The nine most common digital marketing mistakes
A few regular pitfalls that can easily be avoided, making your life easier while seeing a better digital performance. Winner!
12 October 2016
Digital and search marketing have been around for quite a while, but are still relatively new concepts for a lot of businesses. As such, there are plenty of organisations out there muddling through, struggling to be heard, or just outright getting everything wrong.
There are some really basic marketing mistakes made by a lot of businesses that are so easy to avoid – let's take a look at some of the most common ones.
1. Not doing anything
We'll start with the biggest mistake you can possibly make: not having any kind of web presence at all. It's 2016 – there's no excuse anymore!
Research by US marketing firm Clutch found that 46% of small businesses don't have a website, with 12% not even planning to have one in the future. Of those that don't have a website, a third (32%) felt that a website wasn't relevant to their business or industry – which is quite simply not true. Every business needs to be visible to their customers – and potential customers.
You don't always need to spend thousands on a site design and build or dedicate months to a full digital marketing plan straight away – get the basics covered first. A simple website with contact information and a few details on your products and/or services, as well as a Facebook and LinkedIn page, is the bare minimum for making it possible for customers to find you.
2. Setting the wrong goals (or not setting any goals)
Why are you doing digital marketing? What is your business trying to get out of it? Are you focusing solely on increasing the number of sales leads? Purchases of a certain product? Trying to rank for certain keywords? Improving social following and customer engagement? Increasing brand visibility?
Whatever you're trying to achieve, you need to set proper SMART goals – that means that your targets are specific (such as increasing sales leads), measurable (such as increasing sales leads by 15%), assignable (such as making the sales manager responsible for monitoring this), realistic, and time-related (such as increasing sales leads by 15% by the end of the quarter, rather than the end of the week).
Monitoring your organisation's performance in relation to your goals is also essential, so you can adjust your marketing activity accordingly. Check our blog on the best tools for monitoring the success of a digital marketing plan for more information on this.
3. Focusing on the wrong target audience (or not having a target audience at all)
Knowing your audience is really important for digital marketing – perhaps more so than traditional marketing activity, which by and large sets its sights on a much broader audience. With digital, there is much more opportunity for a personalised, targeted approach, and focusing on the wrong target audience could be the difference between zero engagement and a successful campaign.
With the opportunity for targeted ads, regional focuses, direct engagement with customers through social, and a much lower barrier in terms of cost and space to producing a range of content that appeals to a range of different audiences, it's essential to spend some time thinking about what niches, sectors and personalities you're trying to communicate with, and creating some buyer personas to help you guide your activity.
Buyer personas are basically a fictional idea of your ideal customer – you think about their background, demographics, needs, and the challenges that you can help them with. With a customer in mind, it's much easier to work out whether what you're doing is relevant to the audience you're trying to speak to. Check out this resource from inbound marketing experts Hubspot for the full lowdown on buyer personas, with templates for creating your own.
4. Outdated SEO
SEO really is one of those things that people generally think they know more about than they actually do – and the most common misconceptions are based around seriously outdated knowledge.
Search has changed a lot over the years – from the way search engines read and rank websites, to the way analysts approach SEO strategy. It's not just a case of stuffing a website full of keywords and hoping for the best anymore.
Back in the day, of course, keyword stuffing was actually one of the established ways to ensure a website ranked well on search engines – content writers would just stick as many on a page as they could, with no real regard for readability. It meant useless pages with unhelpful content – so search engine providers developed the bots that trawl the web to the point that they could understand context a little bit better, and recognise this kind of behaviour.
Other outdated tactics include paying for external links to your site on other sites in an attempt to climb the rankings, using hidden text to add extra keywords that are invisible to the user, or serving up different pages to human and bot readers. This sort of activity is generally called Black Hat SEO – because it's more than a little bit dodgy – and it doesn't really work anymore, as search engines have wised up. But people still do it, focusing on keywords over useful content or bad but easy links over well-developed earned media campaigns, and suffering the Google penalties as a consequence.
5. Content for content's sake
Content is king, as the saying goes. Trends in digital marketing have increasingly moved towards content marketing, as businesses have realised that getting actual humans to visit their webpages and use them to buy things, make enquiries and so on is far more important than getting search engine bots to visit their webpages.
Providing relevant, engaging content is essential for attracting visitors and then keeping them there – but one of the biggest mistakes businesses make is to assume that all content they post is relevant and engaging. It's a common worry that if they don't post a tweet every day, a blog post every week, and so on, that their brand will fade into obscurity – but if you don't actually have anything to say, then it's better to take a lighter approach.
Quality over quantity is a good mantra to live by – if you're focusing on specific audiences, then think about content that will actually appeal to them. Something that's too broad, totally irrelevant, repetitive or just not very good may actively put people off your brand.
6. Overlooking email
As social media has become entirely omnipresent, a lot of brands are moving away from email marketing. We can see why – when the amount of junk mail, promotions and newsletters in the average person's inbox probably outweighs the number of relevant messages by about 50 to one, there can't be much chance of inspiring engagement, right?
Actually, wrong – recent figures from the Digital Marketing Association suggest an average ROI of £38 for every £1 spent on email marketing, with 18% of businesses seeing an ROI of £70. Conversion and click-through rates are all improving too.
Why? Perhaps people are getting sick of the noise of social and returning to email – signing up for a business's mailing list, or handing over your details in return for gated content, requires an active effort to engage, rather than the more passive interactions that occur through social. Although it may not be for everyone, writing off email marketing as a thing of the past is definitely a mistake.
7. Getting social wrong
Social media is so easy to get wrong - we could spend just as long talking about all of the following ways businesses take the wrong approach, including:
- Posting too frequently
- Posting too infrequently
- Not increasing your brand's visibility by engaging with customers and other brands through shares, likes and comments
- Buying followers
- Sending automated, impersonal messages
- Misguided attempts at humour (or just outright ignorance) that manage to offend
- Arguing with your customers
- Creating hashtags that mean something unintended, or get mercilessly mocked
All of these things happen – and more. One of the oddest things we've seen a brand do on Twitter was wishing everyone a good morning daily at 9AM and signing off with a "see you tomorrow" again at 5PM – and this was literally the only thing they ever posted. Very strange.
8. Keeping separate teams isolated
A simple one, this – many larger organisations will often have separate sales, traditional marketing, digital marketing and PR departments. All of them will be working on different campaigns, and none of them will be communicating with each other. Make sure they do – we're sure we don't have to explain why different departments working together is better than everyone doing their own thing, competing for the same audiences, and missing out on cross-promotional opportunities.
9. Forgetting about mobile
A recent report from comScore found that mobile usage now accounts for 65% of all digital media time, with desktops used as a secondary touch point. For example, people will conduct all of their research for a purchase on mobile, then switch to their desktop to make the final payment.
Mobile is becoming more and more dominant over desktop, but research has found that as little as 12% of sites could be responsive, designed to work on a range of different devices. This means that the vast majority of the internet is ignoring mobile users, with sites that aren't optimised for their devices.
Think about how annoying it is when a site won't load properly on your phone – you're far more likely to just give up before you do whatever it is the business would like you to do. The prevalence of mobile and tablet devices is only going to grow – neglecting it is risky now, and could be disastrous later.
Is your business making any of these common mistakes in your approach to digital marketing? Or are you unsure of where to start with your digital marketing plans? Get in touch with us – we'll be happy to help.