So here’s my thinking. There are going to be hundreds of internet marketing articles published between now and mid February that will promise to provide you with magic bullet for success. Rather than bore you with another cliche marketing post, I figured that it would be both fun and useful, to do a post about all of the things people have wasted their time on in 2013. Obviously, this list is not just a recap of wasted activities, but it’s also a menu of things that I think as a professional Internet marketer, you should seriously consider scrapping.
1) Stop worrying about how many Twitter followers you have
News flash: your competitor probably has more followers than you, Korean pop group B.A.P. has way more followers than you, and a parody account of Kim Kardashian has more than you. It’s time to stop worrying about a number on a screen. The number of people that follow your business on Twitter is a relatively meaningless statistic by itself and it certainly shouldn’t be the first thing you think about. Now I realize that we all want to be loved and acknowledged, so there’s a natural human tendency to gravitate towards something like a follower count. However, let me stop you and suggest considering some of the following questions. Can I specifically attribute sales/revenue to my Twitter account? Are the people that are following me getting something useful? Are my followers interacting (favoriting, retweeting, mentioning, etc) with thing things I tweet? Is this the most effective use of my time?
2) Stop banking on your content
Over the last 3 years, I’ve seen a lot of marketing consultants go on and on about content. Quite frankly it’s incredibly annoying to hear someone who calls themselves a marketing expert but has never been accountable for a marketing dollar in their entire life, try to tell a business owner that they need to turn their website into Viral Nova (which is way better than BuzzFeed by the way). Content marketing has been positioned as an SEO tactic meaning that the goal is to have your content indexed by the search engines. So when someone googles “cute marsupial photos,” they see your HVAC company’s blog post entitled Top Ten Baby Kangaroo Photos. The main problem here is that you’re at the mercy of algorithm updates, which happen quite frequently. I’ve been a professional marketer long enough to see several rounds of these updates and their respective fallouts. I’ve seen several businesses get absolutely killed by said updates because put all of their eggs in one basket. The secondary problem is that most content you’re going to produce really isn’t that useful or original and there’s a good chance someone else has already published something similar.
3) Stop believing everything your marketing consultant tells you
As a tie in to number 2, I believe it’s really important for business owners, particularly those with limited budgets, to maintain a healthy level of skepticism towards marketing consultants. The thing you have to keep in mind is that marketing consultants really aren’t accountable for anything other than their billable hours. Even then, they can chalk their mistakes and bad advice up to externalities and move on to the next business. The best internet marketers have worked with fixed budgets and have had to demonstrate an ROI. This is probably easiest to do in the case of pay per click (PPC) marketing, but can also be done with SEO, social media, etc. assuming that billable hours and ROI are being tracked closely. Asking tough questions and demanding ROI information can really help you as a business owner or decision maker weed out the bad marketing consultants from the good ones.
4) Stop begging for Facebook likes
If there was a group of people I’d send to Mars it would be these folks. I can’t begin to describe how annoying it is to be asked to like a Facebook page. Perhaps it’s because I’m “over” Facebook; I am still in my twenties after all. More than likely though, it’s because there’s never a value proposition tied to doing so. Don’t ask people to like your Facebook page without giving something to them in return. No, “tips and updates” do not count as something in return. People need something tangible like a free sample or some contest entries. Furthermore, people need to be told why you are after Facebook likes. Begging for likes makes your business seem like its run by an egotistical maniac who can’t go a day without a pat on the back by a complete stranger. Stop begging. just stop. please.
5) Stop making SEO your main focus
Optimizing your website for search engines is quickly becoming a futile endeavor for most small and mid sized businesses. Why? Well for one Google changes its algorithm every six months which is extremely disruptive for any ongoing SEO effort. And two, Google, which has a 91% global market share, is encrypting organic search queries that would normally allow you to see what keywords are important to bring traffic to your website. You need to keep in mind that Google, as well as Yahoo! and Microsoft, are publicly traded companies. These companies have shareholders with expectations for profits. So, these search engines will do whatever they can to increase their revenues. Since Google makes 95% of their money from PPC, they’ll do whatever they can to push marketers towards using Adwords. I do thing that at some point within the next 5 years organic results on the first page of a Google search engine results page (SERP) will be phased out so that you’ll only see app results (map listings, news articles, etc) and paid search ads.
6) Stop saying that you are “figuring things out first”
“We’re just trying to figure things out first to see if this is something we want to do.” That’s a line I hear way too often from business decision makers when asked if they’re going to invest into Internet marketing. Things move very very quickly in the internet marketing industry. What’s relevant one day may not be relevant the next. You don’t have time to wait for some magical good feeling to show up in your stomach before pulling the trigger on an Internet marketing investment. If you aren’t sure where to spend your money, I’d suggest looking for realistic bright spots. Try to find out what successful business your size and in your industry have done to market online. Chances are it will be a good investment for you too.
7) Stop ignoring PPC marketing
Imagine two scenarios for a second. Scenario 1: You could spend $4,000 at once on SEO to possibly generate free traffic. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get traffic and your investment could be a waste after the next algorithm update. Scenario 2: You could spend $500/mo ($6,000/year) on paid search that will guarantee you clicks, but they just aren’t free. Which would you do? Well assuming you aren’t on a train bound for nowhere with Kenny Rogers, you’d probably go with the paid search option. You’re guaranteed clicks and you don’t have to worry about losing an investment to an algorithm change. That, in essence, is why you probably ought to start paying closer attention to PPC (in addition to the reasons I stated in number 5). While there’s so much I can say about PPC, let me just dispel a few myths about PPC. A) People do click on the ads, 65% for keywords with a high intent to buy. i.e. “hire a plumber” B) PPC isn’t that expensive. A valuable click can cost as little as $0.25. Assuming you get 1000 at that price and 5% buy a digital download for $10, you’re making a pretty good profit.
8) Stop spreading yourself thin
I think its awesome if it makes sense for your business to be on every social network and you have the bandwidth to do so effectively. The fact of the matter is that if that is you, you’re in a very small group of people. Don’t feel like you need to be everywhere on the internet just because some blow hard at a small business fair said so in his speech. You don’t need to be all over Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, YouTube, Yelp, Foursquare, Google+, and LinkedIn all at once. Pick a couple and focus on those. Having trouble deciding? See if you can trace some sales data back to specific networks or marketing tactics. That can really help you decide what’s worth your time and what isn’t. Hopefully someone is breathing a sigh of relief right now.
9) Stop putting off a new website
If the last time you redesigned your website was 2009, you’re overdue for an upgrade. In fact having a website design from 2009, is like eating a pizza from 2009. Do you really want to do that? There’s some great new technology that can prepare you and your website for the future of Internet marketing. Pay close attention to responsive design as well. It’s a website technology that automatically adjusts how the website is display on a screen depending on the screen itself. With this technology you don’t have to worry about having multiple copies of your website for specific devices.
So that’s all for now. Got questions? Post them in the comments below. Good luck in 2014. May your business grow and prosper!