What Bad Digital Marketing Looks Like in Real Life

Posted on: January 2nd, 2013 by Luke Faragher
Shopkeeper Selling Bread

Google Analytics – How not to do your Digital Marketing

Using a series of brilliant (and hilarious) videos, Google has posted three short cautionary scenes, on its Youtube Channel, that illustrate what bad digital marketing techniques look like in real life. Centered mostly around a grocery store and the differences that can be found with e-commerce and search experiences online and in person, the videos perfectly illustrate frustrating shortcomings of the web that touch on poor keyword search, multiple logins, automatic timeouts, terms and conditions and more. See the videos below and a brief explanation of what is happening and why it’s such bad digital marketing practice. We have also suggested what can be done to combat these basic pitfalls and why it’s in Googles interest to do so.

Site Search

In this video we see the user combatting a poor browsing and search experience based round strict keywords, poor filters and poor site structure. The beginning of the video shows the customer struggling to find Skimmed Milk, after finding himself in the “White Section” of the Grocery Store. It is obvious that Google is suggesting that this is a poorly described category with no real user benefit. We find this problem is especially prevalent in many CMS based sites such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal because the site structure often uses categories to group posts. Overzealous search engine optimization agencies often use these categories to increase search rankings for particular keywords by formatting categories such as http://www.yourdomain.com/keyword/postorproduct-title/. This rarely has any benefit to users and is more aimed at creating site structure that is aimed specifically at search engine spiders, something that Google is cracking down on. So what can you do about this? The best way to eradicate this poor digital marketing practice is to name categories in a way that is useful to your visitors. Category names should be accurate and relevant to the content of the posts contained in them and descriptive without just stuffing in your keywords. As we know Google puts far more emphasis on user engagement and it’s obvious that a site with a good structure will keep users on your site longer as they can find your content and new content far easier.

Tip: If you change your site structure by renaming categories don’t forget to migrate your page authority by redirect your old pages to the new ones by adding 301 Redirects in your .htaccess file.

This should look something like:

301 redirect http://www.domain.com/old-catagory/page1/ http://www.domain.com/new-catagory/page1

Remember to place your .hatches in your root domain. If you want any more information regarding this please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

The second point that the video raises, is the poor and unhelpful search that many sites feature. This is perfectly depicted by the thoroughly unenthusiastic assistant that returns unhelpful search results to Oli, criticising poor item descriptions (Milk Semiskimmed as opposed to Semiskimmed milk). When Oli trys to use his own keyword “Semi-skimmed Milk” he is returned no results found, whilst a more generalised search for “milk” returns a far too broad range of items including ‘milk of magnolia’. This illustrates how a great number of e-commerce sites feature poor search facilities and again how misleading structure and descriptions harm user experience. How can this digital marketing issue be fixed? What we think that Google is suggesting here, (and it’s not too surprising) is that it’s probably not a bad idea to use Googles integrated search function to make searches within your site more productive. What we can suggest is you are using a CMS or any e-commerce platform where the search feature is built in, and its going to be difficult to use the Google option is correctly and helpfully tagging your products. This will allow your users to be able to quickly and effectively find exactly what they are looking for and make a purchase. It’s useful to think about this in the same way as a database or archive, the better the cataloguing information you put into it the easier it will be to find what you are looking for and again don’t worry too much about key-wording your products, if your search is amazing, then your more than likely going to sell much more and have users come back and shop again.

Some comical casting on this one, we love the advanced search character. Brimming with enthusiasm but quite frankly with too many options and variables make this simply as un-helpful as the first assistant. The fix here is get your search, tagging and structure right and you wont have to use the advanced search, period.

Digital Marketing points to take away: So what can we take away from this lesson? Firstly, we can clearly see how important site structure is and to be honest, this is no new development. Google has always rewarded clear navigation and user experience, so don’t create categories, content and descriptions for the benefit of search engine spiders, they aren’t the ones buying your products. Secondly, there are some strong hints that even some of the biggest online retailers and their digital marketing agencies are getting descriptions of their products and site search wrong. Make sure that all your pages, posts, items and articles are given useful and descriptive titles and tags to make sure that they can be found easily. Although you wont be getting all your keywords in, Google will reward you with a higher ranking, which means more visitors, add that to increasing your conversion rates means that you will sell more, its really that simple! We are certain that Oli will have bought his milk if it would have been clearly put in the correct category, just like in a real supermarket (look for lessons in real life retail).

Online Checkout

This clever video shows a shopper attempting, (very unsuccessfully we might add) to buy a loaf of bread. despite some common e-commerce issues that would make any digital marketing agency cringe. Firstly, the shopper is welcomed to the checkout and asked to log-in using their username and password. As we know this is fraught with problems, how many of us have regularly forgot which variant of our username or password we have used and been forced to reset our password as shown in the video? There are a number of options now available to combat this problem, such as logging in using popular services such as Facebook and Twitter. This negates the need for individual usernames and passwords.

The second issue faced by our shopper is mountains of irrelevant and generic Terms and Conditions. The fact that the shopper literally “ticks” the conditions without hearing the full contract, further illustrates some peoples disregard for the terms that they are bound to in making online purchases. The UK has a strong policy on this, however lack of sufficient policing and companies operating internationally means that this is still a widespread problem facing UK shoppers wishing to purchase goods online. Google suggests here that the terms and conditions should be clear and relevant to the product and service that is being purchased. If you need any guidance on terms and conditions we are only too happy to help.

After all this we can see that the checkout attendant “times out”, something we are all unfortunately used to. We are aware that this is an important security feature but in our experience we have found that if a user times out there is an 70% chance that they will not continue with the purchase. We would suggest providing more specific terms and conditions in line with local legislation. This will increase the chance that a user will complete the purchase without timing out.

Another stage in the online shopping process is the entry of a CAPTCHA code. A CAPTCHA (pron.: /ˈkæp.tʃə/) is a type of challenge-response test used in computing as an attempt to ensure that the response is generated by a human being. The process usually involves a computer asking a user to complete a simple test which the computer is able to grade. These tests are designed to be easy for a computer to generate but difficult for a computer to solve. If a correct solution is received, it can be presumed to have been entered by a human. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAPTCHA). As we can see the user is all but ready to leave the process until guessing the correct code, yet another element that can prevent a user from completing a sale online. Make sure that any checks and balances are easy to read or give a number of options to verify that the user is human.

One of the biggest frustrations with online shopping is an opaque and sometimes confusing additional charging structure. This is clearly depicted in this sketch as the user is confounded by not only the delivery options, (next day collection/instant and standard) but additional charges such as “bread insurance”. Travel agencies and flight operators are particularly guilty of this sort of misleading charging structure. In a digital marketing sense obviously this can be combatted with advertising a transparent pricing structure right from the start of the purchase procedure. This will build a users trust, ensuring that they complete the transaction and not feel like they have been mislead, unlike in the video where the shop assistant says; come back soon with the customer replying “I wont”.

Again, this is a great video illustrating a number of the common pitfalls of companies providing online shopping to their customers. The complicated and misleading terms, pricing and security measures all combine to reduce your conversion rate and damage your online sales.

Digital Marketing points to take away; Make sure that you hire a good digital marketing agency that will help increase your conversion rates and increase your sales buy simplifying the purchase process and flow of your e-commerce site. They will help strip back the unnecessary elements and guide your customers through a simple, transparent and easy to understand purchase. This will not only increase your conversion rates, but increase your repeat purchases as users will love to make purchases through your site.

Landing Page Optimization

In this video, Google attempts to shed some light on misleading landing pages. The video description asks; “Are you distracting your customers, and deterring them from buying what they really want on your site?”. We can clearly see that the customer is looking for Olives and has located the correct area in the supermarket, much the same way as you might browse the internet and find an advert or search result that looks to satisfy your needs. On walking towards the olive counter, shop assistants appear attempting to sell other items to the customer using the all to familiar “other people who viewed ‘olives’ also viewed ‘Chardonnay’” and then “78% of people who viewed Chardonnay bought ‘what to do when he’s not that into you’”. This is particularly funny as the customer is a male and probably wouldn’t be that interested in that book, further illustrating the irrelevance of these suggestions. Once the customer has shrugged off all the rather forceful suggestions of products, even having to remove and confirm removal of one from his shopping basket he is then confronted with a 404 ‘the olives you are looking for could not be found’ page. Not only frustrating, the user feels mislead as they have been lead to a product they were looking for, only to be marketed other items under false pretenses. This is not only a highly unsuccessful way of marketing products but will ensure that a customer will go somewhere else in future.

A rather simple video, this shows how many customers are being mislead by false and over optimised landing pages, distracting them from what they are really searching from. A landing page is a specific page that is linked to an advert or search result that is tailored to the search result. In theory, this is supposed to be used to streamline the purchasing process, making it easier for a customer to find what they are looking for on your site and make a purchase. In reality, these pages are often over optimized by digital marketing and search (SEO) agencies to entice customers onto a site, in order to direct them to higher priced or different items all together. This process weakens consumer trust and frustrates them into resorting back to larger more well established online vendors.

Digital Marketing points to take away; Really simple on this one, don’t mislead your site visitors and don’t over optimise your landing pages. You should always try to provide clear descriptions for each of your pages and don’t try to swamp your user with irrelevant “simmilar products” or “our customers also bought” options if it is un-helpful. An example of where this is relevant and helpful is where a product doesn’t have a certain cable that is essential or does not contain batteries. A simple “this might be useful” will make users aware of this and will make sure that they trust your site.

Video Ideas we would like to see

After looking at these videos, there are a number of videos that we think should be added to help with improving online purchasing.

Importance of Mobile websites

This video would show how users can be put off when they aren’t provided with a mobile optimized experience, potentially by not being able to see the checkout or click on an option. Although mobile website browsing is expected to overtake desktop use next year, many of the even larger online retailers are ignoring the need to provide their users with sites that are specifically designed and developed for mobile and tablet devices. Here at DiD we specialise in providing fully responsive mobile websites that adapt to the device that the user is viewing your site on such as desktop, tablet, landscape mobile and portrait mobile. This provides an optimal experience regardless of what device your site is viewed on. Read more about our responsive mobile website design in our services pages.

Returns Policies and unfair terms

Although terms and conditions are brushed upon above, if we look at many terms and conditions on e-commerce sites in greater depth, we can find that there are unfair conditions that are often contrary to legislation, particularly ones that refer to returns policies. This should be tackled by Google as it is a reason that many customers feel uneasy shopping online as they feel that they are not protected by the same rights that they are if they purchase in a shop.


We think that these videos are brilliant, not only did they make us laugh, but they illustrate important mistakes that many of even the biggest online retailers are still making. They create awareness in a manner that is easy for anyone to understand, directly comparing them to real world shopping experiences and the fact that the videos are laughable, shows us just how much we are willing to compromise on online shopping experiences that we put up with this. Drawn in Digital Ltd is a digital marketing agency that will help you simplify your online sales channels, increasing not only your visitors, but the number of conversions and sales from your site. If you have noticed that your site is guilty of any of the mistakes illustrated by these Google Analytics videos, give us a call, we can help resolve your issues and get you on track to make the best of your website.

Digital Shopkeeper

Video content courtesy of Google (Visit Google’s Youtube Channel)

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