Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, February 28, 2002

38 Web Marketing Myths

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How much of your online marketing assumptions are "givens" without much extra thought or know-how about them?

How many of the popular marketing strategies are really effective?

How much of the traditional marketing approach can be applied to online marketing efforts?

I have taken pleasure in collecting and editing the following list of Web marketing myths that I want to dismantle and present to you in their true light.

For each one I have outlined the popular myth, the actual reality and the morale, or what should be done to be effective.


Myth #1: The Internet is a mass market

Reality: The Internet is a market of individuals and businesses. This is the perfect one-to-one media ever invented. All can have access to your information, but each one uses the Internet and e-mail to filter out and select what exactly fits and solves their immediate problems and needs.

Morale: All effective online marketing strategies should take the individual into account and define their goals according to a very specific market niche and a very specific targeted user profile. All strategies should revert to the opposite of what is done when in presence of a mass market.


Myth #2: Advertising is the key marketing strategy

Reality: Being a mass marketing approach online advertising in the form of banner ads, interstitials and e-mail ads, is counterproductive and ineffective.

This is the old and true lesson of usability guru Mr. Jakob Nielsen contained e.g. in his Alertbox of September 1, 1997: "Why advertising doesn't work on the Web", available at

Users search on the Internet for the content they need and they do not like to be distracted from this focused mission.

Morale: Focus on alternative cybermarketing strategies including Search Engine Marketing, Newsletter publishing, Strategic Partnerships, Rich and relevant content publishing, where the marketing strategy meets user search for a specific solution.


Myth #3: A message to be heard must be louder, longer, and more frequent than the competing ones. So you suppose your Web site should be

Reality: This works well in a medium like television or radio where within limited information sources to be received passively compete for my attention and time. In a user-centered medium like the Web, where the customer is actively seeking for a solution or a supplier of such the message DOES NOT need to be louder or more colorful.

Morale: It needs to be rather clear, exhaustive, credible, supported, well organized, referenced, and up-to-date. None of what we have been used to do when marketing through advertising.


Myth #4: Most Website traffic comes from the search engines

Reality: This can be true or not depending on your online marketing strategy. You are in total control of where the traffic to your Web site will be coming from and you can direct and design your marketing strategy to work in the direction that you want.

In many cases, where a Web site does not actively pursue search engine marketing with a specific editorial and design policy-line, the majority of traffic would normally come from linking strategies, strategic alliances, ad campaigns (banners, text links, buttons, sponsorships, autoresponders, etc) and affiliates.

Morale: Your online marketing strategy should include a mix of strategies and techniques that embrace powerful linking strategies and business partnerships, publication of uniquely valuable content for free, distribution of a qualified newsletter, provision of a useful tool or service, participation in discussion groups, mailing lists and forums relevant to your market niche.


Myth # 5: Search engine marketing can be done in house with a low budget

Reality: A serious search engine marketing strategy requires today a minimum of $ 1,000 dollars for search engine and directory placement and probably several hundreds or thousands more to improve and optimize the editorial design and content of your Web site.

Morale: Search engine marketing requires serious money and time to be effectively implemented. Less and less search engines will provide free services in the future, though this would stem many ethical issues about the credibility of the results they provide. It is to be expected overall that the cost of online marketing will gradually increase with time.


Myth #6: Advertising banners work

Reality: Banner ads do not work. Their dismal clickthrough rate (the frequency with which people effectively click on banner ads) that they can provide to an online marketing campaign makes them useful only for large corporations and business which still rely on traditional branding and attention-grabbing methods to attract customers. In most cases a banner clickthrough are above 0,5% is to be considered good. At this rate campaigns that produce some relevant results can become very costly.

Morale: Banners should only be used by big companies for branding and hyperinflating IPO prices, Banners suck. Free banners suck for free. The trick is to have banner ads that are very specific and highly targeted.


Myth #7: Just by having a Web site online hundreds of potential customers will automatically come by

Reality: By having a Web site online you are guaranteed no targeted visitors at all, outside to the circle of friends and business colleagues to whom you have communicated the new Web address.

You will be surprised to how difficult it is to bring targeted traffic to your Web site unless you take a proactive stance and start designing your online marketing strategy in detail.

Morale: Include online marketing in your Web design and publishing workflow. Expect good results after serious and continued efforts.


Myth #8: The creation of a Web site is something relatively easy and by having a little knowledge of HTML or FrontPage almost anybody can do it

Reality: To build a serious Web site you need a serious team. Technology and design are not enough. The Web is a communication and interactive medium and words and content play a very important role in what can be achieved through a Web site.

Morale: Count on having a multidisciplinary team working at preparing a Web site that really brings good results. You can buy this outside or use what you have in-house.


Myth #9: All Websites get listed in the search engines

Reality: There are just too many Web pages out there for anyone search engine to realize you have come alive unless there is a process that tells it that your Web site now exist.

Morale: Today, you can pay for this service at major search destinations like Yahoo!, AltaVista or Lycos or you can submit your free request to be "indexed" to the major search engines and directories hoping that they will take up your request in due time.

Finally, by providing links from sites that are already indexed by Google or other search engines you guarantee a solid possibility that the search engine will follow those links and come to see and index your Web site as well.


Myth #10: To be found on the major search engines one must pay a "placement" fee to be included

Reality: Yes, you need to do so to appear or be indexed by Yahoo!, LookSmart, Inktomi, Lycos and Altavista.

No cost involved in getting indexed by Google and AlltheWeb, or reviewed by ODP.

Morale: Yahoo! may be actually the only directory worth paying for.


Myth #11: Search engines are the key most effective strategy to build a profitable business online

Reality: Don't count on all of your traffic coming from search engines, or from a banner ad campaigns for that matter, or even from hours spent promoting yourself in the discussion groups.

There are indeed many alternative ways in which prospective customers can arrive to your Web site. All of them contribute to create an effective and profitable business online.

Morale: Adopt several complementary cybermarketing techniques including:

Newsletter publishing Free research papers Contributions to prestigious discussion lists Strategic link exchanges Writing reviews of other qualified players in the industry etc? When you are starting out, you need in fact to spread your marketing efforts over a wide range of techniques.

Get your Website listed with the search engines, get your name into some high profile discussion groups, experiment with banner ads, test classified ads, develop an ezine, joint venture, work out a link exchange campaign, start an affiliate program, send out press releases on and offline, write articles, barter, etc!


Myth #12: There are definite strategies and solutions to carry out effective online marketing campaigns

Reality: This is the new frontier. There are no set rules and preconceived realities. We are building it right now. Whoever sells you that the Internet is no different than the traditional world we live in is right only in the fact that humans are at foundation of both.

New methods and approaches are defined and discovered as you read now, and the pace at which one will have to keep up with the ways in which one can be effective in this new communication world is steadily increasing.

Morale: There are no definitive methods or rules. Never stop testing and never stop experimenting with new ways to bring traffic to your site. You need to monitor your results again and again, ever ready to modify, adapt your approach to new developments.


Myth #13: Traffic is KING on the Web. The more traffic you have on a Web site the better

Reality: What is the advantage of having thousands of visitors per day if none of them buys your products or services?

The most important thing is in fact not how many people come to your Web site but how many of these people become your customers by purchasing your services AFTER they have come to your Web site. In this light having great traffic does not correspond with profitability or success.

The bare cost of providing infrastructure to a professional Web site (hosting, maintenance, tracking services, editorial work, etc.) will gradually drive you out of business.

Morale: What you want at your Web site is TARGETED TRAFFIC. Focus. Focus. Focus.


Myth #14: To be found on the major search engines it is essential to utilize the keywords meta tag in your HTML pages

Reality: The keyword meta tag is essentially useless. Most search engines have dropped analylizing its content due to the high amount of spamming and unethical marketing that had been carried through its use by unscrupulous marketers.

Most of the major search engines do not recognize meta tags at all. While you do need meta tags for the search engines that DO recognize them, search engine algorithms take all sorts of other information into account when ranking your Web pages. Each search engine is different. You need to pay attention to the specifics of each one, and optimize your site for them all.

Morale: Do not focus on meta tags or stuffing keywords on your Web pages to achieve good search engine position results. Focus, rich and relevant content and appropriate titling of your pages is what is required to achieve top ranking on most search engines.


Myth #15: To bring potential customers from Internet search engines one should submit the Web site to as many search engines as possible

Reality: Only a handful of search engines can carry relevant traffic to your Web site on a steady basis. These are Yahoo!, Google, MSN, AOL, AlltheWeb, Lycos.

Morale: It is useless and at times even counterproductive to submit your site to more than a few of the major search engines and directories. Focus your efforts in being present in those major search engines at all costs.


Myth #16: Off the shelf software that submits a site to thousands of search engines can do it all

Reality: "Submit your Web site to over 10,000 search engines and watch your traffic soar!" Most of you have seen a message like this show up at one time or another in your e-mail inbox. Nothing could be farther than truth than believing that these tools can do something useful for your Web site. It sickens me to know that so many companies are literally robbing you of your hard-earned dollars by convincing you that these services will boost your traffic.

It takes a tremendous amount of labor and time to identify keywordphrases (not just words), optimize the content for these keyphrases and then making the major search engines aware of this new content available online.

Morale: Software can certainly help automate some facets of the process and be used for backend analysis. But you can't expect any application to make the job easy, there is too much inherent complexity in the processes.

Competition for keyword sets is fierce, as there are over 15 million registered domains with 60,000 new domains being registered every day.


Myth #17: Banner and link exchanges, FFA free for all lists can bring valuable traffic to a Web site

Reality: Most banner and link exchange networks provide very little or no traffic back to your site. On top your Web site visitors have to be annoyed by advertising banners that may not be relevant to their specific interests. Last you are giving up valuable content space, possibly on your home page, just to have a little more traffic back to you.

Morale: Not worth the efforts, the annoyance created to your visitors, and the good space given up on your home page. Work on linking strategically to true partners and allies that can complement your offerings.


Myth #18: On the Web it is difficult to find you

Reality: This is totally dependent on how your Web site is designed and constructed. If well prepared any Web page can become easily found on the Web. With the same simplicity there exist thousands of Web pages that out of ignorance or deficiencies in their content or design have become virtually impossible to be accessed by search engines.

Morale: Make sure your Web pages are designed and constructed in ways that allow the major search engines to index them easily. Do not utilize dynamic generated pages that contain question marks in their syntax and avoid having pages that are linked only to one place in your Web site. The more in-linking to them the more probabilities of being indexed.


Myth #19: There is no foot traffic on the Web: people need to see your Web address somewhere else, and then decide to get in touch.

Reality: Potential new customers are searching now on the Web for the type of services you presently offer. Potential customers arrive at finding their solution suppliers by word of mouth, links from other sites, reading articles that reference you and most than any of these by searching for what they need on the major search engines and directories.

Morale: Make your Web site easy to be found. Create valuable linking strategies. Offer quality products and content so that people will recommend you to others.


Myth #20: There's a market of 600 million people on the Web

Reality: While there are indeed 600 million and growing users of the Internet you cannot and should not try to reach them as if they were one market. The Internet is an infrastructure allowing individuals and companies to communicate and interact more easily with each other. There is a market of one multiplied 600 million times on the Web.

Morale: Create and provide services that are specific to your own specialized niche, and design your products and services in ways that can be easily customized and personalized by the customer.


Myth #21: You can advertise to millions people on the Internet for very little money

Reality: Many of you might have received junk claiming to help you cash in on the Internet. They have proclaimed fancy slogans like: "Advertise to 90 million+ for just $20 per month". While it is indeed true that there are several vendors trying to sell CD-ROMs with millions of e-mail addresses I would be very wary of how happy those e-mail recipients are happy to know they have ended up in that CD-ROM.

I personally trash every single spam e-mail I receive before even opening it. I also report to official authorities as much spam and junk e-mail originators I can. I really do not see how one can have an ethical business and happy customers while sending unsolicited e-mail to its prospective clients.

Morale: Do not seriously consider utilizing or purchasing e-mail lists that do not guarantee that full permission was granted by the recipients (single or double opt-in) to receive these promotions, and that do not provide you the option of selecting recipients on very specific characteristics they have expressed.


Myth #22: Your market is the same market you had yesterday--the only difference with being on the Web is that now people can reach you through the Web

Reality: Your online market is not the same you have known until now. Your potential customers can come now from great distances and can speak different languages. They have very specific needs and want them solved right now.

The amount o attention to detail, usability and reliability has to be much higher than in a physical interaction where you can make up for your handicaps with your actual just-in-time actions and words.

Morale: The Internet is not your traditional neighborhood market though many of the same interaction rules would apply. Focus on identifying your very specific niche market and work at targeting it systematically.


Myth #23: The Web is Visual Medium

Reality: The Web is a content medium. Yes, it can sport images, graphics, animation, video and music, but all of these should only come as a complement or support for text content that can be easily read and understood. Images without content explaining and tagging their specific characteristics is next to useless.

The visual side of the Web needs to wait for a time in which accessing a Web page with graphics and video takes the same amount of time and effort as accessing a simple text page like this one.

Morale: Do not focus too much of your Web design energies in decorating your Web site with graphics, visuals and photos. Make a higher priority that the content is really up to what your readers are expecting, and work at it as to offer something unique and useful for them.

Even when possible, offer always an alternative text-only view of your Web page to those customers accessing your site from remote locations or having a very slow connection speed (there are still many of them, especially in emerging markets).


Myth #24: The Web serves the same purpose as radio and television at a cheaper cost

Reality: Radio and television are mass marketing mediums. They are top-down, mostly one-way, and offer standardized programming for all viewers independent of demographics, location, language or taste.

The Internet and the Web are the opposite: bottom-up (when appropriately used), two-way communications, and the opportunity for customized content and personalized views.

Morale: Do not treat Web publishing and marketing as you treat radio and television marketing. This is a completely different arena.


Myth #25: Designing a Web site is a technology Issue

Reality: Designing a great Website is a communications issue: what do you want to say, and whom do you want to say it to?

Morale: Do not think and design your Web site by deciding which technology, language, database and server OS you are going to use.

Design and decide around whom your customers are and what they will want to do when at your Web site. Make technology subordinate to customer interaction experience. Content focus, style and organization should be your driving forces.


Myth #26: Leads coming from the search engines are not as good as those that originate from traditional marketing media (print, radio, TV, direct mail, PR, etc.)

Reality: Simply not true. Leads coming from the major search engines and directories are only as good as the content, keyphrases and service category in which you have purposely or unconsciously utilized for your Web site.

Morale: Leads from search engines can be an order of magnitude more targeted than the ones coming from any other medium.

By providing specific focus, highly relevant content and appropriate titling, search engines can indeed bring to you highly selected and pre-filtered targeted customers.


Myth #27: Effective search engine marketing has to be contracted to outside specialists

Reality: Most companies delegate the search engine submissions to the Webmaster or Web site development staff and they just don't have the time to understand the daunting complexities required to generate ranking in the top three pages, or to stay abreast of the shifting submissions and ranking criteria standards, as modified monthly by top-tier search engines.

Morale: Search Engine Marketing can be carried out in-house when your company treats this with the same importance and priority as it treats content development and interface design. SEM is effective when an appropriate strategy is in place and especially when the site has been designed and developed with the search engines in mind from the beginning.


Myth #28: Effective search engine marketing can be done in-house

Reality: In many companies the search engine ranking is added to the overworked Webmaster's tasks purely as an afterthought, as opposed to being addressed formally by the marketing department with dedicated personnel and a budget.

The sheer complexity and online competition for rankings makes this extremely difficult for most companies. More than 70 percent of corporate accounts don't understand the basic fundamentals; i.e., how to properly use keywords, META tags and titles, and worse, don't submit their Web sites to top tier directories (Yahoo!, LookSmart, OPD) and the hundreds of second-tier directories.

Morale: Unless you are prepared, up-to-date, and with lots of extra time to devote to this, going to the experts, to SEM specialists or getting some outside help can indeed be a wiser move for serious marketers online.


Myth #29: Just by being listed on the search engines will suffice in bringing targeted traffic to your Web site

Reality: This is a misconception. Unless your Web pages are capable not only of being indexed by the major search engines but are able also to show up in the first page of results displayed there s very little chance that searchers will find your Web site listing and click on to it. Most people never drill down below the results on page one.

Morale: You really need to show up on top of search engine listings to obtain any amount of relevant traffic from the Web. Thus good research and editorial work has to be done to identify the specific "knowledge niche" in which you have strong competency and little competition and then to editorially paint your content and titles accordingly.


Myth #30: Competition is at the heart of all successful marketing practices

Reality: Collaboration, partnership, alliance and networking, not competition, are required in this new information and exchange age. You can create valuable and unique alliances with other organizations, institutions and businesses who can help meet your customers' needs that are outside of your key businesses' focus.

Morale: The creation of strategic alliances and business partnerships with companies that truly complement and make your offering more specialized and unique.


Myth #31: Companies have to send messages to customers

Reality: This is the old way of marketing and pushing down information to so-called "consumers". Today customers do not want to be told what they have to buy and why your product/service is the best. They want to have the ability to select and choose based on the pragmatical and detailed information you can make available.

Morale: The Web is an interactive medium. Make sure your customers can easily find what they are looking for, and that they can also contribute to what you are creating by having a part in it. Allow customers to talk to each other, to review your products without censorship, and to talk to your experts directly.


Myth #32: Any Web site can produce millions in revenues if well promoted

Reality: Most Web sites never make any money. Those who do, do so because day after day, they have nurtured all of the marketing ingredients that make a site successful. Uniqueness, capability to listen, high quality of customer service, visibility, rich and relevant content, strong and strategic alliances, trust and credibility are the key ingredients. With them it is possible to build a successful online community that sells great products or services.

Morale: Work patiently at building a Web site that is strategically designed to be Blaster Site. Study, understand, adopt and integrate all of the marketing ingredients suggested in MOTO and give proper time to cook. As with any business, it usually takes times to build up your online business, just as it does to build an off-line business.


Myth #33: No one makes money online

Reality: There are indeed many organizations and institutions making money online. Contrary to what you may think these are generally small to medium sized businesses or organizations. Their size and flexibility has allowed them to move more swiftly and faster in understanding the requirements and strategies to be adopted in marketing online.

Morale: To make money online you have to have a precise business plan, a small and swift operative team, and a knowledge niche in which you are a true expert authority.


Myth #34: On the Internet your should try to serve as many possible audiences as possible

Reality: Trying to sell to everyone means you sell to no one. If your Web site tries to sell too many items or services to too many specific audiences it may never succeed at serving well anyone of them.

Morale: The only successful strategy that can be replicated again and again on the Internet is one of identifying uniquely valuable knowledge niches and filling them with valuable content, appropriate products and services, high quality customer service and the other ingredients of the 7-point Blaster Methodology.


Myth #35: Nobody Can Find You On The Internet

Reality: People can only find you if you have designed your Web site to become visible on the major search engines and by having paid due inclusion/submission/review fees at those search engines and major directories that require it.

Morale: Work on make your Web site visible to the major search engines and submit to the major directories. At Yahoo, Looksmart, Inktomi and a few more, do not hesitate pay the usbmission/reviewing/inclusion fee required.


Myth #36: Free Sells

Reality: Free sells only when it is exceptional value content that is unique and hard to find anywhere else on the Internet. All else is hype.

Nobody really cares about free napkins at the counter.

Morale: Free is highly overrated.


Myth #37: Marketing online is not effective

Reality: It all depends on you. The strategy, implementation, content and time you devote to it make all a critical difference.

Morale: Marketing is as effective as you make it. Study and follow serious and tested online marketing approaches like the ones offered by online marketing gurus as Ken Evoy, Ralph Wilson, the wonderful girls at RankWrite or by listening to our three Experts here.


Myth #38: The best way to create a profitable business online is to look after profits first

Reality: By looking after profits as the key priority companies bump into what dot.coms have been experiencing throughout.

It takes a lot more focus, dedication and true interaction with your audience/community to build a profitable business online.

Most examples of profitable businesses online show a profile of entrepreneurship, love, passion and dedication to a small but highly organized and efficient operation.

If your marketing proposition can be made to fit such profile then you can also reap the great benefits of marketing online.

Morale: You should only work to make your customers happy and satisfied first. Profitability can only happen and follow as a consequence to this. Online the best way to create a profitable business is to make customers happy and loyal.

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posted by Robin Good on Thursday, February 28 2002, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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