Avoiding mistakes in the evolving industry of internet marketing is near impossible, and I am not immune. I have outlined a few of my biggest mistakes to help you avoid a curious phone call from a client or an embarrassing slide in a monthly report. Make sure these misjudgments are not in your internet marketing repertoire.
1. I Listened to Google
We all know the friendly call from your Google rep offering to help optimize your account. When you’re new to the game, someone offering to do your work for you or let you test a new product sounds great (why not get paid for Google’s work). When Google first came calling, I was all about offloading some of my work to them. This is typically not a sound strategy.
Google is all about the money. Google reps are like stockbrokers looking to push the latest stock. The higher ups send word, and the reps push, push, push the latest product. One day it’s radio ads. The next it’s the Display Network then Google+ social extensions. Google’s version of account optimization is “spend more money”.
Next time a Google rep calls offering helpful advice, kindly let her know you have her number and will reach out to her when she’s needed.
The same holds true for SEO, Google is only interested in making its job easier. Google doesn’t want to hunt down every purchased link, private blog network, or link wheel. It certainly doesn’t want to get called out by the NY Times. Google wants site owners to fall in line and make it as simple as possible for Google bots to crawl and rank the web.
Blatantly purchasing links for an insurance company on a Japanese anime site has a higher probability of eventually being viewed as spam than creating your own network of private blogs. Rather than listen to Google, understand what works, why it works, and the likelihood that it will continue to work in the future. Remember: Google can & will change the rules of the game.
2. I Lacked Creativity
As an SEM/SEO strategist, I view myself as a numbers guy. I am neck deep in cost per click, conversion rate, link value, search volume, keyword ranking difficulty, etc. Too often I get lost in the data, forgetting to throw the numbers aside and get a little creative.
Numbers are clear cut and provide decisive strategies, but without creativity, I found it nearly impossible to discover a blue ocean, an untapped market, free of competitor ads. When I think of creativity, I picture the Old Spice campaign or Mad Men, but effective SEO/SEM requires thinking outside the box. A few examples:
- Inserting “Too Cute to Eat” in the ad text for a chocolate company significantly increased clickthrough rate & sales (people simply wanted to see the chocolate)
- Targeting key phrases from a competitor’s newsletter to appear in ads in their inbox
- Retargeting to your retargeted audience, effectively marketing automation via the display network
- Targeting an industry conference with a free ticket offer to the conference
3. I Ignored My Client’s True Needs
In retrospect, this seems extraordinarily obvious, but in the midst of battle, when you are out there fighting Google bots and competitor bids, what the client really wants can get drowned out. I remember one of my favorite accounts: the client had strong budgets, the account was complex, and best of all, we were killing it.
Even though CPA had dropped significantly and orders were breaking records, the client wasn’t happy. Why? My client couldn’t communicate why we were so successful. She didn’t understand what was going on and felt frustrated and lost. I was on one side of the phone, pumped that we were crushing it, and she was on the other side of the phone feeling completely left out of our accomplishment. My client needed to feel ownership, and because she didn’t, I was failing.
Every client is different, a limited few only care about improving sales. I have seen clients stay with an agency for many years without ever seeing their SEO improve. Most clients want a sounding board, quick response time, and to be included in decision making. If their company makes a little more money, that’s cool too.
I have made serious mistakes – quick example, changing an offer on my client’s landing pages from a whitepaper to a demo potentially cost my client 10’s of thousands of dollars. But, in the instances where I have failed, I explained why I thought the strategy would work and what we learned from failure. Clients are understanding, and many of my clients have left agencies that were less inclined to admit failure.
Undoubtedly, I am currently making mistakes that I will only recognize down the road, but the worst mistake you can make is not owning up to failure. I have never had a client fire me for admitting a mistake, but a client is near guaranteed to distrust you if you don’t immediately address any failures.