I’ve spent most of my working life in marketing. I admire marketers who are respectful, who put their audience first and take the time to do things properly.

And I have a very low tolerance for the rest — as does my network on social media, if their posts and comments are anything to go by.

Because a lot of marketing we’re exposed to is badly done — so it’s little wonder that The Seven Deadly Sins came to mind when I started planning this post.

If you’re guilty of any of these sins, take heed — your audience finds them objectionable and they could be costing you customers.


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Pride is associated with vanity and egotism. These sins are self-serving and are not concerned with respecting or serving the audience.

Making it all about you

Your communications are all about you: Your beliefs, your services, your achievements, your successes. And your audience — the people who you’re actually communicating to — don’t factor at all.

If you want your audience to read what you’ve written, it needs to be written to them and it should show them how you can solve their problem.

Need some help to change this? Read my blog post:
3 Ways to improve your customer focus

Sending unsolicited marketing emails

You’ve decided to start an email list, but you can’t wait for people to sign up of their own volition. So you scour all the businesses and social profiles you can find for email addresses and start spamming them.

I can’t tell you how many email lists I’ve been subscribed to without my consent — even since GDPR came in. From people and companies I’ve never heard of, for products and services I’ll never ever buy.

Because if a company starts spamming you out of nowhere, it never feels legitimate and the trust is broken before it’s even been built.

Not giving an email opt-out

You think your emails are so fantastic that no one would ever want to opt out. So you don’t give them the option.

Except you don’t have the right to force-feed anyone your content. GDPR rules state that you have to include an unsubscribe button and that unsubscribing should be easy, ideally with one click.


You’re so great that people will want to sign up for whatever you’re offering, before they’ve even had a chance to read a word on your website.

Three seconds after they arrive on your website, your pop-up appears to collect their email address for your mailing list.

It’s like marching up to someone you’ve never met before and asking for a date. No time for them to look you up and down. No opportunity for them to see what you’re about or if you might be a good match.

If you must use a pop-up, at least have the courtesy to have it pop up when they’re leaving the site and when they have a better idea of what they’re signing up to.


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Envy is having the idea that your competitors are doing better than you and stealing business that should be yours. These sins are about coveting what your competitor has and trying to sneak a piece of it for yourself.

Plagiarising competitor content

Your competitor is producing the kind of content you wish you could write. So rather than rival it, you decide to go ahead and steal it. You copy their article and paste it into your blog.

This is a bad idea for two reasons. First, it’s plagiarism to steal someone else’s work. Second, Google will be able to tell the work has been stolen — even if you rewrite it — and won’t show your version of the article in its listings.

Promoting yourself on a competitor’s social media post

A competitor with a large following has written a social media post. It’s a good post and it’s getting a lot of engagement. You know if you comment on it, lots of people will be notified. So you write a comment underneath it, promoting your own services with a link to your website.

If you’re ever thinking of doing this, just stop for a second and consider how you’ll look to all those people. Will it make you look like someone they would want to do business with? Or will it make you look desperate, attention-seeking and not very trustworthy?

Spoiler alert: It’s the second one.

DM’ing your competitors’ followers

This happened to me. I’d written a LinkedIn post asking my audience if they’d like me to create an on-page SEO checklist. A few of my connections had commented and said they would.

A couple of those connections then told me they’d been DM’d by a woman they’d never encountered before. The woman told them my SEO checklist would be worthless and that they should work with her instead. Nice, huh?

Doing things like this doesn’t endear you to people, it just comes across as desperate and makes it seem like you can’t get an audience of your own.


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Gluttony is all about self-indulgence, excess and over-indulgence. You want it ALL, but that’s not always the best idea.

Adding every contact to your email list

However amazing you think you are, not everyone you meet will be a potential customer. And if you automatically add everyone to your mailing list, many of them won’t thank you for it.

It pays to be selective and qualify each person as a potential lead. Rule out anyone who isn’t a match.

Once you have a lead, the polite thing to do is write them a follow-up email. Tell them what benefits they’ll get from subscribing and give them the choice of whether to — or not.

Not targeting your Facebook ads

I once read that after GDPR came in, a guy asked Facebook for all the personal data they had on him. And when he printed it all out, there was a stack of papers as tall as he was.

If Facebook really knows so much about you, why is the targeting of its advertising so bad?

Some advertisers seem to purposely keep their targeting as wide as possible, to reach as many people as possible. Even if it’s totally the wrong audience for what they’re selling.

This is why so many people have such a a deluge of irrelevant advertising taking over their Facebook feeds and ruining their user experience.


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Greed is probably the most self-explanatory sin. You commit it when you put your money-making strategies over and above everything else.

Paywalling your content

A visitor arrives on your site for the first time to read a piece of content. But your content is too special to be free. So the first thing you do is ask them for money.

This wouldn’t be quite so objectionable if you were prepared to give them a free sample or trial. But with nothing to go on, visitors can’t see if what you have is worth reading — let alone worth paying for. So why are they going to hand over their credit card details?

Prioritising your advertising

You have third party advertising on your website that you’re making money from. But instead of segregating the advertising from your content, you let the adverts intrude all over it.

Autoplay video ads with sound that your readers can’t close down until they’ve finished. Huge pop-up adverts that take over the screen and can’t be moved or closed. Timed advert interruptions to your content… the list goes on.

For many users, intrusive advertising like this is a huge frustration and makes your website virtually unusable to them. If they can’t get a simple answer to their question without sitting through multiple adverts first, they’ll go elsewhere.


Photo by Ali Pazani from Pexels

Lust is an insatiable desire for power, influence and status — and you’d sell your soul to the devil just to get a slice. But these digital marketing sins won’t help you — and they could make things worse instead of better.

Buying social media followers

You’re just starting out on social media, but you don’t have any followers yet and you’re worried people won’t take you seriously. So you decide to buy some.

But buying social media followers doesn’t make you an influencer overnight. And although these followers can be bought, they’re not your ideal audience, so they’re not likely to engage with your content.

If people see you have a large number of followers and no engagement, they’ll either correctly presume you bought your followers — which is never a good look — or they’ll assume your content isn’t worth engaging with.

Using black hat SEO techniques

The time it takes for a new website to rank with organic SEO could be up to a year. So if an SEO company makes bold claims about getting your website to page one in a much shorter time, that might seem tempting.

What they don’t tell you is that to get you those results, they’ll be using something called black hat SEO.

Black hat SEO refers to unethical practices used to rig a website’s ranking by playing the search engine’s algorithms. And while it might get you results more quickly, those results won’t last.

This is because these practices go against the search engines’ terms and guidelines. It means your website will eventually be hit with a penalty, which could harm your ranking potential in the future.

It’s really not worth the risk.

Buying backlinks for your website

Backlinks are links to your website that come from other websites. They show that other people rate your content and find it worthy of sharing.

A lot of good quality backlinks improves your page authority, which signals to Google that your site is worthy of a higher ranking. So, essentially, backlinks are important and valuable — unless you buy them.

Buying backlinks goes against Google’s terms of service. And if you’re caught doing it, the consequences could be severe. A penalty from Google can stop your site ranking immediately.

You can learn more about backlinks and how to get them legitimately in my blog post: A beginner’s guide to backlinks and link-building.


Photo by Sidik Kurniawan on Unsplash

Sloth is laziness. And it applies to you if you’re practising digital marketing that requires the least amount of effort.

Copying and pasting your pitches

This applies to any cold email or DM pitch that’s just copied, pasted and sent to a long list of recipients.

Most of the time the sender doesn’t bother to personalise the message — or do any research to find out whether what they’re offering is right for who they’re sending it to.

Not only is this incredibly lazy, it will never get you good clients.

Pitching to your competitors

If you’re sending cold pitches to just anyone, you’re probably pitching to your competitors as well.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had emails and DMs from people wanting to sell me SEO content writing services.

Why would I ever want that when it’s what I do myself?

If you’re doing this, it’s a complete waste of everyone’s time. And if you’re doing it to other writers, be prepared to get a few pitches back, too!

Automated phone calls

You interrupt your lead’s busy day with a phone call, but you can’t be bothered to call in person. Instead you have someone record your message and play the recording to whoever answers the phone.

Sometimes they even ask your lead questions and give pauses for them to answer — like it’s a real conversation. Clever.

Except it’s not clever, is it? Because eventually your lead realises there’s not a real person on the other end of the phone — and they feel foolish, deceived and hang up.

DM’ing to say “Hi”

I accept your social media connection request and get a DM saying “Hi”.

That’s it. That’s the message. One word.

What’s the point of this and why will anyone be likely to respond?

If you can’t be bothered to write a meaningful message, why bother at all?


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Wrath relates to uncontrolled feelings of anger. Some business people take out their anger in their communications with others. On public platforms, where everyone can see them.

Angry commenting

Someone’s written a social media post that, for whatever reason, has really wound you up. And you see red.

You could scroll on and ignore it, but no. Instead you choose to tackle the poster in the comments. Not politely pointing out your different point of view, but angrily and abusively.

Maybe you swear like a trooper. Or resort to name calling and petty squabbling. Maybe you can’t let it lie and keep coming back to land another verbal punch. Or your mask slips to reveal an ugly prejudice.

All this while your argument plays out in front of fellow commenters and onlookers — who will probably be moved to block you rather than ever wanting to work with you.

The original poster might get a whole new post out of the incident — and a whole new audience to look up your original exchange.

An outburst like this could be damaging for your reputation and future working relationships.

Abusive DMs

You think it’s okay to abuse others in private, by targeting them with a direct message. Whatever the tone of the message, the intent is to harass, intimidate and upset them.

If you do this, don’t bank on your message staying private.

To counter this behaviour, more people are sharing screenshots of these conversations — and they’re not always hiding the sender’s identity.

So be warned.

About the author

I’m Jenny Lucas, a freelance copywriter and advocate of intelligent, respectful digital marketing that works. The kind that actually benefits your audience and their user experience.

If this is something you support too, we could be a great match!

To find out more about me and how I help businesses succeed with effective, targeted communications — on and offline — please visit my main website.