Image of Sharknado movie promo used by Erik Foss for Sharknado Ate Your Web SiteFive Ways Your Web Site is Like #Sharknado and Tips for Fixing a Really Bad Web Site

Recently, the Syfy Channel released “Sharknado,” an atrocious shark attack movie that easily bit the leg off of the worst movie of all time list.

When it was released I was on vacation and missed the premier. I thought myself lucky. And yet the social media buzz was so loud, I found myself having to watch it where it became clear that many business web sites remind me a lot of a very bad B-movie.

Image of Sharknado Movie Poster

I’m sure struggling Hollywood stars Ian Ziering and Tara Reid had high hopes this would resurrect their careers. Like everyone involved in this production, their expectations, based obviously only upon dreams and egos instead of preparation, were sadly under-realized. What we got was a disaster of a movie instead of a disaster movie.

So How Is Your Web Site Like Sharknado?

So much went wrong with the making of that movie, and I could see the obvious parallels with how many web sites are conjured and executed. The parallels are…well, scary, and not in a “Oh that was some seriously scary $#&%!” But instead more like, “Oh god, why am I wasting my time here?” sorta way.

The “Did Sharknado Eat My Web Site” Checklist

#1. Your Shark Started Out Great White and Ended Guppy

No continuity, no story and no authenticity

I’m going to go out on a limb and suppose that much of Sharknado was made up by splicing various available free stock video footage together. Or it was made by drunk children. Either way, it was clearly put together by blind people in a dark room and a lot of alcohol.

There are several sequences in the movie that were cut using so many different backgrounds for different angles that it was grotesquely misaligned and just horribly comical.

Does your web site look like it’s been assembled from various random parts?

Make sure your site has a consistent design, look and feel and use of branded elements. If your home page starts one way, and your key selling page looks entirely different, you’ll have conversion problems.

If you have image galleries and home rotators with images that are extremely opposite style-wise, that could send a confusing message or look unprofessional.

Or from a content marketing perspective, saying things on a home page one way, and then not having a consistent voice or follow-through on key landing pages could also create confusion and frustration among site visitors.

And the more disjointed, incongruous and hodge-podge your content and message, the lower your authority drops as a subject matter expert. Remember, design and branding don’t need to be extreme or expensive, just consistent.

Can Everyone Please Look at the Right Mark?

Sharknado also did a masterful job of embarrassing itself with horribly inconsistent levels of direction to its actors. In some scenes, it’s clear to us where, off camera, the actors are all supposed to be looking or reacting to, but some actors were clearly confused and looking off in different directions.

Even something as simple as making sure your staff or customer photos on your web site have subjects looking in the same direction can make a subtle difference in how that content is perceived.

Image of Ian Zeiring and Tara Reid from SharkadoIf You’re From LA, Don’t Sound New York

Or, in one scene from the movie, one man is running for his life in Los Angeles but when he opens his mouth to scream, his accent and demeanor clearly said, “I’m a New York actor shooting this on green screen in New York City.”

If you say you’re from Los Angeles, you web site’s lead characters and content should demonstrate you really are from the local area. Otherwise, why should I trust you are what you say you are?

No Story. No Heart.

Sharkado also did a poor job of developing a plausible, believable or connected storyline. There was no real character development which made it easier to enjoy watching them get eaten by the fake sharks.

The moral of that story is to simply tell your story. Great web sites develop relationships with their visitors by explaining why the owners and employees love what they do, why they do it, how they solve the problems of their speciality, and how they make happy customers. So make sure you don’t Sharknado your brand by not telling your story, or refusing to tell it in a more compelling manner.



#2. Your Web Site Brought a Pick Axe to a Shark Fight

Then your web site dropped bombs from a helicopter.

The heros of this chum bucket of a movie are packing for a fight, confident in the power of the pick axes, chainsaws, and shotguns they have loaded up and ready to defend themselves with against A TORNADO OF MAN EATING SHARKS! Not only were our actors unprepared, some were eaten.

Is that what your web site is doing? How do web sites show up with one thing when they really needed something else?

Not only must your web site cut through the search clutter and motivate people to click, then it needs to show up with what those visitors are expecting it to have in order to solve their problem.

dont-skimpMany small business web sites simply cannot cut through the clutter. How so?

  • Not properly optimized for search or for conversions
  • Not using keywords correctly
  • Not using memorable images or content
  • Not easy to navigate
  • Fail to make an authentic connection that can lead prospects to the next step in the sales funnel

And most web sites are forgettable and fail to create a branded, memorable experience…or at least a memorable experience that is positive.

Certainly most web sites do not dare to jump into the mouth of a great white shark with a chain saw and cut your way out like the movie’s hero Fin does.

That may be a little over the top and appeal to a limited audience, but sometimes you need to take a bold leap to get noticed; sometimes your audience might surprise you. (Yes I realize I almost sound like I’m praising this climatic stunt in the movie…ya, it was so bad it was cool.) All too often, business owners from more conservative professions are not willing to do something bold for fear they come off as unprofessional. Guess what? Those web sites might be less offensive, but they are also the most forgettable.

Your Web Site Is Unprepared for Customer Demand

Another way your web site showed up with a pick axe to a shark fight is in how it fails to meet customer expectations for answering their problem or making it easy for them to become a customer.

What are some ways your web site can be better prepared for custom demands?

  • Use your site analytics
  • Heat-mapping data
  • Intercepts, customer surveys or interviews


There is no excuse for not knowing if your web site is delivering against demand or not. It is absolutely critical that you put your web site in the best position possible to motivate site visitors that find you.

But then don’t go crazy to fix the problems.

Don’t Drop Bombs from Your Helicopter!

Our Sharknado school of human fools decide after their guns can’t kill all the sharks that they’ll drop home made bombs from a helicopter to stop the tornado (wow, why didn’t Bill Paxton think of that?!)…Oh and Fin’s son just happens to have a helicopter AND he’s a… wait for it…a helicopter pilot! That’s right! How lucky is that?

How is this a metaphor for your web site marketing efforts? Simple, don’t go overboard to fix your site’s problems. Also, don’t throw every possible customer response management tool at them either.

Take a measured approach, test new content and tools and be methodical in your approach to improving your site. Throwing too much at once at your visitors will likely make it hard to focus on what you really want them to do.

no-phone#3. Your Web Site’s Phone is Dead

Tara Reid’s character April is the ex-wife of super surfer Fin. At one point April is inside a liquor store looking for help. April asks the cashier to use the phone, when he replies, “Phone’s dead.”

This got me thinking immediately. It doesn’t matter if sharks are raining down and eating your customers whole or not, you cannot ever let your web site be a dead phone.

Ways In Which Your Web Site “Phone” is Dead:

  • There’s no Call To Action
  • No phone number, address, or other key business information in your header, footer or on key selling pages
  • You make it too hard to find contact information…one extra click could kill your chances
  • Your site’s live chat customer service tool is offline, which makes your business look closed
  • Your form tool doesn’t work
  • Your email capture forms don’t use autoresponders or double opt-in
  • Links to key pages are dead, too many 404s
  • Your site is slow and potential visitors bail before it’s done loading

You need to review your site for these; work on your SEO; and get these fixed ASAP!



#4. Never Stop Trying to Understand Your Daughter

Finally we get to a point late in the movie where the film’s writers decided to try to make us care about the characters. In a rare and critical relationship reconnection moment between lead character Fin and his daughter, Fin tries to explain his absenteeism as a father and asks desperately,  “You don’t think I tried?” His daughter confesses, “Not hard enough.”

Your clients and customers always want more from you…especially for less. They expect to see certain things when they hit your web site and their expectations are high. You need to review your site for how it is letting them down without you even realizing it.

What are your competitors doing? What’s the latest, most effective customer relationship management tools your site is missing…or that at least you have vetted? What more could your web site being doing to raise satisfaction levels, exceed expectation levels, while saving you on overhead?


retirement-home-by-airport#5. Old People Can’t Hear, and Other Lame Assumptions

While driving trying to escape Los Angeles, our film’s stars head toward the airport when they pass Sunny Meadows, a retirement home. Fin’s girlfriend (or friend who’s a girl that wants to be Fin’s main squeeze) blurts out, “Why is there a retirement home next to an airport?” The quick response from Fin’s daughter,  “Because old people can’t hear.” Wow. OK, really? ALL old people? And how are you defining old anyway?

How are you making broad, unfair assumptions about your target audience? Here are some common ways this happens. Have you ever said this?

  • “My customers don’t use social media.”
  • “Nobody cares about my story.”
  • “My audience never searches Google.”
  • “My target customer doesn’t care about branding.”
  • “My audience only uses LinkedIn.”

Never make too broad of assumptions about your target audience. And there is enough data to validate that yes, your customers are using Google (every day multiple times a day) and they are searching using keywords you really want to be found for. And a whole lot more. Billions of searches by everyone globally regardless of age or income… There are no excuses for pretending your web site doesn’t matter.

It would be like Sharknado’s producers forgetting that people will actually watch this no matter how bad; and while all publicity is good publicity, a really bad performance can damage your reputation (aka brand) for a long time to come. So put some effort into and get it done right.

Honestly, I think this happened. I’m pretty sure Sharknado’s producers forgot their names would be on that film and that it was actually going to see the light of day. They should have worked a little harder.


Bonus Tip!

self-fulfilling#6. No Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Fin and his unfortunate crew have just miraculously rescued a busload of kids including the teacher. Where upon the teacher begins freaking out as the Hollywood sign is being shredded by the tornado and thrown in chunks unluckily right at him.


In the worst ironic rimshot moment in cinema this year, the teacher screams, “My mom always told me Hollywood would kill me!” And not a shark-attack-moment later a huge chunk of the sign squashes him on the overpass like a giant shoe to a gnat.

“My mom always told me Hollywood would kill me.”

I loved this obviously comic moment in the movie to consider how we sometimes set out with self-fulfilling prophecies that are not always positive in nature. Lots of us can have unrealistic or negative expectations about how our web sites are perceived and how productive they should be.

Sometimes we quickly jump to negative expectations of performance because we just really don’t know what more our sites can be or should be doing. Sometimes those patterns of negative expectations can be based upon not understanding your web site well enough, understanding search optimization, content marketing, or how to get more Google-love. Maybe you have Google Analytics data but you just don’t have time to review them or know exactly what to do with the data.

Whatever the reason, it’s easy for any of us to feel overwhelmed by everything that goes into making a web site great. Regardless, over time, patterns of negative expectations about how your web site will or should perform can create self-fulfilling prophecies.

There’s No Reason for These Self-Fulfilling Prophecies:

  • You don’t really understand how exactly your web site gets delivered for Google searches, so you just don’t do anything about making that happen, and then, your web site fails to get any good ranking on Google.
  • You think your web site doesn’t drive enough measurable revenue, you ignore Google Analytics data and customer feedback on what they want from your site, and therefore you continue to think of your web site as just a sinkhole of a digital brochure.

 Tips for Turning Around Patterns of Negative Expectations

  • Do not resist hearing creative ideas or out of the box thinking.
  • Trust the experts on your team or your consultants and agencies.
  • Do not ignore negative news about the site.
  • Accept that marketing with your web site is like watching like a shark-attack movie marathon, not a one-time 15-minute YouTube webisode.

Enough Said!

Like the tagline on the movie poster says, “ENOUGH SAID!” With that, I implore you to not let Sharknado eat your web site! Now it’s time to review your site and start making preparations for your sequel. Because just like Sharknado, undaunted by bad press and already announcing its sequel, you should not give up and turn off a bad web site. Instead, fix it, make it better, and hope for better reviews next time.


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