when we don't. How can you not love that?


11. Not centering your entire digital existence on Economic Value.

When I look at winners and I separate them from the losers there is one thing that stands out. Winners have a sophisticated understanding of the holistic success of their digital existence. It comes from undertaking two simple steps: 1. Identifying their Macro and Micro Conversions and 2. Quantifying Economic Value.

That understanding ensures fewer digital "crimes against humanity," remarkable marketing programs used in nuanced ways, and a constant balance between delivering for the customers and the company.

It does not matter if you are a Church solving for the ultimate conversion, a B2B business solving for an 18-month sale, a non-profit targeting volunteers and donations, or a humble blog solving to change the world. Embrace economic value.


That's it. 11 simple things to avoid. Now you know, there is no reason to stink. :)

[UPDATE:] Turns out it is not just 11! Here are your additions, all smart, sharp and on the money. . . how many of these is your company doing?

12. Auto-Play videos [via Joe Teixeira]

    "Can you please allow me the right to control when your video plays – and how LOUD it plays by letting me be the one that clicks on the play button? The first thing that I do is turn it off and I have no desire to re-start it."

13. New tab / browser window opens within the same site [via Joe Teixeira]

    "I don't need 4 browser tabs open to view your web site – I just need one. I get it if the link takes a visitor to another site – but please fix your links within your own site."

14. Learning how to use your web site [via Joe Teixeira]

    "If I have to learn how to use your web site, then your web site probably sucks. Don't teach me how to use your web site – configure your web site so that I don't even have to think about it."

15. Not making even the simplest attempts to collect customer feedback [via Josh Braaten]

    "Customers are shouting their needs if we only take the time and use the tools necessary to listen!"

16. Skipping creation of a cross-channel strategy [via Shilpa Gupta]

    "TV drives Search. Display and Search drive each other. Having a properly implemented Display / Print / TV / Web campaigns is now mandatory."

17. Making website iterations based on executive opinions, but not site testing. [via Jordan Silton]

    "With testing you can prove if Executives are right or not, and maybe, just maybe figure out WHY. The WHY isn't to tell the decision maker if he or she was right or wrong, but to learn from the test and make better tests in the future."

18. Your website was created in 1996, updated slightly in 2001, and left to rot ever since. [via Theresa]

    "Websites that deliver in today's fast-paced, mobile-heavy internet market should not been seen as a nice to have!"

19. Take, bad, shortcuts. [via Ramenos]

    "You use iFrames instead of CSS to please your webmaster, host non-owned duplicate content, and use generic related links on every Page to increase pageviews."

20. (Large companies:) Your digital marketing teams are not talking to each other. [via David Rekuc]

    "Have lunch, get to know your fellow man (or woman), share reports and success metrics and goals."

21. Measurement models and data results are just "trophy wives / husbands" to you. [via David Rekuc]

    "Don't bother wasting your time in creating measurement models, or dashboards, or success metrics… if you won't believe the conclusions you draw from your data."

22. Your analytics / marketing team uses the word Engagement. [via Jaime Solis]

23. (Rephrased by me) You sacrifice functionality at the altar of sexiness. [via Landin Gee]

    "Your company focuses on design rather than creating sites that your customers can actually use. The site is beautiful, but it takes forever to find what the user wants. Bad karma."

24. Inconsistent blog, Twitter, anything, publishing schedule. [via Brian Whalley]

    "Don't be the company that puts up a blog post once every three months, even if it's a great one every time. Don't forget about Twitter for two weeks and then use it for a day and then disappear for two weeks again. People will forget you exist in a heartbeat if you let them."

25: You believe more is better. [via Jody]

    "More is NOT better. There is no law in any country that penalizes you for white-space on your website. Make your website look more like a modern living room with clean lines, plenty of happy white-space. Clutter is clutter. No one likes to visit a website that looks like a trailer park knick knack shelf." (I LOVE this one! -Avinash)

26: Not having site search on your website. [via Dan Grainger]

    "No-one should just assume that their site is great, user-friendly and easily navigable, so having site search is simply a no brainer."

27: You are going crazy with SEO optimization. [via. Dan Grainger]

    "There's surely a tilting point between having an SEO optimised site that delivers visually and having one that simply stuffs keyword optimised text and links everywhere. For me, Adept Scientific are a big culprit of this."

28: Jumping into acting before analyzing impact vs. resources required. [via Andreas Daun]

    "Before you act or change something, consider, just for a moment, the impact. Or at least have a plan to measure * something*. Example: Spending $50,000 on building links when you can't measure ROI."

29: Your "About Us" page is missing or misleading. [via Trent Blizzard]

    "We want to know who you are, where you are located and what great people power your organization. Not having these three things clearly accessible on your site puts you on par with people selling generic Viagra!"
    (Full disclosure: I've written that description and not Trent. : ) -Avinash.)

30: Not addressing the accessibility of your digital presence to all users, including those with disabilities and the aging population. [via Jennison Asuncion]

Now, as always, its your turn.

What would you have on top of your list of digital "crimes against humanity?" What ticks you off? What is it that you can't get your company to stop doing? If you've successfully stopped any of the above crimes, what did it take? How many of these "crimes" is your company currently committing?

Please share your favorites and secrets with us.

Thank you.


  1. 1

    Our company struggles with #6. We realize that social sites are important, but it is difficult to convince everyone that more than just 1 tweet every couple of days is needed for success. :( Conversations take time, time takes money, and for smaller companies it can be difficult to "shell out" money for what is perceived as a social venture.

    What advice do you have for us small businesses that are stuck between a (1) management that doesn't want to spend money paying people to update their twitter statuses, and (2) the knowledge that it is an important part of our 21st century business growth model and a desire to move forward with that?

  2. 2

    Hi Avinash,

    Posts like this remind me of two things: How far we've come, and how much further we have to go.

    I would like to add a few of my own "Crimes Against Humanity":

    12. Auto-Play Videos
    Reason: Look, we're trying to not get caught at work looking at videos online! Did I really just have to spell that out? :) Seriously, can you please allow me the right to control when your video plays – and how LOUD it plays by letting me be the one that clicks on the play button? Keep in mind for those of you who like auto-play videos: The first thing that I do is turn it off and I have no desire to re-start it.

    13. New Tab Browser Opens within the same site
    Reason: I already have 19 browser tabs going. Do I really need to add a 20th or a 21st because your web site doesn't have proper href targets set in place? I don't need 4 browser tabs open to view your web site – I just need one. I get it if the link takes a visitor to another site – but please fix your links within your own site.

    14. Learning How to Use your Web Site
    Reason: Someone said it on this very blog about a month ago: If I have to learn how to use your web site, then your web site probably sucks. Unfortunately, you will still find in 2011 web site "how to" guides that teach you where things are found and how they organized their web site and why you have to jump through 5 hoops just to get to the /campus-map section so you can see where you can park your car. Don't teach me how to use your web site – configure your web site so that I don't even have to think about it.

  3. 3

    I think this one is in there, just not explicitly:

    12. Making website iterations based on executive opinions, but not site testing.

    By executive opinions, I am not referring to opinions of titled executives in an organization, but rather dictated positions from one point of view. Sometimes they are right, other times not so much.

    With testing you can prove if they are right or not, and maybe, just maybe figure out WHY. The WHY isn't to tell the decision maker if he or she was right or wrong, but to learn from the test and make better tests in the future.


  4. 4


    This is an excellent post again. Particularly, this post is very easy to read with each point having a title and each short paragraph conveying strong recommendations for a successful digital strategy and measurement.

    I will like to add one more:

    1) Integrated Cross Channel Strategy: In my recent analysis for a campaign we saw strong correlations with TV GRP and Overall Search Visits (Paid & Organic) to brand website. In some cases we saw strong correlations with Display media and Overall Search Visits. In such cases, it is recommended to have properly implemented Search Strategy atleast during the same time when other media such as Display/Print/TV is running. Also with TV commercial, do not forget to add your website URL for Direct Visits/Search Visits.

    In summary, we can go back to historical campaigns and find correlations between which media work together and implement a brand campaign from an integrated perspective.

  5. 5

    Avinash – What a great post to get my blood pumping on a Monday morning. I hate coming across the crimes you mentioned.

    The crime I'd like to add is completely ignoring your customer/user. How many companies still make big decisions without even thinking to survey customers or look at quantitative/qualitative analytics customer data?

    Customers are shouting their needs if we only take the time and use the tools necessary to listen!

  6. 6


    LMAO you're number 13 is funny because usually the reverse happens. Like in ecom world when analysts are trying to de-dupe 20% of "refresh/reloads" in cart abandonment.

    I personally struggle with #4 & 10# when it comes to organizational structure. I think some things are culture issues with legacy comprehension of web analytics – typically from your boss's boss's boss.

    For SEOers out there struggling with #7 – take baby steps and start from the top down. Just outline the easy benchmarks like Visits Per Conversion, Change in the Number of Entry Pages, or % of search traffic and conversions for brand and non-brand keywords.

    Once you have the easy baselines, start digging down the next level. So for Visits Per Conversion, you can break it down by KW to see which ones are you new BFFs. Try breaking down entry pages and just looking at surface level stuff like Bounce Rates, to see if your long tail KW search results match up with user intent. ETC ETC.

  7. 7
    Craig Burgess says:

    Another great thought-provoker, Avinash…thanks.

    Seems like our company is good on roughly 70% of the list, which is a surprise to me. But the other 30% are some of the most critical, IMO. Especially the tools #1 (hey, we're tech, we love tools) and #2 mobile-friendliness. I've seen our mobile/tablet (most iPad) traffic take a huge leap in the last month, with no sign of slowing.

    Oh, and going to turn off the auto-play on our video channel right now (sheepish grin follows)

  8. 8
    Theresa says:

    #5 & #6 – I convinced the company we needed to add a social media aspect to our web presence–and they promptly outsourced upkeep and updates to an outside company. Somehow, I failed to make them understand the actual point.

    But I'd say the whole website issue is my biggest frustration across multiple clients. The internet is full of websites designed in 1996, updated slightly in 2001, and left to rot ever since.

    Websites that deliver in today's fast-paced, mobile-heavy internet market are seen by clients as "it would be nice to have but we can't afford it." So far I've not found the precisely right combination of words to explain to them why they can't afford *not* to update their websites.

  9. 9

    Really liked #2 & #3 for various reasons but the purpose of e-commerce site is not to win awards but to engage a user and convert that user into a life long customer.

    That being said I would like to add another point I feel is really important, which is continuously testing users on your site. Designers and developers are to narrowly focused and develop extreme tunnel vision, which results in websites that are not user friendly. If you can do an hour a day, then you should be able to do one day a month of usability testing.

    Patrick Thompson

  10. 10

    Let's go ahead and add paper.li and twitterfeed to the list of war criminals tools….

  11. 11

    12. Use iFrame on your site instead of CSS because it is more "simple" for your webmaster.

    13. Duplicate content from other sources on your main site in order to increase seo traffic :(

    14. Use generic related links on every page just because you want to increase page views per visit…

  12. 12

    Companies who use the word 'Engagement' when what they really mean is just talking 'AT' people…ugh…

    Great post Avinash, thank you!

  13. 13
    David Rekuc says:

    Excellent as usual!

    12. I'd like to add an extension to #9, which is not trusting your measurement model or A/B test. Creating a measurement model or constructing a split test is only a piece of the pie, don't bother wasting your time if you won't believe the conclusions you draw from your data.

    13. Another thing I see far too often is unwillingness to test boldly. Too many people in the industry thing website optimization is testing buttons or copy. Be bold, have some extra strength coffee, get a little moxie and test something genuinely worth being tested. Throttle your risk by the percentage of your visitors receiving the experimental version.

    14. SEO & PPC teams not talking :(. Have lunch, get to know your fellow man (or woman). Share keyword reports, goals, etc.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post, Avinash.

  14. 14

    Kirk: This a very difficult discussion, and one that is worth having.

    The problem is that we anchor our rationale (or pleas!) for Social Media participation on vague notions. . . like. . . "everyone is doing it!" or " conversations with customers are better than TV!" etc.

    My approach is two fold. . . .

      1. I make sure I measure what matters and what can be explained to the management team. Key metrics? Conversation Rate. Message Amplification. Size of Second Level Network. These are "new age" metrics and (as you point out in your comment) more longer term focused. This is why we do Social Media.

      2. I make sure I compute the Economic Value of the Social Media activity. This is very short term focused. It could be the few orders you get, the reduced tech support cost or PR cost, the higher repeat purchase rate or…. something that adds value to the business now! Every time I have done this exercise I have found 2x the return than what the company was investing in "tweeting and facebooking", that gets the management off our collective backs.

    So do #2 while knowing that you are solving for #1. In the short term your company will let you participate, in the long term they will see you as a savior of marketing. :)

    Here are two posts that will help you:

    Good luck.

    Theresa: Your comment made me smile, thank you.

    It pains me to see so many horrid websites. I was just at the Macy's website and it just seems like a puke of links (and let me tell you I Love Macy's!). And it has not been left to rot, it seems to have been constantly updated!

    There are two strategies that work for me (often, not always) when I am in this pickle (trying to make the case that they can't afford not to be current):

      1. Quantify the suckiness. Two specific things here: A. Focus on bounce rates for campaign traffic (then multiply that with actual conversion rate to quantify lost conversions) and B. Focus on cart abandonment rate (then multiple that with conversation rate for lost conversions / $$$).

      I am just trying to "shame" / "motivate" them by showing bottom-line impact, most people care about this.

      2. Use Economic Value. This is more work (above is not) but always worth it.

    All the best!


  15. 15

    Great post Avinash. Like you, I believe the term "Engagement" is a bad word to use because it doesn't add any context. I think context needs to be added in order for it to be actionable and useful.

    I'll add one to the list:

    Your company focuses on design rather than functionality.

    I have come across many sites that look beautiful but takes me forever to find what I want.

  16. 16

    My bug bears…

    – When browsing on a device that does not support Flash and there is no HTML alternative for a site – is my money not good enough

    – Telling me that my password is 'Invalid' but not telling me why

  17. 17

    Great post! (as usual)

    I would add:

    – Thinking of SEO as a way to trick search engines and not as a long term online marketing strategy to optimize your site in order to rank well on search engines and attract highly relevant traffic

    – Overlooking the traffic and conversion goals you've set for your site this year: you only care about comparing it with metrics of the previous year and see if it has increased or decreased.

    – Trying to rank for a keyword that you don't even include in your site content and you don't want to include it because is not a service that you really offer… but still, you want to rank for that keyword!!

  18. 18

    Love all the "crimes" you listed and also the readers contribution. So, so common – some raising a feeling of "déjà-vu" that I hope will belong to the past.

    Thankfully, I am now in a position where #8 is applied (they hired me :-)) and where I am given the possibility to address #9, #10 and #11. That's my mission.

    Aside that I think that Landin's proposal should be added to the list: how many companies are focusing on the design / technologies (including Flash)- trying to make their site "sexy and flashy" but at the expense of functionality / usability? Too many if you ask me.

  19. 19

    Well, hyperbole aside, I agree with 10 of your 11 points.

    The first one I'm not so sure of. Whereas marketing is definitely important, I'm not sure 15% is legit, and I know I'm sure that not all businesses are prepared to do it, and by that I mean financially.

    So I assume on that front you're talking more specifically about companies that have marketing budgets and how they should be thinking about spending that money, correct?

  20. 20

    The biggest thing I always tell our business users is

    "Focus on why customers are leaving your site" Its a huge percentage of people. If you focus on only the converting customers then you are NOT addressing the real reasons as to why customers are leaving.

    Macro and Micro conversions are a great way to separate out your understanding of conversions.

  21. 21

    Huge: Be consistent in what you do. Don't be the company that puts up a blog post once every three months, even if it's a great one every time. Don't forget about Twitter for two weeks and then use it for a day and then disappear for two weeks again.

    Don't be so erratic that people take it for being silent instead. They'll forget about your blog in a heartbeat if you let them.

  22. 22

    Great post as usual, and some killer comments. I especially like how the emphasis is on exec. level/strategic missteps that we as analysts have to work around (or use data to prove why they were wrong – never a fun place to be).

    I would like to add one in:

    Thinking your homepage is a front door: Too many online firms still think of their homepage as a hub that the entire website gravitates around. Every page in a website can be the first page of a visitors experience, and this can easily be leveraged for fun and profit.

  23. 23

    #XX -> More is Better

    More is NOT better. There is no law in any country that penalizes you for whitespace on your website. Make your website look more like a modern living room with clean lines, plenty of happy whitespace. Clutter is clutter. No one likes to visit a website that looks like a trailer park knick knack shelf.

  24. 24

    Mitch: Not being able to do it or not being prepared to do it, does not equate to not doing it. IMHO.

    I am talking about any company with a "good'ish" marketing budget.

    If you are a small biz and spending $1,000 on marketing then perhaps the 85/15 rule does not make sense. If you are spending $100,000 then it starts to make sense. If you are spending $1,000,000 then you would be silly not to follow 85/15 split between "what we always do" / "what else is out there that might work well for us and protect our future".

    Everyone: Thank you so much for your additions to my original list. We are now at 25 "crimes" thanks to your efforts!!


  25. 25

    I think your wrong Aleyda. If you look at the likes of amazon and groupon they all got their success from SEO and it has always been their long term strategy. Great post!!!

  26. 26
    Dan Grainger says:

    Great post as usual Avinash. Another two spring to mind that really bug me!

    1) Not having site search on your website.

    – No-one should just assume that their site is great, user-friendly and easily navigable, so having site search is simply a no brainer. Aside to its use from a customer perspective, it's also great for analysts. I frequently make use of the data to dig into what customers are looking for, where they were on the site when they searched, etc.

    2) Going crazy with SEO optimisation.

    – SEO's important, we all know that. However, there's surely a tilting point between having an SEO optimised site that delivers visually and having one that simply stuffs keyword optimised text and links everywhere. For me, Adept Scientific are a big culprit of this (http://www.adeptscience.co.uk/). Yes, the site unsurprisingly ranks highly for its key terms, but wow does it suffer on visual appeal and giving the customer a direct, simple view of its propositions and products.

  27. 27

    I will print this and take it to my boss!

  28. 28

    Hope you don't mind, I have quoted your articles (esp this one) and used it for my Yahoo Messenger status. Crimes like these are done because of ignorance. Here are items I'd like to add:

    #1 Letting office politics affect data driven decisions.
    #2 Not enough inter-department cooperation, especially when website analysis action plan depends on others contributed actions.
    #3 Not enough trust on the web analyst results and recommendations.

    No axe to grind, just calling it as I see it.

  29. 29

    The place where I previously worked is stuck at these: #10, #8, #6, #5, #4, #3, #1

    And its not like I didn't advice them about this. Lack of forward-thinking that's all! Shooting 50000 emails is fetching us 100 leads each week, but spending 50,000 INR every month on PPC ads is fetching like what? 10-20 leads!

    10 AdWords campaigns targeting variety of keywords, but just one ad per campaign!

    Talk about multivariate testing, and they tell you what color works instantly. Logic? "Logic is not important, what's important is that our competitor does that, and he is successful"

  30. 30


    I totally agree with the philosophy behind your statement, though I might say these are crimes against humaneness more than humanity. Anyway, the title got my attention, and fulfilled the promise I'd expected, so mad props regardless of verbiage!

  31. 31


    To #27, I would say the obsession with SERPs and SEO optimization is generally a mis alignment business objectives. If a website "suffers on visual appeal and giving the customer a direct, simple view of its propositions and products" then most likely it's not converting very well. Which means your SEO team isn't looking at strategically applying efforts to ranking for the BEST search terms; based on revenue, conversions, etc.

    So basically, I wouldn't call OVER OPTIMIZATION of SEO a flaw, rather obsession with the wrong SEO metrics and KPIs the culprit.

    Side note – Kaushik Trinity approach says if your SEO team is SOOO OBSESSED with on-page optimization that they are interfering with your CRO, then the team probably has no REAL insights into the right KWs to rank for in the first place.

  32. 32

    Love it.

    How About: You don't provide contact information. I want to know who you are and where your office is.

    How About: You yuck up your site with default logos, stock icons (FB, YouTube etc) and buttons. Stop using the default graphics those services give you and find better ones.

    How About: Overuse of Google Maps. Just cause you can, doesn't mean you should. Take the time and make your maps relevant and accurate.

    Darn, now I have to go look at my website.

  33. 33
    Andreas Daun says:

    Not looking at impact vs. Resources required before going about to change something.

    E.g. Spending 50k USD on building links when you can't measure the ROI.

  34. 34

    @Trent: Yeah, the first point makes absolute sense. Back when i was working, my company was trying to hide the fact that they are based out of India because most of their clients were from the US. I tried talking some sense saying when someone is paying $1000 USD for your service, they would like to know what you do! Besides, it would also violate CAN-SPAM act, if you spent money on email marketing. More than anything, I feel it's a moral question. Be honest to your customers.

    @Andreas: I think it fits within the 9th point "Doing anything on the web without a Web Analytics Measurement Model."

  35. 35

    cc @ Trend

    It definitely is an ethical issue that many companies seem to ignore, the best recommendation that I can give a company when evaluating their website is to be open and honest. The easiest way to do that is to include a made for humans terms of service, privacy policy, and add your business address as well as your phone number in your footer. When companies start hiding behind obscurity they jeopardize the relationship that they are trying to build with their customer. It takes a lot of hard work to gain a customer so why ruin it behind shady business practices. Because of globalization it is less important where your business is located more important, that you are honest and open.

  36. 36

    Great point about believing in your data. I have seen so many companies that look at the analytics and still base next programs off of their own perceptions and interpretations.

    One thing I would add to the list is many people write in industry jargon or to coin an old phrase "Use a dollar word when a nickel will do." There is power in the simple, clean, and clear-both in wording and aesthetics. User experience, User experience, User experience.

  37. 37

    Andreas: I love it! It is shamefully common in companies of all size, we get all excited about he next shiny object or pitch from a "guru" and just go without thinking of impact.

    Robert: I could not agree more with your emphasis on simplicity. There are countries where messy makes sense, but I have to admit I crave the simplicity and functionality of danish design: http://goo.gl/IYK5s : )

    PS: And note the irony, I have nothing close to resembling design simplicity or visual appeal when it comes to the look and feel of this blog! Worry not, my friend Joost is going to help me fix that soon!



  38. 38

    Gaudiness. (not Godiness) There are plenty of boring websites out there – monochromatic,bland, boxy – so why not put all the bells and whistles, all the GIFs and video and different fonts you can come up with? No thanks.

  39. 39

    Not addressing the accessibility of your digital presence to all users, including those with disabilities and the aging population, from design through testing and deployment. There is an abundance of information regarding how to make sites accessible out there, and firms specializing in that space, so there really is no excuse not to put effort behind accessibility.

    For a quick test, try navigating through and interacting with your favorite site using strictly the keyboard alone (no mouse), and using the browser to see if you can enlarge the screen content's font size.

  40. 40

    I love #15:

    15. Not making even the simplest attempts to collect customer feedback [via Josh Braaten]

    And I would add "in a manner that facilitates taking action" at the end of it.

    I'm working on a project, and 90% of the team want to set up a feedback mechanism that just prompts the user to send us an e-mail with their thoughts. That at least takes care of "customer happiness" to some short-term extent, but what do we do with all those e-mails after responding to them, individually? Full inboxes help us understand how each user feels, but not how segments of users feel (not without a lot of manual data organization and coding, at least). I think a better alternative is to use a method like a 3-4 question survey that automates data collection and organization.

    Anyone else have any thoughts about this?

  41. 41


    Two more Crimes against Humanity:

    1) Not checking if the website opens properly and nicely in Mobile and iPad. I think this is very important with ever increasing use of smart phones almost in every country.

    2) Secure HTTPS pages are typically not crawled by Search engines. The information about your product should probably not be on HTTPS pages.


  42. 42
    chris Jangelov says:

    Great article and comments. Thank you all.

    It is essential to hire the right people and I really like the 10/90-rule. But who would understand to pick them?

    In my opinion most of these crimes are due to marketing people not having kept up with the change. Maybe it's time for a new adage: "Half of our A/B-testing is not working – We just don't know which half."

    But, then again, you would have to know what A/B-testing is.

  43. 43
    Manifo says:

    Due to the puppies i will do my best to keep an eye on my company to keep to those rules!!! :)

    To be more serious, u are so right with those points but we're just people and we would never perform all those tasks at once. However we should try :)

  44. 44

    Ryan: You've highlighted a great point about collecting user data. In many, sadly, large companies there is a "checkbox" approach: Yest we have a survey, it is collecting voc, we are paying $45,000 for it. From their sites it is clear that they have never taken a single customer facing action because they stink so much even at the basics.

    My approach is two fold:

      1. Dramatically scale back the VOC collection efforts (Surveys, Usability, Remote Testing etc) to just what really really maters to the senior most management. Too few means focus, analysis and action.

      [And when I mean scale back I also mean no more awful single page pop-up 32 question surveys, they represent everything wrong with our world. Focus the questions. Three things that matter. And keep evolving.]

      2. Secondly, if I have not pre-identified clearly the person whose neck is going to be on the line if something does not get done then seriously question doing anything.

      Work for work sake is a waste of human potential.

    I know that is tough love, but there are always better things to do in life!

    Chris: It is hard to pick the right people. Some level of Sr. Management savvy is mandatory, even if that savvy is that they know what they don't know and hence will hire skills to fill that gap. Or that they realize data is note important, recommendations of what actions to take is. Or that they realize the web requires dramatically different skills and they hire those.

    Most job requisitions posted for Web Analysts are looking for people with tools experience who can be 1. glorious implementers and/or 2. glorified data pukers. Both are required to some degree, but if that is all there is then it is a poor investment in the 90 part of the 10/90 rule.

    Web Analytics is full of javascript implementers and reporting squirrels. We. Need. Analysts!

    Manifo: Thank you for thinking about the puppies!! :)


  45. 45

    However, #7 is the more popular SEO strategy in russian segment of internet, and I wonder that this strategy will be popular at least 3 – 4 years. A lot of web-masters create their strategy on the link-market.

  46. 46
    Norell Winburn says:

    Excellent post, and very well written.

    I would add to the list Websites that play music automatically, especially those with no OFF button. This may be related to the video one – equally obnoxious!!

  47. 47
    Rajat khatri says:

    This kind of great articles (intact class room sessions) are real lessons for learners like me who are new to the world of online marketing as professionals. I guess this is your (web analytics Guru's) experience jotted in a 30 pointer. Thanks Avinash

  48. 48
    Jim Moult says:

    Links to PDF documents which will not work — open or download — unless the visitor has Adobe Reader installed. (There are other PDF readers.)

  49. 49
    Matthew says:

    Another one, related to #16 Rob's comment…

    Make it really hard for me to put in my address and credit card details when I'm buying something. Why can't you strip spaces if I put them in my credit card number? It soon gets to the point where price is no longer the most important factor, if the website is hard to use and doesn't make it easy for me to spend.

    I recently had to input a number to activate a visitors card, and on the card the long number was divided by spaces, like on a credit card. Yet on the website I had to input it without spaces. There was nothing on the site to tell me this. Also, there was no record of my address or email address found, despite them sending me a letter with the card! Didn't fill me with confidence at all.

  50. 50
    Anjali says:

    Loved the post – comprehensive, covering all the pain areas and definitely encouraging to experiment!!!

    Good work Avinash :)

  51. 51

    6. "Shouting" on Twitter / Facebook.

    I've had to remove plenty of internet marketing types because of this.

    Hyping up a project or post you worked hard on (within reason of course) is one thing… but shoving it down your follower's throats is a good way to lose them. The affiliate marketing industry is especially awful with this.

  52. 52
    Tony OHagan says:

    I hate j-j-e-r-k-k-y v-i-d-e-o-o-o-o.

    It's time for your company to find a new video streaming service so I don't have to scrape my nails down on the screen again!

  53. 53

    Hi Avinash,

    I completely agree with the points that you make,

    Especially… "Gratuitous use of Flash" and "SEO strategy is buying links, expired domains, et. al".

    I still receive emails promising top rankings in search engines, and there are many takers for these kinds of advertisements that make false commitments!

    Change is the only constant and that applies for Internet marketing as well. There is a big huge difference between how things were a decade back and now!

    Attracting and engaging people in what we do, with the help of new technologies, is the mantra today.

    You are right..we must evolve and embrace new technologies or be left behind.


  54. 54

    Number #
    Launching social media "campaigns" without any form of planning or strategy then thinking "Oh, now what?!!"

    Many companies just launch a Facebook page or a Twitter page and just push news to these channels without engaging with their audience or thinking about the What, Why, Where, When, Who & How.

    First plan, understand your audience, who they are, where they hang out, what they want from you as a brand and adapt, engage and be social…then launch kick-ass campaigns across the social Web and treat Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other local social media platforms as an extension of your brand – not a separate entity – Multi-channel goodness, multi-channel measurement, multi-channel ROI – if planned correctly :)

    • 55

      Just wanted to comment on your Facebook note – we ended up on Facebook because somebody started a group in the name of our business. We had customers coming to our store and they were saying 'I saw you have a group on Facebook'. It took us a while to take it over but yes, now we are on Facebook for a couple of years.. sometimes you are thrown in the hot water.

      The best recommendations I can give to small business owners, is to take as many workshops relating to the internet as possible. It helped us a great deal.

  55. 56

    Hi Avinash

    Great post. You mention ad words, but only as an expensive laternative to SEO. Any thoughts/insights about how these work together, the impact of seo on effectiveness of PPC as a result of dominating the results?

    Keep it up!


  56. 57


    Wow, this post is packed with things we see frequently. As an SEO I often see things like the gratuitous use of Flash, dated SEO strategy and taking bad shortcuts, however my pet peeve is simply lack of planning. With a little advanced planning some of the businesses we've encountered could have saved a great deal of time and money, all while improving their search performance.

    Lastly, I'm with Joe. Every website with an autoplay video should be banned.

  57. 58

    Tom: I want to be careful and point out that silly use of paid search is sub optimal. PPC and SEO work hand in hand to cover the entire expanse of customers that are available to us.

    My point of view on how best to leverage both, to ensure that two plus two equals five, is articulated in this blog post:

    ~ Monetize The Long Tail of Search


  58. 59

    Thanks very much Avinash, I'll check out the post.


  59. 60

    An extension to #26 – having an on-site search facility that doesn't work properly, returning irrelevant or otherwise inaccurate results, or that doesn't return results for pages that you *know* contain the search term you've entered. Shit in, shit out.

  60. 61

    And here's a personal bugbear related to email marketing…

    Web sign up pages that give multiple email subscribe options but flip the question. E.g. –

    "Tick this box if you wish to be kept informed of special offers…" followed on by a separate option to "Tick this box if you do not want to receive offers from our carefully selected partners".

    Yeah, nice attempt to spin the question, but what's the point in cheating me into subscribing? This tactic screams "not to be trusted".

  61. 62
    Jake S says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Great post, I would add "blasting the catch the x if you can" whole page ads (especially seen on news portals). It's not making me want to spend more time on the site for right reasons – being consumer of the information – but rather because I suck at "catch the x if you can" game. And No – I dont care for getting better at my mouse clicking skill.

  62. 63

    One big crime that's quite common where I live (Italy) is:

    Ask your 15 year old nephew to take care of your on-line communication, just because he's smart enough to publish a blog on Blogspot.

    I love your Blog, Avinash! Take care.

  63. 64

    Hi Avinash,

    I was wondering why you were mentioning Yahoo Analytics rather than Google Analytics.

    Is one to be preferred over the other? If so, what are your main reasons for this?


    • 65

      Stefanie: Yahoo! Web Analytics is a wonderful tool, I use it on this blog along with a couple other tools. Some people prefer YWA and others prefer Google Analytics or Omniture or WebTrends or IBM.

      Like a spouse there is an optimal tool for everyone, but one tool is not optimal for everyone. :)


      • 66
        Nelson Yuen says:

        In YWA there's a "work flow management" for sites that undergo lots of testing and changes – you also gotta love the "advanced pathing analysis." It's done really well in YWA.

        "Substituting a lot of useless metrics for one solid KPI" – An extension of #28 straight from class. I believe that was lecture 2.

  64. 67

    I actually took one of the points ("how to use the site") and forwarded it to an individual in our company that wants it added despite my repeated arguments against it.

    While we do many things right, it almost makes me cry when I see how many of these we are breaking because of the HiPPOs. Analytics helps me win some battles, but not all…

    Thanks for the excellent post!

  65. 68

    Excellent points. Fantastic list.

  66. 69

    Hi: Nice Article!

    I Would Like to add 3 more "Crimes". (specially in retail websites)…..

    1) "Lot of irrelevant data to fill before purchasing anything" (pure waste of time)

    Ex: When I wanted to purchase a software product online. At the end of the day, you only need my credit/payment details which can be validated. Why do you want to know when and where was I born?

    2) "Resetting the Form fields":

    Ok here is the thing.. I filled up a lengthy form, when I click on "Submit", An error message pops up that I have done a mistake and everything I filled spending my valuable time is GONE!!! Have to start again!! I mean…. Come on…

    3)" Lack of relevant and mod support " :

    Don't forget that you are not the only one with the product on this earth.

    When a customer has a query/ problem while purchasing the item,support/assist him. After all, he is going to buy what you have put up.

    He calls you and it takes 15 mins to reach the CSE. He mails you and you just give him an automated mail and by the time you resolve his query, he already has the product form another website!!

  67. 70
    Sven Raphael Schneider says:

    Great article Avinash!

    I was wondering if you do use site search on your site because it looks like a standard wordpress search engine, not like site search?

    I just implemented it on my site today and it definitely provides better search results.

  68. 71
    alanc230 says:

    The auto-play videos and the pop-ups that follow you and reappear on every page are my personal bugaboos. I hate them.

    I don't stay long on websites that subject me to those "features".

  69. 72

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when we try to be the judges of our own Website's usability. Or worse, we leave usability up to a programmer.

    One company I worked for allowed me to bring in normal people for 30-minute usability tests. They were given a set of simple tasks to perform and questions to answer, like "What is this Website about?" – I recorded them, their facial expressions, voices and what they were doing on the screen using Camtasia.

    I used questions suggested by Steve Krug in his book "Don't Make Me Think." It should be required reading and usability tests should be required by all Website owners. You'll be stunned at what you find out.

  70. 73

    "Your SEO strategy is buying links, expired domains, et. al."

    …over a year later and this is still some SEO's 'top-of-the-list strategy; sad state of affairs ;-)

  71. 74

    Number 10 makes so much sense! So many people quote their web "traffic" as their big accomplishment of the month. Traffic tells you nothing. Hopefully I can send this to the next person that tells me their traffics up.

    Shouting on Social sites is terrible too. Here in Canada, many companies still do it. They'll have to change eventually.


  72. 75

    Great Post – I also like the "loud" title. Because you are right! In each and every chapter.

    I've founded and established the website analytics for Deutsche Telekom in 2001 – and it was a lasting, never ending quarrel between the marketing, the sales and the "controlling" people (my "clan") about what data means and what data is the right measurement.

    The quarrel stopped (for a while) when we also established a fraud management. Saving a lot of money (than the fighting again started for that budget). How did we do that? Brain, right people and detective work we did. What was the point? Deutsche Telekom E-Business did engage affiliate companies to spread banners even in the last wrinkle of the web. And provisioned sales, no, not exactly: Provisioned the source of cookies that buyers had on their computer. That's a difference. We detected e.g. that the best running marketing campaign ever wasn't one. The source: It was a Gamer's place where you let penguins fly or shoot at not so friendly birds. But there was not a single pixel of our campaign to see. It took some time until we found out, that you can play in the foreground and do clicks on the hidden banner wall in the background. So each and every time a penguin flew, a cookie was "spammed" to the games's computer. Banners not only from Telekom, also the competitors and many others had been afflicted. This single fraud detection payed off my clerks salary for a year. But before we detected that, we have to deflect attacks: "How can you dare and stopp the most successful campaign ever?" we've been asked.

    So Website Analytics not only is a source for the judgement and steering of campaigns but also can help to detect fraud. And if you make use of "traffic generators" it is a must to also have a professionell eye on this aspect of analytics.


  73. 76
    Kayleigh Rogers says:

    Nice list!

    This sort of stuff makes me cringe. I do have one of my own, which I keep seeing more of lately, which is the invasive email newsletter signup popup. The ones where you literally just arrived at a website, and you get a huge popup urging you to hand over your email address. I close the website immediately.

    It's just so ignorant, how on earth do I know if I want to hear more from you when I haven't even read a sentence yet.

  74. 77
    Nazli Yuzak says:

    From a visual design perspective, designing online experiences with no visual hierarchy or clues.

    Sometimes you look at a page and other than the big, bold banner there is nothing that encourages you to start from there. Everything is just equal weight. I really don't think that's helpful to the site visitor.

    The other thing, within the same lines , is putting a bunch of CTAs on a page with same weight. Your page can't do multiple things all at once. So what's the primary objective? Once you identified that make that CTA bolder, more prominent.

    A good example would be on shopping carts…the main goal is to get you to the next page and keep you going along the path. If you were to place two CTAs on that page:"Go Back" and "Next step", would you present them as the same importance?

    Ideally "next step" should be the more prominent CTA and "go back" should be de-proritized.

  75. 78
    Gordon O'Connor says:

    Not addressing the accessibility of your digital presence to all users, including those with disabilities and the ageing population, from design through testing and deployment.

    There is an abundance of information regarding how to make sites accessible out there, and firms specialising in that space, so there really is no excuse not to put effort behind accessibility.

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