Stephen Logan

37 Reasons Your Online Marketing Strategy is Failing

19th Jun 2012 SEO Blog 33 minutes to read

FailWithout even realising it, some businesses are plotting their own online downfall. Using outmoded techniques and following misguided advice, they’re stumbling towards digital oblivion. However, it doesn’t need to be this way. There are solutions to almost every problem, as long as you are prepared to implement them.

WARNING: This post/dissertation/book is possibly the longest you’ll stumble across today. Make yourself a cup of tea and select your biscuit of choice before diving in. You may be advised to return at a later date if necessary. I wholeheartedly apologise. 

Sometimes we all need a hefty dose of realism to slap us firmly in the face. While delusions of grandeur can serve to motivate us to achieve more, they can also be ruinous.

Perhaps you were basking in the glories of dedicating an unfathomably sizable percentage of your resources into buying anchor text links – right up until the Penguin update sent you slipping down the pecking order. Alternatively, your reticence to adopt new strategies might be stifling any chances of future success.

Online marketing isn’t as black and white as you might imagine. Whilst there are rules (both spoken and unspoken) to abide by, any contraventions can easily go unpunished and may even see you reaping the rewards. Equally, regardless of what you may read or believe, there is no cast iron method for delivering success either. Every case, every campaign and every brand is different.

For the purposes of context and to provide something of a disclaimer, I do not claim to be an oracle of truth or indeed a rockstar, guru or sycophantic follower. Indeed, I wouldn’t even claim to be an SEO, social media-er or any such other Digital Marketing type. When I joined Koozai my job title was simply ‘Writer’; that, for me, is what I’ve always aimed to be. Providing an outsider’s view of an industry from within. Rather than ignorance, I hope that this provides me with a little distance and objectivity.

My views are built on observations, experience, evidence and extreme cynicism; so if you disagree I welcome comments below.

Also, the reason for targeting failure, rather than success, is not simply due to a glib, glass half empty outlook either. As previously mentioned, defining success is often extremely subjective and there isn’t a single blueprint to follow. However, when it comes to getting it wrong, there are plenty of enticing avenues that businesses stumble down. Therefore, this is way of diverting you away from the dangers, rather than “guaranteeing you unbeatable visibility and number one rankings”.

So, here we go….

1. Google is a changing algorithm, treat it as such

There is a tendency with some businesses, and even industry professionals, to treat Google as a near-static entity. This is where most problems arise, particularly for those who are dependent on their search rankings.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been dominating the rankings for months or even years, things can and, more often than not, will change. When Panda was introduced and sites with dubious content suffered, there was uproar. Millions of blog posts were written, thousands of businesses complained and most were forced to change their way.

Whilst few could have accurately predicted exactly what would happen, anybody who works within the search world couldn’t be too surprised. Google are constantly updating their algorithm, with some changes being more sizable than others. Their goal (advertising revenue aside) is to improve results by getting a better understanding of search intentions and the relative authority of each site. So if you’ve chanced your way to the top, you can’t expect to stay there.

So if you have long-term aspirations for your business, make sure your strategies are flexible enough to adapt to changes in algorithms and results pages. By wasting all your efforts on hoodwinking visitors and search engine spiders, you’ll come a cropper eventually. You often have to move forwards just to stay still in the index, so don’t rest on your laurels.

2. You don’t think social is important

A few years ago you might have been forgiven for giving social networks the cold shoulder. In truth very few businesses were able to achieve any kind of worthwhile return from Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. In fact, there were far more cautionary tales than success stories for a long time. However, that’s all changing now.

Facebook is huge. They’re nearing 1 billion users and most major brands have now secured their personal business page; some are even using it as a platform to sell products directly. Twitter is on the up too, with many companies and individuals using it to boost their profile in one of the most interactive online communities. Even Google are at it with ‘Plus’, which is stuttering towards greater market share.

Of course it is all well and good throwing numbers around and making wild claims about potential, but there has to be something more concrete to encourage businesses yet to take the plunge.

Well, whether we like it or not, the search engines are dragging us into an age of semantic-based understanding. To do this, they require as much information and human data as they can get their mucky paws on. Logically, that has to include social signals.

In time, social profiles will build up authority (based on interactions, followers and shares) which will then be translated into greater visibility across the network in question and search engines. Bing recently announced that it would be incorporating Twitter results into pages, with relevant messages from people you know and authorities on the subject. Google, as previously mentioned, decided to create their own network, enabling them to create personalised results and integrate existing products – such as Gmail and Places. So, even the most disbelieving of cynics will probably notice quite a distinct trend here.

Search and social are on a collision course. The boundaries between the two are being blurred all the time, with Facebook arguably becoming the second most popular search engine. By creating profiles on Google+, Facebook and Twitter (probably in that order) and building your authority you can create a great platform from which to build. You can share content, interact with industry experts and source PR opportunities as well as carrying out basic customer services duties. For further reading I have previously written about the dangers and benefits of social media for big businesses for Koozai.

Social is a major part of the future of the Internet. If you haven’t already taken the plunge, you’d be well advised to do so soon.

3. You’re preoccupied with keywords

The word ‘semantic’ is going to be used a lot in this post, and now seems as good a time as any to give it a second airing. Keywords are still important, but they don’t have the same influence as they did in the past (see Keywords: Dead, Dying or Here to Stay for more on this). For now, the search engines are continuing to use them to sort sites and deliver relevant results; however, this is changing and will continue to do so for some time to come.

The idea of evolving search is to eliminate searches like ‘cheap deckchairs and outdoor chairs UK’. It’s not natural language; in fact it’s a product of algorithm-based search engine queries. This won’t happen overnight of course, in fact it may never fully evolve in certain key phrases. However, with personalisation of results, increased focus on local terms and more social signals feeding into the engines, it would be illogical for Google to return results for low value sites who happen to have optimised for an exact phrase.

Anyway, that’s all very theoretical and not entirely the point here. Essentially, you shouldn’t be getting grey hairs worrying about whether you’ve included keywords in the first paragraph on each page, or within every Meta element nor as anchor text in all inbound links. It’s unnatural and largely unnecessary. Get it in the title, maybe in the content a couple of times and then focus on building context. Synonyms are just as useful, so stop ruining your site with worthless words.

Content and context, this should be your mantra from now on.

4. You’re buying links….still

There are plenty of people who will swear blind that paid links still work, and maybe they do in certain situations. However, with the penguin update, Google ably demonstrated that they were getting a lot better at detecting unnatural links and are now in a position to take automatic action through the algorithm – rather than dishing out occasional manual penalties. Remember, this only impacted 3% of searches initially, so if you’ve been let off the hook, enjoy the respite – it may not last.

Of course there will always be some paid links that are almost impossible to detect; but you have to really know what you’re doing to benefit. Most link buying programs will simply take your prefered anchor text link (already an issue as mentioned above) and dump it on any old site. Therefore you might find a link to a payday loan company on a blog about healthy eating. The two are entirely unrelated, the page has no context and so no strength will be passed along. In fact, you’re more likely to get punished than promoted in the rankings.

In days gone by people would often be sneaky; embedding links in full-stops, punctuation marks and other completely unrelated on-page elements. But search engines can read code, they follow links and now they appear to be able to determine which are serving a genuine purpose and which aren’t.

Then of course you can look at how social signals and mentions are eroding the effectiveness of weaker links anyway, but that’s for another time. If you’re buying links in a slapdash fashion, stop it. Whilst you may be lucky enough to see a brief benefit, there’s a strong likelihood that you will feel more pain in the long run. Focus your efforts on something more positive.

5. You don’t have any unique on-site content

As a copywriter it pains me to see sites that still think it’s fine to overlook on-page content. Text is the basis of your entire online communication strategy. You can’t assume everybody is going to load up your embedded video or listen to that irritating diatribe that automatically loads every time a visitor lands on your homepage. However, most will take the time to read some, if not all of the content on a page.

Content is for your visitors. It tells them everything they need to know about your brand and what you represent. It can inspire them to make a purchase, pick up the phone or share with friends.

However, it will also deliver the context and authority that search engines are looking for. So it is a massive double win for any page; but one that some still believe is optional. In a world where semantics and search intentions are becoming more important, leaving out content for the sake of saving a few hours or pounds is madness frankly.

6. SEO, PR, Marketing and Social are treated separately

In days gone by, each department would have its own focus and its own team of experts. Whilst there might be some crossovers and interaction, this would generally be limited. When it comes to online marketing, you can’t afford to have this approach.

PR can open up opportunities for SEO, whilst social can feed both. Working independently could mean that you’re missing out on exposure in all areas. Marketing a brand online requires a number of individual disciplines working together to achieve the best results. Whether you’ve outsourced work or doing it all in-house, try to tie it all together wherever possible and constantly look out for new opportunities. Continuing to resolutely separate offline and online elements as well as other platforms and channels could be a massive own goal. It’s a team game now, so treat it as such.

7. You don’t believe in off-site marketing

If you have a legal department within your business, there’s a fair chance that everything takes days, if not weeks to get signed off for distribution. That alone might put some off of working on off-site marketing. However, if you’re just concerned about writing content, producing videos or contributing to blogs because you’re not convinced you’ll see a return – think again.

By ignoring off-site marketing, you’re failing to build your influence, spread your knowledge and gain recognition as a business or individual. You won’t be getting the most natural, contextual links available nor will you be able to attract new audiences from established sources. It’s not all just about links, but they certainly help to sweeten the deal.

A website is just a single entity. It might have a number of elements contained within it, but by and large it is a static object that is waiting to be discovered. By building your content and your profile elsewhere online, your chances of being found improve dramatically. The more you do and the better the quality of your efforts, the greater the benefits.

8. Big ideas, small budget

If you think you’re sitting on the next Facebook but are only prepared to pay a few hundred pounds to promote and develop it each month, you’ll never get anywhere. Big ideas will usually require big investment. Unless you are able to put your own time in and have a legion of volunteers assisting marketing efforts, you need to be realistic.

So, other than throwing in the towel, what can you do?

  • Increase your budget and put faith in your project
  • Reinvest profits for progressive and steady growth
  • Regularly assess budgets to see where resources

Of course a really good idea can take off with little more than a solid word of mouth campaign, but you have to get the ball rolling somehow. This is going to take investment of time and money.

9. Slow to adapt

Whilst it’s important that you are able to adapt, you shouldn’t put your business in a position where you have to make wholesale changes every time an algorithm is updated or a new social product comes out. So this is something of a mixed warning.

Of course there are plenty of businesses who are set in their ways and like things to stay consistent and these are probably the most at risk when these changes occur. For instance, there were plenty of sites hit by panda last year; some gave up the ghost and slipped into an anonymous online grave, others reacted and made changes to improve their content.

In online marketing, there is always an element of doubt over how effective any particular activity is likely to be. We are all at the mercy of search engines and content aggregators, so when they change the playing field, you have to be ready to adapt your game. By failing to so you will simply be left behind, ploughing a lonely furrow on page 7 of Google.

10. You’re still spending time optimising Headers, Alt tags and Meta

If there was a series of punctuation marks to denote the rolling of eyes, this would probably be the one place I’d choose to use them. This particular point comes back to the issue of keywords again; however, it is also a question of what you’re attempting to achieve as a business.

Headers, alt tags and Meta have a role to play; but not in SEO terms. Stop stuffing keywords into every nook and cranny of your website’s coding in an effort to get search engines to love you. It won’t work. Your alt tags should reflect what’s in the image, meta should be a short description aimed at getting searchers to click through from Google and headers are there to introduce or break up a page. That’s about it.

If you think it’s still a good idea to have your keyword repeated endlessly, you’re probably going nowhere in a hurry.

11. You’re still search-centric (not customer-centric)

Following on nicely from the above point, if you are still caught up in trying to make your pages search engine friendly above all else, you’re about five years too late. Google doesn’t give out more points to those who manage to achieve a keyword density of 5%, with special commendations for those who go above and beyond in their Meta.

Search engines might decide where to rank your site, but it’s your visitors who will determine whether it is a success or not. So you can either take an old school SEO view, or you can start catering for humans.

12. You’re intimidated by publicity

Marketing, by definition, requires a certain level of outgoingness and extraversion. You have to put yourself and your brand forward. Whilst this may prove to be hugely successful in some instances, there is always the chance of it backfiring horribly. It is this fear of public rejection and ridicule that can put off some people.

If your ambition is to climb to the top of Google, get noticed on Facebook or build a strong Twitter following, you have to work on publicity. PR, networking, appearances in the media and speaking at industry events will all attract much needed attention. However, if you prefer the quiet life, you have to accept the consequences of that.

13. You don’t ‘do’ local

In a world where mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular, searching for products, stores and services on the go is also on the rise. Invariably, a lot of these searches are location specific; even in cases where they’re not, search engines may still choose to give precedent to businesses within the user’s vicinity.

Local search isn’t particularly difficult and shouldn’t take up any of your budget. A Google Places profile is free to setup, although you should note that this is now being integrated with Plus to make Local+. Even online businesses tend to have a physical brick and mortar location, some have many. This is probably your smallest niche and your biggest opportunity, so ignoring it would be pretty foolhardy.

14. Every algorithm update requires a major overhaul

Again, this was alluded to earlier, but if you find that you have to completely overhaul your strategy just because Google decides that it’s going to take a tougher stance on duplicated content or spammy anchor text links, you may be in a spot of bother. Lurching from one disaster to another without learning any lessons is likely to cost you dearly at some stage. Even if you can get away with it time and again, eventually your luck will run out. This is why it’s important to have a holistic strategy that relies on logic, not gaming.

15. No contingency for success (servers, growth, stock etc.)

Some businesses are created with steady growth in mind and many achieve exactly that; however if the marketing is right and customers like what you have to offer, then things can take off in a big way. But what happens if you’re not able or even prepared to expand?

An influx of visitors can put a strain on servers, supplies and other resources. So what happens if your traffic goes from a few hundred a day to tens of thousands overnight? If you don’t have the stock, staff or server capacity, things are going to go very wrong, very quickly.

Therefore, as strange as it may sound, your online marketing efforts can fail by being too successful. A good example would be where businesses sign up to offer discounts on Groupon, which end up costing them thousands and being unable to meet demand (a pretty good example can be found here). This can be harmful to your reputation and often occurs when people either don’t fully understand what they’re doing or get carried away. Creating a contingency plan for success and disappointment can eradicate any such issues.

16. Link building is a purely automated process

Here we go with link building again. For me, the process of building links has always been a little illogical. Most assume (with some evidence to support those assumptions) that quantity can outweigh quality. Therefore, all you ever really need to do is sign up for thousands of directories each month, maybe get involved in a few exchanges and buy a few blog placements and you’ll be top of the heap.

The search engines were culpable in fuelling these beliefs; handing out decent rankings to awful websites on the basis that they appeared to be authoritative. Why should 10,000 directories have the same strength as good press coverage on a variety of news sites? Fortunately, with more social signals being introduced into the ranking system, this is changing.

Blindsiding Google with a massive network of links is going to become more difficult. They won’t necessarily do any damage, but equally, you can’t expect it to have a long-term benefit either. By automating your link building, you shouldn’t see the same kind of gains as a more targeted campaign.

17. Engagement is an afterthought

Who needs to engage with customers, clients and the wider world? Well, any business that has online aspirations. There will always be exceptions, but they really are few and far between. Whether you’re an ecommerce store, a charity, hotel or even a predominantly offline service provider, there’s a huge opportunity available through social networks along with email and other more conventional lines of communication.

By ignoring questions, criticism and praise, you are missing a massive opportunity to grow your network of followers and to correct any issues. Engagement will promote any PR activities as well as enabling you to spread your customer services. Even a little effort can yield major results, so rather than just hiding behind your website, show your human side and engage. This also includes blogs, forums and other platforms where discussions are taking place – get involved.

18. You outsource everything

Every business needs to have some form of involvement in their advertising and marketing efforts. You wouldn’t allow an agency to create and distribute a TV campaign without reviewing the content first, so why would you do that with SEO, social media or PPC? Whilst you may not have the skills to do everything in-house, that’s not an excuse to offload all of the burden on to someone else. All projects need to be managed and requires a level of understanding.

Outsourcing is fine, but it’s important that you choose the right people and maintain a decent balance. Look for your own PR opportunities, review content on site and anything used elsewhere as well as building a personal profile. Essentially a hands-on approach is needed at some stage.

19. You’re not aware of the work your team/agency are doing

This segways nicely to the next issue – reviewing work. Whilst you should trust any agencies or individuals that you hire, maintaining regular contact and being prepared to question certain activities is always advisable.

As in any industry, there are some agencies that offer great service and others that are, well, not quite so good. Check reports and data whilst building a strong relationship to get more out of your marketing efforts. It’s also important to find out if there’s anything more that you can do as a business. Ignorance is not bliss, and it could prove to be damaging.

20. You’re still doing the same thing as you were in 2007

The world is constantly evolving, and nowhere is this more evident than on the Internet. 15 years ago, PageRank was still a theory and links didn’t matter at all, 7 years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter to use and even in the last few months we’ve seen huge changes in the way search results are returned thanks to the penguin update and the knowledge graph. So why are you using the same techniques as you were five years ago?

Sure, some things still work, but you have to move with the times and adapt to the changing landscape. There are plenty of techniques that have been outmoded by various updates, so don’t waste your time or resources doing things that won’t make a bit of difference. Keep an eye on what’s going on and don’t get left behind.

21. You haven’t refreshed your site design since it first launched

Design isn’t everything, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ignore it entirely. Visitors will only ever have one first impression of your business, and so if they are met with a shoddy site that is difficult to navigate, it’s unlikely to be particularly positive. There’s nothing wrong with being functional, or even basic; but slow, impossible to get around and just plain ugly is a little unforgivable.

Do you really need Adsense, flashing gifs or buttons that don’t work? Should those generic licensed images be updated to reflect your business more accurately? As mentioned, visitors won’t always expect to be astounded by the beauty of a site, but they will at least expect it to look professional. So if you can’t deliver that, then don’t expect your bounce rate to improve any time soon.

22. You still think directories are the best links out there

Another moan about links and directories in particular, but it really is time to move on. They might be relatively simple to source, but if that’s all you’re doing to market your business online, it’s probably not going to end well. Being featured on a page with ten other businesses and more adverts than words can’t be hugely beneficial.

23. You’re not interested in content marketing

Even as a copywriter I don’t have a great fondness for the term “content marketing”; however, very few people can argue about its effectiveness. Content marketing has evolved from being a fairly basic process of generating average articles, occasionally spinning the text, and then firing it off to as many sites as you can possibly find. Fortunately, along came a panda and killed all that nonsense off.

Now the onus is on quality; both in terms of the content being produced and the sites on which it is hosted. It is also much more varied, incorporating guest posts, elements of PR and other hubs. Thanks to the creation of rel=author tags, you can also enjoy much wider benefits and even become recognised as an authority in your field in the eyes of search engines.

But why should you take all of that time to write content that isn’t even going to appear on your site? Well, if you’re still asking this kind of question, you might well have bigger problems to worry about. Links, social sharing and visibility are just a few of the things you can expect to benefit from.

24. You haven’t researched your audience or the market

Marketing is made a great deal easier if you know who it is that you’re actually targeting and what you’re up against. This is particularly important for newer businesses or those who have just made the transition to the internet.

By working out the demographics you’re looking to attract, you can build your strategies accordingly. For instance, a site designed to sell knitting patterns and accessories won’t be going after the same kind of visitors as one offering t shirts with risque images emblazoned on them. Establish the age and gender (if applicable) of your audience and make sure you’re seen where they are looking.

Equally, if you don’t know what you’re up against, you’ll never have an idea of how to beat them – or even if you can. Some niches are quickly getting pretty overcrowded and many already have one or maybe even a few established leaders. To get around them, you need to be doing more and carving out your own niche audience. However, first you need to know that they exist and where to find them.

25. You’re not investing time in analytics

Analytics has been having a rough ride of it recently, what with more data being hidden to protect users’ identities (this topic was ably covered by guest poster Barry Adams in Why Web Analysts Need To Be Ready For Change). However, even if the keyword statistics aren’t quite as rounded as they were a year ago, there’s still a lot to be said for using a decent analytics tool.

As well as ascertaining how many people actually land on your site, you can establish how long they spent on it, at which stage of the process they decided to leave and even how they found you. Therefore, this provides a useful snapshot into your site’s performance and that of your online marketing efforts.

By ignoring data, you are oblivious to what is really going on with your business online.

26. You spend your time reading, not contributing or interacting

There’s a lot to be said for learning as much as possible through blogs and other sources. However, you have to be able to objectivise what you see and dig further to be able to get the biggest benefit. This is where commenting and interacting with writers or other experts can really help.

For instance, some readers of this post might disagree about the fact that social signals are replacing weak links – and pretty much everything else thereafter. You can leave a comment that questions this theory and await a specific response. Whilst we all have in-built nonsense filters, sometimes things can get through and may negatively impact your perception of a technique or site wrongly.

Essentially, the more you contribute, the more you will get out of your marketing efforts – as long as you’re polite of course. Visibility is everything but knowledge is a close second.

27. Nobody knows who you are

If you are just Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms/Dr A.N Other, things can be pretty tough. The Internet is full of individual communities, within each one there names that you will recognise but plenty that you won’t. Again, notoriety breeds notoriety.

Anonymity won’t necessarily lead to abject failure, but it makes things a great deal more challenging – at least on a personal level. However, if your business or brand is slipping under the radar, that really is bad news. To a certain extent you can hide behind a business name, or even use others who are more adept at marketing themselves and the business to take over. The more competent hands you have building the brand, the better. Although, there are pretty obvious downsides – potentially at least.

28. Article marketing = SEO

A while back it would be perfectly permissible to write a load of articles and publish them on Ezines around the Web. If you were really canny, all you would do is spin one a few hundred times and get a load more links without much effort at all. Quality was always secondary to quantity, after all, you only write content to get links, right?

Well, not any more. You might still get the tiniest benefit from articles, but it shouldn’t be a core part of your SEO strategy. Now content should be produced to serve a purpose; it should build your profile, spread knowledge and help out other bloggers. Links are still an important part of the marketing process, but you have to look beyond this most basic of end products. If you’re just firing out requests to publish your work on any old blog and generally investing time harassing the wider world, you’re not doing it right. Your reputation will suffer and most will be wise enough to give you a wide berth.

So don’t abandon writing, just abandon writing low quality content to publish on low value sites. That’s where the value now lies.

29. You never see anything through

If you start a Twitter account, post a few updates and then decide to abandon it because your traffic hasn’t doubled after a month, then you might have issues. It’s rare for anything to take off immediately, particularly in digital marketing.

For instance, you would never expect links to propel your site to the top of the rankings in a matter of minutes, or even days for that matter. Everything takes time. Even in the real-time world of social media, you have to build a following, understand how to engage, what to share and how often to post.

Sometimes you do have to abandon failing projects that are draining resources. But those decisions can only be made after a proper test and a thorough review of the outcomes. Abandoned social profiles and other elements cluttering up the Internet can make efforts look slapdash and could even be damaging.

30. You believe you’ve got a divine right to succeed

No business is predestined to succeed. Even the Facebook’s, Google’s and Amazon’s of this world had to struggle a little to establish themselves. If you’ve got a good idea or brand, you have to promote it in the right way. Assuming that people will find you, share your content, follow you and even purchase from you is a very dangerous game to play indeed.

Everybody has to work hard marketing their business, that’s why multinational brands continue to spend hundreds of millions each year. You won’t see Coca Cola sitting back and assuming people will keep buying Coke – even if it’s probably true. So don’t believe your company is any different.

31. You think you know more than you actually do

Now this isn’t a thinly veiled insult; it really is true that a little information is a dangerous thing. There are right ways and wrong ways to do everything. Nobody can know it all, as I’m ably demonstrating here; you just need to be prepared to learn from your mistakes and keep reading and interacting.

By assuming that you know everything about social networking, link building and promoting your brand instantly, you could end up doing plenty of damage. I’ve written a little more on this subject in A Little SEO Knowledge is a Very Dangerous Thing.

32. You’re still spamming blogs and forums

In days of yore, you could get pretty decent results from just posting hundreds of messages on blogs or forums. Sure it was spammy, but Google didn’t know any better and neither did most moderators. The trouble is, times have changed – and so should you.

33. You don’t have a clue what a robots.txt file is, or even how canonical issues arise

Essentially, if you or any member of your web development team don’t know how to do the technical elements of SEO, you could be in a world of trouble. There are too many to list here and now, but if you you don’t know your robots.txt from your .htaccess then you could be putting yourself at a major disadvantage. That’s why having an experienced and professional team to call on is so valuable – seemingly small issues won’t grow into big problems.

If you do need a bit of a push in the right direction, here’s a decent guide to designing a site for SEO from our own Tom Howlett.

34. Tools, what tools?

There are so many tools available online, many of which are completely free, it would be criminal if you’re still not using them. Analytics will show you traffic data, Webmaster Tools will show you what the search engines see and link analysis tools will….well, you can probably guess.

Tools provide an opportunity to spot mistakes and mend them. For instance, you may notice some suspicious links in your profile after a comprehensive search. With Google really cracking down on this kind of activity, you would be well advised to contact the site owners and ask them to remove any such links before you’re rumbled. Open Site Explorer is one such free example, but there are plenty of others.

There is a wealth of information at your fingertips, but you have to be prepared to reach out and grab it.

35. Legal red tape and conflict of opinions are holding you back

Harmony and ambition are two things that will prove to be hugely beneficial for any marketing campaign. Whilst it’s important that you don’t publish anything that might break company quality rules (or break the company itself), it’s equally important that you review just how relevant those same rules are today. By having to pass every piece of content and new idea through a legal team for compliance, you can strangle creativity and lose impetus – particularly if it’s time sensitive.

Whilst you may not want individuals in a team taking risks or even trying new things, stifling creativity may prove to be just as damaging as preventing ill-advised content. Outline the parameters in which people can work, discuss any new ideas before implementation and try not to create an atmosphere of fear.

There are so many facets to digital marketing that it’s important everybody is pulling together in the same direction. Dissenting voices are a part of life and certainly shouldn’t be ignored; however, by working in an harmonious environment, where everybody is fully aware of their role and what they are able to do, you can move forward. New ideas and individual creativity should be welcomed, not stifled.

36. You regularly fail to implement recommendations

If you are working with external agencies or you receive requests from your own in-house team of experts, it’s important that you act upon any recommendations made. Some may be minor whilst others could be hugely important. Should there be only a handful of people with FTP access to the back end of your site, or who can update your blog and social profiles, this becomes all the more important.

Decision makers have to be able to make decisions and act on them. You also have to be able to trust the experts that you’re employing to make the right decisions and to provide you with valuable advice. Recommendations are usually spawned from a need to improve or evolve a site/strategy, so don’t leave them sitting in your inbox and hope everything will resolve itself in a neat and timely fashion.

37. PPC campaigns are all on broad match and never convert

Finally, there are plenty of mistakes that are made on a daily basis within the realms of paid search – a lack of negative keywords, inability to improve quality score and poor targeting – but perhaps broad match is the most damaging of these.

It’s the standard setting in AdWords, meaning that many people never even get to sample the wonders of exact or phrase match campaigns. With adverts appearing for any related term, your impressions will go through the roof and you’re likely to get a whole load of irrelevant click-throughs.

PPC is great for those who know what they’re doing, but it can be extremely costly for those who only have basic knowledge. With adverts now gaining greater prominence for many searches (particularly on mobiles), more and more businesses might be tempted to take the plunge. Don’t fill the coffers of Google without getting plenty back yourself – be careful and find out how to optimise your campaigns first.

…and over to you

There are literally dozens of other things that could be holding back your online marketing efforts. But rather than listening to me babble on (which should perhaps be point 38), I’ll throw it open to the floor. What are the things that you’ve seen pushing businesses closer to online armageddon? What can companies do to avoid marketing disasters?

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