7 Deadly Sins of Online Marketing for Small Business

Online marketing has become an important part of the small business toolbox. In order to reach consumers and grow your business, there are a variety of tactics and tools you can use – from online advertising to social media marketing to reputation management and more. Managing all the ins and outs of running a small business is complex, and juggling all the different aspects of online marketing is a responsibility in and of itself.

business devil

So, take a minute to make sure you’re not committing any of these seven deadly sins when marketing your small business:

1.) Not Tracking Your Online Advertising 

One of the incredible benefits of online advertising is the ability to track it. If you’re advertising your small business online, it’s important to track not just the clicks you’re getting to your website or landing page, but also what happens after the click. Are customers calling your business, filling out a form, or leaving your page after they click? If you don’t know, how will you know if your advertising is actually working to help your business get more customers? Many sophisticated online marketing products will allow you to track all this and more, so you can not only learn the effectiveness of your campaigns, but also optimize them around what’s working as well. So, start tracking your online advertising to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.

2.) Not Locally Targeting Your Online Marketing

As a small business, there’s a good chance a large majority of your client base is made up of local consumers. If so and you’re investing in online marketing and not targeting it locally, it could cost you. Not only will you pay more to target national keywords and spend more to compete on these terms, but you may also be missing consumers who are searching for a local business just like yours.

By locally targeting your online marketing, you can get a better return on your investment and more effectively reach consumers who are looking for local businesses. Even if you want to invest some of your online marketingon broader efforts, it’s critical to make sure to include localization as well. And, by tracking the success of each strategy, you can find out what works best to help you get more customers and shift more of your investment there.

3.) Not Claiming Your Google Place Page

You may already be investing in SEO to help your website rank well in organic search. A Google Place Page is another valuable tool that can help your small business show up in desktop and mobile search to local consumers searching for a business like yours – and it’s free to use.

If you haven’t claimed your Google Place Page, make sure to do so immediately. By claiming and optimizing your page, you not only gain more control over what’s listed about your business, you can also gain valuable shelf space on Google for important business keywords in organic search.

4.) Failing to Optimize Your Landing Page for Conversions

Most forms of online marketing include a goal of getting people to visit your website or a specific landing page on it. But if it’s not optimized for conversions, you may be losing a lot of potential customers despite all of your efforts to get people to that page.

Is your contact information prominently displayed and easy to locate at the top of your page? Do you have a clear call to action directing visitors to perform a specific action – like calling your business or filling out a form? Is the most important information clearly visible above the fold, or do visitors have to scroll down to find what they really need? Contact your web developer to talk about changes you could implement to make your website more effective at converting customers, which will boost the effectiveness of your online marketing.

5.) Not Training Staff on Lead Handling

Many small businesses spend so much time and effort focusing on the front end of the marketing funnel that they neglect one of the most important components of the marketing process. What happens to a lead once they express interest in your business? For most small businesses, one of the most costly aspects of the marketing equation is how your staff handle the leads that come to you – whether by phone, email, fax, or in person. You’re investing a lot in generating leads, and every lead counts! That’s why training all your staff on how to properly answer the phone, respond to a customer request, and handle leads is so critical.

6.) Poor Customer Service

Did you know that the service your customers receive at your small business is a critical component of your online marketing? That’s because word of mouth is still one of the most powerful influencers on consumers. And in today’s digital world, what your customers say online about how your business treats them is a part of your business Web presence, whether you like it or not.

If you’re guilty of bad customer service, chances are that this news will spread fast online. The good news is, word about great customer experiences spreads as well. That’s why it’s important to make sure your team is well versed on how to provide world-class customer service.

That’s why it’s important to make sure your team is well versed on how to provide world-class customer service.

7.) Letting Your Online Reputation Go Unchecked

What exactly are people saying about your small business online? Letting your online reputation go unchecked can be a huge mistake – especially if there are unaddressed negative reviews about your business that are ranking well in search engines or gaining a lot of attention on review sites. A negative online reputation can cost you customers.

So, instead of wondering what people are saying about your business online, make sure to conduct a regular online reputation analysis so you can discover the negative and address it while focusing regular efforts on asking happy customers to share reviews about your business to build the positive buzz about your business.

Are you guilty of committing any of these deadly sins of small business online marketing? Do you have any to add to this list? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Business Devil Photo via Shutterstock


Tiffany Monhollon Tiffany Monhollon is an award-winning content, community and social media marketing strategist who is passionate about helping businesses and professionals succeed online. As the lead blogger for ReachCast, a web presence optimization service for small businesses, she is also a resource for local online marketing advice.

39 Reactions
  1. Good, solid advice, Tiffany. So often small businesses jump onto the web as part of an ill-defined “we’ve got to do it” strategy. Like any marketing vehicle, the web will be effective only if small business owners determine in advance what they truly want to accomplish, then measure and refine their tactics as they gather more information. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Jeff! The world of online marketing can be pretty overwhelming, because there are so many options out there today, so this is a great point. Determining your goals is absolutely critical in creating an effective marketing plan. Not only does it help you determine the right programs to invest in, but it also helps you put processes in place to measure your results.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Thanks for the post, Tiffany.

    Great points.

    The last one-doing a reputation check-up, was a great idea.

    The Franchise King®

    • Thanks, Joel!
      It’s amazing how quickly things in your online reputation can change, so regularly doing a check-up to see what’s being said about you online is important, even if it’s just once a month!

      And what’s amazing is, when a small business owner responds quickly – and well – to reputation issues, you often see that a negative experience can turn into a positive one, for both parties.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I am *very* guilty for item number 1!

    • Thanks for the comment! It can be so easy to focus on putting programs into place that you miss the critical component of tracking and measuring your success. Definitely worth the time and energy though! Best of luck 🙂

  4. Great information. To many small businesses do not know what to do after they are getting a new lead. Dealing with an internet lead is totally different than those that are calling or coming in. It all depends on your field, and it is vital that you find the right people to help you with not only setting up your campaign, but helping you keep it moving in the right direction.

  5. Great insight Tiffany! You hit on some points I need to tie up 😉 TY

  6. Ryan – This is another great point. All leads are not created equal, and a different type of response for different types of leads can really help you convert more customers. I know most small business owners invest quite a lot into generating leads, so it’s also important to make sure you’re investing in that process all the way through, including following up with great customer service. Small businesses that do this well really stand apart from the competition.

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

  7. Thanks Tiffany. Optimizing landing pages and claiming Google Place were useful information.

  8. Excellent tips Tiffany! Small business owners, use this as a checklist going forward. One more tip to add. With all the Google updates (panda, penguin)it is time to implement a Content Management System. Most small business websites are thin, and contain stale content. 2 big Google No-No’s.

    The standard small business 5 page website that never changes is not going to cut it anymore.

    Put together a CMS strategy (WordPress is a great platform) and start adding fresh and relevant content on a regular basis. Make sure you follow Tip 4 above when adding content.

    Google is rewarding websites with unique content that is fresh and relevant. Remember, a well optimized website will help lift your Google Places page ranking also!

    • Thanks, Jeffrey! And thanks for adding the point about websites and content. Building a content strategy is already important and looks like it will only become more critical for showing up in search, especially with Google.

      Regular, fresh content updates also have the added benefit of being unique content you can use to fuel your social media web presence, which also play an important part in your overall online marketing strategy.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  9. Nice write-up Tiffany! These are some great tips – it is so vital to micro-manage your online initiatives! Another great way to optimize your site is by utilizing video within your pages. Google is far more likely to recognize your site and content if there is video on your page – a foreshadowing of the future of the internet and online marketing!

  10. A good checklist for any business. Points 5 and 6 are relevant whether a business markets online or not. One point I’d add is “Not using social media of any kind”. There is a social network for every business and those that don’t understand this yet are falling behind.

    • I agree: lead handling and customer service are critical for any small business – it’s easy sometimes to see these as completely separate from marketing, but they both impact the success of your marketing so much – not to mention the affect on retention rates!

  11. Great advice Tiffany. I’ve recently come to realize how critical it is to have the analytics and testing in place to accurately assess the progress of my online marketing. I guess like many other SMBs I was resistant at first, but as one of my former bosses always used to say, “The devil is in the details!”. I know that the efforts I invest upfront to track and measure things will ultimately expedite the progress I’m looking to make. Thanks for the reinforcement!

    • Thanks, Maria! Glad this struck home with you. In any type of marketing, it can be so easy to focus on the tactics, but you learn and can build a lot from tracking and measuring!

  12. Georgi Vasilev

    Every single point from this article is so true. If your website meets all these requirements you are already succeeded or you are very close to the success.Maybe my favorite point from the article is the Reputation – maybe it is the most important if you turn your site into a brand.

    • This is such an interesting point, especially for local businesses. I think reputation truly does go a long way in making your small business a trusted source. I know I always reach out to friends and family as a part of the process of finding good recommendations!

  13. I’m guilty of #2 and part of #4. Fixed. Simply adding contact info at the top makes the page look more professional! Great list!!

  14. Thanks, Tiffany!
    This article is surely an eye opener. I have not really paid enough attention to number 4 on my blog. I have been writing without having time to call my readers to specific action. I had erroneously believed they would do the right thing after reading my posts.
    Now that you’ve laid emphasis on calling them to action, I will definitely change the way I have been handling my readers.

  15. Right on Tiffany with #4.

    When they contact their web developer to make the changes you outlined in #4, make sure they also tell them to put the phone number and email address on the top of the page in HTML text not as a graphic. Smart Phones will read the HTML phone number and email address and make it one click to call and one click to email. Very important since more and more people are using their mobile phone to get online.

    • Beatrice Williams

      I agree it is a good idea to have your contact information, such as your phone number, at the top of your page, but not necessarily your email address in plain text. Spammers will quickly pick up your email and begin their lovely robo-mailings.

      I prefer to optimize a website depending on the device. So for mobile users, I add a button to call, email, or find the business at the bottom of every page. For desktop browsers, a simple “email us” link to the company’s contact form.

  16. Hi Tiffany,
    All of your points a extremely valid and useful for small business owners. I personally stress Google+ Local pages to my customers. It’s the single most important element to get started with online marketing for small business. It’s also a fairly easy way to get your small business to appear in the ‘7 pack’.
    Nice article.

  17. Great article! A lot of good information to all with small businesses. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Hello Tiffany.

    Your post gave me a lesson on how to make a good online sites. I will update my website for the coming.
    Greetings successful for you always.

    Santosa Laksana

  19. Every small business must make their location a first land to conquer. I have stressed this point in my post “Small Business Internet Marketing Can Be as Easy as 1-2-3!” and emphasized the importance of Google Places page and local citations to strengthen rankings on local searches.

  20. A sample guide in implementing local business internet marketing for start-up and small business owners who want to leverage their business marketing online. Get it for free here : http://bit.ly/13iV8FL

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