We hope you’re sitting down because we have something important to tell about digital marketing that will be hard for you to hear.

Actually, we have five important things to say, and they’re all going to be bitter pills to swallow.

But facing these digital marketing hard truths is the only way to stay afloat and efficient when it comes to achieving your online marketing goals in the years ahead. Listening to them will make you a better person and a better marketer

So you may as well get it over with. Here are the five most important digital marketing truths you have to come to grips with, in 2018 and beyond…

1. You Absolutely Need an Ad Budget to Get Any Traction on Social

The concept of social media marketing

Nearly 100% of businesses have strong reasons to be on social. Without a social presence, they miss out on online reach and lead gen capabilities. Their current and potential customers will also think less of a company that doesn’t have an adequate social presence.

Yet, these businesses are at the mercy of constantly changing social platforms. Companies like Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn make major changes to improve the experience for the average user and help the company stock go up.

Notice how business users and advertisers are left out of the equation.

What we’re getting at is this: organic reach is tanking.

You have little chance of your posts showing up on people’s newsfeeds unless you apply some sort of budget to promote your posts. Businesses actively trying to boost conversions may also want to consider paying for banner ad space.

The good news is that even with a small budget you can get great results. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other platforms all have great tools for helping you experiment with audience targeting and other parameters to chase better-optimized performance.

Start using these tools now, or else you won’t get anything out of your social channels. Even a small budget of $75 – $100 a month is enough to learn the ropes and start earning positive results.

2. Vanity Metrics Won’t Get You Anywhere

When doing anything online, you should tie your campaigns to target metrics that directly generate a dollar value — or that at least have a high chance of leading to extra money in the bank.

Yet, too often businesses prioritize vanity metrics. A “vanity metric” can be anything that is easy to measure and that can make you feel good but that ultimately has no connection to higher earnings.

Take this example from Social Media Today. They posted a hilarious meme five years ago that still gets thousands of shares and likes. Periodically, the meme will pick up steam and go viral in connection with the current trending news.

But ultimately the post equals bupkis when it comes to actual marketing performance.

People who engage with or share the post are not likely to visit Social Media Today’s website since the post has no link to speak of. They are also not becoming more aware of the company’s offerings.

So, instead of just focusing on the number of likes and followers you have, think fourth dimensionally. Identify metrics that lead to actual revenue, like demo signups or quote requests.

If you have a part of your marketing funnel that is lagging, then you can also prioritize things like email signups, landing page visits, and shares for your big online promotions.

The bottom line is to think about your bottom line with everything you do.

3. Keeping Up With Digital Marketing Hard Truths Through News, Data and Research is Essential

Reading trends and news via digital media

What worked with digital marketing five years ago may not work today.

Businesses used to get away with poorly written content as long as it had strong keyword signals, but that’s no longer the case. Now, high-quality content that leads to low bounce rates is more important for ranking. You don’t even need the related keyword in the body of your page if your content is strong enough.

A mobile-friendly website was once a nice-to-have, but now it’s essential.

Developments like these don’t come out of thin air. Companies like Google and Facebook will announce most changes well before they take effect.

Other developments, like what factors influence search engine ranking, must be learned through diligent research.

If you don’t keep your ear to the ground and actively search out this information, you will be basing your digital marketing strategy on myth and conjecture. Prioritize staying educated to stay ahead.

4. Bad Reviews Will Tank Your Reputation Unless You Actively Ask for Good Ones

50% of people check online reviews “most of the time” or “always,” but 55% of people say that they “rarely” or “never” leave a review.

This statistic shows that people put a lot of weight on the content of online reviews but usually don’t feel inclined to leave one themselves.

Businesses must therefore actively court reviews from all of their customers. Otherwise, they risk having their review score skewed in favor of people who tend to leave the most reviews: Complainers.

Put another way, you have to keep actively adding to your volume of reviews. Most people who have a pleasant or positive experience will be likely to keep it to themselves unless you directly ask them. Remind them that their opinion is important to you and to others online, and you will see your score remain stable.

5. You Have to Be Constantly Gathering Data and Learning From It to Keep Up

Keeping up with the trends to keep moving forward

Our last home truth is hard to hear because it involves lots of work. Simply put: digital marketing is an ongoing, fairly labor-intensive process.

Most small business owners prefer not to work this way. They want to establish baseline practices and stick to them.

This approach may result in happy customers when it comes to your actual operations, but it will never lead to growth through online marketing.

Instead, business owners must actively measure their digital marketing performance and learn from it. They have to establish benchmark metrics, set goals to improve them, experiment, and then measure the results. Then, they have to keep tweaking their approach until they can reliably grow their KPIs (key performance indicators).

Most galling of all, achieving consistent success is not an invitation to rest on your laurels. Instead, you have to be prepared for ongoing changes and shifts that naturally occur.

Digital marketing is not a factory. You can’t just put the same inputs and expect the outputs to remain consistent.

Instead, digital marketing is a sportscar engaged in a constant race with conditions that change all the time. It requires frequent tuning, measuring, testing, and maintenance. It also requires you to change up your practices as the weather changes or the track itself is reshaped. Sometimes you have to swap out your entire engine just to stay in the race.

Yes, the act of continually taking your digital marketing campaigns’ temperature and making adjustments can be exhausting. But it’s the only way to stay ahead in a modern era where past performance is no guarantee of future success.

You have to make your own way while keeping your eye on competitors in the rearview mirror. And if you can stay focused on learning and improving, you will always come out ahead.

If you are looking to always be ahead of the curve and stave off your competitors in this ever-changing world of digital marketing, then consider working with Local Business Marketing Solutions (LBMS) and ensure that you will come out ahead. Request a complimentary strategy session with one of our digital marketing strategists today and take the next step.  Click here to request a strategy session.