As you might imagine, there’s a diversity of online marketers out there. Some are just starting out, while some have decades of experience. Some are team members in giant, multinational firms, while others are entrepreneurs with startups, trying to make things work with a bit of research and elbow grease. Some are aggressive and others are passive, while some think of marketing as an investment and others think of it as an expense.
Most marketers have opinions about what “type” of marketer among these groups and divisions is the most likely to be successful, but I’m here to tell you that any of them can be. No matter what your background, budget, directives, or stylistic approaches are, it’s possible to plan and execute a profitable marketing strategy.
However, there are some things that all successful online marketers do have in common — some fundamentals that are unavoidable if you want your campaign to be effective. For example, these are five things that all successful online marketing professionals — of all stages and backgrounds — refuse to do:
1. Go with your gut. It’s tempting to make assumptions and rely on your instincts as a marketer, especially if you’ve been in the marketing game for years. For example, when you start building a campaign, you might assume things about your audience that you haven’t backed up with research, such as assuming that a certain subject is popular among adults ages 18–25. Your instincts might be right — but when it comes to online marketing, you’re throwing away money pretty quickly if you’re wrong. This problem is compounded if your initial instincts show moderate results, as confirmation bias leads you to believe you were right the whole time. But what if a variation of this topic is even more popular? What is that topic performs even better for a different demographic? Rather than gambling the potential of your campaign on what you think is true, perform the market research necessary to know it’s true. Make decisions based on objective truths; not gut feelings.
2. Depend on a single channel. I’ve known a number of small business owners who like to stick with what they know. At some point, they tried one strategy — such as Facebook advertising — and it worked fine for them, so now that’s where they dump all their money, and they never consider another channel. It’s impossible to tap the full potential of your success this way, for a couple reasons. First, relying on a single channel puts your business at significant risk of losing sales and revenue if that channel ceases to work as well for some reason (such as an algorithm update or significant increase in bid prices). Back in 2012, when Google launched its Penguin algorithm, erasing search visibility for hundreds of thousands of websites, I talked to dozens of business owners who had no alternative source of website traffic, and had to close their business or borrow money to compensate. Second, most modern online marketing channels feed off each other, so the sum of your efforts is always greater than the individual parts. For example, SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing all complement and enhance each other’s results, so if you only focus on one of these strategies, you’ll miss out on a ton of potential benefits. Furthermore, online marketing is highly fluid — changes happen constantly, so if you invest too heavily in a strategy that stops being effective at some point, you could wind up paying significantly for it.
3. Fall behind. The Online marketing industry changes so fast, that “best practices” from just a few years ago can actually be highly damaging to your campaign nowadays. For example, back in 2011, before the Penguin algorithm update, “best practices” for building inbound links included using exact match anchor text, article spinning to avoid duplicate content, and article marketing. Today, all of these tactics are a sure bet to get your website a manual or algorithmic penalty in Google. Back in early 2011, cluttering your page with ads had no negative impact on search rankings, social media platforms were still speculative as marketing sources, and mobile devices weren’t popular enough to be important to the average marketer. Can you imagine running a modern content strategy using keyword stuffing, with no social presence, and a site that isn’t mobile-friendly? Successful online marketers refuse to fall behind the times, staying up-to-date on the latest developments in a number of marketing areas.
4. Miss data points. This is a dubious one, because it’s almost impossible to never miss data points. Still, successful online marketers strive to collect every piece of information possible. Before launching a campaign, they double check all their systems to ensure they’re gathering as much information as humanly possible, including traffic, behavior, and even more qualitative measurements like heat mapping. Then, when the campaign is over, they take a look at all these data points. It’s an intensive process, especially with modern data capturing capabilities, but it’s necessary if you want the full picture of what’s going on. Otherwise, you’ll gravitate toward the data points you instinctually think are most important, and confirmation bias kicks in once again.
5. Leave things unchanged. Forget for a moment that online marketing platforms are constantly changing (which I touched on in point 3). Even in a stagnant marketing environment, changing your campaign regularly is a good strategy. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” campaign, so the more you learn about your campaigns in progress, the more you can do to adjust them and inch them closer to your ideals. You have to A/B test, actively monitor your progress, and redistribute your budget to favor the tactics that are becoming most effective; if you let your campaigns sit for too long without a single change, you’ll end up sacrificing untold increases to your overall ROI.
Refusing to do these five things won’t instantly make your marketing campaigns effective, but they will give you more of the tools, experience, and mentalities you need to make them effective. Provided you have a solid brand to work with and enough creativity to navigate past the competition, it’s possible to establish yourself in almost any set of circumstances thanks to the resources and opportunities available in the modern era.