6 Obnoxious Online Marketing Tactics Your Customers HATE

One of the worst things you can do as a business is to follow online marketing tactics without question.

Some of what is considered standard practice drives away customers, loses sales, and worse yet, paints your business as unprofessional and spammy.

If you really want to present yourself in the best light, here are 6 online marketing tactics you should really reconsider before you accept them as absolute truth.

1. Email Personalization

If you’ve ever looked up audience engagement, you have seen that asking for a name and email address is standard when it comes to online marketing tactics. Everywhere you look, from the biggest blogs receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors per month to a blog getting maybe 500, you’re asked for your name and email address.

But is this the right thing to do?

If you’re asking “why not ask for a name?”, think of why you should:

  • What are you going to do with the subscriber’s name?
  • How will you use their name and email address to personalize the email beyond those 2 fields?
  • Why is the subscriber’s name an important marketing metric?

If you can come up with a valid, measurable reason to ask for a subscriber name to the above questions, then go for it. But if you’re asking for a name just because it’s standard industry practice (right now), it may backfire.

A study done by GetResponse showed that asking for a name increased open rates by 26% and click through rates (CTRs) by 130%. However, the study also showed that asking for a name got 26% more complaints and 71% higher unsubscribe rates than emails with no personalization, completely negating any positive effects.

Get rid of friction

The idea behind this is what us marketers call “friction”. You want to have the least amount of friction possible to avoid any frustration causing the visitor to abandon the offer.

online marketing tactics

To overcome the friction, many subscribers will fill in “test”, “no”, and “I don’t want to give my name” for the name field.

Do you really want to send out an email that says “Hey I don’t want to give my name, here’s a special offer!”? It’ll be marked as spam, and reaffirm that you don’t really know the subscriber and don’t really care to.

If you want to use the name field, check before you send an email. If more than 10% of your subscribers use a fake name, get rid of it.

Verdict: Only ask for a subscriber’s name if there’s good reason for it.

Alternatively, A/B test where half of the audience is asked for a name, and the other half isn’t.

2. Call-To-Action Pop ups

I personally hate the online marketing fad of having a pop up. I find them annoying, desperate, and I instantly get a twinge of frustration when I have to close a window just to see the content I came for.

Turns out I’m not the only one who feels this way.  One study done by Danny Richman took 1,000 respondents and divided them into 3 groups:

  1. Group A had no pop up and a simple newsletter sign up at the bottom of the page.
  2. Group B had a standard pop up that could be dismissed by clicking ‘X’ on the form, or by clicking away from the form.
  3. Group C had a negative opt-out pop up. This is where the user either has to supply an email address to see content, or click a link saying something like, “No, I do not wish to receive my free offer”.  In this option, the user can’t click ‘X’ or click away from the form.

The study tested 2 metrics: how trustworthy the business seemed, and how likely the groups would buy from that business.

The results:

  • A paltry 10% of participants from Group C felt the business could be trusted. Group B fared better with 30% of respondents saying the business could be trusted, and Group A came in around 40%.
  • The groups were then asked if they would buy from the business. Only 7% of participants from Group C said they would, whereas more than 3 times as many (over 22%) in Group A would.

To top off just how unwanted pop ups are, a full 97% of respondents felt negatively towards them and used words like “pushy”, “needy”, “annoying”, and “spammy” to describe the experience.

Verdict: Write compelling copy so your audience will want to find your offer, regardless if it comes in a pop up or not.

3. Automatic Video Plays

There’s another common online marketing tactic that annoys the masses: automatic videos plays. Automatic video plays act as a stand in salesperson, and you can show (rather than tell) your audience your unique selling proposition.

Facebook introduced the autoplay back in 2013 and received very little backlash. Companies jumped on the bandwagon, and this annoying feature has become a staple in 2016.

But there’s a problem here. Most people don’t like it. Just Google “automatic video plays” and here are there results:

online marketing tactics

So why do businesses still use it? Because it still works… to an extent.

The caveat here is to introduce your unique selling proposition within the first 5 seconds or your audience will lose interest. The New York Times found that 19.4% of users clicked away after 10 seconds, and a full 44.1% click away after 60 seconds.

Verdict: If you really want an autoplay video, introduce your unique selling proposition in the first 5 seconds. Alternatively, have a large ‘play’ button that users can click if they choose.

4. Copy That’s Too Casual

Your website is the most important online marketing tool your business could ever have. It attracts qualified leads and it makes sales for you even when you sleep.

One effective way to captivate your audience is to use the same language as they use. The premise is that we have an inherent need to belong to a group, and language is an easy way to do this. We’re social creatures and the need for connection is universal. Not only that, but how we connect with and relate to others affects our buying decisions.

For example, if you were a food supplier supplying local businesses,what would you call this animal?

online marketing tactics

Depending on where you’re from, it’s a rock lobster, spiny lobster, crayfish, crawfish, or crawdad. If you target a certain geographic region or group, it’s best to use the same language because it builds report and makes the visitor feel like you’re the perfect solution to their pain point.

There are other ways to make your audience feel like you understand them. Some of these include using a conversational tone, contractions, and common words.

But a recent trend I see is getting too casual.

You’re still a business.

You still need to present yourself as reliable and trustworthy. Some examples of too casual of copy include:

  • Forced humour
  • Swearing when completely unnecessary
  • Internet slang (for the most part – if you sell emoji pillows, you’re in the clear)
  • Unnecessary punctuation!!!!

Many readers find casual copy distracting, and feel that the business is trying too hard to be a friend.

Keep your language simple but smart, confident but not pretentious, and inspirational but not isolating.

Verdict: Look at social media and forums to get an idea of how your customers are talking. Use the same (or similar) language and err on the side of caution when in doubt.

5. Excessive Hashtags

online marketing tactics

Hashtags can be an important tool to extend your social media reach, and they help you to be found by anyone outside of your network.

However, don’t go overboard. If you’re not sure what overboard is, here are a few golden rules when it comes to hashtags:

  • Using 2 hashtags on Twitter is optimal to be retweeted, and every hashtag after 2 decreases engagement by 17%.
  • Peak user engagement on Instagram is the same – 2 hashtags. Oddly enough, if you use more than 2, you should use 11 or more but in a separate comment.
  • Facebook is the same as twitter, where you should only use 1 or 2 hashtags. Anything after that decreases engagement.

(Source: Dialogfeed)

Verdict: use hashtags relevant to your post to find your target audience. Hashtags like #beautiful, #love, and #photooftheday may attract views, but they don’t convert.

Still not sure if you’re doing social media correctly? I’m available for hire to manage your social media accounts!

6. Faking Urgency

Once you notice the faking urgency tactic, you’ll see just how many websites do this to try and get you to part with your hard earned money.  The reason behind this is to tap into your innate fight or flight response where you need to take action right away out of fear of missing out.

online marketing tactics

There are a few key differences between a faking urgency tactic that actually works, and one that frames you as inauthentic.

  1. Actually offer something of value, with or without a “limited time only” deal.

A great study done by Marketing Experiments showed a 992% increase in enrollment when visitors were offered $100 off. The key here is the offer wasn’t intrusive, and it was for a course their audience wanted anyway.

“What we did NOT do is create a large orange starburst at the top of the page announcing the $100 savings. Our purpose was not to secure enrollees through hype and pressure. We wanted and still want people to enrol because they see the value in the course itself.”

  1. The sense of urgency should be genuine and not simply created as a promotional stunt. If you constantly have a counter saying “ONLY 10 COPIES LEFT!” of your digital book, you’ll lose the respect of your audience
  1. Never underestimate how internet savvy your customers are. They can recognize a marketing gimmick from a mile away. They’ll know the urgency is meaningless, and even worse than losing a sale, you completely lose credibility.

Verdict: Faking urgency works, but only when you use it to genuinely help customers and use it sparingly.

Which one of these online marketing tactics do you find the most annoying? Leave a comment below!


  1. Great article! It’s a tough call between pop-ups and auto-play video, since both are disruptive and require me to take action to continue. It’s only the most highly respected internet marketers (e.g., Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi) whom I’ll excuse for this, and that’s because they provide such a huge amount of free and valuable content otherwise. Incidentally, video in general seems to be used too much, perhaps because of the perceived “cool” factor or because it’s sticky. I don’t know, but I hate watching a video for two minutes that communicates information that I could’ve read in ordinary text in 3-5 smartly written paragraphs in less than a minute.

    1. sachad says:

      Thanks Andrew! I completely agree that I’ll excuse the big guys from pop ups 🙂 Also, I couldn’t agree more that most of time, text is a far more effective means of communication than a video. The only time I like to see one is if it’s a technical product where seeing it put to use is valuable.

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