10 Online Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
One could easily write a book exclusively devoted to online marketing mistakes (actually more like 10 books). In this article, my focus will be on avoiding the most common online marketing mistakes. These problems can be applied to any kind of online marketing: inbound or outbound, SEO, social, e-mail or paid advertising. The main goal is to help you get your online marketing efforts off to a good start. Here are 10 online marketing mistakes you need to avoid at all costs.
1. Not Marketing Your Website
I can't tell you how many times I've seen very smart business people come to us with the naïve idea that when the new website is live, it will somehow magically market itself, and visitors will flock to the website by the millions. There are over 1 billion websites on the Internet today. What are the chances of someone stumbling upon your website? Just as your company's sales will dry up without marketing, your website will also have little or no traffic without marketing. Without traffic, you website is a dead weight in the digital universe. There will be no visitors, no leads and no sales. Regardless of your website's purpose or objective, proper marketing is always the key to its success.
Solution: Understand that your website's marketing is critical to its success.
2. Having Unrealistic Expectations
Another common problem that I see with many website marketing plans is unrealistic expectations exist. Many stakeholders set unrealistic goals on the returns from marketing and the timing of such returns. On occasion, it is caused by the assumption that online initiatives produce immediate results. Overestimating user engagement can also skew expectations. For example, a client recently approached us with a goal for a brand new website: 500,000 users in the first year. Here is the kick. They didn’t want 500,000 visitors. No, they wanted half a million paid customers during the first year of the website. Most reasonable people, even those without a degree of online marketing experience, will know that it is unrealistic. Sure, there are real cases of exceptional successes, but these are rare at best. A business person should not expect an overnight success for a start-up website. Marketing requires a substantial investment of money, time and lots of hard work. There are no shortcuts or tricks.
Solution: Set SMART goals for your website that make sense given your website's current performance.
3. Engaging in Shady Practices
You have undoubtedly seen these e-mails: "Rank in the top 10 in Google. Guaranteed." Sounds tempting, doesn't it? A quick fix, and your website gets plenty of traffic, and you don't have to worry about anything. Be careful. While there are many reputable SEO firms, there are just as many (if not more) that will promise instant results. These companies employ, what's called "black hat" methods that may involve "tricking" the search engine into giving your website a better position for certain keywords. While you might experience a short-term gain, you are playing with fire. Google spends millions to combat cheating and they come after cheaters hard. You will eventually lose. Getting penalized or being banned from Google is extremely difficult to fix and causes irreversible damage to your marketing efforts and your website's reputation. You should also avoid these other SEO mistakes.
Solution: Only use legitimate, “white hat” SEO techniques to promote your website. This strategy requires more time and expense, but it will produce long-term results.
4. Marketing to Anyone and Everyone
Most companies make the mistake of focusing exclusively on the number of visitors when analyzing traffic to their website. If the traffic is growing, they are happy, and they will do anything to bring more visitors to the website, regardless of whether these people will become customers. In reality, your website needs the "right" traffic. You need visitors that can be converted into customers. When I refer to the “right” visitors, I am not referring to only demographic parameters. You should be marketing to a niche, not a demographic.
Solution: Focus your marketing efforts on your company's Buyer Personas, which should be based on your High Value Customers.
5. Not Having the Right Partner or Tools
Today's online marketing is very complex. There are so many different factors, components and intricacies, that you can spend an entire lifetime becoming knowledgeable on just one small subset. The point is, you can't do it alone. I've never met anyone who is an expert in all aspects of online marketing and excels in everything from search engine marketing and social media to e-mail marketing and PPC. There are certainly experts in multiple fields, but they don't solely manage these areas. They count on other people with various skill sets to collaborate on the work.Same applies to tools. The sheer amount of data to process and update on daily basis will easily overwhelm you. There are a multitude of tools out there that can help you automate your marketing efforts. You need to engage the right marketing partner for your website, and make certain they know what they are doing. The ideal marketing professional has a marketing history and can demonstrate results with previous clientele.
Solution: Hire a competent marketing partner and make sure they have the right tools to execute your marketing efforts.
6. Underestimating Marketing Costs
It’s a common misconception that online marketing is free. Even if you plan to focus your efforts on types of marketing that don't incur direct expenses for advertising (such as search engine optimization), the expertise that produces results never comes cheap. Spending money on a website and having no budget for marketing is like buying a car and having no money for gas. It precludes the need for a website. While this scenario may be extreme, you should understand that website marketing always incurs cost. I recommend setting a budget that will cover a year's cost of marketing expenses. The exact amount may vary depending on objectives and the aggressiveness of the marketing strategies selected, but ideally, the budget amount should start at between 20% and 50% of your website’s cost.
Solution: Set aside between 20% to 50% of your website's cost for your marketing expenses.
7. Relying Solely on Paid Advertising
What's good about paid advertising (such as PPC in search results, paid ads on other websites or on social media) is that it is reliable and will usually produce results. It is also the quickest way to get the right traffic to your website, and it’s easy to calculate ROI (Return on Investment). As appealing as paid advertising sounds, it also has some major drawbacks. First, it is expensive, and you may find that there often cheaper alternatives that produce better ROI in the long run. Second, paid advertising has no long-term residual benefits. That’s why you should never rely on paid advertising as your only source of traffic. You should invest in a mix of strategies, such as inbound marketing, which can include SEO, social media and e-mail. It is true that some of these marketing methods require time to start achieving noticeable results. However, these results are there to stay, and you will be reaping the benefits for the long run, as opposed to fleeting and sporadic injections of traffic offered by paid advertising. Paid advertising, however, does have its place. Because it will take time to ramp up your other marketing efforts, paid advertising can be a quick temporary fix. Also, if you have exhausted all other options, and you have unused money in your marketing budget, paid ads can be a smart investment. As long as it shows ROI, it can be a nice addition to your marketing plan.
Solution: Use a combination of inbound marketing and paid marketing to promote your website.
8. Not Measuring Returns on Marketing
Neglecting to measure your marketing results is one of the worst sins in marketing. How can you know if something is working if you are not measuring results? You can't. Yet, many businesses make this mistake. They sporadically pour time and money into different forms of marketing, and as long as their traffic stays the same or grows, they are happy. Implementing marketing strategies blindly without measuring return on investment is a terrible way to spend your company's money. This means you are not in control. You are relying on luck and gambling the money away. Another common problem is that most companies who measure results do so incorrectly. They look at "vanity metrics" like traffic or overall leads or sales without an in-depth understanding of how individual marketing campaigns contribute to these numbers.
Solution: Always measure the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts.
9. Not Having a Marketing Plan
Now we get to the cardinal sin – not having a marketing plan. Having a marketing plan is essential to your website and your company's success. Before you commit a single dollar to marketing your website, you must establish a basic marketing plan. Without a plan, you will be spinning your wheels burning through resources and getting little traction. There is nothing worse than sporadic marketing without the proper strategy in place. You will be spending money and effort “here and there” without realizing the effect it has. Worse, you will have very little or no understanding of whether your actions are producing any results. This approach will suck your budget dry and will waste your time. In contrast, a comprehensive marketing plan will help direct your day-to-day activities, guide your approach, help measure your successes and failures and will ensure that you are getting the most from available resources. A marketing plan that combines long-term planning with short-term execution will help you make good decisions.
Solution: Take the time to put together an actionable marketing plan that is right for your business.
10. Making Excuses
Still not convinced that you need a marketing plan for your website? If not, you no doubt have reasons. I have news for you: these reasons are excuses. Don't believe it? Let's take a closer look:
- Marketing plans are for big business, not for us. A business of any size needs a marketing plan. Your marketing plan is a roadmap for increasing your sales and growing your company. Your website needs to compete with companies of all sizes, and you need a plan to beat the competition.
- Marketing plans are for businesses, not for websites. Isn't your website a business tool? If the success of your business depends on your website, why wouldn't you extend the same care and consideration to your website?
- I don’t have the time to put together a plan. If you have time for marketing, you should find time to put together a plan. In fact, a good marketing plan will save time several times over. You will become so much more efficient in your marketing efforts. The time you initially invested will pay dividends later and will provide time later on to devote to additional projects.
- I want to be flexible; I don't need a plan. Having flexibility is great, but, how do you know which opportunities are worth the expense and the effort? A marketing plan will help you make informed decisions about what's best for your company. You won't lose flexibility; instead, you will gain a tool to discover, analyze and compare opportunities.
- I don't know how to put one together.
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