6 Digital Marketing Sins: Are You Guilty?

women working together on digital advertising

Photo courtesy of John Schnobrich.

With a few billion impressions of data under my belt and thousands of reports covering millions of dollars of ad spends, I am somewhat qualified to reflect on trends and mistakes that cross both industries and advertiser size. I have seen the dos and dont’s. Are you guilty of these six digital marketing sins?

1. Lacking Brand/Non-Brand Balance on Paid Search

Hypothetical Client: How come Agency X is delivering a 20:1 ROI and you’re only delivering a 5:1 for us?

SJ: Well, our goal is to generate new business for you, not maximize ROI. If we were only bidding on ads for people searching for you, the ROI would be higher, but it wouldn’t help your business grow.

(Side note: There are times when it is appropriate to have a brand-based keyword campaign; for instance, your competitors or a third-party booking engine are trying to steal your business and you have to defend yourself from that loss.)

2. Focusing Too Much on ROI

While ROI is important, it is not the only indicator of digital marketing success. More broadly, now that we can track return on ad spend results with some accuracy, we’ve created a monster I call returnoninvestiosaurus.

Symptoms that this monster lives in your office:

  • You don’t have budget to promote events or non-revenue-generating lines of business
  • You look at line 28’s revenue rather than the bottom line
  • You run an “awareness” campaign and then ask how much revenue it brought in

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.21.53 AM

3. Having No Defined Goals (i.e., I Want Everything)

If you have more than one goal, you should ideally have more than one campaign to meet each goal.

If you want a campaign that has both a massive reach and a high click rate, but only have $1,000 to spend, you’ll likely end up with a cost-per-click display campaign, because you are only paying when someone clicks on your ad. On the other hand, the higher the click rate goes, the more often you have to pay and the fewer people you ultimately reach. Your two goals are in a relationship where one will win and the other loses. Instead, we’d advise you to make two separate plays for your click and reach goals.

4. Obsessing over YOY in a DTD World

You ran paid search in 2007 and had a 10% click rate? NICE. You were ahead of the game, though. Everyone else has since caught up. Your Facebook post had a 30% organic reach two years ago? Great, but that’s an unrealistic expectation for a new campaign. Results that were good last year may be irrelevant now, so take your YOY stats with a grain of salt.

5. Missing Out on Trends Because They Aren’t “Proven”

There’s logic behind sticking with ads and ideas that are demonstrably successful. You should use successful campaigns to inform your next budget, but if you focus too much on what you know works well, you miss out on the arbitrage that will put you ahead of your competitors. Instagram is a no-brainer now, but were you on there 4 years ago? Are you afraid of Snapchat because you don’t know how to track its value? How about Facebook Live? The case for value may be ephemeral, but the value is there to be taken on new media—even if it doesn’t have a direct ROI.

6. Unsure What Your “Conversion” is Tracking

Your website has likely changed since you first set up your analytics tracking. Has it been kept up to date? Are you evaluating purchases/leads/conversions/etc. appropriately? Don’t take your reporting at face value if you don’t know what it’s saying.

If you fear you might be guilty of any of these digital marketing sins, contact us. Our digital exorcists…I mean, experts, are here to help.


— Jesse Plate, Digital Director, SJ Marketing

As an experienced digital media planner and digital marketing specialist, Jesse believes that every online touchpoint should contribute to a brand’s overall strategy. He directs digital executions with the goal of strengthening performance toward both online and offline marketing objectives, as well as taking full advantage of available online opportunities.

Sign up for SJ updates