Six digital marketing temptations to avoid

In 2015, digital marketing is more complex than ever. Every marketing channel – from display advertising to engine optimisation and interactive media like Facebook – has its own rhythm and momentum. The various channels are becoming increasingly specialised, so much so that professionals must constantly expand their skillset.

This is also evident in the way large companies organise their digital marketing. Whereas the Digital Marketing Manager used to do everything, there’s now a much greater degree of specialisation. The marketing budget is divided between the Community Manager, the AdWords specialists and those responsible for SEO. Last but not least, there are internal web analysts in charge of improving the tools used to measure the success of marketing activities.

This division of labour makes it increasingly difficult to maintain an overview of the entire digital marketing chain. If specialists are required to justify an investment in their channel, another risk enters the equation: it is increasingly tempting to choose options that deliver short-term success, but which represent a huge financial risk in the medium to long term and could cause serious damage to the company’s reputation. Here are some of the more tempting approaches that should be avoided.

Temptation: short-term tactics

Many markets – from fashion and outdoor equipment to travel, books and consumer electronics – are hotly contested in the digital realm. Successful search engine optimisation is tough, particularly in the travel sector. Short-term tactics can help boost visibility and traffic, but they also involve considerable hidden risks. A few months ago, a major travel portal found out the hard way, when it lost a quarter of its search engine visibility within a week after being penalised by Google.

Rather than pursue short-term tactics, it’s better to stick to those well-known marketing levers: offer customers some form of added value and invest in customer satisfaction. If you have satisfied customers and keep offering them something they want, you won’t need to engage in dubious techniques that briefly boost traffic.

Temptation: pseudo-accuracy

Ad servers and analytics software, such as Google Analytics or Webtrends, compile vast amounts of metrics – usually provided to two decimal places. There are countless reasons why these numbers never reflect the real situation – from incorrectly entered script to collection of measurements at different times (e.g. ad servers tend to be faster than web analytics software). Hence, avoid the temptation to report such figures too precisely. If your reports include figures with two decimal places, you’ll have to explain any changes in the decimal range to your management, which is virtually impossible. And a reduction in the bounce rate of half a percent is certainly not an improvement.

It is better to focus on just a few important, and above all rounded, key performance indicators (KPIs). These figures ideally should be visualised using a traffic-light system and compared with a suitable time period (e.g. the same month in the previous year).

Temptation: almost meaningless comparisons

Benchmarking has become a massive trend. Effective benchmarking against your competitors or partially against other sectors can provide helpful feedback for improving your business. However, benchmarking in the online world is very difficult. It is tempting to compare your conversion rate with a generic conversion rate, but what does that kind of comparison actually reveal? Even if your conversion rate is already above the industry average, it could still be improved by eliminating other factors that might be getting in the way of conversion.

As trite as it sounds, you should try to avoid the temptation of too much benchmarking. The most important information can often be found in your own backyard. A good place to start is to compare the performance of your campaigns with previous campaigns, or to set goals based on your current situation rather than publicly available industry data (which is often of limited significance).

Temptation: oversimplification

These days, everything is supposed to be easy. This megatrend towards simplification is also useful in terms of digital marketing: instead of five banner visuals, three will do the job nicely. Rather than a presence on all social media, it makes more sense to select the ones that are relevant to your business. All this leads to improved campaign efficiency and a greater marketing return on investment (ROI).

But there are some aspects of digital marketing where it doesn’t pay to cut costs. Testing in all possible browsers is a must; for example, in a Device Lab. Just as important is comprehensive keyword research for AdWords, and the correct integration of digital analytics also has to be planned and budgeted. If you’re making cuts here, you’re trimming the wrong tree.

You will discover the difficulties users experience only if you have control over the design of your landing page in all possible browsers. You will achieve an adequate marketing ROI only if you carry out sound keyword research. And you will ensure the performance of your website only if you test it regularly.

Temptation: irrelevant metrics

The ongoing development of marketing tools is at the heart of digital marketing. This continual optimisation is enabled by the underlying data and metrics, including proven metrics, such as the click-through rate (CTR) and the conversion rate. But sometimes analysis provide metrics that are not really relevant. For example, during a banner campaign you might receive information about the ‘interaction rate’. This can easily reach double digits, because interaction simply means the user has passed over the banner with the cursor – whether this was intentional or not is unclear.

Temptation: spending money instead of developing knowledge

Numerous digital marketing services can be provided by agencies, which is worthwhile if the agency can offer you some kind of value added. For example, media agencies can purchase advertising space with attractive terms and conditions. Online agencies such as Unic can help companies with a relaunch or the targeted development of their online presence, and ensure professional standards of user-friendliness, system maintenance, performance, design and accessibility. In the medium term, however, you should always ensure you have enough internal staff to carry out and optimise your digital marketing activities. This safeguards the company’s long-term knowledge base (e.g. systems, benchmarks and design characteristics).

Conclusion

In-house development of knowledge is of the utmost importance, but the switch from outsourcing to DIY requires long-term vision. Senior marketing staff need to ensure the necessary framework is in place, in order that employees don’t fall prey to the many temptations of the digital marketing world. The marketing team should work together to accumulate knowledge, share findings within the company, perform ongoing analysis of the results and hone its approach. Even in highly competitive industries, this is the only way to ensure marketing tools are used sensibly and to minimise the risk of falling for short-term, expensive approaches that are ultimately not worthwhile.

Google+ profile of author: Matthias Schmid

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