Top 5 Impactful Digital Marketing Scams You Need To Avoid in 2020
If at all you’re aware of the what occurs within the advertising industry, then you’ve got some knowledge about potential scams. This article will talk about scams commonly found in the digital marketing space.
This article doesn’t have the intention of calling out certain agencies or organizations, but rather to inform others of the malpractices currently occurring in the industry. In each of these scams, there is a recurring theme: a lack of information.
So without further ado, for educational purposes, here are the top 5 scams found in digital marketing.
Startups Don’t Need Big Investments For Website Development
- Digital marketing is the forefront in the marketing industry
- eCommerce is essential for brand growth
- Based on your brand size, there are different website builders recommended for you
- Websites cannot be the majority of your budget but are a big factor for profits
Let’s lay this scenario out. You’re a start-up looking to break into the online scene and selling your products on your own website. The only problem you face is that you do not possess the skills or expertise to build one yourself. So you side with your next readily available option; contracting an agency to construct a website for you. Now, here is where the grey area of ethics comes in.
Magento, Core PHP and IBM are some of the industry-standard platforms for some of the more well-known enterprises. The problem arises when agencies suggest using these platforms right off the bat. These builders are mainly used for bigger brands and have features to accommodate their large amounts of traffic, so of course, they’re extraordinarily expensive.
Let’s take a few rough variables into account and look at the needs of your brand. Customization of your website aesthetics, the volume which your products will sell and the influx of traffic that can be expected. Now back to recommended platforms. For this example, we’ll take Magento. Keeping in mind all these requirements, the estimated cost would be upward of ₹4 Lakhs, taking at least 3 months to fully build a functional website. For those who haven’t caught on yet, this is a scam.
For even a well-funded startup, this cost is simply out of their budget and recovering these funds would be a major business progression set back.
We’ve seen first hand what happens to startups when they bite off more than they can chew when entering the eCommerce scene. Whether it be their own choice due to a lack of prior knowledge or by the advice of another agency, one thing is certain; this does more harm than good.
A brand we’ve had the privilege of working closely with began selling only offline through a brick and mortar store. They had ambitious plans of selling online, as their products were sneakers, which was fulfilling a niche which has not yet been seen in India. In global markets, sneakers have become a way for youths to become up and coming entrepreneurs and get an idea of how markets work through reselling.
So, selling sneakers online is a bare minimum in today’s marketing climate. The first agency they approached saw the potential market and immediately started drawing up plans to build a website through Magento. Of course, a website for a fresh new business like this was overshooting their shot, and this resulted in a website which was barely feasible, above their budget and needed constant maintenance breaks.
The solution lies within the problem itself, knowing the platforms. These platforms are meant for enterprises, not for smaller businesses. What smaller businesses should be looking at are cost-effective, open-source platforms such as Shopify or WordPress.
Your website needs are fairly basic at this stage of business, and these startup-friendly platforms can replicate the same end result faster and at a much cheaper price. Shopify’s pricing starts at just $29 per month while also offering features such as sales channels, free SSL certification and 24/7 support.
Another safe bet on making websites for startups is WordPress. Due to its huge community and based on the fact that it hosts 34% of all websites on the internet, it’s the go-to option for cost-effective website building. A WordPress website can be built with relative ease, with costing starting as low as ₹5,000, depending on the UI designer you find. Its servers can handle up to 5 lakh traffic, which is suitable for the majority of startups.
To put this into perspective, 3-5 months of building in addition to the cost varying anywhere between ₹4 lakhs to ₹50 lakhs for an enterprise website. Compare this to a WordPress website which can take 1-3 months to build and costing anywhere from upward of ₹5,000. WordPress holds another advantage, having a large community following and produces a wide range of plugins to further increase the effectivity of WordPress based websites.
SEO Is Not A Lifelong Process
- To increase visibility and traffic for your website, SEO is used.
- SEO is an ongoing process, meaning it isn’t a one-time event, taking around 6-8 months to complete.
- Content is king
- SEO is not much of a complex process, but understanding it is key
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website design and content to increase the traffic and visibility onto your website on a search engine. Essentially, SEO makes your website more attractive to search engines such as Google. The more attractive your website is, the higher it ranks when a query is searched.
The results of SEO grows over time and can take between 4-6 and sometimes 8 months to work, depending on the agency.
Content is the future of digital marketing and SEO holds similar importance. So, as a business owner, it is vital that you should be completely aware of the process and the expected timeline involving SEO. If you find yourself on the unaware side of the spectrum, you’ll run into some problems.
Misleading information is the tool primarily used by firms who want an extra profit. SEO is an ongoing process and has an end. Unethical companies pitch that SEO is forever a continuous process lasting 2-3 years, and the results are scaled to this falsely given timeline. Their main goal is to get as much money out of you as possible.
Another problem is not a lack of information about yourself but on the agency’s end. If done inefficiently, the process will continue to go on without bearing any fruit. So for both scenarios result in the same outcome; a waste of money and time for your business.
SEO is a vital component of a successful digital marketing strategy and it’s becoming more apparent to companies looking to make the switch. As stated above, SEO can take a good few weeks to months. SEO is a continuous process. It is not a one and done action or a quick fix, which is what a lot of agencies may say.
Due to the fact that SEO takes time to show tangible results, it’s one of the more easier scams to pull off. While agencies claim that their SEO is slowly taking effect, you’re essentially paying them for doing absolutely nothing. This was the case for a close brand handling clothing we’ve worked with for about a year now.
Prior to being on board with us, they told us about the issues they faced with previous agencies which scammed them. To name a few things, they were not clear about pricing, did not provide references and claimed to have insider knowledge of how to quickly turn the boost the traffic onto the brand’s website. This continued on for roughly a year before they finally decided to pull out. By then, that agency profited without using a single resource.
Firstly, a proper agency will always provide their clients with clear pricing and references to create transparency. Secondly, “insider knowledge” is a fancy phrase made up by con artists who prey on the uninformed. The Google search results does not change often to ensure their users receive the most relevant results. Lastly, genuine agencies which offer SEO promise achievable results and deliver within a given time frame. Don’t fall for scams such as these
The solution isn’t as simple as knowing which agency is genuine in their practices, but rather it’s understanding the entire process of SEO. Ideal SEO done by a competent team takes at most 6-8 months, with notable results seen as early as 3 months. That means any SEO action done further than these established months are pointless and ineffective.
If you’re looking to avoid running into this problem, then consider taking matters into your own hands by having an in-house SEO team dedicated to your brand. Well, the word team is a bit of a stretch. A single person who is experienced in SEO can handle 6-8 brands by themselves, so a single brand is manageable.
Traditional SEO Is Outdated
- SEO constantly changes based on consumer demands
- Modern SEO has an edge over traditional SEO
- New techniques are developed based on changes in Google’s algorithm
- Newer SEO shifts its focuses from keywords to the search user
Everything eventually becomes outdated and has to evolve. SEO is no exception. This, however, does not mean that SEO has become obsolete, but rather it changes while still maintaining its original purpose. SEO as a whole is simply a process which has various techniques to achieve the desired result; to boost your website’s rankings.
Again, as SEO is the easiest scam to pull off, it’s quite common. This point, in particular, is difficult to even to pick up on. I decided to separate this issue from the above point about SEO not being a lifetime process, as there was enough of a difference and an ample amount of information.
To clarify, SEO itself is not outdated but the techniques used to achieve results. Traditional SEO works after the keyword structure on the page is established, which is then followed by link building. Compared to modern SEO, where stress is put on engaging with more with the user, which is becoming the main factor determining your webpage ranking, traditional SEO falls out favour.
Traditional and modern SEO has different objectives. The old SEO focuses more on keywords while modern SEO caters to the needs of each specific user. Now, this is where the problem begins to arise from both sides.
Clients and even agencies who are not up to speed with the latest SEO trends will continue to believe that their traditional methods ae adequate when in reality its damaging the brand’s ranking and visibility rather than boosting it.
Agencies which knowingly offer outdated SEO use terms to offer results which were once effective and possible. Terms such as keyword surfing, trading backlinks, and anything known as black hat techniques. Avoid black hat techniques at all times.
If you’re looking for short term benefits, (which if you are, you should probably hire an SEO consultant), then it is effective. However, continuous use of these techniques may end up hurting your ranking or get your website removed from the listing.
This scam will be similar to the study in the point above, as it is the same clothing brand which we worked with. The agency handling them employed the outdated techniques we mentioned above and they continued to do so for an extended period of time.
This not only achieved absolutely nothing but instead reversed the brand ranking in the search engine. Due to the lack of SEO occurring on their website, their rankings began to be pushed back.
During the times when reporting was due, this agency would begin jamming as many keywords as they possibly could into their articles and backlinking. As stated above, this provided a temporary boost in rankings
So instead of driving traffic, increased web presence and the ranking of your website, wrong SEO can either make your progress stagnant or force your website to perform in an undesirable way on search engines.
The solution here isn’t as clear cut as the rest of the list. As SEO continues to change due to the updates done Google’s algorithm, SEO will forever be dynamic. So, in order to stay on top of your SEO game and avoid any potential vulnerability, the only option is to brush up on the latest trends of SEO.
SEO is progressively blurring the lines and combining with other elements of digital marketing, namely social media. Social media has become an integral part of SEO as they go hand in hand when it comes to the overall customer experience.
A strong SEO strategy knows that content is king and they follow through with killer blogs and social media posts. If you haven’t caught on yet, good content equals engagement amongst you and your audience.
So to summarize, modern SEO has the edge over traditional SEO due to the changing needs of consumers and the modification of Google’s algorithm. To stay ahead of the game, begin adopting newer SEO practices and execute a strategy within a given time frame to see the best of results. If by any chance, noticeable results aren’t seen, just know something fishy is going on.
Social Media Marketing Lies
- Social media is a brand’s main platform to convey their communication and engage with their audience
- There are approaches to take when creating a social media strategy, such as pull and push method
- Good content determines your success on social media
- Know what your audience wants and tweak your strategy accordingly
In this section, we’re going to talk about two scams commonly seen being used by agencies, namely: The wrong social media strategy and how they use the budget given to them, which will be mentioned in the latter part of this study.
Getting into the social media game is a steep slope to climb, but once you pick up momentum, you’ll see a steady rise in sales. Social media has risen in the ranks of business strategies as the internet evolved and more people began to connect with one another. Now social media is one of the most prominent plat forms for marketing and communicating with your audience.
Knowing your audience is key for your business to succeed. The last thing your audience wants is to see irrelevant content when they followed you for a specific type of content.
As a brand, it is your responsibility to post meaningful, relevant content and interact with your audience. However, that does not mean that more is better.
A common strategy pushed by brands is “consistency”. In this strategy employed by them, their goal is to push out as many posts in a single month. This could range from 30 to an upwards of 45.
What many agencies and firms fail to understand is that more does not equal better. This is the result of misinterpreting the strategy of consistency. Often, stress is put on consistent posting rather than the quality of the posts being churned out.
Some brands, especially startups need to understand that people aren’t bothered with the amount of posts you can post in a given time period. Instead, people are looking for quality rather than quantity. They’re looking for content which they find related, share-worthy and meaningful.
Moving onto the problem of budget now, for clients, it’s important that they update themselves on the intricates of social media. I’m talking about social media ads, budget meant for collaborators and overall transparency. If you aren’t asking to be made a moderator on platforms and for detailed reports of the expenditure, you’re inviting agencies to continue their malicious practices.
It’s common for agencies to pitch to bigger companies because that’s an opportunity to expand the company’s portfolio and get a bigger account. There are instances where agencies over pitch and promise results which will be difficult to achieve. In this particular case with a builder client, this agency pitched for impossible results and did not attempt to follow through. Some of the promises were the amount of followers they would gain, the engagement rate and overall increased brand awareness. Their reasoning was that they would be posting 45 posts in a single month.
Once they were given the mandate to handle the account, they began drafting their communication strategy. Unfortunately, it took a different direction from the original pitch. Their posts and performance didn’t sync up with what they promised and by the end of the year, their strategy added no value to the brand’s social media. Saying they underperformed would be an understatement.
Evaluating this scam, we can learn a few things. Firstly, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re still thinking of being on-boarded by such companies, research about their track record. Secondly, test their understanding about your brand extensively to see whether or not they’re on the same page as you. Lastly, transparency is important as always. Monthly reports aren’t enough. Communicating daily with the social media team is key to ensuring quality posts with the correct communication goes out in a timely fashion.
Social media marketing is not direct marketing. Use the method of pull, rather than push. If every post of your brand is shoving products to buy, people will get fed up. It’ll also come across as a desperate attempt. Instead, look for opportunities to create a buzz around your brand, strengthening brand recall and delivering content which is appealing to your target audience.
An example of handles which don’t post often but hit hard when they do is Fevicol on Instagram and Mumbai Police on Twitter. What could be so interesting about a glue brand and the police account for Mumbai? It’s the fact that when they post, its share-worthy content, witty, and to an extent, unexpected. This further cements the people’s love for humorous and engaging content.
So how can you find the ideal social media strategy for your brand? First things first, find the sweet spot of what you can and can’t do. I’m talking about figuring what you’re allowed to say, what you can project and what your brand can stand for. From there, your priority becoming relevant.
Today, the user decides whether a brand lives or die on social media due to how they can easily tweak their feeds. A few taps and they may never see content which opposes their views again. Which brings me to my point, appeal to a niche first, and then branch out to a more general audience once you begin picking up momentum. The most important ingredient to success is a middle ground between client and agency.
Being Uninformed About Performance Marketing Is Dangerous
- Performance marketing shifting the industry towards data-driven marketing
- Performance marketing is creating optimized strategies catered towards your brand
- Impressions and engagement are rendered obsolete in favour of leads and sales
- Compared to other forms of marketing, performance marketing is prefered as it puts the advertising back in control
Advertising is turning more towards data-driven marketing and is growing exponentially. Performance marketing in a sense puts the advertiser back in control. Advertisers only pay for visitors who have clicked or completed a certain action on the website, rather than paying for impressions.
So with all that said, what are the disadvantages of performance marketing? The major downside is the fact that there needs to be prior knowledge about performance marketing. Only then can you begin converting clicks into leads.
If you begin mindlessly pumping in money without setting up a proper campaign which targets the correct audience, you’re going to lose money. Thankfully, once an expert is brought on board, performance marketing can begin to become highly profitable.
Performance marketing is extensive and has so many components which makes it understandably difficult to understand. This is especially true for people who haven’t been formally taught about it. This is where problems begin to arise.
As stated above, the underlining problem stems from not knowing the precise details about performance marketing and its tools. So-called performance marketing “specialists” begin asking questions regarding performance marketing and strike when their target isn’t up to speed. Impressions and engagement aren’t the main focus of performance marketing. Instead, conversions and leads are stressed upon because at the end of the day, its the amount of sales generated which matters the most.
Moving onto performance marketing tools, a Facebook pixel is quite common. A Facebook pixel is a piece of code which you can add to your website to help track conversions, optimize ads, build target audiences for future campaigns and remarketing.
The thing some agencies do is offer research and an audit of your brand while still using their own pixel. Their pixel then captures all the data about your audience and keeps it stored for future campaigns. This practice is considered highly unethical. Blatant thievery of data and complete lack of transparency is completely unacceptable.
Amongst some agencies, they purposely exclude clients access to Ad Manager’s dashboard. Why you ask? It’s due to the fact that such agencies spend only a fraction of the budget they’re given. The rest is taken for themselves.
This was the case for one of our current clients. One of the performance marketing agencies handling their brand conveniently left out the fact that there was a dashboard. Dashboard are used to view the complete spending of campaigns. They, of course, made false reports which claimed the entire budget was used for the ads.
In addition to this already precedented scam, instead of genuinely speaking of performance marketing, they instead shifted the focus on impressions and engagement. This lack of transparency is completely unethical. So, once this brand began realizing the practices they’ve been conducting, the agency dropped them as a client. This haulted operations and the brand was at a standstill.
The indisputable fact is that digital marketers need to learn and understand how performance marketing works. Without prior knowledge, you lose that competitive edge over your competition. Becoming well-versed in performance marketing will open you up a new realm of possibilities. Things such as lead generation and conversion will be easier to achieve .
The simple solution is being aware, but the more in-depth solution lies in demanding for deliverables. Primarily, a media plan. A media plan is an overview of the sales forecast, allocated resources and the end goal made by the agency. Media plans are important because it gives a visual representation of the goals which are to be achieved, the allocation of resources and the forecast of sales.
Media plans don’t have to be complicated and can be prepared with relative ease. This just goes to show that not everything in digital marketing has to be complicated and elaborate. If you are looking for a more deeper dive into performance marketing, here is the perfect blog explaining its intricacies.
We hope those who have made it this far have learned something and become more aware! Of course, we provide all the services on this list and have worked very closely with each client. If you’re interested in our services, we’d be happy to make a connection!
Again, this article was not intended to call out any certain agency or client. Agencies were left unnamed as a sign of respect to their privacy. This list was purely to educate both clients and upcoming agencies looking to perfect their practices.