The Internet has been good for many different businesses, from small local ones to global corporates. But while there are plenty of successes, there are also an enormous amount of failures. It’s not hard to work out why. After all, there are only ten spots on the first page of Google, no matter what industry you are in.

But there is also a lot of conflicting information out there for small and large businesses alike. And it’s all too easy to find yourself hoodwinked by your local ‘digital marketing’ expert who acts like he has all the answers, but is either chancing his arm or is a lot more clueless than he is letting on.

So, what can business owners do if their digital marketing is failing? Well, you can start here with these basic principles of making the internet work for you, rather than spending a lot of money on practices that just don’t give you a return on your investment. Let’s take a look at some of the basics.

Measuring is key

As a business, you have to measure all your successes – and your failures – if you want to make progress. However, there are far too many rookie entrepreneurs out there that pay for a website, set up a Facebook page, and try and engage people through Linkedin that just don’t seem to bother when it comes to digital measurements. It’s vital that if this sounds familiar, you make a significant change.

Every single channel you have on the internet can be tracked and traced to the nth degree. And if you aren’t putting all this important data to good use – by building up a picture of your customers, for example, then you won’t get good results with your digital campaigns. Not only will measuring your Google Analytics and Facebook Insights tell you where you are going right, but they can also tell you where you are going wrong. And ultimately, that means you will be saving a lot of wasted time, energy and money on campaigns and projects that just aren’t worth it.

Email is essential

Email marketing may seem like an outdated technique these days, but it’s so effective and powerful that you would be foolish to ignore it. Put simply; it’s one of the best tools at your disposal Email enables you to control pretty much everything about your marketing campaign, from the content you create for specific customers to the time you send it in the day.

Again, measuring your results is key, as is performing A/B testing to help you get better opening and click-through rates. It’s also great for reminding people – old customers, for example – that you are still around and worth visiting. It’s relatively easy to get started, to – try a service like MailChimp.

Traffic is important – but not like you think

Another big issue with many faux digital marketers and inexperienced SEO experts is that they seem obsessed with delivering traffic, traffic, traffic. But while traffic is a good thing overall, it’s certainly not the be all and end all. It’s the quality of the traffic that counts.

Put it this way – which is best? The website that gets ten visits a week, resulting in seven sales? Or the one that gets a hundred thousand visitors a week and only a couple of sales? It’s OK to push your business and try and dig up some more traffic, for sure. But you also have to combine that tactic with converting those visitors into customers. So, think about that the next time someone promises to get you to the number one ranking on Google.

You partner with a generalist

A lot of third-party marketing and SEO firms will happily take any business that comes their way. But will they be effective? Perhaps, but it’s an incredibly big risk involved, and you could end up regretting it.

The reality is that law firms require different digital and social media strategies than restaurants. And a child entertainer will need a different type of digital marketing presence than an accounting company. So, try and find the marketing firm that has a focus on your industry and that also has proven results.

You think social media is free advertising

When social media first sprung up, it promised a new dawn for businesses. ‘Now, you can advertise for free,’ said almost everyone. Well, that didn’t turn out to be quite so true, did it?

In fact, while it is possible to get a lot of exposure on Facebook and Twitter, it won’t be free – it will either cost you in money, or time. Sure, social media has a place – and a good place, at that. But whether it is the platform that will give you the results you need is always going to be debatable.

You set it and forget it

Finally, don’t assume that a digital marketer will come in to give you a hand, improve your results, and then you can get rid of them. The internet is an always-evolving beast, and the reality is that it needs constant care and attention if you want to get half decent results. Without a doubt, it’s a long-game scenario. And whether you are looking to get results from content marketing or SEO, it’s going to take some time.

There is another side to this, of course. Many small business owners hire people to help with their digital marketing, and don’t see any results at all – and they give up the ghost. Not only is this a waste of money in the short-term, but long-term it hands a huge opportunity for their competitors. Instead, focus on creating consistent – and aggressive – marketing and advertising online to achieve – and retain – better results.

As we discussed in the intro, the Internet has the power to transform your business. But the reality is that it won’t happen by accident – only by design. And if you want to showcase your business in front of as many interested people as possible, and turn them into loyal customers, then you need to think carefully about the people you hire to help, and your overall strategy.