5 Practical Reasons Why You Fail To Get Digital Marketing Results

July 5, 2018 0 Comments

According to industry research, 63% of marketers say generating traffic and leads to their website is their top marketing challenge.

Meanwhile, 40% say they struggle to prove the ROI of their digital marketing initiatives.

That’s why In this article I’ve put together a list of 5 practical reasons why digital marketing fails to get results with actionable solutions to move you towards success.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but rather an observation of industry trends along with my own experiences of trial and error.

Jump to a section below:

  1. Your Content Doesn’t Serve A Purpose
  2. Your Content Lacks Direction
  3. You Ask Too Much During Promotional Outreach
  4. You’re Focusing On The Wrong Outcomes
  5. You Don’t Have A Dedicated Project Manager
Download Your Digital Marketing Plan Template

How To Measure Your Digital Marketing Results

Before we dive into the 5 reasons I believe people fail to get marketing results, I thought it might make sense to first demonstrate a few ways you can measure and track your performance.

One of the most difficult aspects of digital marketing is knowing whether or not your work is moving in the right direction.

Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours planning and implementing a strategy that takes you in the opposite direction:

Nonprofits Source - June 2018 Traffic Results

Remember that email you sent but didn’t quite get the response you were hoping for or maybe the conversions were underwhelming?

How about hitting publish on what you thought was an amazing blog post, but instead it turned out to be a dud?

This is the part of marketing where you need dig deep, roll up your sleeves, and start asking:

Why and how can I do better?

Track Your Keyword Rankings

Content marketing and ranking on Google is a big part of my overall strategy to build the Nonprofits Source brand.

Of course, the question then becomes:

How do you know if the actions you’re taking are moving the needle in the right direction?

One way to do this is by tracking your keyword rankings and by extension the overall traffic coming to your site from that keyword.

Take a look at the phrase Charitable Giving Statistics:

Charitable Giving Statistics SERPS - Digital Marketing Results

Results as of July 3, 2018

Not only does our content appear at the top of the first page, but we also have a SERP feature that’s pulling relevant content (and an image) into the results.

Using Ahrefs’s rank tracker tool I am able to see exactly how well this keyword is performing down to the number of people who are visiting as a result of organic search:

Charitable Giving Statistics Traffic Growth - Digital Marketing Results

I currently track over 300 keywords and monitor them on a regular basis, which equates to once or twice per week.

This helps me understand what users are searching for when they land on my site.

It also helps with future content production as I have a better understanding of what phrases and topics I should be going after.

Measuring Page Performance

Google Analytics is one of the most important tools in your arsenal as the platform feeds real-time data from your website into a user-friendly dashboard.

Continuing with the page above I can dive into the page level specifics over the last week to view its performance:

Google Analytics Page View - Digital Marketing Results

There are two main stats that jump out at me:

  1. Average time on page
  2. Bounce rate

First, people spend between 3 and 4 minutes on this page when they land on it.

This proves the page is relevant to my audience’s needs otherwise, that figure would be much lower.

Second, the bounce rate is quite high at about 80%.

This tells me that users who come to this page may be:

  • Uninterested in the rest of the content on my site.
  • Struggle to navigate to / are unaware of the other resources I provide.
  • Or, are only interested in the statistics at this time.

Understand User Behavior With Heat Maps And Page Recordings

When someone lands on your page and consumes your content do they find it useful?

It can be a difficult question to answer, but it’s arguably one of the most important factors in whether or not your content strategies will be successful.

One way to do this is through heat maps, click maps and recording user sessions on your page.

To do this I use a free third party software called Hotjar.

With this tool, I can track specific pages on my site that I want to test:

Hotjar - Digital Marketing Results

Below is a heat map experiment I ran for a week to test the relevancy of my page:

Hotjar Heat map - digital marketing results

As you can see, the majority of people (about 60%) scroll halfway down the page.

Maybe they’re searching for a particular stat or they are spending time reading through the different statistics – it’s hard to know.

So then I ran an experiment using click maps to gain a better understanding of what parts of the page are most important to users:

Hotjar Click map - Digital Marketing Results

Finally, I can bring it all together by recording user sessions:

Hotjar video recording - Digital Marketing Results

Here I can view how users interact with my page as if I were standing right over their shoulder watching them do it:

Hotjar recording - digital marketing results

It also provides information on actions, such as clicks, and it tracks visit history.

For example, someone who visits the statistics page may be more prone to visit our digital marketing plan page over our online fundraising ideas page.

Armed with this information I may choose to tailor my content to focus more on digital marketing and strategy over writing content related to fundraising.

1. Your Content Doesn’t Serve A Purpose

You have to know what you bring to the table that no one else does and leverage it appropriately in your content.

Are you trying to educate?

Drive awareness to your brand or cause?

Become an authoritative resource in your industry?

Answering these questions will help to guide your digital initiatives.

For example, let’s say your goal is to increase and maintain consistent traffic growth to your website.

One of the best ways to go about doing this is through content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

From a search engines perspective, they want to rank content that is relevant and useful to satisfy the end user’s search experience.

What does that mean exactly?

Create Content That Solves A Problem

I like to include online donation statistics in my content to reinforce the idea that people are increasing charitable giving online.

But I would often run into an issue.

Anytime I needed to search for a statistic I had to sort through 30 pages, blog posts, PDFs, and forums to find them.

Needless to say, I spent more time researching references over writing the actual content.

So I came up with an idea.

Create a curation page for every online giving statistic – literally hundreds of stats that are categorized and easy to access:

Online Giving Statistics - Digital Marketing Results

Then the unexpected happened…

The page started getting search traffic and ranking for keywords:

Online Giving Statistics Organic Traffic - Digital Marketing Results
Online Giving Statistics Keywords - Digital Marketing Results (1)

As a result, this single page drives over 50% of my website’s organic search traffic per month.

However, ranking for a bunch of keywords and generating traffic does not necessarily mean the content is valuable.

One of the best ways to measure the value of content comes in the form of high-quality backlinks.

Backlinks are important because they are a recommendation of one site to another.

digital promotion strategies - why webmasters link

When you link out to a website in a blog post you’re providing supporting evidence to back a claim or enhance the depth of information your content may lack.

The site is, in effect, endorsing your content to their readers because they believe it is reliable and will benefit them.

In the last two months we’ve seen an increase of organic backlinks to this page, which explains most of the growth in search traffic:

Online Giving Statistics Backlinks - Digital Marketing Results

In addition to boosting the rankings on the statistics page, other pages on my website began to rank higher in search results.

This is because link equity passes between internal links on your site.

So why was this page so popular?

Looking back it all makes sense to me, if I had issues researching statistics about online giving then chances are other people did too.

The takeaway here is that the content solves a problem while also providing a depth of information that was previously unavailable.

Moreover, other websites that use giving statistics in their content are willing to link back to my site as a reference because of its usefulness.

2. Your Content Lacks Direction

“Can you rank our website on the first page for [Insert keyword]?”

I see that phrase quite a lot.

The truth is digital marketing and SEO doesn’t really work like that.

As we saw above, content that serves a purpose is what Google tends to rank well.

That being said, Google also likes structure and patterns to help provide them with the context of your content.

To do this, you need to develop a content marketing strategy.

Develop A Content Marketing Strategy

First, make sure each piece of content is optimized to target a keyword or phrase.

This means developing topic clusters around keywords that are relevant to your audience but are not too competitive to rank for.

healthy heart cornerstone content - nonprofits source

Second, once you have a keyword phrase in mind, type that phrase into Google and review the content of the first page results.

Content Marketing Strategy Heathy Heart - Digital Marketing Results

Here you’ll want to review each piece of content to determine:

  • The angle covered for each topic.
  • Content length and depth.
  • Use of multimedia (video/audio)
  • Additional linking resources.

Your goal here is to uncover the types of content that rank on the first page for your keyword and then ideally surpass its quality, or at least mirror it.

This is also known as the skyscraper technique, coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, a well-known blogger and subject matter expert when it comes to ranking on Google..

Web scraping tools like Moz, Ahrefs, or SEMrush are also helpful in analyzing the backlink profile or social shares of each site.

This will give you an idea of how popular a page is and likewise how difficult it may be to rank your site against it.

Third, use Google Trends to analyze search popularity of the topic you’re writing about.

Content Marketing Strategy Google Trends - Digital Marketing Results

The dashboard shows a real-time visualization of how frequently people search a given phrase over time.

This is useful for researching the most relevant search phrases used in relation to the topics you write about.

Buzzsumo.com is a popular paid tool that works similar to Google Trends, but instead of analyzing search popularity it looks at social shares.

Buzzsumo Most Shared Content - Digital Marketing Results

Fourth, write content that answers the related search/people also ask tabs in search results:

people also ask - digital marketing results

These questions are aggregated by Google because they are the most frequently searched terms related to a given keyword phrase.

Wouldn’t it then make sense to create content that answers questions that are being asked online?

3. You Ask Too Much During Promotional Outreach

It’s not enough to publish a piece of content and expect people to find it online.

That’s why growing your audience through email lists or social media is so important.

But promotional outreach strategies can be a difficult sell if you’re not establishing immediate value.

Let me explain.

If you’re going to invade someone’s inbox, social account, or direct line than you better frame the conversation around their needs, not yours.

Avoid Transactional Email Outreach

I get emails all of the time saying:

  • We have an article about X topic and think your audience will love it!
  • I see that you wrote about X topic and I have a resource that you might enjoy!
  • Look at this cool infographic! It would look beautiful on your website!
  • Here are 3 articles on topics XYZ, can we publish one of them on your site?!
  • We’ll pay you $20.00 to link to our website!
  • Link to me, link to me, link to me!!!

It’s clear that these outreach emails have one goal in mind – get a backlink.

I have no problem with that goal.

However, the first question I always ask is:

How do I benefit?

Rarely do these kinds of emails give thought to build a relationship past generating a link.

When this happens the action of “selling” the content becomes transactional in nature.

If your first touch does not clearly outline the value for the recipient then it will be ignored.

This is one of the main drivers for why content outreach is seen as spammy, annoying, and non-value adding.

Provide More Value Than You Receive

Never use mass emails with a standard template or script for your pitch.

Instead, do your research and customize your email outreach while providing clear value for the person you’re pitching to.

Here’s a real example of how I earned a backlink with a well researched and thoughtful email.

Note: This is not a templatized outreach. I have blurred out the person, their link, and the competitor link out of respect for their privacy.


I was researching church donation statistics and stumbled upon your page, [insert their URL], and noticed you linked to [insert competitor URL].

We’ve actually put together the most comprehensive list of giving statistics online – literally 100s of stats that [competitor URL] didn’t cover.

I thought it might be a useful resource for you and your readers.

Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send the link.



My focus here is to pitch a page that is similar to one that is already being linked to but delivers far more value.

It’s important to note that I am not forcing the link unless they have expressed interested.

After receiving permission to share the link I sent the following email with my ask:

Happy Saturday [Name],

Here’s the link as promised: https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/

I hope you and your readers find this to be of value. If it does, I would greatly appreciate a reference link on your website. If not, that’s okay too.

Thanks again for responding and have a great weekend!


Here was their response:

Hi Jason,

Thanks for getting this to me. This is a solid resource! I love the design of the article and the up-to-date information.

I replaced the link with your link and made sure it was a follow link.

I have to say, I’m inspired by your hard work in creating that article and your boldness in running it by me.

I definitely need to do more of that kind of promotion with my website.

Keep up the good work, man!

Awesome, I earned a backlink and even dethroned a competitor link!

But there’s still an opportunity for me to create more value.

Since this person mentioned the need to promote their website I thought it would be a great idea to offer them a direct link to my digital marketing plan template.

Not only that, but I offered to answer any questions and provided myself as a resource at no cost.

Here was the result:

Hi Jason,

Wow, thanks for the PDF! This looks amazing. I’ve bookmarked it and look forward to looking it over in more detail. I’d appreciate the support and will definitely keep this in mind.

Thank you again!

4. You’re Focusing On The Wrong Outcomes

I’ve already mentioned that most email outreach strategies lack the human connection to building meaningful relationships.

But why is it so important to generating digital marketing results?

Let’s reexamine the example above.

I could have ended the engagement by saying thanks for the backlink and went on to the next link opportunity.

That’s the transactional approach.

However, by taking that extra step I open the door to:

  • Possible future link opportunities.
  • Introductions to other bloggers.
  • Cross-content promotion to their audience.

Delay Gratification To Build Trust

Too often we’re focused on our own outcomes over others.

That’s the opposite approach you should be taking.

In the long-term, a transactional approach is far less valuable than is investing in growing your outcome.

A more impactful approach to link outreach is to engage in a way where the end result benefits them more than it does you.

That’s how meaningful relationships develop.

That’s how trust is built.

You have to willingly sacrifice now with the hope that it will be reciprocated in the future.

Develop Meaningful Relationships With Industry Influencers

You should be taking every opportunity you have to share your knowledge and expertise in the space industry influencers, that are related to your brand, occupy.

For example, if you notice an influencer is active in a particular Twitter chat then get involved:


I’ve also been fortunate to grow my personal Twitter account, which I love to use to promote other people’s content on social media:

Promote People On Twitter - Digital Marketing Results

Take that promotion one step further by sharing their content with your email list then reach out to let that person know you shared.

Antiquated and obvious, I know.

But you would be surprised how often people neglect this simple strategy.

They instead cling to the transactional mentality and understandably so.

Building meaningful relationships online is slow and requires a significant investment of time to cultivate but that’s what it takes to get marketing results.

Build Email Lists With Content Upgrades

It’s no secret that emails deliver the highest ROI for marketers, typically earning $38.00 for every $1.00 spent.

Email Marketing ROI - Digital Marketing Results

There are hundreds of tips and tricks to build your email list, but one of the most effective ways is through the content upgrade.

Content upgrades are related pieces of content, often a PDF download, that enhances an article or provides a tangible asset for the user to read at a later date.

You may have noticed the offer to download the digital marketing plan template at the beginning of this article.

Download Your Digital Marketing Plan Template

The point here is to over-deliver on value without asking for anything more than an email.

The way I prefer to do it is with as little friction as possible.

In as little as two clicks and an email submission you’re sent to the template link:

Digital Marketing Plan Template - Digital Marketing Results

I also make it a point to include a link to my privacy policy to inform users of how I intend to use their email address.

Typically this means I agree not to sell their email and not to spam their inbox.

As a result, this marketing template accounts for 61% of all email subscribers on my list:

Email Marketing Growth - Digital Marketing Results

It’s important to mention that email lists don’t grow overnight.

It took a 4-5 months before I began to see consistent growth as a result of long-term content marketing and SEO strategies.

5. You Don’t Have a Dedicated Project Manager

Project management is one of the most important components of running a successful digital marketing campaign.

Managing this process from the initial strategic discussions down to implementing each objective ensure your marketing activities align with your overarching goals.

Furthermore, by methodically tracking the project work you’ll be able to, at a high level, know every stage of the process when implementing your plan.

This insight will help you determine whether or not you have enough resources dedicated to the project and if the proper people are being assigned.

Finally, you’ll be able to respond more quickly to pivots in your strategy or avoid mistakes altogether, which could potentially derail the project.

Basecamp: The Project Management Tool For Digital Marketers

I cannot speak highly enough about Basecamp.

The platform is intuitive, can support multiple teams and is relatively inexpensive – starting at $99.00 /mon per organization (not per user).

Here are some of the benefits of using a project management software to guide your digital marketing activities:

  • Provides a high-level overview of each task and how resources are allocated.
  • Assigns staff accountability and responsibility for completion of tasks.
  • Maintains clear project notes to identify areas in processes that can improve.
  • Sends staff notifications so no task slips through the cracks or bottleneck the project.
  • Creates hard deadlines for staff, thereby motivating them to complete work agendas.

Within Basecamp you can view projects, resources assigned, and due dates at a high-level:

Digital Marketing Goals - Search Engine Optimization

Digging deeper at the task level you can easily provide descriptions of the work that needs to be completed:

Search Engine Optimization - Google Search Console And Google Analytics

In addition, Basecamp offers real-time discussions to address questions, clarify the direction of the project, and to provide progress updates:

Digital Marketing - Project Management
Digital Marketing Goals - Subscribers

You can also assign additional resources during any phase of a task to ensure email notifications are being sent to relevant parties:

Let’s Recap Why You Might Fail To Get Marketing Results

Digital marketing continues to be a competitive landscape as more organizations search for ways to reach a broader audience.

It’s slow, at times unrewarding, and requires a significant investment of time and resources way before you see any results.

However, by avoiding the 5 mistakes outlined in this article you’ll find it easier to measure results and justify the investment to key stakeholders.

Here’s a quick recap of why your digital marketing may not be getting results:

  1. Your content doesn’t serve a purpose
  2. Your content lacks direction
  3. You ask too much during promotional outreach
  4. You’re focusing on the wrong outcomes
  5. You don’t have a dedicated project manager

Know another reason why marketings fail to get results? Let us know in the comments below

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AboutRafi Norberg