The Internet Marketing Unlist: 49 Things You Probably Are Doing But Shouldn’t
Ian Lurie Mar 28 2008
My Internet Marketing List of last week got one heck of a response – 22,000 unique visitors in 3 days. Even though most of you losers didn’t subscribe to my RSS feed, it gave my limp, damp ego a nice boost.
In the interest of beating a good idea to death, I bring you the Dark Side of that list.
49 things you really should not do in your internet marketing campaign (but I’ll bet you are):
- Have a useless Flash intro on your site. HAH. I’ll bet you thought I’d pull that after some of you told me I was being too hard on Flash. Too bad. But I did add ‘unnecessary’. My beef is not with Flash. It’s with designers who actually believe the audience wants to watch 60 seconds of uninformative drivel just so they can win a Cannes Lion.
- Don’t hire a Design School graduate to create your website until you ask them how they feel about Flash. OK, I’ll stop now, I promise.
- Require registration for checkout. If you want me to reach through the internet and slap you, by all means, require registration. If you actually want to sell stuff, though, get rid of that stupid form.
- Use metaphorical navigation. I’m on the internet, I get it! You don’t need to draw an entire lobby, complete with receptionist, elevators and mailbox. It just loads more slowly, and it’s harder to figure out than nice, simple text buttons.
- Become an ROI addict. If you’re canceling projects because they won’t show a measurable return in the first month, you’ve become an ROI addict. Do an intervention. Marketing is still more art than science, and if your gut says something’s a good idea, it’s worth a try.
- Freeze in indecision. It’s better to fail trying than fail sitting on your butt. OK, that’s not quite the quote, but you get the idea.
- Code a web layout using tables. It takes longer than using CSS and XHTML. You know how to read. Buy a good book on CSS (I like Designing with Web Standards) and join us in the 21st Century. Seriously, CSS and XHTML load faster, are more search friendly and is far easier to maintain. Try it. You’ll like it.
- Blow off the search engines. Who needs search engine optimization, right? It’s just a bunch of hucksters anyway. Wrong. Search results – unpaid search results – drive most of your traffic. Saying all SEO professionals are full of crap is a lazy way out of actually having to find someone good. Check out SEOMoz.org for a list of SEOs they endorse.
- Put everything on one page. If you have 14,000 products, it is not necessary to show them all to me at once. Unless you sell sharp objects I can use to pluck out my eyes. The average person can process about 6-7 options at once. That doesn’t mean you have to reduce each page to 6 items. It does mean, though, that you’d better organize things so folks can ‘drill down’ on a single page from 6 groups to 6 sub-groups, and so on.
- Let the committee design the web site. Writing this one made my stomach hurt. So I’ll stop here. Just don’t, OK?
- Let the committee create the marketing message/mission statement/ad strategy. See previous.
- Have a really annoying music or sound loop that plays over and over again when I visit your site. As your customer, I don’t care if you just bought Apple’s latest Garage Band loops. Use real music that loops less than 10 times per minute. Please. I’m begging you.
- Use the <blink> tag. Seriously.
- Ignor ur spel checkr. I’m not going to buy my vitamins from your web site if you can’t spell “address”. That kind of error just doesn’t inspire confidence. Computers check your spelling for you nowadays. It’s great. You should try it.
- Sentences incomplete. Bad grammar doesn’t make me think you’re just ‘one of the guys’. That may have worked for 49% of Americans in the 2000 Presidential election. It won’t work when they go to buy stuff. The average American considers purchases far more carefully than Presidents.
- Beat your audience to death with a thesaurus. Don’t use ‘markedly’ when ‘much’ works. In marketing, fewer syllables is better. Check out Copyblogger for some great tips.
- Have a video that starts playing the moment I arrive on your website. They have this thing called a ‘play’ button…
- Insult my intelligence. I am not the lowest common denominator. Nor is any customer. Don’t use bikinis to sell search marketing, or fast cars to sell investment strategies. It just pisses me off.
- Steal. Create your own content and ideas. Or get permission to use others’. My Prius gets 50+ miles per gallon. If you live in North America, you are no more than 10 small tanks of gas away from me, no matter what. I will find you and plaster 4,000 copies of your plagiarized material on your house. Copyscape has a great tool to monitor for plagiarism, by the way.
- Appeal to crass patriotism. Note I said ‘crass’. A huge American/British/whatever flag on your home page doesn’t inspire me to buy your printer toner. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Patriotism is working to improve your country. Not sell more stuff.
- Use your blog as an advertisement. If you write a blog, talk about why you care about what you do. Don’t just hawk your products. You can do that on the rest of your site.
- Appeal to my ‘curiosity’. By the time I land on your web site, I’ve likely looked at 4 other losers and am thoroughly unhappy. I am not curious. Tell me what I need to know, right away, and give me clear, easy navigation to learn more.
- Be clever. You may remember that quote from The Dubliners, and see how it directly relates to your product. I, however, burned that information from my brain with alcohol and drugs right after college. In internet marketing, be clear instead of clever.
- Trap me. If you link to another site, don’t stick that site in a frame inside yours. I’ll come back if I need to, I promise.
- Generate a popup when I leave your site. Some sites pop up an ad when you try to navigate away with a cute message like “‘”Wait! Don’t leave!”. I can’t think of a punishment or threat bad enough for this. Don’t do it.
- Confuse me with linking. If you link to another web site, or a PDF or similar, please open a new window for me. That way, when I’m done with that stuff, I can come back to your site by closing the new window, instead of clicking my ‘back’ button 20 times.
- Create a rollover animation that expands to fill first the web page, then my monitor, then my consciousness. If I roll my mouse over a button, I want to see, at most, a little movement. Don’t make the button explode. It just scares me.
- Send me e-mail if I’m not a member/customer/interested party. No, it’s not spam. But it still drives me nuts. I will print out the e-mail and hang it on my wall so I remember never to buy from you again.
- Send me an e-mail with a deceptive subject line. No, I will not open an e-mail with a subject line of “All your dreams come true”. Even if it supposedly comes from someone I trust. Craft a great subject line that’s informative and compelling, and I’ll read it every time.
- Sell my e-mail address to 30 other organizations. ‘Nuff said.
- Ignore me. If I fill out the ‘customer support’ form on your site, answer me. With an answer. Having your computer tell my computer that you value my business just makes me want to cry.
- Force me to register to view a product demo. If I like the damned product, I’ll contact you. If I don’t, no amount of wheedling phone calls from your sales force will help.
- Leave off the ‘search’ box. Most customers visiting your site will use a search tool, if you have one. And it’s a great source of business intelligence. So have one. You can easily use Google Custom Search, and it’s free.
- Hide your contact info. It may shock you, but many people come to your web site wanting to, you know, talk to you. That’s easier if they don’t have to click 5 times just to find a phone number. I once sat in a client’s office while their CEO screamed at me – screamed – because they were getting customer support phone calls from the web site. My crime? We put the company’s phone number at the upper right-hand corner of the web page. We quit the next day.
- Follow your ego. Just because you think you’re a prize-winning author doesn’t mean you are. Let a professional do the writing. And the design. And the rest of your internet marketing. I’m not trying to be mean here. Just stick to what you do best, and what earns you the most money. It’s unlikely copywriting and web design are good uses of your time, and it’s even less likely you’ll get a good result.
- Follow your own tastes. You hate the color blue. I get it. But 90% of your audience responds positively to it, so get over yourself.
- Stay the course (into a brick wall). Internet marketing is iterative. Don’t be afraid to change.
- Try the latest and greatest (just because). An airline magazine’s endorsement of a new school of design is not a business case. Don’t try something that’s new just because you saw it, and it’s new. Check your assumptions: Will this change help your organization?
- Tell me “it works on my computer”. I don’t care about your computer. Your web site looks like a 1st grade leaf project on mine. Next time, test your site in all reasonable conditions before you go ‘live’.
- Lie to me. Don’t tell me it’s “free” in the Adwords ad, then show me a long list of conditions on the landing page.
- Bait-and-switch. If you sell footballs, don’t buy pay per click ads under ‘basketballs’ in the vague hope I’ll change my mind. I won’t. I will, however, harbor a deep, burning hatred of you and your company for years to come. Horror movies start with less…
- Stumble, Digg and bookmark every single page of your web site. Yes, Stumbleupon, Digg and other collaborative tools are great marketing vehicles. But save them for the good stuff.
- Use 10 typefaces on each page of your site. You think Comic Sans is charming. That’s OK. But Helvetica, Arial and the other core fonts were created because they’re readable online. Use them wisely.
- Use the ‘height’ and ‘width’ attributes to resize images. If your image is 1500 x 2000 pixels, resize it in Photoshop, or Paint, or something else. Then upload it. Otherwise I’ll sit there wondering why this postage-stamp-sized image is taking a minute and a half to load.
- Use an insane background. Seizure-inducing backgrounds don’t hurt people. Web designers using seizure-inducing backgrounds do.
- Use it because it’s free. “Free” isn’t always “best” or even “good”. Base your decisions on business criteria and your goals, not how cheap you are. And if “free” is first on your list of priorities, chances are something’s wrong.
- Screw up your priorities. It’ll probably cost more than $5,000 to increase your online sales by $500,000. Keep your priorities and constraints in line with your goals.
- Equate SEO, pay per click marketing, e-mail marketing or any other single tactic with ‘internet marketing’. Internet marketing is a strategic discipline that ties it all together, just like ‘advertising’ includes TV, Radio, copywriting and media planning.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More