7 Common Digital Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make


With worldwide digital marketing spending expected to hit $146 billion in the next three years, smart entrepreneurs know that developing and executing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is an essential component of the continued growth of their businesses. Unfortunately, too many small business owners fail to recognize the importance of digital marketing, lack the knowledge and experience to do it effectively or aren’t willing to make the financial investment it requires.

Common Digital Marketing Mistakes Plaguing Small Businesses

Improving your digital marketing strategy is easier and less expensive than you may think. Keep reading to learn which digital marketing mistakes are most common among small business owners and what to change to ensure your online marketing efforts deliver the most bang for your buck.

Failure to Target Audiences Effectively

Before you develop any online content or spend a dime on digital ads, you should be determining who your target audience is and how to reach them most effectively. Too many businesses simply dump generic content online or try to cast too wide a net for their audience; as a result, their efforts garner almost no response at all from potential customers.

In reality, a relatively small group of individuals will make up most of your business’ revenue, so if you don’t specifically target this audience, chances are they won’t pay attention to your marketing content. Instead, you need to get to know your target customers and understand their interests, pain points and behavior to help you craft content that will reach them.

Identifying your target audience is a three-step process:

  • Define the personas of a few types of customers most likely to need your product or service. Determine their basic demographic information (age, gender, education level, geographic location, etc.), figure out their pain points and how your business can help solve them and consider potential objections to the solutions you offer.
  • Enlist market research experts to better understand your target market and their shifting behavioral patterns and expectations.
  • Talk directly to potential customers online—using social media posts and comments, surveys and discussion forums—to learn about their wants, needs, expectations and problems.

Once you have a precise and in-depth understanding of your audience, use that information to craft your digital marketing strategy.

Failure to Develop a Well-Defined Digital Marketing Strategy

According to a 2018 study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, only 32 percent of marketers have a well-defined marketing strategy, which means the other two-thirds of businesses are conducting haphazard, incoherent marketing activities—or worse, none at all. Not only is this approach ineffective, it also makes it almost impossible to measure the results.

Developing a solid digital marketing strategy isn’t especially difficult or time-consuming, and it ensures you’re actually moving your business forward instead of just spinning your wheels. To establish a structure for your marketing efforts, follow these steps:

  • Define your audience (as discussed above)
  • Set SMART goals for your marketing strategy that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely
  • Establish the marketing tools, channels and activities you will use to reach these goals
  • Measure your results over time and adjust your strategy based on your progress

Insufficient Attention to SEO

Every day, the amount of online information grows exponentially, with two billion new blog posts alone published on a daily basis. If your digital marketing efforts are going to have a fighting chance of standing out amid that tidal wave of content, you absolutely must optimize your content for search engines, which is how internet users find more than 90 percent of the content they interact with online.

The world of search engine optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving, requiring digital marketers to stay on top of the latest trends, tricks and strategies to ensure their content gets in front of the desired audience. However, the fundamentals of SEO remain the same:

  • Keywords: Know which keywords your target customers are using in online searches to find what they need and incorporate those with the highest search volume and those that give you the best chance of ranking.
  • High-quality content: Search engines are more likely to rank relevant, high-quality long-form content that includes rich media like videos and images to entice users to stay and engage.
  • Mobile optimization: Websites that are optimized to format properly on mobile devices perform better in online searches.
  • Backlinks: Backlinks from relevant online influencers and highly-trafficked domains can help boost your SEO rankings.
  • URLs: Your page URLs should be brief, concise and contain a relevant keyword.

Not Using Analytics to Drive Marketing Efforts

If you’re launching new marketing campaigns without first taking the time to assess the effectiveness of the previous one, you’re missing out on key opportunities to better understand your target audience and refine your efforts to make sure you’re reaching the people you want to reach.

Marketing analytics platforms like Kissmetrics, ClicData and Sprout Social are relatively inexpensive and provide a rich source of information about the performance of your campaigns by aggregating data from dozens of sources. When reviewing this data, the most important metrics are impressions—the number of times your ad or other content was viewed—and cost per action, which measures how much it cost you to get a viewer to take a desired action (such as visiting your website or clicking a link in the content).

This information can help you shape future content to better target your audience and improve your return on investment.

Focusing on Content Quantity Over Quality

Many marketers make the erroneous assumption that producing more content—more ads, more blog posts, more social media—will automatically result in more audience engagement. In reality, producing mass quantities of low-quality content can have the opposite effect, drowning potential customers in uninteresting, irrelevant content that is unlikely to capture their attention. The best way to stand out in an ocean of online content is to take the time to develop relevant, valuable content that addresses your target audiences’ problems, wants and needs.

For example, instead of churning out half a dozen sloppy blog posts each week, produce one well-researched piece filled with case studies, infographics and other useful components that provides value to readers and inspires them to share it.

The following strategies can help raise the quality of your content and help you use your most valuable resources—time and money—more efficiently.

  • Scan trending topics on social media and Google search results to identify the subject matter that’s most interesting and important to your target audiences.
  • Stay in your lane by focusing on topics that are directly relevant to your business and in which you can offer specific expertise.
  • Identify a concrete objective for every piece of content you create—don’t publish blog or social media posts simply to check a box or hit a number.
  • Do your homework and include credible sources for the research and data within your content.
  • Use the “skyscraper” approach by finding high-performing, relevant content and then developing your own bigger, better version of that content.

Focusing Efforts Too Narrowly

The digital marketing universe changes daily, and what works today might be obsolete tomorrow. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try new channels and methods for reaching your audience. That may mean starting a blog or creating a TikTok channel, or it could mean developing a long-form video series or paid social media campaign.

Effective marketing requires a fresh approach, which means trying new ideas, even if they fail. At worst, you’ll discover which tactics don’t work and know to concentrate your resources elsewhere. But you might also discover that your bold new idea is wildly successful in reaching your target audience. Be brave enough to try something different and nimble enough to change course if it doesn’t have the desired effect.

Neglecting the Top-Performing Digital Marketing Tactics

While trying new approaches to digital marketing is key to keeping your content fresh and interesting, don’t sacrifice the tried-and-true digital marketing channels along the way. Industry research has consistently shown that the following tactics deliver the highest return on investment and should be staples of any digital marketing strategy:

  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Social pay-per-click

Final Thoughts on Common Digital Marketing Mistakes

Though this list is by no means exhaustive, these represent the most common errors committed by both new and seasoned digital marketers. By taking steps to avoid these pitfalls in your own digital marketing efforts, you’ll automatically improve the effectiveness and value of your future campaigns.

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