An Introduction to Digital Marketing
This article is a brief introduction to the main areas of digital marketing and needless to say if you are doing business online, you should seriously consider formulating and implementing a solid plan to tackle several or all of these areas to ensure your online success.
So What is Digital Marketing?
In general terms Digital Marketing is simply using all digital or electronic media means available, for business marketing purposes. Such media includes online advertising, SEO, email, social networks, mobile and more, using techniques adapted to or developed specifically for the medium.
For most businesses one of the first steps in digital marketing is building a suitable website to present their online brand and product or service, after all you need somewhere to send people with your online marketing efforts. Building such a website is no simple task if done properly and many businesses get it very wrong. If your site doesn’t look the part, if your sales pitch is not refined and tested, if visitors are not convinced, all the marketing in the world wont help and you are just throwing good money after bad so it is worthwhile investing in a top quality design that will get the desired results.
The web these days is kept afloat to a large extent through income generated from advertising. Everything from the newest Web2.0 startup to the giants like Google and Facebook. Google is arguably the most successful of them all when it comes to monetizing through online advertising using their Adsense and Adwords systems, however Microsoft/Bing also has a similar ads platform, as do Yahoo and even Facebook, along with hordes of lesser known ad networks. Online advertising provides a shortcut for reaching the most people in the shortest time, however it costs and it is very easy to run up a huge bill while getting very poor results and so one must be very careful to do thorough research and testing before spending large amounts.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of the online marketing job. If done well and consistently, SEO can produce highly qualified, converting traffic from Google and other search engines for a relatively small cost. There are two major components to SEO, “on page” and “off page”, and both need to be covered to ensure success. All too often people assume that making their web sites pages “search engine friendly” is all there is to SEO but that is far from true. There are also techniques considered ‘White Hat’ and ‘Black Hat’ as well as many shades and colours in between, some of which work well and some can get you in to hot water, but that’s a subject for another article!
It is pretty much impossible these days to do business without a comprehensive social media strategy. With such a large segment of the online global population spending way too much time on social sites such as Twitter, Facebook and many others, not to mention forums & blogs, your company or products have to be seen and known there as well. But it is not enough just to be there, you also have to interact with the network and build a following, preferably without angering them through the ill-advised use of ‘spam’ tactics. However when building a social network following you also need to be aware of the existence of fake accounts – being followed by countless bots doesn’t really help as they are generally not going to buy what you sell.
It’s one of the oldest forms of online marketing but still one of the best – “the money is in the list” as is often said. Build up a double opt-in mailing list with responsive subscribers and you will have a very valuable marketing resource. However even email marketing is evolving and these days it’s all about Marketing Automation which involves automating the process of acquiring and managing subscribers (leads) to guide them from initial contact to closing the sale and even beyond. This process typically involves using all sorts triggers or rules which are applied automatically to leads based on their actions or where they are in the funnel and which results in a much more personalized interaction with the lead.
Similar to email marketing, you can build up a list of cellphone numbers, opt-in of course, to which you can send SMS messages to market your products or otherwise connect with your customers even when they are away from their computers (although with the ubiquity of smartphones – is anyone ever away from their computer these days?). When tailored to the mobile medium, SMS marketing can be highly productive.
The holy grail of marketing is creating a viral campaign. Things like funny cat pics or clips or ‘starwars kid’ often go viral and are seen by tens of millions of people, however unless you are selling cat litter or light sabers they are not overly useful. Anything that looks obviously commercial is much less likely to go viral as people generally object to being used by sneaky marketing types. But all is not lost, clever and creative use of content and a range of social media can combine to produce something which people like and which spreads far and wide. However it is quite difficult to guarantee that your campaign will actually go viral – content amplification systems can help with this process but paid amplification is also often required to get the ball rolling in a hurry.
Whatever your business, it is essential these days to engage in a comprehensive digital marketing effort. The nature of the digital age is such that the landscape is forever changing and keeping up may be a challenge at times but it is also a great opportunity to get ahead of the curve for those who are agile and creative.