At Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York, I shared experiences with search marketers from around the world. We love sharing our successes. But by scratching the surface you can find a wealth of tips learned from mistakes.
I present to you now the ten most common mistakes in online marketing:
Online Marketing Mistake #1 Unclear Call-To-Action
What do you want me to do?
Online user behavior has changed drastically since the advent of search marketing. No longer is your website an information center. It is an ad and it must have clear call-to-action. The user must be consistently driven to do something- to take action. Sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in not-so-subtle ways.
Online Marketing Mistake #2 Visual Distractions
Your site is an interface. Not art.
Sure, your website should look visually appealing. But remember that it's not a canvas. It's an interface. You are designing a navigational flow path. Your design should hone-in and manipulate user behavior. Good web design provides direction, flow, and acts as a conduit to drive conversions.
Too many visual distractions disrupt this flow. Everything should focus on that conversion action. You don't want your prospects to veer off the highway to see the world's biggest donut when they're really on their way to your resort in Vegas.
Online Marketing Mistake #3 Too Much Text
Headlines, headings, and navigation items are key.
We're in a headline culture. We don't read full stories anymore; we read news tickers. We don't like paragraphs. They're scary. Learn how to write effective headings, chunk text, make use of meaningful images that direct user behavior, and of course, bulleted lists.
Most importantly, take great consideration in on-page buttons and navigational menus. They tell more about a site's meaning and intention than anything else. A page with a "Buy Now" button has an intention that's immediately recognized. So too does a page with a "Free Quote" button.
Online Marketing Mistake #4 Lack of Upstream Continuity
What am I supposed to do next?
Your website is an interface that must constantly drive a next step, headed toward conversion. Each step, new page, or action must make the user feel he's traveling upstream. The user should never feel he's back-tracked. He must feel like he's progressively learning more, and that the content is organized. No skitter-scatter. Each page forward is a step closer toward conversion.
Online Marketing Mistake #5 Long forms
Only ask for what you absolutely need.
Once the reader makes it past the immediate landing page, forms are where the prospect is typically lost. And rightly so. Here's where we ask the user to give up something more than just "attention."
Do you really need your prospect's household income? What about his phone number... how important is that, really? These types of questions scare people away.
Even questions like, "How did you hear about us?" are unnecessary. You've got Analytics (or at least, you better!), so don't bulk up an already intimidating form.
In e-commerce, do you really need someone to create an account in order to buy from you? They should have the option to simply place the transaction without creating an account.
Online Marketing Mistake #6 Lack of Risk Reducers & Trust Indicators
Be careful when using badges.
Security badges, anti-virus badges, and the like do little to put a user at ease. In fact, studies show that they have a negative effect on users. They remind the user of online vulnerabilities and present the site as defensive.
The same studies show that the best badges to display are credit card logos like VISA and Mastercard. They establish that you're a legitimate business and they're credentials we've actually heard of and understand. You're borrowing their brand equity.
Other badges that offer this benefit are those of the Better Business Bureau and trade associations.
Online Marketing Mistake #7 Ignoring Your Existing Customer Base
Not all your traffic comes from new prospects.
Your existing customers are more likely to visit your website more often than any new prospect. Often, they're returning to your site for simple contact information. But sometimes, they're looking for other valuable information. This audience should be re-affirmed and re-sold on whatever you've already sold them. Of course, you should sell them new products and services.
But remember that they're in a different state of mind than new prospects. They're far more capable of identifying "pitchy" language, and are easily turned off - even offended - by blatant pitch language.
Online Marketing Mistake #8 Not Collecting Enough Data
Without data, your site can't evolve.
To truly utilize the benefits of the online medium, you've got to capture as much data as you can about the users' behavior. If running AdWords, don't just have one conversion measure, have multiple.
Use Google Analytics to keep track of bounce rate, time on site, traffic sources, and more. Analyze these measures regularly.
Online Marketing Mistake #9 Not Testing
Your site will never be "optimized."
Site optimization is not a destination. It's an activity. You want 100% conversion rate, and you'll probably never get there. Even if you do, you want that conversion to cost less. You've also got all that competition to worry about.
The only real way to figure out what works, or what could work better, is by testing. Change constantly. Document those changes, measure the changes, and be ready to change back. Then change again with something else. Do this until something works better... then do it again.
Online Marketing Mistake #10 Doing Nothing
Don't just report. Respond.
It's far too easy to merely report the measures, especially when the numbers are pleasing. But you can't merely report. You must react. In the online space, we have the ability to immediately test, measure, and respond. Never be complacent. Your competitors are innovating. So too must you.