What Digital Marketers Always Get Wrong When Setting Goals

The digital marketing landscape changes every day it seems. We are always striving to stay ahead of the curve and harness the power of advancing technology. However, amidst the excitement of innovative strategies and cutting-edge tools, there lies a common pitfall that many digital marketers unknowingly stumble into.

I am going to share my hot take on areas that I feel digital marketers are missing the mark, whether it be those that are newer to the industry or even seasoned marketers that also veer of course from time to time. These are also traps or misconceptions that we probably all have fallen victim to before.

Let’s unpack where things go wrong and how we can correct our mindset.

Key Performance Indicators

I always see clients or marketers think all metrics are the same in terms of importance or the idea that you come up with one goal that rules them all!

Sometimes I see fellow marketers get goals from their clients and just take it and run instead of asking the right questions to understand where they are coming from and how our piece fits into the larger business goal.

Here are some no-nos we will want to avoid:

  • Lack of clear goals: If you don’t have any insight into what you hope to achieve by your marketing efforts, you can’t make adjustments along the way. You won’t have any clear directions. You also want your goals for paid media to be connected to your overall business goals. This ensures that paid efforts are directly contributing to your overall goals and allows for more measurable ROI. 
  • Unrealistic goals: If you set goals that you cannot achieve, then you will do just that. This will lead to frustration and ineffective planning. Goals have to be achievable so we can measure our progress, and they will be sustainable long-term. 
  • Focusing on vanity metrics: These are metrics like traffic or social media engagements. They tend to be thin and don’t normally align to deeper business objectives. Unless your primary goal is just to drive mass volumes of traffic, these metrics do not help inform strategy.  

[TIP] Use a combination of historical data and benchmarks to help create realistic goals

All Conversions Are Good, Right? Wrong.

It is true that a lead-based client may want to get phone calls to their call center. That is not a bad conversion. However, if the end result is to get sales from these calls, a sale is a better goal to track. 

Now in this particular example it leaves a lot of ‘can we track’ questions. But these are the types of questions you need to be asking in order to align on what is your ‘true north.’

Go deeper with these questions:

  • Can we track phone calls effectively?
  • Do we have custom phone numbers?
  • Do we have a call-tracking partner we can use to tie back the end sale to the call. 

    If the answer is we can only track a call or click to call, we may need to reconsider using that as the primary conversion. On most platforms, you can track your primary goals and also secondary ones. The secondary ones should help inform but not be counted in any report that tracks ROAS against your goals. 

This can also be very important to set expectations for what data is needed to ultimately get to your true north. That way you can align upfront and avoid conversations later that you haven’t been optimizing to what is a success metric. All marketing efforts should still ladder up to the main goal of the media you are running.

Using First-Party Data Effectively

With all the talk about the removal of 3rd party cookies, 1st party data has become even more important. Not only does it help you build inclusion and exclusion lists but it helps smart engines understand the types of customers you are going after.

Consider how Facebook can use look-alike audiences from a first party data set. You need that first party data to help inform the engine on the types of people you want to reach. 

First-Party Data To Exclude Existing Customers

On the opposite end, you should also leverage your 1st party lists as exclusions where applicable.

A great example of this is using existing purchasers and adding them as an exclusion to upper funnel marketing campaigns. These users already exist for you, so there is no need to give them messaging that speaks to ‘Becoming a member’ or a discount code they do not qualify for. That can be both misleading and frustrating for users.

Once you consider your goals and user intent, you can coordinate your lists responsibly. This also includes making sure you check the list size. This brings us to the next item:


Most platforms have a minimum required list to run so you want to be cognizant of getting enough users for the efforts planned.

For instance, if you are trying to remarket on Google Ads and your user list is 1,000 users - that is the threshold for Google ads but after Google tries to match the users on the web, it may come up too small to serve. It is important to review the list size and maintain your customer lists often, at least monthly.

[TIP] Make sure you refresh your first party lists on a set cadence with your clients to ensure the most up-to-date information.

Contradictory Audience Insights

A company with an internal marketing team may have done their due diligence to develop buyer personas over the last five years - they are certain they know their target audience and share that with you.

However, when you review the audience targets and the demographic information you have, you see many contradictions. That’s okay!

Digital marketing is a dynamic industry with shifts in both buyers and processes. It may be time to reassess the audience targets. 

You can do this with current platform insights on who you are reaching and who is converting, who your competitors are targeting, what affinities these folks have, etc.

It is your job as an extension of their marketing team to call out these contradictions and any audience demos you think they would benefit from. If they have never created buyer personas, that is something you can help inform for them. This is not their ideal customer, but traits of various types of people that may be interested in their services or products.

At the very least, you should be asking these questions of your audience:

  1. What are their main demographic characteristics?
  2. Where are they on the web? 
  3. What social media platforms do they frequent?
  4. What are the pain points in their shopping journey?
  5. Where do they get their information from in order to convert?

A lot of these questions are sometimes best answered while leveraging SEO. Which brings us to the last item that digital marketers can get wrong.

Ignoring SEO 

This point can take a couple forms: first, you could be ignoring a SEO best practice that could in turn be making your paid efforts less effective or you could be missing valuable insights by ignoring SEO reporting. 

Let’s start with ignoring SEO best practices…

In this scenario, let’s say you are the client paying an agency to manage your paid shopping feeds. You have a feed you have supplied for the agency to leverage for your media, however, this feed is the same feed you use for paid shopping, marketplaces and organic listings.

Your team hasn’t really been keeping up on the feed, so you have some odd characters getting into your paid feed, causing your ads to become flagged and disapproved, or worse yet they are serving but showing some less than ideal descriptions. This is confusing to the user when viewed on the SERP and you just lost a new customer and a sale because of it. 

Even short of a separate feed for each channel, you need to ensure SEO best practices are being upheld for a smooth customer experience across channels.

Taking this a step further, pairing your paid data with SEO can create a symbiotic relationship that will only benefit your business.  For example, leveraging the terms your client is ranking for in SEO can help you shave access paid search spend on terms that are already ranking high in organic search. This is something Seer has been using for years and the cost-savings can be great, especially in times of budget cuts. 

In the day to day, knowing what sites your audience is visiting for the key terms for your business can also help guide your paid media strategy. It could be realizing a new competitive threat or a potential social media strategy that was not apparent- did you know the People also ask (PAA) box can be very telling on what users are really looking to find.

It is worth reviewing organic results directly in the SERP when you don’t have the SEO chops yourself, that alone can be insightful. And would it be fair to your client if you chose to ignore their site’s poor meta descriptions or lack of a strong homepage headline as you send paid traffic to this poorly optimized site? 

It is never good enough to set it and forget it. It is also not ideal to just let platform tools automate without any human intervention. To get it right, marketers need to balance both the qualitative parts of marketing as well as the tools in which we leverage.  Starting the conversation off right with target audience's, KPIs and how to leverage the right data will help inform the best marketing strategy possible.




We love helping marketers like you.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates and more:

Renee Cherry
Renee Cherry
Lead, Paid Media