Where do you start when you begin a project? For most of us, research is the first step in completing new things. We are often inclined to look at how others have done it. I’m guilty — I’ve looked up content marketing best practices. I’ve checked my competitors’ strategy templates. I research and gather data to build a picture of what’s out there. The next step, however, requires us to be creative.

We look for areas where we can differentiate our clients using a combination of their strengths and our audience insights.  With these, we are able to create a custom strategy tailored to their goals. In this piece, we’ll be discussing how to go from relying on best practices for strategy creation to using them to bolster your creative ideas and create results.

What is a best practice?

Best practices are the rules we use to dictate how things “should” be done. Best practices can be incredibly useful, like knowing that eliminating the 404s on a client website will improve SEO or that clear CTAs are necessary for transactions in ads. If we are not careful, they can also result in us using stale methods with the expectation of new results. It’s crucial therefore that we don’t lean on them too much, or too often.

Best practices on the technical side of marketing may be beneficial, but know that when you use them for creative marketing efforts, they can stifle unique ideas and could result in websites, content, and social media all looking the same. Usability is one thing, but sameness is the enemy of being memorable.

“Best practices don’t make you the best. They make you the average of everyone else who follows them.”Shane Snow

How often do best practices change?

Marketing best practices change almost daily. Balancing the needs of your customer with the whims of the algorithm can feel like walking on a tightrope. However, with research, you can learn more about how your visitors are using your website. These insights will help develop personalized best practices. Steer clear of making one suggestion and moving on. People and web experiences change. Check back every few weeks to ensure that your customers are finding what they need efficiently and you’re getting the results you need. Additionally, you can keep a running list of best practices you have identified. Then, you will have institutional knowledge to share and be able to analyze and trends over time.

Why do we gravitate towards best practices?

Best practices offer you a straightforward plan of attack and remove ambiguity around where to start. While best practices offer guidelines, we shouldn’t be afraid to iterate to improve results. Taking the time to solve, innovate, and test is crucial to a successful marketing campaign.

At Mad Fish Digital, we focus on building custom strategies that use data and research. We audit our clients’ digital presence, do extensive user research, and test our tactics to ensure they are successful over time. Next, we leverage our own best practices we have built upon the industry standards. However, we are not afraid to test against best practices; especially if we think there is a chance for increasing results or proving an alternate theory.

When to use best practices?

Best practices work best with non-subjective material and actions. They are useful when you are looking at overall trends for initial strategies. They can also help project target performance and benchmark success. There are a lot of best practices we leverage for various elements of our digital campaigns:

  • Technical SEO: The standards for key SEO elements like 404 errors, Alt text, site speed, URL structure and meta data
  • Paid Advertising Account Structure: The optimal hierarchy, naming conventions and copy usage to maximize bids and quality scores in paid advertising strategies
  • CRO / Landing Pages: The page elements, form lengths, color palettes and information layout that create the best user experience.
  • Social Media Platforms: The post cadence, imagery, written content and length that performs the best for each social platform.

For those where there are new methods and creative takes that can be tested, taking the time to innovate and ensure that best practice is truly best for this specific client is worth it.