There’s no shortage of information telling online marketers what they should be doing. After all, everyone wants to be at the top of their game and best practice stuff really helps – but I rarely ever see a list of some of the DON’Ts.

So I made one. It should hopefully help you continue to steer clear of the online marketing taboos… If you are doing any of this, then shame on you.

1. More stuffing than Christmas

Keyword stuffing of URLs and page content is something that Econsultancy has covered time and time again, yet some people still insist on doing it. It’s pretty unethical, and also carries quite heavy penalties if you get caught. (And it’s likely you will).

On top of this, stuffing is ridiculously dated and adds little, if no value, to rankings today. 

2. Spam, spam, spam

Not all spam comes from the expected stereotypical senders and not all of it is through email. People sometimes seem to forget this. The very definition of spam is that of “a disruptive commercial message”. (Interestingly, ISOC claims that the term comes from the canned-meat counterpart and a Monty Python sketch).

I never cease to be surprised by the sheer amount of disruptive messages that companies insist on sending me. Email, Twitter, IM services and SMS have all fallen victim to poorly targeted, badly-thought-out advertising efforts.

Just think before you start blindly throwing marketing messages around – it’s bloody annoying for the recipient on the other end.

3. Efforts to link-build

I always find it incredibly irritating when people post comments of little value on blogs and in forums. You see it everywhere – and despite the fact that there’s very little value being added to a discussion, it’s clear that people are engaging in this as some half-baked effort to link-build.

Yes, outbound links help SEO, but it’s not going to help you very much when no-follow is in place, as it is across Econsultancy’s site.

Having said that, I’m sometimes darkly amused when so-called “SEO-professionals” (they’re really not) are the ones pulling this kind of stunt. Even if you are able to create live links, then comments of little value, or blatant sales-pitches where they’re not needed are annoying. Stop it, dammit. 

4. Paying to fail

Paid search has been around for a while and although you can do some fancy stuff, the fundamental basics have pretty much stayed the same for quite a few years. So why do people insist on making such a mess of it?

If you’re not the user, then this can sometimes be pretty funny. Your PPC Sucks has some great examples, but even with supposed safeguards such as Quality Score, you can still wind up landing on a totally irrelevant page or being shown an ad that isn’t particularly helpful to your search query.

I suppose that any advertisers doing this literally do pay for their slackness, as any clicks made will pretty much be dead money, so it’s not exactly great tactics. 

5. The grass is always greener

I think it’s hilarious when people get caught out astroturfing, no matter what the medium. However, no matter how amusing the backlash when those doing it get rumbled, from a marketing perspective – especially if it’s a commercial organisation doing it – it’s technically lying to customers, which definitely isn’t a laughing matter.

In a time where social media is enjoying a massive uptake, the need for honesty and transparency from companies is all the greater, as the repercussions can be extremely damaging. 

6. Pop-ups be damned

Intrusive advertising is just plain annoying. I doubt there’s a user out there who actually likes it, yet it still seems to be plaguing the internet.

This obviously means some advertisers somewhere still think they’re a good idea. They’re not. Pop-ups, pop-unders, floating ads, whatever… they annoy the hell out of users and grating potential customers isn’t really an ideal thing to be doing in marketing.

7. Bunny-boiling 

Scaring potential customers through bad messaging is definitely not the way to make a sale. For example, I get a little freaked out if I abandon a checkout and instantly have some kind of passive-aggressive marketing message appear on my screen or inbox asking why I decided not to buy anything.

Use nice words, not obsessive, aggressive or stalker-like language. This doesn’t necessarily just apply to websites and it seems to be a major sticking point for a great number of organisations operating online. 

8. Did you not see Pinocchio?

Just please, don’t lie. It gives marketers a bad name. I’ve genuinely seen online marketing material that’s bordering between misleading and being a downright porky-pie, and I’d say that this pretty much falls into the lying category too.

Not only are you going to upset customers and give yourself a bad name, in some instances, it’s likely to be breaking any number of trading laws and it’ll probably come back at you.

9. ”Hold on lads, I’ve got an idea”

Innovation and inspiration is great in digital marketing. Hell, it’s great across any marketing. But when an organisation dives into something without the proper planning or strategy, this will generally result in chaos, mess and massive failings. 

Citing the usual social-media case studies is easy enough, but it applies across all digital channels, from mobile through to email. Slow down, think it through and put in the proper time. There’s enough bad examples to encourage people to at least try to get things right. 

What did I miss? What terrible tactics have you seen and what poor methods would you advise digital marketers to avoid? Comments below, please!

[Image via Anastacia Haddon]