99 Excuses for Your Digital Marketing

Let’s get right to that list…

  1. Online marketing budgets aren’t allocated to enable you do to the job right.
  2. Because of No. 1, I am sure you could list 98+ more reasons!

Too often the C-suite has not figured out that your digital marketing (I include web, email, mobile, and social here) activity is the glue that binds their brand together. They miss that online is that initial first impression before most people even decide to step into your physical store. So it demands that online live by the metrics but rarely gets the benefit of those squishy soft “brand” dollars. It’s 2011 and digital marketing and digital experiences are still way too often treated like the red-headed stepchild of traditional marketers. These digital marketers are expected to perform at incredible efficiencies, which are never expected nor demanded from their traditional marketing counterparts.

As I stated in the column, “Conversions: Whose Job Is It Anyway,” in the offline world, there is a VP of marketing and their counterpart, the VP of sales, but no such thing exists online. That column elicited a comment from a reader stating that you can’t “really offer an employee 8 hours per day 5 days per week and a good paycheck just for conversion [rate] optimization (CRO).” He went on to babble about how he would rather see a PPC manager or an SEO manager do CRO as part of their job.

Let’s start by sharing an ugly truth. Most PPC accounts are a mess! We’ve audited many of them looking for conversion optimization. At best, they need tons of work just to get them to a satisfactory level. Nevertheless, at least they seem to hit most of the core metrics, in part because the media has still been wildly misattributed. Most PPC managers don’t have the additional bandwidth to maintain their account efficiently, yet you still want them to have the time and learn the vast range of multi-disciplinary skills needed to do conversion optimization. Huh? Digital marketing is pretty complex work.

Most SEO managers are in the same boat. Just ask any consultant or search marketing platform vendor who has worked across enough accounts and they’ll tell you how more than 95 percent of all accounts are a mess. Oh yeah! The same is true of web analytics analysts as well.

These aren’t simply my opinions – go talk to them.

Now ask anyone who has ever been in the online optimization business and you’ll learn the same thing for each one. The budget to launch new websites or new campaigns tends to be healthy but what might be left over to improving the campaign or website after launch is worse than anemic.

To wring out significant returns on your investment, optimization must be an ongoing part of your daily marketing activities. It has to be a habit. So if you’re aiming to come to a point where you’re “finished” with optimization, you’re missing the point. Optimization is not a project; it’s something you do daily to maximize the revenue of your marketing efforts.

Over the last few years, the job of the conversion optimizer has been aided by the explosion of applications and services to help you improve your website or marketing efforts. Many services are low cost or even free! I often recommend that companies get good at free first, then pay for a more robust solution once they have adoption.

A big excuse for the lack of optimization was the lack of access and resources to the tools. Web analytics, A/B, and multivariate (MVT) testing tools, personalization tools, and even usability studies were expensive. That is no longer a valid excuse.

For years I have blogged a yearly list of these tools. Three years ago I published my first blog post listing 33 free tools to improve your website. The following year the list grew to 69 tools, and last year it mushroomed to 99 free and low-cost tools to improve websites and marketing efforts. This year I wanted to publish over 120 tools when Jeffrey asked me if I was out of my mind! That was my clue that it was time to launch a website dedicated to online marketing tools. You can check it at WebsiteTestingTools.com.

These tools allow a CRO specialist to spend his day gathering insights about your customers and your campaigns, identifying opportunities for creating new landing pages, developing new hypotheses for tests, figuring out how to segment and target your customers effectively, and how to improve each and every one of your marketing campaigns. If you only have a handful of campaigns, you may not need a full-time employee, but any business doing more than a couple of million dollars in online revenue probably does and the larger the company, the more resources that will be needed.

The only excuse for not optimizing vigorously now is just being too lazy, ignorant, or worse, to prioritize the optimization of your efforts. I know that this column might hit a nerve. So if you’re a CEO or a senior executive who has been sent this, I have one question – when will you take optimization seriously?

Related reading

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A graph showing a small pile of money at one end and a larger pile at the other, with an ascending line connecting the two.
A cartoon depicting web analytics. It shows a bubble with the letters WWW in it, surrounded by "click! click!". An arrow leads from the bubble to a notepad with graphs and charts on it. Another arrow leads to a chart on a piece of paper, with a lightbulb next to it, which leads on to a spanner with the words "tweak! tweak!" next to it. In the bottom left corner is a box with four bullet points in it: gather, report, analyse and optimise.