If you’re reading this guide, you most likely fall into one of two categories:
Well, we’ve got good news for you…regardless of which camp you’re in. Because this guide is going to demystify digital marketing for you, in order that you can gain clarity on what it is, why it matters, and how you can leverage it.
Consider this digital marketing guide a full-on overview of marketing and how all of the dozens of little puzzle pieces fit together to create a cohesive tapestry that reaches your ideal customers and convinces them to buy from you.
You can read it from start to finish, skip around, bookmark it, or even print it off and keep it at your desk. Do whatever you want, but just make sure you do something.
Ideas without action are worthless and will eventually lead to paralysis by analysis. Take what you learn in this guide and apply just one thing right away. Then, as you build momentum, you can add to it. And before you know it…well, you’ll be executing your own digital marketing strategy.
Let’s start with the very first question most people think, but are afraid to ask (for fear of looking foolish):
What is digital marketing?
If you ask a dozen people in the industry this question, you’ll get a dozen answers. And, to be honest, most of them are a little stuffy, academic, and vague.
Take HubSpot, for example. Their definition goes like this:
Digital marketing encompasses all marketing efforts that use an electronic device or the internet. Businesses leverage digital channels such as search engines, social media, email, and other websites to connect with current and prospective customers.
Okay, that gives us a little information, but it still leaves you thinking, so what?
Thought leader Neil Patel does a good job of cutting out the fluff and distilling it into a single statement, saying:
Digital marketing is any form of marketing products or services that involves electronic devices.
That’s catchy and easy to remember, but still sounds like it was written for a Marketing 101 class in 2007.
Investopedia merely regurgitates what everyone else is already saying:
Digital marketing is the use of the Internet, mobile devices, social media, search engines, and other channels to reach consumers. Some marketing experts consider digital marketing to be an entirely new endeavor that requires a new way of approaching customers and new ways of understanding how customers behave compared to traditional marketing.
While there’s no such thing as a perfect definition – particularly for a field that’s constantly evolving – we don’t feel as if any of these are fully indicative of what digital marketing is and why it matters. They aren’t compelling enough to acquaint people with the reality of what we’re doing.
So while there are elements of truth to each of the definitions above, here’s the definition we’re going with:
Digital marketing is the process of leveraging online mediums – such as websites, email, and social media – to strategically reach the right people at the right time with the right message, all in an effort to build brand awareness and ultimately convert these individuals into customers who go on to become loyal and raving fans.
A bit wordy? Yeah, probably so. But it cuts straight to the heart of what digital marketing is and why it matters.
Digital marketing isn’t about using electronic devices to reach people. It’s about utilizing the power of the internet to deliver a cohesive message that moves people through a journey over time. And if you do that with consistency, you’ll win big in the business world.
We’ve already touched on this some in our definition of digital marketing, but let’s go even deeper. Here are a few specific reasons why we feel digital marketing is so important for brands of all sizes:
Digital marketing is what connects you to your audience and encourages them to come closer. It creates familiarity, cultivates trust, and helps make sense of what can otherwise be a confusing process.
If you’re a visual thinker, you might find it helpful to think of digital marketing as a house. And while most people look at a house and they see what’s visible to the eye – the walls, windows, doors, siding, roof, etc. – these elements are ultimately being held up by a foundation. And the foundation is – traditionally speaking – held up by cornerstones.
Your overarching digital marketing strategy is the foundation. And at the core of your foundation, you’ll find cornerstones like these:
Most brands skip right over these foundational elements and move on to the surface level details. But the reality is that you can’t execute well if you don’t have these cornerstones in place. Taking the time to flesh out these details will serve you well for years to come.
Continuing with our analogy, we must continue to build our house. And now that we have a strong foundation in place – one that’s built with sturdy cornerstones designed to hold up the weight of a large home – we can frame out the walls, windows, doors, and all of the other elements that people see.
The framing is the fun part, but it’s also a lot of work. And much like a house, you’ll frame, re-frame, renovate, expand, replace, and reconfigure the layout of your strategy over time. But for now, here are the areas you’ll want to focus on:
Your website is your little slice of digital real estate. It’s your internet property – something that you control completely. Whether you’re running an ecommerce business, a consulting firm, a membership website, a PR business, or something in between, your website lends credence to your mission by helping you build trust and authority.
Some of the keys to a successful website include:
These are just the basics. If you’re really interested in understanding the complex architecture that goes on behind the scenes, check out our in-depth resource on site structure and SEO.
Having a website is a start, but your website is nothing more than a glorified project if you don’t have traffic. In other words, you need to get people to find, click, and spend time on your site. The most cost-effective and organic way to do this is by investing in search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it satisfies the search engines. In doing so, you increase your chances of being featured prominently in search engine results pages, also known as SERPs.
A good SEO process consists of a few key elements:
With the right SEO strategy in place, you give yourself a chance to compete for visibility and traffic at a high level. And while Google is constantly changing the goalposts and making tweaks to its algorithm, the same basic principles will always apply. Good technical optimization combined with quality content will ultimately give you wings to fly.
Content marketing plays a vital role in helping you accomplish your digital marketing goals and, ultimately, larger business objectives.
The benefits of a content marketing strategy include increased brand visibility, enhanced brand reputation, more time on-site, higher conversion rates, SEO visibility, referral traffic, social traffic, and greater customer retention.
A good content marketing strategy takes your brand vision/story – which hopefully you created as part of your cornerstone strategy – and fleshes it out in a way that connects the right people to your message.
There are any number of strategies you can use to get results with content marketing, but we typically recommend a combination of onsite blog content, high-quality static website content, guest blogging, and social media. But, for the most part, it’s your onsite blog content that’s going to be the stickiest and get the most visibility.
When developing blog posts for your website, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
You can drive traffic to your content using any number of approaches, including link building, social media, paid ads, and email.
Everyone wants to immediately jump into social media. And while it’s an important element of digital marketing, it’s typically only effective if you’ve taken the time to establish the right foundation. That means building out a quality website, investing in SEO, and creating high-touch content assets that draw people in.
If you’ve taken the time to execute in these other areas first, you’ll gain much more traction at a much faster pace than most brands experience.
Our best suggestion for social media is to focus on quality over quantity. Rather than going out and creating profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest, pick one platform to focus on. Then, once you build up a solid following with lots of engagement, you can consider adding another channel.
Depending on the industry you’re in, Facebook and Instagram are usually where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for 107 tips and best practices on how to get more engagement on social media.
Email isn’t as splashy as web design and social media, so a lot of brands push it to the back burner. But what you may not know is that email is actually one of the most valuable marketing investments you can make (in terms of the return on investment, or ROI).
ROI, which is calculated by taking the amount you gain from a marketing activity and subtracting the amount spent to execute the marketing activity, is the ultimate measurement of marketing success. And when you look at email, it gets a 4400 percent ROI. To put that into perspective, it means the average email marketing campaign generates $44 in revenue for every dollar spent.
Do we have your attention?
Email marketing can be used to raise brand awareness, nurture leads, increase sales and revenue, and drive website traffic. And the reason it works is that you have total control.
Unlike social media and SEO, where other platforms dictate your visibility and reach, email is your platform. When you collect an email address, you can push a message to that person’s inbox (a highly personal space) whenever you like. And it’s (technically) free.
While we believe organic SEO, consistent content marketing, and properly executed social media strategies are the way to go, there’s also something to be said for pay-per-click advertising (PPC).
PPC advertising, which is most commonly seen on Google and Facebook, is a particularly cost-effective method of gaining exposure and driving traffic back to your site. You basically create an ad, set a “bid” price that you’re willing to pay, and then pay that amount every single time someone clicks your ad. The benefit of this approach is that you aren’t paying for exposure. You only pay when someone actually lands on your page.
A good PPC advertising strategy starts with keyword research and an understanding of the current PPC ad marketplace. (You need to understand what the competition is doing and how much you’ll likely need to spend in order to get your ads served.)
While you can technically do your own PPC advertising, it’s a pretty technical endeavor – one that you’ll want to perfect in order to maximize your ad spend. Hiring a PPC search management company to help you implement and manage your strategy will serve you well.
Once you’ve laid the foundation (quality product, brand vision, customer profiles, competitive research, and brand guidelines) and framed the house (website, SEO, content marketing, social media, email, and PPC advertising), it’s time to bring the house to life.
Just like a traditional house needs furniture, paint, and finishes, your digital marketing strategy needs something to pull all of the pieces together and bring it to life. A well-lubricated marketing funnel is the answer.
A marketing funnel is basically a targeted strategy that you use to reach prospects and convert them into customers. You do this by moving them through various stages, often referred to as Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.
As we explain in our detailed Guide to Marketing Funnels:
“A prospect has no clue that your business exists. She then becomes aware of your business and its products, interest is sparked, she evaluates whether she likes your products (in the context of other marketplace options), decides to make a purchase, and ultimately follows through by exchanging money in return for what you’re offering.”
This process doesn’t happen by accident, though. You need a plan for reaching the prospect at each stage of the funnel and ultimately coaxing them into the next phase. And if you can learn how to do this, good things will happen for your brand.
While we’ve equipped you with all of the information you need to get started dreaming up a digital marketing strategy and executing right away, we understand that not everyone has the time to handle it in house.
If you’re looking to do digital marketing at scale – or totally re-architect something that was never constructed appropriately in the first place – it helps to have a little hand-holding.
At SEO.co, we’re a content and digital marketing agency that focuses on SEO, link building, and quality content creation that moves the needle for growing and established brands.
Our formula is really quite simple:
We write quality content.
We secure top placement on high authority domains.
We get you, the client, stellar links that increase exposure, generate traffic, and turn curious visitors into paying customers who ultimately become loyal and raving fans.
Want to learn more? Feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to discuss how we can partner together to help you accomplish all of your digital marketing objectives.