Seven Sins of Internet Marketing

This article originally appeared on Business Zone

Untitled designNikki Pilkington looks at the mistakes entrepreneurs all too often make in a bid to get noticed online.

It’s so easy to start promoting a business online that many people seem to launch into it without much thought for the image they are portraying or the consequences of their actions.

Here are seven internet marketing faux pas, and the preferable alternatives.

1) Unfocussed, mass emailing

You acquire a huge list of random email addresses, tap out a nice salesy email about your business and send it out to everyone on the list in the hope that someone will find your offer relevant. Good marketing model? No. Spam? Yes.

Mass emailing with no target, and worse, no permission, is spam, pure and simple. Your mailing list should be entirely ‘opt in’ and the content you send should be relevant and useful to the recipients, even if that means writing slightly different mail outs for different groups.

2) Irrelevant content

You have read that lots of fresh content is the key to getting your site noticed, so you scour the internet for any free to use bits and pieces that vaguely relate to your offering and post them all over your site.

Posting any old nonsense on your site just to bump up content is a very, very bad idea. Not only could this be to the serious detriment of your credibility, it is also very unlikely to pull in relevant visitors, so you won’t benefit in real terms.

3) Content theft

In your quest for relevant, useful content, you come across some great posts on other people’s sites – perhaps even competitors. With a quick bit of cutting and pasting, you have reams of fresh, high quality content on your site.

Lifting content from other sites and publishing it on your own without permission is a seriously inadvisable. Unless clearly stated otherwise on the content owner’s site, you should always seek permission before republishing content. You should also include a credit and a link back to the original source.

4) Spamming forums

You want as many people as possible to hear about your new sales promotion, so you search for any forum with a relevant-ish topic and post your promotion verbatim on as many threads as you can. Before you know it, there are hundreds of references to your offer all over the web.

And the result of your efforts? You are seen as a spammer, banned from several forums, probably attacked in others, and people are generally rather annoyed with you. Remember, internet marketing via social media is about conversations, not shouting the loudest. By all means mention offers when they are relevant to the topic, but don’t expect to get results without putting time in to build relationships.

5) Falsifying testimonials

You’ve had a lovely new site developed for your new venture, and in the left hand column there’s a special section for displaying your best testimonials. In time, you’ll have some great things to put there, but right now, you’ve got nothing. You decide the best this to do is make a few up using generic names like Joan S and Bill P. It can’t hurt, can it?

Using false or unsubstantiated testimonials is another quick route towards losing any credibility and trust you command. Instead, use the space for something else and work on getting real testimonials by providing a great service.

6) Puffed up claims

Your company is newly formed, so you don’t feel you have many legitimately impressive claims to make yet. You know your employees have collectively worked for several blue chip firms, so you tell a little white lie and claim your company has served those firms. Well, it’s kind of true, isn’t it?

Bad idea. You could be threatened with legal action and suffer irreparable damage to your reputation. Be honest, work with what you’ve got, and publicise your achievements as they happen.

7) Abusing social media trends

Social media trends – the topics users are talking about most – can be a real temptation for internet marketers. Take Twitter, for example: it seems all you need to do is put the ‘tag’ for a current trend at the end of your ‘tweet’ and you’ll get seen. Who cares if the tag isn’t relevant if it gets you an audience? Well, your audience cares.

Abusing social media trends with irrelevant content has landed a few companies in hot water in recent months. Most famously, a ew years ago, a Habitat ‘intern’ caused some serious damage to the brand’s reputation when it put out promotional messages tagged with a reference to the Iran elections. Use tags honestly so that only those interested in what you offer will see your messages.

So the bad news is that it’s easy to get internet marketing wrong, but the good news is it is possible to get it right and get great results, so long as you have the time to invest and are willing to learn from the mistakes of others.

Want to get it right? Check out my Social Media Mentoring services!


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Are you offering an online service or not?

exclamation markTwo things have happened today to make me wonder whether some people really ‘get’ the whole online thing.

First, my UK passport needs renewing. So off I go to the relevant website to renew it. There’s a nice link to renew my passport online, so I click it. But on reading I realise that I can’t actually renew my passport online. What I can do, is fill in an online form, that will then trigger a proceudre. This procedure seems to be to POST me the form I’ve filled in, along with a list of things I then need to POST back. So, not a ‘renew your passport online’ service at all then? And to make it worse, to receive the renewal form to a UK address takes up to a week! I may as well just walk into a post office and pick up a form myself!

Secondly, I have to register with an agency here in France, because I’m not far from having my baby now. So, I duly go to their website to register, fill in my details and find out that the passcode they have given me doesn’t work. I check it a few times, get locked out for ten minutes for trying more than 3 times, and am invited to ‘request a new password’. So I do. I click on the ‘request a new password’ link, fill in all my details again, and click on the submit button….. and get a nice page thanking me for requesting a new passcode, which will be POSTED to my home address and should arrive in 7-10 days.

Is it me?

Both of these things are meant to save me time and make my life more efficient, but they’ve actually just extended the time I have to spend sorting them out. They’ve pretended to be online services, but really they’re not. In both cases things would have been quicker had I gone to the relevant offices and sorted things out, rather than trying to do it online.

These aren’t the only instances I’ve come across recently of online entities making it difficult to do business with them. There was the website that only offered a postal address, no phone number or customer support email. And the online advertising company who wanted me to fax an order form, refusing to accept a scanned copy. And probably a myriad of others if I think about it properly.

Remember, if you’re offering an online sevrice, make things easy for your customer, not harder – or you could end up in someone’s blog for all the wrong reasons!
Creative Commons License photo credit: Patrick Hoesly

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