Photo courtesy of rchris7702 on Flickr

By Serhat Pala

As an astute colleague of mine is fond of saying, you can learn from bad experiences. From the projects that turned out to be failures, you can learn valuable lessons about what not to do.

With that in mind, we take a look at the most common online marketing mistakes. If you recognize one of these going on in your own company, it might be time to take a step back and rethink your online marketing plan.

1. The first mistake I can think of is businesses equating online marketing with search engine optimization (SEO). People can become obsessed with SEO, designing everything for search engines rather than for humans. It can be easy to get caught up with SEO and spend entirely too much time and effort doing it.

It’s been my experience that the best online marketers and online retailers get about 20-25% of their sales as a result of their SEO efforts. If you’re getting 70% or more of your sales from SEO, that is an indication that you aren’t doing enough in the other areas of online marketing. If you put more effort into the other areas of online marketing to get more of a balance, you’ll likely see your sales increase.

2. The second common online marketing mistake is poor site navigation. Businesses often put a website up and don’t go through the trouble of using that website as a regular online visitor would use it. They don’t place test orders or browse their own website to get a feel for the user’s experience. Because of this, there can be critical mistakes that decrease the conversion rate by losing customers or leads because areas of the site are difficult to access or forms can’t be filled out properly etc.

This is easily avoidable by using and testing your website as a regular user would. It’s best not to have the person who designed the site test it, as they know it inside-out. Someone who is completely unfamiliar with the site should be tapped to test it as a regular user.

3. Related to the last point is building or designing a website that lacks focus or purpose. You need to decide what the purpose of your site is. Is it to generate leads or sales? Is it for targeting sellers or a certain audience? Whatever the goal of the website is, it has to be decided at the beginning so that you don’t end up trying to do too much and losing your focus.

4. Coming in fourth is having poor product and category information on a website. Product and category information is often copied and pasted from manufacturers’ websites or from other places. And it’s not bad to use these sources as a guideline, but content should never be copied and pasted verbatim. The search engines don’t like it and they’ll punish you for it.

5. And last is not having an email marketing strategy and not getting the best use out of email. Email marketing is powerful and needs to be considered by anyone doing business online, even if you’re not selling.

Email marketing should have a two-fold strategy:

  • Transaction marketing like confirmations, receipts and other reminders.
  • Promotion: content marketing to clients and prospects or sending promotions to customers.

A quick tip for email marketing is to send an inquiry email when an online shopping cart has been abandoned. If you have a customer’s email via registration or thanks to cookies, you can  send an email inquiring about the shopping cart abandonment and make an offer that might entice the person back. It’s usually quite successful.

Do you have any pitfalls of your own to share? Let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you in the comments. We can all learn from it.

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About Serhat Pala

Serhat Pala is the President and founder of RhinoForce and Prior to that, he ran several online retail businesses including, which, under his management, was recognized as one of the Inc. 500 fastest growing privately held companies.


Advice, Internet Marketing


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