Digital Marketing For Horrible Websites

This week, I’ve got something a little different for you all:

How to do digital marketing if your site is terrible.

You’ve all heard me scream about how you need to fix your site’s technical issues before you do any kind of SEO or digital marketing in order to get the best results but what if you just…can’t?

What if you don’t have the time or the money or expertise to go in there and start setting up canonicals or minimizing your code or compressing your images?

What if, for some unknown reason, your platform is just caveman style and it just can’t be tweaked to increase your page speed or get AMP compliant?

What if you have an IT team that doesn’t know how or can’t be bothered to write basic code or edit pixels so you’re not able to track ROI on..well, anything?

You still need to drive people to your site, right? I mean, how can you be expected to get money to get a new platform or hire someone to fix all your tech if you don’t have any customers?

Well, strap in folks, because this week’s entry is just for YOU! It’s all about how to do digital marketing if your website is awful.


Before we jump in, I’m going to preface this by saying that these techniques are designed to help you drive traffic to your site, not get conversions. Let’s be realistic with our expectations.

If your site’s UX is trash, takes five hours to load, not responsive and your checkout process looks like something from 1992, your conversion rates will suffer and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Also, you might as well hang up trying to ‘rank real high’ organically because Google hates your terrible site.

These are last ditch, ‘well, we have to do SOMETHING!’ techniques to bring you qualified traffic in hopes that by the time they arrive on your page, they’re so interested in what you sell, they are willing to just deal with your garbage site.

By the way, if don’t like the fact I just said ‘your garbage site’, stop reading now.

If you know the Smokehouse, you know I pull no punches because I just don’t have to now that I’m not doing client work anymore. So I’m probably going to site-shame so prepare yourself.

Now the goal – and my methods – are clear, let’s dive in:

5. If Your Page Isn’t Great, Divert Your Traffic

So, let’s say you have a non-responsive website in 2018 for whatever reason – shame on you.

Let’s say your site’s user experience isn’t what it should be (eg.: your page takes way too long to load, people can’t navigate your products easily, the on page content isn’t what it should be and your platform doesn’t allow for an easy fix, etc.) – Boo.

Let’s say your general site look and feel isn’t what you really want new customers to see when they think of your brand because your site theme is from 1991, you haven’t updated your corporate logo or branding since you were doing direct mailing in the 1980s or whatever – Ugh.

Well, you might think that you just can’t do anything about that until you have the money to hire a design firm to redo your site, right?

Well, yes and no.

First of all, yes you need to relaunch but you also need to stay in business until you can get the cash for that so I have a suggestion that I’ve personally seen work – third party landing pages.

Did you know there are companies out there you can pay a small monthly fee to and they can hook you up with a bunch of easy-to-make, drag and drop templates for your landing pages? They’re fast to load, fully mobile responsive and best of all, if you are using a payment gateway like Paypal or Stripe, people can check out right there on your landing page. No need to even push them to your website!

What if you don’t accept Paypal or Stripe? Well, here’s what you do: You make ‘buy now’ call to action buttons on your landing page there that push people directly to the corresponding product page on your site. Yes, they’ll still have to use your archaic and slow shopping cart, but they won’t have to hunt high and low all over your site to find what they want and since the landing page is responsive they’ll have all the product info in an easy-to-read format before they hit your non-responsive site so just maybe they’ll be more willing to wait for your site to load because they want what you have.

Personally, I suggest a company called LeadPages. I’ve used them in the past even for people who have decent sites just because they are very functional, very quick to use and you can make a really nice landing page for tons of different things easily without having to get the IT team involved.

I mean, yes, I used to code and I know HTML, CSS and JS but that’s not what I get paid for anymore so I’m not doing that unless I have to. These services make it so I don’t have to.


You can even make the URLs for your site as subdomains on your main site (eg:, etc) and customize the URLs (eg: as well. They are trackable in Google Analytics simply by pasting your existing tracking code in the headers and they also accept Facebook Pixel code, which is important because my next step is….

4. Give Up On SEO, Go For Paid Social

First thing, let’s stop this pipe dream that your site is going to rank well or show significant organic traffic growth if you have tons of technical problems.

It won’t.

I don’t care who tells you they have this one ‘weird trick’ or ‘Just do xyz!’ or ‘Here, buy a bunch of backlinks and you’ll rank for your keywords!’

Your site will not rank for anything if it has a ton of problems. Even if it did and you got people to click on your site, they’d all run screaming from it or forget what it was they came for by the time it takes your hamster wheels to turn and load the page. Then you’d increase your bounce rates. Then Rankbrain would smack you in the face. And then you wouldn’t rank for anything anyway.

So let’s be real again and realize that until your site is fixed, SEO just isn’t something in your wheelhouse.

Too many sites are out there doing SEO properly and you just don’t have a chance with your Fisher-Price “My First ECommerce Shopping Cart”, “someone wake up the hamsters and get them turning the wheels to load the page”, “I have 600,000 pages on my site dating back to 2002 without any noindex tags” bloated, “Everything is 404’ing”, “Dad, what’s a canonical?” platform.

So what can you do?

Use what’s out there.

Some people choose to use marketplaces like Amazon or EBay to combat this and that’s a good idea but I suggest you run social media ads, specifically on Facebook and Twitter.

Why do I suggest social instead of marketplaces?

Well because firstly, while you really can’t go wrong selling on Amazon, you still need to advertise your stuff. Also, if you don’t have time to write content or the skills to write JSON-LD schema, you most likely don’t have the time or skills to write a proper product feed in XML.

Also, I’ve seen a lot of people, both with good sites and bad, have great results with social media ads, when done properly.

My suggestion is this:

  • First, create the landing page on the third party tool we talked about in step one
  • Second, run a general awareness campaign on Twitter and Facebook with budgets of $2-$3 per day for the US/UK/Canada and $1 per day in the rest of the world (if you do business in all those countries!) get to get your name out there. We don’t care about clicks or purchases here, we just want brand awareness (eg.: Hi! I’m a thing that sells these things. I exist!)
  • Third, Once you have ran those campaigns for about a month or two, make a nice PAID ad with the goal of link clicks (because your site probably doesn’t have the right Facebook Pixel events in it to track conversions, we’re going to go with clicks) to the landing page you want to promote for Facebook while still running the brand awareness ads (hint: Brand awareness ads NEVER stop. EVER.)
  • Four: Analyze, optimize and repeat.

For running ads, I suggest a tool like Adespresso. It’s literally one of my favorite tools in my toolbox and its not very expensive. It will help you with split testing, making multiple versions of ads in a really short time and its just so easy to use, anyone could do it.

Pro Tip #1: I’ve noticed that each social platform has it’s ‘best uses’, for example, if I want just raw impressions, I go to twitter. If I want clicks/conversions, I go to Facebook.

If I want to waste good money, get nothing to show for it and have a lot of explaining to do to the CFO, I go to linkedin.

Remember, this is just what I’ve seen. Every business is different so you need to find where your audience is and be there.

Pro Tip #2: Whatever you do, do not – REPEAT: DO NOT – think you can get by with non-paid (organic) posts on social media. You can’t. Not anymore. I don’t care who tells you what, you cannot exist as a company or a brand that sells things doing organic posts on social media. Facebook is cracking down on all organic posts from brands even harder than it was before and you will be a very sad person if you try to run your business with organic social. You will scream ‘THIS DOESN’T WORK!!!! WAAH!” and swear off all forms of social selling if you do this.


Also, if you don’t have like a grand total of like $400 per month (to start out with) to run a few social ads, you’re businessing wrong.

3. Update Your Google My Business Profile With Images, Videos and Posts

Ok, so I just told you to forget about SEO in the last tip but I’m going to backpedal a bit.

If you’re a business with a physical location, you need to have a decent Google My Business profile.

If you don’t know what that is, go check out the basics here.

Google My Business is your one ‘weird trick’ for SEO if your site is awful – in fact, its probably your only trick so get it right.

Fill out your profile completely with all the standard information they ask and also make sure you’re taking advantage of every little bit you can. You want to not only upload one or two pictures, you want to upload ALL THE PICTURES YOU CAN. You don’t want to just upload pictures though, they have recently added the ability to upload video too so get your phone out and shoot a nice video (doesn’t have to be Hollywood quality, doesn’t have to be long) and upload that as well. Get your staff together for one of those cheesy group corporate photos and upload that. Doing this can help you get a nice knowledge panel on the the side of the search results to help you stand out – and if your site is bad, you’ll need all the help you can get!

Also, don’t neglect another new feature in Google My Business called ‘Posts’. This feature allows you to write short ads for anything you want. I like to use them to advertise events, product specials, membership drives and things like that. They won’t make or break you, but every little bit helps!

2. Think Outside The Box

So we’ve covered landing pages, social media ads and Google My Business, what’s next?

Well, buddy, you might be tapped out in terms of typical online channels:


  • Adwords is going to be WAY expensive for you because of your site
  • You could try remarketing but honestly, if you can’t do a basic Facebook Pixel, you definitely can’t add the proper events in the Facebook Pixel for Dynamic Product Ads, your site probably can’t do an Adroll pixel and the Google Display Network is basically Adwords – so you’d have to do it the old fashioned way by doing site traffic retargeting on Facebook, which is good but not great. Also, how you gonna retarget if only like ten people came to your site in the first place?
  • SEO isn’t going to work for you because your tech, tho..
  • You could always try email marketing but that assumes you have been following email marketing best practices in terms of list collection and segmentation and usually when I see bad sites, the email collection practices are really bad as well, so you’ll probably just get a bunch of unsubscribes and spam complaints. Also GDPR.

So what now?

Well, the traditional channels aren’t the only channels! It’s time to think outside the box a little and no, I don’t mean some dude spinning a sign on the highway.

Have you thought about advertising on relevant podcasts?

What about getting some digital banner ads on similar sites?

If you’re utterly desperate, you can even buy a few print, radio or TV ads to advertise your business. I don’t recommend these but there’s a reason people do these. They work – to a point.

Try these out just to see how they work for you but don’t initially invest too much! Maybe they’ll work for you (just look at Blue Apron and Squarespace with podcasts!) and maybe they won’t but you never know until you try!
1. Useful Content, Useful Content and More Useful Content!

This is something you should do regardless of whether or not your site is good: become a thought leader in your industry.

I don’t care what your industry is, be the company with the answers. If you sell red widgets, then I say you do some research about every single thing people are asking about red widgets and you create quality content about it!

You find yourself some red widget subreddits and Linkedin groups and you be the place answering all the things. You hold a red widget Ask Me Anything on reddit.

Basically, if it’s red widgets, you be there. Period.

Creating useful, quality content isn’t just for SEO, it can help your name become synonymous with whatever you sell. This is extremely important to do for everyone out there because the goal is to be where your competitors are AND where they’re not. When someone is looking for, talking about or even thinking about a red widget, you want to show up. Just ask Kleenex. Or Coca-Cola. Or Google. Just look how Oreo did Hydrox. Become a household name.

It’s not easy and it takes work but this is something that you can do if you’re willing to invest the time and energy it takes.
The Bottom Line

Look, we all know that if your site isn’t great, you’re going to have problems but you still need to work.

Sure, maybe SEO and PPC aren’t going to be in the cards for you but there are other things you can do to get your site in front of people and maybe – just maybe – make a sale.


That being said, again, I really, REALLY suggest you fix your tech as soon as possible in order to give your business the best chance possible…and also because there are enough garbage sites on the internet, the world doesn’t need another.

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