Seven Deadly Sins of Internet Marketing

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Internet marketing entails planning, brainstorming, and research -- and then, weeks and months of follow-up, tracking and analysis. But too many firms commit the same Net marketing mistakes. Here are the seven deadly sins of Internet marketing and ways for you to avoid them.


1. Not setting realistic goals, or not setting goals at all. Few firms have any idea what a Web site can do for their businesses. Before launching your site, answer the following questions: What are your expectations - for today? for next year? Will your site enhance your business operations? Will it generate revenue for your business? The most important question is "Do you have the resources, in personnel, budgets and time to grow this business?" Understand your goals before you begin. Expect to work twice as hard, and for everything to take twice as long as planned.


2. Spending your budget only on site development. If you don't have a significant annual marketing budget, expect to wait much longer for results. Too many companies build amazing sites with every feature -- including registration, customer tracking and personalization. Then they wait for people to find them. Use a proactive approach to get traffic to your site. Split your budget equally between development and marketing. Set a six-month to one-year marketing plan.


3. Not doing enough marketing. The elements of a Web marketing campaign require planning. Marketing strategies are heavily based on the technologies incorporated into the site. Meta tags, for example, are a useful tool to help improve search engine results. They contain the keywords and site description most search engines will use to list your site (for more information go to http://searchenginewatch.com). But 70 percent of sites don't even use meta tags. Of the other 30 percent, many sites are launched with the programmer's rendition of the company's keywords.


Another part of this sin is considering search engine placement as the sole promotion of your site. You really have little control over this process and shouldn't dwell on it.


Build marketing elements into your site. Include researched meta tags, keyword-loaded pages and self-explanatory page titles. Build separate HTML pages for your key sections. Check your search engine position monthly or quarterly. Don't avoid the labor-intensive work needed to get strong marketing results.


4. Not waiting long enough for marketing results to take effect. Most companies have a hard time creating, and maintaining, a long-term vision. They are unwilling to incorporate strategic linking and online partnerships that may take longer to show financial returns.


Many companies expect fast returns, with minimal work. Grassroots, or guerrilla, marketing (especially linking and e-mail) is 70 percent more effective in the long run than any other method, but it commands a long-range plan. Put an extensive link program into place and monitor your links monthly. Create an opt-in monthly e-mail program.


5. Branding without selling, selling without branding. Too many online-commerce site owners buy only cost-per-click and cost-per-action advertising. On the surface, CPC and CPA deals seem like a safe way to get measurable visits. But under those deals, the cost of advertising is directly related to response rates, essentially penalizing advertisers for offers and creative that perform well.


In the cost-per-thousand impressions model of media buying, the cost of advertising is fixed and the variable is the performance of the creative, allowing advertisers to optimize their buys. Your campaign should contain elements of branding, direct response and e-commerce. The focus should be on customer acquisition and ROI, rather than rates paid for visitors.


Many companies (or their media buyers) put all their advertising dollars into the most-visited Web sites. This, too, is limiting and completely misses the advantage of niche audience dynamics. You must have a dual strategy of building brand recognition and stimulating action. Test more, and be flexible to try a more varied marketing program.


6. Not using direct mail and other traditional advertising programs offline. The traditional advertising world (using everything from billboards, bus ads, radio, television, print ads, postcards and flyers) can drive traffic to the Web. Press releases sent to trade publications can be incredibly effective. Many online companies are using newspaper ads, billboards and radio to publicize their Web sites. Don't think of your online and offline efforts as independent of each other. Track everything directly to your sales, traffic or responses. Market to existing customers in their shipping packages for future purchases online.


7. Lack of tracking and analysis. Many site owners fail to consistently evaluate sources of site traffic. Your site-traffic reports contain data to analyze your traffic and where it is coming from. Track the results in order to identify potential online partners, identify sites on which to advertise and calculate the ROI effectiveness of your promotional efforts to conversion. Track specific ad or online campaigns, track e-mail distribution response and banner campaigns through individual bridge pages.


Another myth is that everything online is measurable. The technology for calculable responses just isn't available yet. There is still no industry standard on how to measure impressions. There is no tracking system for links or print campaigns.


Use your reports to follow up with sites already sending you traffic and create a monthly manual marketing analysis system. Extrapolate the results and apply them to your next plans.
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