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Guiding principles

Any principles or precepts that guide an organization throughout its life in all circumstances, irrespective of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or the top management.

– businessdictionary.com

5 guiding principles for online marketing

Plans change, but principles should remain largely the same since they are based on countless years of experience.

How do I journey through my marketing life? Let’s find out.

1. Less is more

Over time I’ve seen the amount of wasted money in production of content and pages. Someone is paid to produce these – whether freelancer or employee – and they are often measured on the amount they produce, rather than the quality.

Sometimes it can be pressure from management and sometimes pressure from social media who want a new article to promote, but businesses produce volume over quality at their peril.

When was less ever more?

I’ve seen this first hand in my website, where one article generates 35% of the traffic to our blog, and also 3.5% of the inbound links.

If you take all of the writing which we’ve done over the years:

10 articles generate 79% of our blog SEO traffic 79%
20 articles generated 59% of the blog inbound links 59%
  • 10 articles generate 79% of our blog SEO traffic
  • 20 articles generated 59% of the blog inbound links

… and we’ve written over 200 articles! That’s not to say the other 180ish haven’t provided value in other ways, but for links and traffic they haven’t all made it.

2. Strive for 95%

It seems odd for someone to say “don’t strive for 100%”, but bear with me a second.

My project manager background has a real desire for effectiveness and efficiency. Over the years, I’ve found that the last 5-10% can easily take 50% of the effort, and the value delivered for that final few percent is often nearly zero.

In this scenario, you could have two of something at 95%, or one at 100%. The two at 95% will deliver way more value because – outside of doctors or flying planes – people can’t tell the difference between 95% and 100%.

So, keep a sensible eye on value by striving for just below 100%.

What does this mean in practice?

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t bother to line up some elements on a visual design because that’s only a 50% level of perfection.

However, it might mean that a panel of researches to find the right tint of colour is unnecessarily costly. 

Or, in my article on search intent, I provided a quick and dirty method to achieve 80-90% of the benefit for much less effort.

Put into words...

  • Good
  • Great
  • Fantastic
  • Excellent
  • Exceptional
  • Perfection

3. Data trumps opinion

This can be a hard pill for some to swallow. 

If you’re very led by your gut, you may shoot from the hip all of the time, and be uncomfortable with a data based approach. Some people can even take it personally.

As a business owner, it’s very easy to become too close to your product, and forget that your business is there to serve the customer and generate revenue.

And if you’re not sure of something … test it!

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.

Sherlock Holmes

When has this proven itself?

I’ve run dozens of Conversion Rate tests over the years, as have CRO agencies we’ve worked with, and we’ve found that some changes which we were certain would win … in fact lost. 

It’s very hard to exactly predict how people will react to significant page changes. If we had gone forward with those changes, we would have lost the business some value.

There’s no doubt some of the more obvious and best practice changes can just be implemented, but at the level of tuning a website, data rules.

Principles vs. values

Values and principles are linked, but they are not the same. In fact, principles are based on values. They are most easily defined as the rules or beliefs that govern our behaviours. They are typically not moveable.

4. Imagination comes from Freedom

As a creative, I understand that myself and other creatives need to have time to just dream, without the walls which businesses sometimes place on them.

This is where the real genius ideas can come from, whether that’s a way to massage some SEO data to produce the result needed, or a content campaign.

.. and then bringing reality back in again

We do understand that these walls exist, and that we need to stay within them eventually, but boxing the creative process in too early can lead to extremely “by the numbers” solutions.

So I always dream without boundaries and then try to fit the dream back into the boundaries, rather than starting inside the box.

One superb article generates 35% of the traffic to our blog. Now that's a value for money article!

5. Provide value

Finally, this is possibly the most important of all. 

In today’s complex world of social media and search, humans have changed how they engage with the rest of the world. The days are gone where humans are disconnected from each other, and it’s very easy to find out whether a business is providing real value to customers, or not.

Providing value, and demonstrating that value, are key to business growth. The success will follow.

So… why should someone care about your message? The “why” is key. If you can’t answer it, you are likely missing a value proposition. Even if you’re providing content for free, there must be some value to the reader since it is taking their time, and time isn’t free either.

This is in my mind constantly.

To finish

If you’re not sure what your principles are, it might be a good time to take a look. By learning more about the rules we follow every day, we can help find the clients that suit our particular businesses.

And it’s fine that we don’t all run with the same principles, and nor do we need to have a principal battle of any kind. Accept and respect that some businesses aren’t a great fit for us because it’s literally impossible to please everyone and stay true to the marketing principals which you believe in.

Do these principles match your organisation? Let’s take a look at your site.