Debunking 4 myths of small business digital marketing

Mar 05, 2012

Table of contents:

  1. #1 People online care about your business
  2. #2 SEO is a magic solution
  3. #3 My design is correct
  4. #4 Users will understand my terminology and product names

For many traditional offline businesses, the possibility of doing business online is very attractive. Many business owners feel like they don’t want to miss out on potential customers and revenue by not having an online presence. However, many business owners, with little or no experience of how business online works, are wasting time and money chasing profits with pointless tactics, incorrect vision, and a fundamentally incorrect strategy.

Having spoken to many naive business owners about what their online objectives are and their strategy for accomplishing them, many of the same themes kept cropping up. I think essentially, many business owners under estimate the work involved with being successful online and over estimate their knowledge of the industry. Also the influx of “business gurus”, marketing eBooks, “Social Media Experts” and quick fix solutions are giving many naive business owners false hope of profits with very little investment.

So here are the common myths that I’m keep hearing, and the actual truth behind them. None of these are out-and-out lies, rather just twisted versions of the truth or quick fix solutions that are pushed by “business gurus” who don’t know the first thing about the industry, yet have a fantastic ability of selling their bullshit advice.

#1 People online care about your business

The biggest thing I think business owners don’t understand is, people really don’t care about your business. I find a lot of business owners expect to be able to set up a Twitter account or start writing a blog and suddenly they will be inundated with new business, whilst in reality, you won’t get much traction at all in the early days. It is this lack of traction that automatically pushes the decision to give up on all online marketing efforts, when actually, the real value cannot be realised until a certain level of trust and authority has been gained.

If you think about it, it’s exactly the same when starting a business offline. At first the banks don’t want to know you, you have no customers or suppliers and nobody has heard of you. I think many business owners take their loyal customers for granted once they reach a certain stage of growth and don’t realise that attracting customers in a whole different context is muck a kin to starting a business from scratch.

The first rule to remember is, at first people won’t care about your business and what you have to say. You must earn their respect by putting in the hard work to build authority and credibility. This isn’t going to happen over night.

#2 SEO is a magic solution

One of the great myths about online marketing is that SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the Holy Grail of getting new customers. There is a lot of truth in this myth, because naturally if potential leads can find your business website through a Google search, you are far more likely to convert them into customers. SEO is very powerful, but it is not a black magic like many people will have you believe, and it certainly is not just a magic switch you can flick one day.

There are many different myths surrounding SEO, so I’ll cover each one by one.

SEO can happen over night

The first thing that people get wrong is they think any changes they implement to optimise their website will have an instant effect on their customer acquisition. I’ve heard many people claim that by simply thinking up key words, interlinking their own pages and putting words or phrases they want to rank for in bold, that they will suddenly become number one on Google. This is incorrect on a number of levels.

Firstly, SEO is very much a long ball game. It might be a long time before you see an actual results from your hard work. Think about it, if it was that easy, everyone would do it.

Secondly, any changes you can make to your own websites will have very little impact on your over all strategy. By putting certain words in bold, or by making sure you insert certain keywords and phrases into your copy, it’s not going to have a lasting long term effect. You have to be pretty naive to think that making these simple changes is enough to get a high ranking, because anything you can do, can be done by any of your competitors and so there would be no way of distinguishing the good from the bad. Gaming the system will only keep you ahead for so long, so it’s not really worth the effort.

Probably the best way of achieving a high ranking position is to have many incoming links that have the correct anchor text and are coming from an authoritative source. If you sign up for an SEO company, their basic business is to buy links on your behalf using their network of affiliates. However, often these websites are very low grade blogs or poor quality websites that scrape content and stuff it full of links. Whilst this strategy will often work in the short term, you will likely do irreversibly damage to your website and your domain name authority.

Building links is not just important for gaining a high ranking, it should also be used as a good quality targeted traffic source. If you are buying links from crappy blogs, the kind of traffic you will be getting is from users that have accidentally stumbled upon the site and then found your site through a link. It is then likely that they will not find what they were initially looking for, and bounce back to Google.

However, if you are building credible links from a excellent quality blog, a single contextual link could send an influx of traffic of users to your site who are already qualified and are ready to spend money.

#3 My design is correct

Web site design is easy to pick up, yet difficult to master. Many business owners take it upon themselves to design their own websites, which for the most part is a fine way to approach it. Let’s face it, who knows more about the customer than the business owner himself? But a critical aspect that seems to always be left out is, there is no clear way to convert traffic to sales.

When designing and planning a website, it is easy to get caught up in the details, the content and the look and feel of the site. A lot of attention is usually paid towards SEO, getting the correct “optimised” content and developing a “Contact Us” page to encourage traffic to become leads. But this is not nearly enough to actually get cold traffic to convert into buying customers. Like I said at the start of this, a large majority of your traffic won’t care about your business, your products or your services. They won’t take the time to read your long pages of copy and they won’t follow a complicated (more than 2 steps) procedure for buying or getting in touch with you.

Internet users are lazy. It is so easy to either bounce to another site, or start your Google search from scratch. If you do not design an effective path to conversion, you won’t have a hope of converting traffic into sales and all of your SEO hard work will be worthless.

When you are designing your new company website, forget about the frills and concentrate on how users are going to land on your site and how they are going to convert. Think about it from their point of view, create user personas and understand what they are looking for, and how you can provide them with the correct solution. If you want a user to take a certain action, make it as easy as it could possibly be by taking away as many obstacles as you can.

#4 Users will understand my terminology and product names

I’ve seen this happen at a number of different businesses so I know it is a common occurrence. In just about every industry there is jargon or technical terminology to describe something only an expert in that field would instantly understand. Similarly, in just about every product oriented business, there will be names that have been created to represent various products. Often these relate to the product in some way, or perhaps they are an acronym. In any case, it is obvious to an expert in the field or the business owner, but potential clients will not have a clue what you mean.

I’m not sure what is the cause of this problem, perhaps it is business owners becoming too wrapped up in their own business to be able to see their company from the outside in.

When describing products or services that you offer, do not use technical terminology, jargon or acronyms! You need to be using the kind of language that a cold prospect would use to describe your company or your products or services. If you can’t imagine how your potential clients are talking about your business, you need to get out of the office and start talking to them face-to-face.

Again this is another point that relates to people not caring about your company and SEO. People don’t care enough to figure out what you mean and so targeting words and phrases that your potential clients don’t use is a complete waste of time and money.

Philip Brown


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