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Top 5 Online Marketing Mistakes Every Small Business Should Avoid

By Mariah Ore | April 09, 2015

In 2013, a study revealed that only 14% of small business owners were using technology in their acquisition marketing, and only 56% were measuring the results of their marketing programs. Although this number has surely grown over the past few years, I know from experience that many small businesses still aren’t up to speed.

So if marketing is crucial for growth, what are small businesses leaving on the table?

The companies that I see finding the most marketing success today know how to use tools that help them better manage their marketing and make smart decisions about how they spend their advertising dollars.

Here are five 5 rookie online marketing mistakes that you can easily avoid!

1. Not investing in a website that will work for you or your budget

This cannot be overstated enough. Your website is not only your storefront; it’s also a tool that should save you time and money. It’s your marketing team, your sales team, and your customer service team. However, it can also be your biggest stumbling block.

To prevent over- or under-spending on your site, consider which functions are most important for your business.

If you want to sell products online, make it easy for the user to complete the purchase without getting lost or stuck. Use an up-to-date shopping cart platform. Remember that you will likely have to install tracking codes along the way.

If all you’re trying to do is drive foot traffic, include directions, detailed information, reviews, and focus on a design that represents you best.

If you want phone calls, please, please, PLEASE make your number visible!

And the most important way to encourage users to convert when they reach your site? A call-to-action! You need to direct your users where you want them to go, otherwise, they might just leave. To be competitive online, encourage potential customers to “Buy now and save,” “Sign up for our newsletter for special offers,” “Get a free quote today,” or something similar.

There’s so much more that goes into this one, so before you make any decisions, do some research.

2. Not knowing when to do it yourself or leave it to the experts 

In today’s Internet-dominated world, one of the ways for you to compete is by having a great online image. And to do this, you may need professional online marketing help.

Ask yourself this: do you know enough about online marketing platforms, web development, design (or whatever it is you’re attempting to do yourself) to troubleshoot potential challenges? Are you up to date on best practices and regulations? Can the ads you design compete with others in your industry?

If you can honestly answer yes, I say go for it. But if not, try taking on smaller pieces of the marketing puzzle, such as writing copy or taking photographs, to cut expenses. You’ll thank yourself later -- instead of putting out fires you’re not equipped to deal with, you will actually have the time to focus on providing good service, building your reputation, and filling the demand.

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3. Not tracking the business and traffic coming in. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to know exactly where your website traffic is coming from, how much time they spend on the site, and even how much revenue you get from different traffic sources?

Surprise! You can already do all of this with Google Analytics™.  And surprise again -- it’s completely free! All you have to do is know how to use and read the dashboard.

Tracking services like Google Analytics help you keep an eye on where your traffic and even business is coming from so that you can determine the best way to spend your marketing dollars. If you don’t use any form of tracking, all you can do is guess -- which could result in tons of waste.

To set up Google Analytics, you’ll need to install a code. Work with your web developer on this one. But I recommend that you yourself understand how to read your own website data. There are a ton of different articles and forums online that can serve as a resource for getting the basics down, which is really all you need to know to get started. Also, there are some great introductory videos on YouTube.

4. Not considering how users experience your business online.

Users online are looking for quick and easy answers. They don’t want to spend hours searching around, and with so many different options, they don’t have to. 55% of users spend fewer than 15 seconds actively on a webpage, according to a Time article from last year. You have much less time to get a conversion from a prospective customer on your site than you would if they came into your store.

Although sometimes there are variations in different age categories and other demographics, the bottom line is that web users are lazy. Spell everything out. Include clear calls-to-action to drive users through your conversion funnel. Provide answers to questions they might be looking for so they don’t have to leave the site. Make it easy for them.
And if I haven’t said this loud enough, go back to number 1: make your website do the work.

5. Not using social media correctly 

Social media can be a double-edged sword. Used correctly, it’s free advertising. Used incorrectly, you’re hurting your brand image or spending too much time on marketing that isn’t paying off.

You can definitely reach people on social media, but the question is, which platform will help you reach your target audience -- and how can you reach them in the right way and at the right time?

Although strategies vary, here are some general some rules of thumb for small business owners just starting out:

Choose a platform that caters best to your target audience.
Take advantage of peak viewing times.
Interact with your customers and give it a personal touch, but keep it professional.
Share content that relates to your product and make sure you include a link.
Don’t pretend you’re not advertising.

Keep it real! Good luck.

Mariah Ore

Though she’s not great at writing bios, Mariah can write case studies, articles, and even emails (wow!). When she's not working on Logical Position’s blog or marketing materials, you can find her salsa dancing, writing poetry, exploring Portland, and just hanging out with friends.