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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter


July 20, 2015

5 Warning Signs That Your Website Sucks

July 20, 2015 | By | No Comments

Does your website suck? Does it meet your customers' needs?Does your website suck? I’m not asking to be mean. Really. Building a website that meets the needs of your business and your customers is a tricky balancing act. You want to project a robust, yet friendly brand. You want to make sure the site is usable, but also good looking. You want to promote your company without getting in your customers’ way. You need to represent the needs of disparate internal stakeholders, but you don’t want to drive the design and functionality based on your org chart. You want Google, Bing, and other search engines to find your site and boost its rankings in their results. You want your customers to like, link, and share your content with their friends, family, fans, and followers among their various social networks. And, of course, you want it to look world-class without breaking your budget.

Sounds simple, right?

Well… not really. While no one set of tips and tricks guarantees a perfect site designed to achieve an optimal balance among these disparate demands, a few best practices can ensure your site works well in most cases. If your site exhibits more than one of these common warning signs, it’s a pretty good indication your website sucks. Here’s what those warning signs are —and how you can prevent them.

Meager Images

Does your website offer clear, crisp images, designed to work well on “Retina-caliber” displays? Do those images show your product and services clearly? Or do your customers have to lean in close and reach for reading glasses every time they want to see a picture (even if they don’t wear glasses)? On the web today, a picture is worth a thousand words. Poor quality, low resolution images — or too few images overall — make it difficult for your customers to truly see what they’re buying when they buy from you. Invest in high-quality, high-resolution images that illustrate your offering clearly. Google’s recent emphasis on images in search, including Carousel and Business View underscore how seriously the search giant takes images as part of the overall consumer experience. And don’t forget the move towards image-sharing in social, including Instagram, Pinterest, and, yes, even Twitter (images are proven to make social posts more shareable). Your customers value images. Make sure your site does too.

Poor Mobile Experience

OK. Before you read any further, grab your mobile phone (or open a new tab if you’re reading this on mobile), and navigate to your website. What does it look like? Can you read the text? Do the images appear clearly? Can your customers find key calls-to-action like your address, phone number, or add-to-cart? No? Well, you’re not alone. Research from Foresee Results (highlighted here) shows that “…functionality on mobile apps and sites was the area for biggest improvement across… mobile retailers” and that “…mobile is affecting direct sales contribution and purchases in other channels, too.” Those effects can be negative, too, if your customers can’t find what they’re looking for when on their mobile device. Responsive sites rank better for SEO, usually cost less to maintain than a dedicated mobile site, and, as a general rule, work better across a wider range of devices. Oh, and they help your customers, too. What’s not to love?

No Web Analytics

An old consulting saw states, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Time and again I see companies running their websites without any web analytics in place. Which means, of course, that they’re not really managing their sites. They’re just guessing what customers care about — or don’t. If your site lacks analytics, take a few minutes and have your administrator at least place tags for Google Analytics on your site. Today. Once you’re able to measure, you’ll be able to manage your site so much more effectively. And you’ll begin to put your site to work for your business more effectively too. What should you measure? Well, I’m glad you asked… High Bounce Rate Bounce rate is what happens when customers view a single page on your site without drilling deeper into your information. A high bounce rate is the kiss of death for most businesses, as it means your website wasn’t good enough to answer your customers’ questions without leaving them looking for a better answer — especially if they look to a competitor. Even worse, you might have paid — with money, time, or resources — to bring those folks to your site. That’s pretty much the definition of “sucks” in my book. Identify pages on your site that have both lots of traffic and a high bounce rate, then set to work on improving those pages (look to copy, headlines, images, and calls-to-action first). Getting these pages to not suck should be your web team’s #1 priority, even ahead of SEO, PPC, or email marketing. Driving traffic to a page that’s just going to cause customers to bounce is a waste of customer goodwill. So don’t do that.

Limited Traffic Sources

I once worked on a site that got almost 80% of its traffic from organic search and a big chunk of that organic search traffic from a relatively small set of keywords. Guess what happened. Search traffic fell during the economic downturn (it was a luxury products company), and the overall business suffered. As one company executive put it after I showed them the issue, “Google sneezed and we caught a cold.” You’ve all heard the adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket. Well, the same holds true for your website. Look at the sources driving traffic to your site, then build a plan to grow each of the following categories:

  • Natural search
  • Referrals
  • Direct navigation
  • Email
  • And, if you’ve got the budget, paid search.

You’re looking for both quantity and quality here, so don’t just jump on spammy link-building techniques or wasteful spend solely to get additional traffic. Instead, focus on quality partners and proven tactics to increase across and within each of these key categories. While it can’t guarantee you won’t “catch a cold” when someone upstream sneezes, it will help you spread the risk and improve your “immunity” to any changes in the marketplace.


You’ll notice I didn’t talk about conversion rate or returning visitors or more detailed metrics for your site. It’s not that those are unimportant; they are. Very important, in fact. But it’s more important that you get the basics right first. Focus on these five areas to start with, then look at building a more detailed picture of your customers’ online behavior. Building a high-quality, customer-focused website is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and clear goals. Look at where your customers come from, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how well your pages support their goals at each step along the way. It won’t guarantee you’ll win every sale, every day. But it will help you attract and retain more customers in the long run. And that surely doesn’t suck.

Do you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing? Be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Biznology, where Tim Peter writes a monthly column.
Tim Peter


April 9, 2013

What Are Your Customers Actually Buying? (Travel Tuesday)

April 9, 2013 | By | No Comments

Customer satisfactionTravel marketing — as well as service marketing generally — depends on providing your customers a great experience every time for a pretty simple reason: The experience is the product. It’s not like there’s an object that “leaves the store” with them. Airlines, in particular, are learning this lesson the hard way right now as recent research shows declining customer satisfaction… despite improving operational execution.

This need to get it right, to at minimum meet your customers expectations every time, is the topic of this week’s Travel Tuesday post on TravelStuff, “What Are Your Customers Actually Buying?” Check it out.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And, if you’ve got a minute, you might enjoy some past coverage of customer experience in marketing, including:

Tim Peter


February 8, 2013

Thinks Out Loud Episode 17: What's Wrong With Google's Enhanced AdWords Campaigns

February 8, 2013 | By | One Comment

Google's Enhanced AdWords Campaigns might enhance their bottom line


Now stay warm and dry, Big Thinkers. Watch out for Winter Storm Nemo this week.

Contact information for the podcast:

Technical details: Recorded using a Shure SM57 microphone
through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 12m 47s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed or download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter


February 1, 2013

Tim Peter


January 28, 2013

Finding and Following Your Customer’s Digital Footprint [Updated: June, 2017]

January 28, 2013 | By | 3 Comments

Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.

4 ps of marketing for learning about your customer's digital footprintYour customer’s digital footprint represents a huge component in building an effective customer profile. I had the great privilege to guest host @IBMBigData’s weekly CXO Chat on Twitter focused on Customer Experience Optimization and how to use this footprint to build your business. The session was called Finding & Tracking Your Customer’s Digital Footprint and looked at your customers’ digital footprint and how you can leverage consumer behavior in your marketing and customer service efforts. It was an incredibly lively discussion and I learned as much as I shared.

Since we held this discussion on Twitter, my responses were limited to 140 characters or fewer. But I think that focused the discussion on the best things you can do to improve your customers’ experience using the data available to you. In the sections below, I’ve tried to capture the spirit of the session while adding some context (e.g., tweets/questions/etc. from other participants) where appropriate.

Anyway, check out the Q&A for yourself:

Can you follow your customers’ digital footprint?

  • It is possible. But first, think about what you’re collecting and why.
  • Customer relationships depend on trust. Make sure you have treated your customer data with care.
  • Have a clear sense of what’s your data (aggregate usage information, opens, clicks, shares, retweets, etc). vs. customers’. [Editor’s note: You may want to check out Why Data Matters for Marketers (Thinks Out Loud Episode 194) too.]
  • All personally identifiable information (PII) belongs to customers, always. Handle with care.
  • If you’re uncomfortable telling customers how you plan to use their data, ask yourself whether you should collect it at all.
  • RT @IBMbigdata @Marco_Saito “Capture” probably wrong verb. “Access” better. Footprint doesn’t need to be in your database…
  • Finally, remember you don’t need to know everything to know enough to help customers achieve their goals.

How can businesses track the digital footprints to profile their customer base?

  • Don’t be afraid to start small. Gather the data that will help you help your customer. [Editor: And, don’t forget, with AI For Marketers: AI Makes Big Data Little (Thinks Out Loud Episode 196)
  • Exactly: RT @DnBUS: Businesses need to rethink marketing segmentation. It’s more dynamic & individualized than trad. demos.
  • Focus on your customers’ behaviors first. They’re a better predictor of future behavior than anything else.
  • Great point. RT @Marcio_Saito Most times, more important to know which venues customer are (context) than what they said (data).
  • Ask customers permission and to volunteer additional information in exchange for content, services, utility.
  • Then (where appropriate) join those disparate data together to create a clearer picture of customers wants, needs, dreams
  • RT @ValaAfshar: Mature service orgs are using prior contact history and predictive analytics to deliver proactive services.
  • One participant on Twitter (@marksalke) asked: “But do customers/consumers care to be ‘analyzed’?”
  • My reply: @marksalke It’s an important question. Depends on how you’re going to use it. Customers want help. If if helps, then yes. If not…
  • But don’t ask customers for the things you should already know (past contact, repeated discussions, etc.)

How far back should we trace the digital footprint? Why?

  • Only go back as far as necessary to help your customers accomplish their goals. Remember trust matters more than anything.
  • Exactly right: RT @stevemassi: customer will ID themselves when theres value in it for them
  • Whenever you’re gathering customer information, ask “how does my having this help my customer?”
  • It’s very easy to slip past “helpful” and towards “creepy.” Don’t go looking for data you can’t use to help your customer.
  • @SJAbbott Seeing those trends is fine. Data in the aggregate is cool if you exclude PII. Just don’t try to mine individuals that way.

How do you use the digital footprint to personalize the customer experience?

  • Focus on behaviors first. What do your customers do? How can you enhance the experience based on what you already know. [Editor: Recommend checking out Content is King, Customer Experience is Queen (Thinks Out Loud Episode 188) and Customer Experience is Queen? What Does That Mean? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 190) for more on this topic.]
  • Tough to give examples in 140 chars, but consider the following scenarios…
  • We already know so much that we could use better. On website, what browser, referrer, geolocation, search query, etc.
  • How can you use that data to offer more relevant responses, content, experiences?
  • On social channels, activity, friends, followers, fans, etc. What do these tell us about customer wants, needs, dreams?
  • @tmustacchio It’s one approach. Though instead of “all available” data, focus on most meaningful data first.
  • Definitely. RT @IBMbigdata Use digital insight to fill in gaps in customer story to then personalize the exp
  • Great! RT @adamtoporek Blend internal data with social/public footprint for total picture. Then take WIIFM approach to cust

How do you bridge the gap between digital and physical footprints?

  • Carefully. 😉 Again easy to slip into “creepy” territory. Instead ask, “How do my customers use these channels together?”
  • Pay attention to transitions. Are customers shifting between physical/digital based on choice or frustration?
  • For many businesses mobile will be key. RT @DnBUS A5: One way to integrate physical & digital footprints: mobile.
  • Keep messages consistent across channels as people move. Help keep them from getting lost.
  • 60% of consumers between 18-34 sleep with their phone due to FOMO (fear of missing out). Offline no longer exists.
  • @SMSJOE That’s right. Customers don’t think “channel.” They think “company.” If you do it bad in one channel, it can follow you.
  • Mobile will drive much of the transition between offline and online. See here:
  • RT DnBUS @stevemassi Good point. We must also get permission to observe mobile use & offer guidance. Understand context of use 1st
  • @marksalke @stevemassi Many already are today. Mobile doesn’t just mean your app. It’s a truly “personal” computer now.

How can businesses take advantage of digital footprints to innovate, differentiate and grow?

  • Again, think first about how it helps your customer. Use data to improve service.
  • With the rise of consumer review, photo and social sharing sites, your brand is what your customer says it is.
  • Exactly! RT DnBUS A6: Digital footprints can fuel innovation by revealing what customers need & want & what they expect from you.
  • Customers who have great experiences tell their friends. Customers with bad experience tell everyone they know.
  • Listening to what your customers’ real needs then applying those lessons will help you improve products and quality of service.
  • Yep. RT @ValaAfshar The art of building trust is to use the information *not* to manipulate, but rather to personalize and inspire.

What best practices should companies employ in leveraging and cross pollinating digital footprints?

  • Protect your customers’ private data first, last, and always. You don’t own it but it’s entrusted to your care.
  • @OBI_Creative I basically agree. But remember you have to listen deeply for what they really want, not just what they say they want.
  • @OBI_Creative Think Henry Ford’s (apocryphal) “faster horse” quote:
  • Establish and maintain cross-functional teams representing different aspects of customer journey. Avoid silos at all costs.
  • Each member of team needs to reflect context as well as content of digital footprint. How/why it matters to customer interaction.
  • @thecxguy asked: “but the question remains. What is “private”?”
  • I responded: Tricky question. Consumers will differ on where the line is, but I still believe PII is (mostly) private.
  • RT @DnBUS: Remember that each “touch”/interaction–regardless of communicating team–is a brand experience.

Should customers disguise their digital prints from businesses? Why or why not?

  • Whether they should or not, they will. Especially from companies that haven’t earned their trust.
  • Customers will increasingly protect their footprint when companies misstep. Don’t misuse what isn’t yours.
  • Customers should share their footprint but only if they receive value in exchange. Data is currency.
  • RT @thecxguy exactly. progressive biz will show their cust what data they collect, what they use it for and give option 2 opt out

It was a great session and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with this group. You should check them out, too.

Interested in more?
Sign up for our free newsletter
and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy.

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Finally, you might enjoy some of these past posts from Thinks to help you build your e-commerce strategy and your digital success: