Common A/B Split Testing Mistakes in Digital Marketing

Split testing is one of the most powerful tools in a digital marketer’s kit. With so many competing strategies available, it’s almost impossible to predict what will work on any reliable basis. Through split testing, a digital marketer is able to quickly compare different strategies and isolate the most favorable ones. Unfortunately, the data from a split testing campaign can also be misused and misrepresented. When the process of testing is rushed or flawed, it can produce results that are actively detrimental.

testTesting Without a Stated Purpose

The purpose of split testing is to test out a specific strategy. A single specific strategy. It’s not enough to say “We like this landing page design and this landing page design; Let’s see which one works.” A/B testing should be as focused as possible or you won’t understand why the data you receive paints the picture that it does. Moreover, you’ll waste your own time.

Careful consideration should always go into any A/B test you run. The test itself should be mostly about developing your strategies and finding the best way to test which one works best. Otherwise you’ll find yourself running tests that are either poorly thought out or entirely unnecessary.

In the above example, rather than testing two landing page designs as a whole, you should be testing specific aspects of design:

  • The position, shape and appearance of conversion prompts.
  • The call-to-action and ad copy positioning and verbiage.
  • The visual media surrounding the call-to-action and prompt.

swatchRunning Too Short of a Test

It can be tempting to call a test over once the expected results have been achieved. It’s a bad idea. A test should be done for a minimum of a full week and should only be called following the collection of a solid sample size. A test should never be done for a matter of hours or for a single day unless the test is specifically designed to test something time-sensitive. As an example, you might be testing late night conversions, or specifically trying to test a Saturday sale.

The demographic and activity breakdown of a website’s traffic vastly changes depending time of day and day of week. There’s no way to achieve a decent analysis if you don’t have a sample size that transcends the standard seven day week. And, in fact, in many cases a full month can be preferable. For e-commerce sites in particular, paydays can vastly affect revenue streams and traffic.

fruitsNot Collecting Easily Compared Results

A/B split testing requires that the tests be run with as identical an audience as possible. Apart from the strategies being tested, everything else in the tests should be the same. You can’t run an A/B test one after the other nor can you run them at different times of day; the results you get will be both unpredictable and inconclusive.

Marketers who don’t have the technology or resources to run “proper” split testing may try to skirt around this by simply making the required modifications to their site, recording the results and then comparing them with prior results over the same period of time. While this is still technically a split test, it isn’t an accurate form of testing — for one, it makes it very difficult to account for the site’s growth.

customersTesting With Too Few Customers

Split testing is designed to show differences in large volumes of traffic. A large sample size is required to draw any results. Sites that don’t have a significant amount of traffic and conversion to begin with won’t usually benefit from split testing; the margin for error is simply too wide. If your site only achieves five conversions a week, a single additional conversion will seem statistically significant — when, in reality, it could just be a fluke of timing. If your site achieves fifty conversions a week and you see ten additional conversions, on the other hand, that may be more significant.

Following our article on statistical inaccuracy, it seems important to point out why we, as digital marketers, often have such an inconsistent relationship with data. Simply put, data scientists require many years of experience and education to learn how to interpret data consistently and without bias. It seems almost naive to expect that we could obtain an immediate expertise in an area that requires such discipline. While data doesn’t lie, it is also extremely open to interpretation — and that’s why we need to be very cautious about the conclusions that we draw.

Split testing is not a tool for building conversion, it’s a tool for optimizing conversion — there’s a difference. Split testing works best when a site is already successful and is attempting to improve upon that success. And when used properly, split testing can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Getting the Joke to Land: When Humor Goes Awry in Digital Marketing

Digital marketers tend to have a sort of love-hate relationship with humor. A little humor is necessary to any marketing campaign; people simply respond better to something that makes them laugh. That’s why State Farm had Jake wearing khakis and why Old Spice had I’m on a horse. But a sense of humor is highly subjective and it can quickly go the wrong way. Marketers who misinterpret their audience’s sense of humor often find themselves on the defensive, running damage control. Sometimes a brand never truly recovers.

The 3 Rules of Marketing-Friendly Humor

  • Always know your audience and demographics.
  • Stay on message and on brand.
  • When straddling a fence, keep a foot on the safer side.

pepsi voodooPepsi: The Voodoo Doll Incident

You can almost see what they were going for. People get excited about sports. They hate the opposing team. So why not post a bunch of pictures of a voodoo doll being beaten up and murdered? It almost seems like some ad executive, somewhere, didn’t quite understand why people enjoy sports. Maybe they didn’t understand that sports rivalries are – with some rare and notable exceptions – for the most part friendly. Or maybe they thought it was actually high praise; “Look, this player is so good that he should be killed.” The Voodoo Doll Campaign came across as brutal, mean-spirited and dark rather than humorous; there was no joke there except, “Hey, isn’t it funny that we want some terrible things to happen to this guy?”

hitman absHitman the… Cyber Bully?

Hitman is a popular video game franchise published by Square Enix. As a promotion for a recent title, the company launched a Facebook game called “Hire Hitman,” allowing users to ‘assassinate’ their friends. All in good fun, right? The problem was the game’s cruel sense of humor. Assassinations were sent with insults – such as “awful make-up” or “big ears” — which inevitably led to accusations of cyberbullying. They completely missed the mark with their audience; weirdly, few people actually wanted to insult and virtually kill their friends. The company later apologized, stating that it was “wide of the mark.” Of course, knowing the game industry, it’s likely that the app was simply outsourced to a third-party developer and never double-checked — which is yet another point of caution.

mac“I’m a Mac” … “And I’m a PC”

Absolutely everyone knows these commercials — so, at very least, they were memorable. Meant to be a satirical look at the different features and aesthetics of mac computers and PCs, it ultimately backfired. Why? In general, people tend to cheer for the underdog. The Mac vs PC commercials featured a casually dressed young man (the Mac) who repeatedly foiled the older gentleman in a business suit (the PC). No one really enjoys seeing competitors dig at each other; it’s like seeing mommy and daddy fight. And Mac also misidentified its audience; many Mac users found themselves identifying more with the PC side of things than the cool-looking Mac.

The Most Inoffensive Types of Marketing Humor

There are two types of humor that almost always win out: self-deprecating humor and absurdity. Consider all of the most popular, humorous advertising campaigns, such as the Geico Gecko. Most people do enjoy laughing at someone — but they don’t want to feel like a bully, they want to be both laughing at and laughing with at the same time. Absurdity, silliness and exaggeration is inoffensive because it’s so disassociated with reality that there is nothing that can be seen as untoward. Still, silliness can become problematic if it does hit too close to home or comes off too mean-spirited, as seen with Pepsi’s voodoo doll campaign.

damageDamage Control: Recovering Gracefully

Sometimes everything just goes wrong. You could catch the attention of the wrong person. Your joke could have implications that you never anticipated. Damage control isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s all about how you handle it. If you handle damage control gracefully, you may even be able to improve the standing of your brand when all is said and done. But if you handle it improperly, you could do irreparable harm.

  • Own it. Apologize and explain — but don’t make excuses and don’t snark.
  • Be proactive. React quickly and take direct action against any wronged parties.
  • Take it seriously. Don’t try to spin outrage into another joke; it can be misinterpreted.

An intuitive understanding of your audience is necessary to craft memorable, humorous copy without taking it a step too far. Marketers need to straddle the line between clichéd, forgettable jokes and offensive or obscure jokes, while still staying on message and furthering their company’s brand. Social media and other real-time communication portals have made it very easy for a marketer to stick their virtual foot in their mouth – but, by the same token, an audience is likely to forget issues of poor humor as long as the marketer handles it quickly and in the appropriate way.

Using Predictive User Behavior to Improve and Analyze Website Design

Not everyone can afford an eye tracking test for their website, but most developers, designers and small business owners can benefit from the general knowledge that user behavior tests provide. While the conclusions drawn from user behavior tests may not necessarily be accurate all the time, the data itself can offer quite a bit of insight.

2Conversion Occurs at the Bottom of the Page

Though above-the-fold content may get more activity, conversion generally occurs at the bottom of the page. It’s easy to understand why. If you see a conversion prompt at the top of the page, you aren’t yet invested. By the time you read the article and wish to convert, the conversion prompt is no longer on the screen. Conversely, if the conversion prompt is at the bottom, it is immediately accessible at the exact time that you need it.

What’s more, “above the fold” content might not mean as much as it once did. For one, “above the fold” now has an entirely different meaning. Mobile users account for a large portion of web activity, and they are used to scrolling downwards for information.

Moral: Always think about how the user will actually use the site and the physical process of conversion.

4Users Get Bored of Similar Elements Pretty Quickly

Observe this EyeQuant study. In this area, EyeQuant noticed that large text didn’t attract additional attention as predicted. But there’s also something more interesting going on here. You can see that EyeQuant predicted that users would linger for a somewhat similar amount of time on each of the three informational boxes presented, reading left to right. In fact, users read the first box, concentrated on the second box and then skipped the third box entirely.

Assumptions are dangerous. But if one wanted to make assumptions, it could be assumed that the user reads the first box and then scans the second box to determine whether each box is actually useful to them. At this point, the user makes an educated decision to skip over the third box entirely, imagining that it does not offer any additional value.

This is seen again, where, when confronted by four similar elements, the users pay significant attention to the first two items of the block and then abruptly drop off in interest.

Moral: Vary your elements and never put important information in a similar array. 

3The Left Side of Your Page Is the Most Important Side

A lot has been said about the “F” shape in reading; users scan the top first and then scan down the left hand side, looking for interesting headlines. But there’s no mystery here: we simply read left to right. Overall, the left hand of the screen accounts for about 70% of the reader’s time.

But studies have also shown that readers can be triggered to move to the left hand screen with a prompt. An image of a person looking towards the right, for instance, can move the viewer’s focus to right side content. So if you do want to vary your content approach, you simply need to be careful with your layout design.

Moral: Either put your most important content on the left side or trigger it from the left with a prompt that points to it. 

4Users Ignore Banner Ads — Unless They’re Tricked

Nearly every eye-tracking study since 2007 has noted that users experience ‘banner blindness’–they simply do not see most ads. There are some exceptions. Ads that are unfamiliar to them or ads that do not look like traditional ads may actually be viewed. An ad that appears to be content could also be lingered on.

But, of course, this is a double-edged sword; any time spent looking at an ad is time that is not spent engaging with the content of the site. Banner ads have become a poor monetization technique for a variety of reasons, banner blindness being only one of them.

Moral: If you have to user banner ads, expect them to be largely ignored. You can encourage users to look at them, but only at the cost of your content.

Of course, as we’ve noted, statistics and studies won’t always present an accurate picture. While you can’t always rely upon external information, what you can do is conduct your own testing. Based on the above principles, you can initiate changes to your website and determine whether they improve your performance. Statistics, in general, should be used as guidelines to make changes rather than taken as hard facts.

Statistical Skepticism: Why Data Often Lies to Digital Marketers

I love statistics. I love data analysis. I love graphs. It’s a sickness, but it’s one shared by many marketers — analytic information is really the only information we have to determine whether our strategies are working. Unfortunately, digital marketing and social media statistics are not peer-reviewed or published in academic journals; most of the ‘studies’ we have come from small sample sizes delivered by who-knows-who. That doesn’t mean the data is worthless, it simply means that we need to be skeptical and avoid making any assumptions. Data doesn’t always tell the truth. Quite frequently, data lies.

Using Words to Recontextualize Ambiguous Data

one

Every marketer knows that words are powerful. Words are more powerful than numbers, even though numbers may be more honest. But unfortunately, words can also be used to mislead. Take, for example, the above infographic from KISSmetrics. One could easily surmise that unique views always go up by posts per day, because that’s exactly what they’re telling you. But that’s not what this graph is saying at all. In fact, without more data, this graph is essentially useless.

If it’s a graph of separate sites, plotted by how much they post and how much traffic they get, it only shows something very alarming: that posting between 23 to 30 posts a day could garner you only as much traffic as posting half as often. There’s also another possibility: that this is correlation, not causation. Without knowing which sites have been polled, it’s very possible that the more popular sites post more often because they are more popular — and can hence sustain the cost of their content — rather than being more popular because they post more often.

While there’s an upward trend, the data is extraordinarily erratic; any reasonable person would see this. Yet because the takeaway states the conclusion directly — that traffic always goes up by daily post quantity — the reader would assume this to be correct.

Not Including Control Values When Drawing Conclusions

two

In statistics, you’re often told that causation doesn’t equal correlation. It’s a fancy way of saying that just because two things happen at the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re related. You could win the lottery and also trip and break your leg and it could then be said that 1% of all lottery winners this year broke their leg. But it could also be that 1% of everyone that year broke their leg.

In the above graph, we are shown that 88% of consumers have abandoned their shopping carts during a checkout process and 84% of consumers who abandon their shopping carts search online for cheaper prices. The implication is that most consumers who abandon their shopping cards are searching online for cheaper prices — and that could well be true, but not necessarily based on this data.

Why? Because the data doesn’t show a control value. For all we know, 84% of consumers who don’t abandon their shopping carts also search online for cheaper prices. In other words, the statistic may not mean anything at all; it may just be that almost everyone both abandons shopping carts occasionally and searches online for cheaper prices occasionally.

But this also shows something a little more insidious and dangerous. Using common sense, we know that savvy consumers are looking up prices online and that this is probably affecting conversion rates. So we look for data that supports our beliefs because that makes sense; we don’t care whether the data actually makes sense.

Working With Extremely Small Sample Sizes and Self-Reported Data

three

There’s a reason why demographic research is conducted over thousands if not tens of thousands of individuals. A margin of error can significantly skew results when data is taken from small sample sizes. Even a moderate sample size can be dangerous. Take this color study, which purports to show variations of least and most favorite colors by gender.

These results are crazy! Apparently, no man has ever had the color purple as his favorite color, even though over 20% of women listed it as their favorite color. Simply looking at this infographic would lead you to believe that the color purple is universally hated among men.

But it begins to make sense when you discover the context of this study. It only polled 223 individuals. Meanwhile, a study by a sociologist at the University of Maryland, which polled 1,974 individuals rather than 223, found vastly different results. Here, we see that 12% of men — not 0% — listed purple as a favorite color. It’s still not a popular color, but it’s also not universally reviled. In fact, it’s more popular than red, yellow, orange and pink.

four

Many marketing metrics have astonishingly low sample sizes and most of them are not culled from the best resources. An informal Internet poll is probably the worst way to collect data because it is all self-reported data; how can we ever know whether it’s true?

At this point, one might be inclined to have a minor crisis in faith. After all, almost everything we do and assume is based on data that we researched at some point or another on the web. But all of this doesn’t mean that data isn’t valuable, it just means that we need to engage our critical thinking skills, consider the source and really dig in before we take things to heart.

Digital Marketing Trends That Inspire Reader Fatigue

For a diverse and global community, the web can sometimes appear startlingly homogeneous. Design and marketing techniques proliferate quickly on the backs of those eager to get in on the next big thing, and once a trend builds momentum, it can become almost impossible to kill. Clients begin asking for the bells and whistles that they’ve seen elsewhere on the web and readers come to expect it. Eventually some trends overstay their welcome and simply have to go.

onepage
onepagelove.com

The Waste Your Time Infinite Scrolling Design

It may be time for us to call it quits on the parallax — at least, other than some very specific applications. Sure, parallax design looks fantastic, but now that it’s been scattered across half of the web, it’s lost much of its initial impact. Worse, it’s encouraging infinite scrolling and one page designs. One page site designs were at first promoted for allowing full control over the chronology of the company’s story, unfolding a tale in front of the eyes of the consumer. While it does achieve that, there are many technical problems holding it back from being a truly effective technique.

  • It obfuscates the UX. While a user can scroll down to slowly reveal the company’s messaging, it makes it very difficult for the user to actually browse through the site and control their own user experience. If the user simply has a direct question or needs specific information, they won’t be able to find it. This can leads to user frustration and site abandonment.
  • It makes analytics difficult to track. With a parallax, infinite scrolling design, you can’t determine where the user is bouncing off of your site or what content the user is revealing beforehand. You also can’t see which areas of your site are more popular because they are all on a single, slowly revealed page.
  • It’s bad for SEO. Having all of your relevant information on a single page is the last thing you want for the purposes of search engine optimization. Infinite scrolling websites also put a premium on concise copy, which is simultaneously more readable but less easily optimized.
modaldialogue
tympanus.net/development/modalwindoweffects

Modal Madness: The Pop-Up Advertising of Today

I don’t think I’m alone in this: a modal window is very likely to get me to leave a site entirely. The rest of the website goes dark and a prompt appears at the center of the screen: Buy Our Product! Sign Up for Our Newsletter! Do Something, Anything, to Get Rid of This Ad! Modal windows are very popular today as an aggressive method of capturing leads. But the web already rejected pop-ups –what makes advertisers believe that today’s consumer will be any more forgiving?

  • It breaks the user experience. Whatever the user intended to do — whether it be find more information about your product or just read an article — has now been interrupted and there’s a good chance the user might just leave entirely. The fact that many modal windows can’t be easily closed only adds to this frustration.
  • When it fails, it fails spectacularly. Modal windows do two things: present you with an ad and black out the rest of the site. So when they malfunction — which happens a good 10% of the time — the site often remains blacked out and inaccessible. Sometimes the site may not even come back after the modal window has been closed.
  • It’s too aggressive. When you market things correctly, the consumer wants to get more information from you. A modal window is the sales equivalent of cornering a customer in a store. The dialog will be completely different than it would be if the customer themselves had come up with a question.

likesQuantity Over Quality Social Media Marketing

The inherent difficulty involved in measuring the effectiveness of social media marketing has led many digital marketers to adopt quantity-based metrics. In other words, the effectiveness of campaigns is often measured simply by the quantity of followers. While this is one important metric, it’s not always the best metric; depending on a content marketing campaign, additional traffic may not actually lead to any actual increase in revenue. Aggressively obtaining followers (such as, say, through modal windows) may lead to followers who were not initially invested in the company’s messaging and who will not become invested later on. Worse yet, it may alienate followers by appearing both desperate and pushy.

  • Traffic doesn’t mean conversions. Marketers learned this lesson years ago, but may need to relearn it in the social media context. A local business followed by a tremendous amount of global followers won’t necessarily make any more revenue than another business with a smaller amount of local followers.
  • People don’t take social media that seriously. They may follow you with no real intent to ever interact with your brand or make a purchase from you; being interested in what you have to say by no means guarantees a sale. While more exposure is still good, it shouldn’t be used as the only end goal.
  • Users that don’t engage can actually be harmful. Many online communities gauge the success of your posts based on how many of your followers actually engage with it. If you have a large amount of followers and none of them are paying attention to your posts, your posts won’t gain any traction.

Most digital marketing trends don’t last long; the industry simply moves too fast. New trends are constantly on the horizon and marketers need to remain agile and be willing to abandon old techniques should they become ineffective. Tactics such as infinite scrolling (jazzed up in all that lovely parallax) were effective and marketers were right to use them — but that doesn’t mean they will remain effective forever. Marketers have to be constantly in the process of analyzing and improving if they are to avoid played out and now ineffective conventions.

4 Digital Marketing Investments That Rarely Yield Significant Returns

Companies looking to develop their digital marketing campaigns must be as conscious of their potential mistakes as they are of their options. Digital marketers are inundated with thousands of strategies and it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Even the most skilled and experienced marketers may occasionally fall prey to a few ineffective strategies.

1. Purchasing a Large Inventory of Content

It caimagesn be tempting to hit the ground running by purchasing and publishing a large inventory of content right away. But this creates content that has been developed in a vacuum, without any indication that the audience will find the content either interesting or insightful. This strategy creates large volumes of generic content that is based purely on speculation and it foregoes organic growth. It’s often preferable for a company to start with a modest amount of content and then slowly build that content by analyzing user behavior and identifying the content strategies that work best. For the sake of marketing growth, content that is trickled out a few posts a day is far more effective than content that goes live all at once. While you can purchase content and then publish it over time, this still doesn’t allow you to modify your content campaign in response to user reaction.

2. Imitating the Competition

marathonThink about it this way. You have an hour to get from one side of the city to the other. Your competition already has a head start. What are you going to do? Are you going to follow the exact same route that your competition is? Or are you going to try to find a more efficient path? By imitating the competition, you’re putting yourself at a significant handicap. You’ll never achieve the returns that they did because they have the benefit of being the first. Instead, you need to innovate. You need to ask yourself how you can be better than them and how you can improve upon what they have done. Digital marketing is not a marathon. Digital marketing is parkour.

3. Investing in Content Automation Tools

robotMany companies attempt to first build their content inventory through the use of automation. Sometimes this involves creating entire content inventories out of spun content. Other times it means merely pushing updates to a variety of platforms. The impulse to automate is natural and even intelligent, to some extent. As Bill Gates once said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” But an easy way isn’t always the best way, especially when it comes to something as personal and vital as content creation and curation. Ultimately, most companies will find that automation actively hurts them, due to the way that search engines gauge page and website quality. Even automating posts to a social media account can be hurtful; followers can recognize bot-driven posting and will rapidly lose interest. Sometimes there is such a thing as being too clever for your own good.

4. Going All-In With Paid Advertising

paidIf you have a large budget, why not just pay for your advertising right out of the gate? You can build a huge customer base right away and then allow that customer base to grow organically from there. It seems like a simple solution, but it’s really not. PPC advertising campaigns are extremely complex and aren’t likely to yield a sustainable customer base without a lot of work. Moreover, customer acquisition isn’t what most companies need to focus on — customer retention is. Search engine optimization and content marketing strategies are a preferable long-term investment because they can grow with the business, whereas a PPC campaign requires that money be pumped into it continually to remain effective. That’s not to say that PPC advertising doesn’t have a place in the digital marketing arsenal — it just can’t be the foundation of a campaign.

Of course, the fun — and infuriating — thing about digital marketing is that many ineffective strategies actually can work in some situations, just as many extremely proven strategies can fail in others. If you have a particularly good rationale for using any of the above strategies, they still can be incorporated within a successful digital marketing campaign. You simply need to be conscious of the challenges that lie ahead.

6 Digital Marketing Tactics Businesses Can Learn From Bloggers

Why is it that hobbyist bloggers seem to be able to constantly outpace professional business marketers in terms of both growth and volume? Companies can spend thousands — even millions — of dollars on content marketing campaigns and end up with an audience that pales in comparison to a teenager posting cute digital gifs of their cat. Bloggers are forged from and tested within the Internet; they have acclimated and evolved to the web in ways that most digital marketers simply can’t fathom.

woman-420750_6401. One-on-One User Engagement

Bloggers don’t just send content out into the nebulous depths of the web and wait to get returns. Bloggers actively engage their readership and create a dialogue. Whether it’s simply joking around with a new follower or forging real friendships with other bloggers, they know that their number one priority is engaging their user base. In fact, this is one reason Twitter has become such a powerful force in the digital marketing arena; many consumers are enamored with the ability to tweet at a large corporation and actually get a response, even if the response is the same type of response they would get if they called in to customer service. Bloggers get personal with their followers because to them maintaining their user base and having exciting conversations with them isn’t a means to an end — it’s a pleasurable goal in itself.

macbook-624707_6402. Building Trust Before Marketing

It’s not as simple as “not marketing to your audience.” Almost every blog, hobbyist or not, is monetized in some fashion. Whether it be merchandise or digital media, bloggers know how to bring in the bucks. But they don’t market to their audience too early. Many bloggers don’t even begin monetizing until their readership asks them to. When done properly, the audience originates at the idea themselves. The audience becomes so interested in the blogger’s “brand” that they want to be a part of it. And that’s really the whole of brand building: making the audience want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Your goal as a digital marketer is to inspire your audience to look to give you their money rather than outright ask them to and that involves creating engaging, stimulating and exciting content.

worker-659884_6403. Having Passion — Even, Perhaps, Obsession

Many bloggers are absolutely obsessed with their content, even if it seems remarkably niche. There’s a blog out there that has rated thousands of different samples of beef jerky, for instance — and you’d better bet that they are the number one resource for reviews of beef jerky. Companies often fail at this because they hire marketers who aren’t truly interested and involved in their product but instead are just churning out content. This shows. It’s not easy to fake interest, especially when dealing with an audience that knows their own interests inside and out. If you are selling a niche product like ball-jointed dolls, you need to know that the ball-jointed doll community is going to be able to identify a writer who is simply working from an assortment of Wikia pages and product specifications.

pretty-woman-635258_6404. Developing a Personality

Why are “Internet personalities” so popular? People naturally gravitate towards others in a social context. They want to feel as though they connect to the sources of their information rather than simply being mired in generic, colorless words. Too often companies put out large swathes of information simply under the banner of “XYZZY Corp.” or “Staff Writer.” This is not the way to go. A reader wants to connect what they are reading to an image, personality and even a voice. This is why so many larger companies have a spokesperson to get their message out. Everyone loves the Geico gecko.

controversy5. Making Mistakes and Generating Controversy

Companies cannot be so afraid of making mistakes that they become paralyzed. In fact, companies today are learning that controversy isn’t a bad thing — as long as you finish on the side that your audience supports. Bloggers often make mistakes, devolve into in-fighting or simply alienate a portion of their audience. But they almost always recover and many of them find their audience even more receptive to them thereafter. There is something about creating controversy and then resolving it that binds a reader even more firmly to a writer. It’s a shared emotional experience and the feeling that they somehow contributed. By not understanding this, many businesses have shot themselves in the foot. Ignoring controversy or trying to hide mistakes does the opposite; it frustrates the reader or consumer because it makes them feel like they didn’t matter at all.

office-583841_6406. Being Completely Consistent

This isn’t just about posting on a consistent basis. A blogger is consistent on every level. They control every part of their blog and create a cohesive whole. Too often marketing campaigns are shuffled from writer to writer, leaving each writer unable to create a consistent voice. Separate areas of the marketing campaign are handled by different teams entirely, creating a disparate voice. This leaves the reader unable to properly connect with the brand because the brand tends to change from moment to moment. Once a marketing campaign hits a groove, it’s important that the content continues to hit similar notes.

Naturally not all bloggers end up being successful. For every blogger that succeeds, there are tens of thousands who failed. But those who really have a genuine passion for their work, engage with their users and consistently post new articles almost always achieve some modicum of success. Perhaps the most interesting thing to consider is what bloggers don’t have. Bloggers don’t have huge budgets. They don’t always pay attention to the polish of their writing. Most of them don’t even have a game plan or end game. These are all the things that marketers often concentrate on in lieu of passion. While they are important things, they simply cannot supplant genuine knowledge and interest in a topic.

Why DIY Marketing Isn’t Right for Most SMBs

The ease of setting up blogs, social media pages and websites can sometimes be deceiving. Single click installs mean that you can have a WordPress blog on your site in minutes. As a result, a lot of small business owners feel that they should go it alone and write their own authoritative site blog. However, there are a number of reasons that you should hand this duty off to a dedicated, professional copywriter instead. The top three:

  • Outsourcing makes sense. To succeed, you need to concentrate on the core functions of your business. In this age of DIY options like WordPress and Blogger, a lot of people try to do everything themselves. You wind up overworked and stressed, and unable to do any one task as well as you should.
  • You’re too good at your job. All day long, you navigate the complicated waters of your profession with ease due to your skill and experience. Complex jargon and industry terminology is a second language that you speak with fluent ease. Unfortunately, your customers do not have that level of understanding. It can be easy to forget that what you know like the back of your hand is new to your customers. I can break down complex technical, legal, medical and other jargon and translate it into terms that the layman can easily understand.
  • You are too close to your product. It’s hard to separate yourself from the business that you have worked so hard to build. Blogs, articles and other content always need to be written with an eye toward the needs and desires of your customers. I have the skill and the perspective to talk directly to your customers about what they want from your product.

One of the key qualities of successful entrepreneurs is knowing when to delegate. By hiring qualified bloggers and social media pros, you can have them take care of your online marketing while you concentrate on the core tasks that make your business a success.