Online marketing is one of those things that’s easy to start, but difficult to do correctly. That’s because the internet makes it easy for people with little or no experience to present themselves as experts and give lots of bad advice. It’s bad enough when this bad advice doesn’t produce results, but in many cases, it can even harm your business for the long term. Just like with medical and legal decisions, it’s not what you know about marketing that gets you in trouble—it’s what you don’t know. The tips below will help you avoid making some of the common marketing mistakes that a lot of smart people make simply because they followed bad advice from someone who presented themselves as an expert.
Meta tags have no direct impact on ranking
Despite what most people believe, meta tags like the keyword and description tags have zero direct impact on ranking in the search results. In fact, so many people held this misconception, that Google made a formal announcement way back in 2009, yet the myth remains. I want to note that I said no direct impact; that’s because the contents of the meta description tag display in the search results and that can have an impact on click through rates, which can have an effect on ranking. I stopped using the meta keyword tag over a decade ago, and you should too. While I do still pay attention to the meta description tag, the only reason is to improve click through rates. You can stop obsessing about meta tags and put your energy into more productive SEO techniques.
Skip manipulative linking schemes
While we’re on the topic of SEO, the most important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm is quantity and quality of links from other websites pointing to yours. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there were no rules. Reciprocal link exchanges, comment spam, link wheels…everything was fair game. But as quickly as new techniques have popped up, Google has deemed them to be against their webmaster guidelines. The most recent example was a penalty they handed out to bloggers who linked to websites in exchange for free products.
Today, manipulative link building techniques won’t even work in Narnia, let alone in the real world.
Google’s algorithm has become so advanced that they can quickly identify attempts to artificially manipulate ranking, but they don’t just ignore those attempts—they now penalize both the website linked to and the site linked from by dropping them from the search results. Called the Penguin Update, this means even people searching for your company name in Google won’t be able to find your website! And don’t get the idea that you’ll try to get away with it until you get caught, and then fix it. Many websites that got hit with Google’s Penguin update are still waiting to recover several years later. Is that a risk you’re willing to take? Instead of “cheating” by using artificial links, focus on producing amazing content that other people feel compelled to link to.
Start building an email list now
You might have thought “there’s no point in starting an email list yet because my website doesn’t get enough traffic yet.” That line of thinking is backwards. What do you have to gain by waiting? Think about it like this—mail services like Aweber will cost less than you probably spend on coffee each month, and you can get everything set up in less than an hour. Sending out a quick email to drive subscribers back to your newest blog post might take 5 minutes, if that. So even if you just have a handful of subscribers, it can have a significant impact on your website traffic. More importantly, your email list enables you to contact your subscribers with special offers when you need to generate a quick influx of revenue. Your email list is one of the most powerful resources in your online marketing toolbox, and the sooner you start building it, the sooner you can start multiplying your results.
You don’t need to be on every social network
It’s tempting to try to build a following on all of the major social networks, but unless you have a marketing team and a hefty budget, you can’t do it effectively. Each social network has its own nuances to learn, and it takes time to find your flow and acquire followers. Spreading your time too thin by trying to build a following on every network will only hamper your long-term growth. You’ll achieve better results, and you’ll achieve them more quickly by focusing on one social network at a time. Build up a loyal and engaged following on one network, and only after you’re producing consistent results, can you replicate the process on another network while maintaining activity on previously established networks.
Never rely on your gut
A lot of business owners think they’ll just “know” how their online marketing is performing. The fact is that you simply can’t rely on your gut. Sure, it’s easy to identify exactly how many customers come in as the result of a coupon without using special tools, but online marketing is a lot more complex. Even with the proper tools, it can be difficult to track precisely. There are so many variables involved all at once; SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, banner ads, email marketing and more, and it can sometimes take weeks or even months to see results. If you’re relying on your gut, how do you know where a sudden surge in sales came from? Was it the result of a new Google algorithm? A seasonal change? A viral post, or particularly effective email subject line? Multiple activities from multiple channels could be a factor at the same time, which is why it’s so important to use the proper tools to track your online marketing efforts. That way, you can change or eliminate the underperforming activities while increasing the activities that are performing well. You have so many free tools available to track the performance of your online marketing efforts, including Google analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools, so it would be foolish not to use them.
About Jeremy Knauff
Jeremy Knauff is the founder of Spartan Media, a proud father, husband, and US Marine Corps veteran. He has spent over 15 years helping businesses of all sizes to make their mark online, and today, he’s busy building his own media empire.
We’re proud to call him a Pinstripe partner!