There’s a crowded field of competitors in the race to the top of Google’s page one search results. You’ve likely spent considerable time mapping out the digital strategies that will get your business there. Even with the most effective plans, it seems like you just keep getting passed by the competition.
It can be tempting to look for shortcuts, but proceed with care. The race to a winning digital strategy is a road rally, not a sprint. Patience, preparation and persistence are the keys to success.
These three digital strategy mistakes can do far more damage than good for your brand. Here’s how your business can steer clear of them.
1. Skipping the Homework
It’s never a good idea to show up without your homework. Completing it isn’t enough. You also need to have delivered your best effort.
Careful and comprehensive research has always been the hallmark of a successful marketing strategy. A digital strategy is no different. In fact, it may require more thorough research than traditional plans anchored by print ads and broadcast media.
Begin optimizing your digital strategy by looking at where your business is right now and figuring out where you want to be. Take a hard look at both who your target audience is and what competitors they’re buying from. Research trends in changing audience preferences so you can try to get ahead of them.
Keyword research should be an ongoing responsibility of someone on your digital strategy team. Users’ search queries and search engine algorithms change frequently. Winging it based on last month’s information won’t work.
Pay close attention to the long-tail keywords your audience is using to ask questions. Use them to develop relevant content to increase your odds of being found online.
Finally, discover what formats your target audience is using to consume information. If they’re increasingly gravitating to how-to videos, for example, your written guides will need to follow suit. Content, format and delivery platforms should all coalesce. Investing the time and energy necessary to do your homework will keep you from falling behind.
2. Defying Online Standards
Challenging your competitors is a solid business attribute. Hoping to race past them by defying the rules of the road is a rookie mistake. And it’s one that could sink any hope your business has for a stellar online reputation.
Search engines do have rules of acceptable behavior. Keyword stuffing, rampant use of seedy or broken links and linking your content to disparate queries are all unacceptable. Use of these dishonest tactics can all lead to your business getting the red flag.
More and more companies are using digital platforms to attract customers and position themselves as industry experts. As that use has grown, search engines have become increasingly likely to penalize those who breach online standards. It’s how they ensure fair competition and protect their users.
Ignorance of those standards is no defense—and no help to you, either. You should be fully aware of what they are and verify that what you’re putting out there conforms to them.
What’s at risk if you don’t is more than just getting your business listing suspended from Google, although that’s plenty. You become the seedy business that other businesses and potential customers will eschew.
Invest time in improving your brand’s online reputation instead of crying foul if you’re caught defying the rules. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, slow down and course correct. Steering your business under a yellow flag is better than a red one any day.
3. Cutting Corners
In the midst of frenzied competition, there’s a temptation to cut corners to help you get ahead. There’s a very fine line between competing aggressively and cheating; you need to avoid the latter. It might help you win a lap, but it won’t help you win the race.
Your company should have established marketing standards, practices and ethics. Digital marketing can present some especially slippery slopes, such as posting fake reviews and disappearing negative ones. Both are so easy to do that you convince yourself that no one will ever know and that no one gets hurt.
As a company leader, your job is to not only establish honorable standards, but also ensure your teams abide by them. One way to support high standards is by avoiding the lure of reducing your marketing budget. If you underfund your marketing team, you’re just asking them to take dishonest shortcuts.
Instead, invest your time and money in building your online reputation rather than knocking it down. Replace overly promotional, spammy content with information that’s useful to your audience. Associate only with businesses and publications that are on the up and up.
Review your digital strategy like you would a legal contract. Make sure it’s free from dishonest claims and that you can deliver on all the promises you make to a potential customer. If there’s anything iffy in your strategy, content or delivery, correct it.
Avoiding serious mistakes with your company’s digital strategy can feel like you’re puttering along in the outside lane. But taking shortcuts will get you disqualified sooner or later, so steer clear of them. Staying in the right lane will eventually get you where you want to go.