The Biggest Mistake I See Online Businesses Make

Biggest mistake online businesses make

As a lawyer representing online businesses the last 15 years, I’ve seen my share of the good, the bad and the ugly. There is one particular mistake I see made over and over, however, and it has nothing to do with any legal issue.


The major mistake I see has to do with marketing. No, I am not going to rant about how you are doing it wrong. Quite the opposite. I’m going to rant about the business owners who figure out how to do it right.

Everything you read seems to suggest marketing online is easy. It isn’t. The web has matured, and so have the people who use it. There is no “right” way to market any longer. The best marketing technique for a particular target market may be a terrible choice for a different market.

I’ll use my practice as an example. Is Facebook a good marketing platform for me? Eh, not so much since even I have to admit it is the rare person who is going to want to follow the ramblings and postings of a lawyer on a platform of this type.

Google+ is an entirely different matter. Unlike Facebook, the audience is more attuned to the issues associated with running businesses online. Pictures of fluffy kittens? Not so many. Discussion of some new draconian privacy or copyright law? Yep. This characteristic makes Google+ a winner for my niche and a better marketing medium than Facebook.

The point being that it can take a lot of time and effort to find that perfect marketing channel. Once you’ve found it, however, the success can lead to major growth in your business in a short amount of time.

And here is where the major mistake occurs.

The Mistake

The mistake is to rely on a single successful marketing method. The phrase “putting all your eggs in one basket” comes to mind. The vast majority of online businesses do exactly this with their marketing, and it leads to disaster.

Let’s take a simple example where nearly everyone has learned a painful lesson – Google rankings and SEO. There was a time when ranking in the top 10 on Google wasn’t all that difficult. You just needed to build a good number of links to your site, get the “on page” SEO right and then bask in the free traffic. A high ranking for a major keyword could bring in a ton of traffic, leads, and money.

Numerous companies with high rankings came to rely on the free traffic from Google and failed to develop alternative sources of traffic. Then Google did something very painful. In 2010, the company instituted significant changes to the ranking process via the Panda and Penguin updates. This site took a beating in Penguin 2. Chaos ensued, and businesses that had not developed alternative sources of traffic soon crashed and burned.

And what of social media? Five years ago, the discussion would have emphasized Digg and MySpace. Today? Both are afterthoughts.


Here is the thing about the web – it is constantly evolving. You need to accept this fact. Once you find a marketing technique that generates the kind of traffic you desire, whip that technique into a frenzy to gain the biggest return you can because you never know when it might be closed down.

At the same time, set aside money and time to experiment and investigate other marketing platforms. Are you doing well driving traffic to your wedding e-commerce site off of YouTube? Good for you, but put aside some money and start playing around on Pinterest as well. If Google institutes some odd rule with YouTube [and it inevitably will], you want to have something to fall back on. Maybe Pinterest can be it.

Bad Luck

The only other suggestion I would make is to develop your own services or products as soon as you are able. Why? Relying on others can be dangerous. Amazon affiliates know this for a fact.

Although Amazon is a huge company one would think would be very stable, the company started terminating affiliates in states where it is fighting sales tax levies. Many affiliates were shocked and unprepared for the change. The fact this occurred with a giant company such as Amazon underscores how careful you need to be when relying on third parties for your revenues.


As far as the web has come, one would think a certain level of stability would exist. Perhaps. If there is one lesson we’ve learned over time, however, it is that the web waits for no one. Make sure your marketing channels are diversified to the point that the loss of one source of traffic will not devastate your business.

Richard A. Chapo, Esq.