What is Digital Marketing
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What is Digital Marketing?

You walk into a networking event or marketing meeting, and people are tossing around digital marketing, internet marketing, PPC, SEO, metrics, on and on… You feel a bit overwhelmed, but you don’t want anyone to know you may be a newbie in the conversation.

Never fear! I will take you through several key areas of Digital Marketing, so you will understand what it is, why it matters, and what’s next for you (and your business)!

You will be able to talk intelligently about forms of digital marketing and use the buzzword-acronyms like the pros.

Definition of Digital Marketing

I typically follow and agree with Neil Patel, a pretty well-known digital marketer, on most things he publishes. For the most part, I think his short definition makes sense, if you want a one liner. From his Digital Marketing Guide, he defines the short version of What is Digital Marketing as:

“Digital marketing is any form of marketing products or services that involves electronic devices.”

I said I typically follow Neil because I think he goes off the deep end including radio, TV, and electronic billboards in his guide, and I feel most of us call that traditional advertising.

Most marketers would agree that digital marketing really consists of online marketing channels like:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC)
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing

There are other components that go into digital marketing such as analytics, conversion rate optimization, and so on, but that is going too deep in details at this point. We want to know what Digital Marketing is and why it matters before we worry about how to track and measure it!

How Should Businesses Define Digital Marketing?

This one is easy. Businesses should consider any marketing channel online used to drive leads, build brand awareness, or sell products/services.

Digital Marketing is not really any different than traditional marketing, it is just online.

Digital Marketing isn’t some weird, far-out tactic that only the special inner circle really understands. It is like print, radio, TV, direct mail, and so on. Those take some experience and know-how to implement well, but traditional media outlets have made it easy toplace ads with them, so it seems easier to understand.

At the end of the day, Digital Marketing is just another way to create awareness, build leads, and grow your business. That sounds like a big, vague answer, but we will get into what it means for your business a bit later.

Forms of Digital Marketing

I gave you a list of online marketing channels that make up digital marketing, and I think this is a good place to detail each tactic a bit more, so you walk away with a good primer of digital marketing and the buzzwords marketers and other professionals may throw at you from time to time.

You should at least be able to participate in the conversation after this section!

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization is called SEO for short. Notice how we marketers love acronyms?

SEO is the process of getting a website or business to rank higher in the search engines, typically through the organic listings. This is NOT the ads that show up at the top of results pages. That is SEM or PPC, and we will cover that  later in this blog.

You want to show up at the top of Google? SEO. You want to be the first one on the map pack? SEO. There are lot more ways you can get to the “top” of the search engines, but these are the most prevalent for driving new business.

Local Maps Search Results
Local SEO: Showing up first in the map pack

If you listen to anyone talk about SEO for a few minutes, you will hear a few elements of SEO thrown out:

On-Page SEO

This is the process of making your website tell the search engines what each page should rank for on your website. You focus on the content, page titles, images, and a whole slew of other elements on your website that focus on specific keywords. This is about 25% of the process, but it is the most important 25%.

Off-Page SEO

Once you tell the search engines what you want to rank for, you have to build credibility. This happens off of your website. The biggest factor is still inbound links or backlinks. These are links on other websites that point or link back to your website. There are a lot more details in social signals, directories, and so on. To keep it simple, think about using the credibility of another site to link to you. This makes up the other 75% of the SEO process.

Technical SEO

I really consider this to be on-page SEO, but many SEO experts struggle with some of the technical requirements. This has grown to be segmented as a separate part of SEO. Technical SEO focuses on backend or developer-level adjustments and optimization. Tactics like speeding up your load time, optimizing images, reducing scripts and CSS all make up technical SEO optimization.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

This is another one of those acronyms, but this one refers to the ads in the search engines. Instead of organic optimization, SEM is like placing a billboard on the highway. This is just the busiest and easiest to access highway in the world! You pay, you show up. You don’t, the ads come down.

This is also considered Pay-Per-Click (PPC), but I will expand on PPC in just a moment. For now, let’s focus on the search engines.

Since Google still gets 70+% of all search traffic, many people just refer to this as Google ads. There are other search engines like Bing, but many people just go after Google.

SEM is ultimately carried out with an ad campaign targeted at specific keywords or users with ad copy you create pointing to pages on your website.

SEM Example

Your business is an A/C Repair company. You want to target users searching for emergency A/C repair in your city. You would create a landing page on your website and then create an ad focused on the keyword emergency A/C repair. You put the ad into the interface for the search engine you are targeting with a link to your landing page, and now you are running search engine marketing campaigns.

You will then pay per each click, hence the PPC acronym. There are more specifics to costs, but this is the easiest way to think about SEM.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Search Engine Ads
PPC Sponsored Ads in Google search engine page results

Pay-Per-Click has been a concept for a long time, but Google made it more mainstream. Once Google had a huge market share with their search engine, they realized they could let marketers run ads on the search results and charge each time someone clicked on it – pay-per-click.

The search engines aren’t the only ones with PPC opportunities. The social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and so on have various forms of PPC. We get more into social media marketing in just a moment.

PPC is effective because you can quickly put your business, message, and ads where you want. It just costs money. It costs each time someone clicks it.

SEO can take several months to get to the top of rankings, but PPC (or SEM) can put you where you want immediately.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

This acronym used to be more popular, but I have seen it fade. I think there are a lot of facets to social media marketing now, so one acronym didn’t do it justice.

Social Media Marketing comes in several forms:

  • Organic posts, updates, content sharing
  • User engagement (the social part of this whole thing)
  • Ads targeting users on social media platforms

Organic posts, updates, content sharing

This is the basic usage of each social media platform. You load Facebook, type in What’s on your mind?, and you have a social media post. Other platforms focus on sharing pictures, pinning things you like, sharing videos, etc., but the basic usage of each platform is the “organic” side of social media marketing.

There is a process to getting attention through likes, comments, and shares, in a way that promotes your business, but for now, think about the consistent, daily social media usage as organic social media marketing.

User engagement (the social part of this whole thing)

I split this up, because businesses typically don’t understand social media and how to be effective with it. Many take the first step of organic posts, but they are just promoting and pushing one-way messages.

Social media is social (hence the name), and it requires you to engage other users to work best. Users that participate in group discussions, comment and share other users’ content, and genuinely engages the social community work better on social media. This sometimes is a beast in itself!

Ads targeting users on social media platforms

This is like PPC on the search engines, but only on social media channels. Although each platform works a bit differently and has different ad or boosting options, the basic concept is the same.

Create content you want to drive users to from your ads – landing pages, videos, lead forms, etc. Go into the ad platform, choose your target, insert your ad, make sure you have money attached to pay for ads, and press go!

It is obviously not that simple for social media or search engines, but this is meant to get you in the conversation right now!

Social Media Ads - Facebook sponsored post
Sponsored Ads on Facebook

Email Marketing

No acronym here, I guess because it has been around for a while. Unfortunately, people still get this wrong and spam people from their Outlook account.

Email marketing is more than just sending out a bunch of emails. Email marketing is building segmented and targeted lists of users interested in a product, service, topic, community, and so on.

Email marketing typically takes the form of discounts, announcements, event updates, new blog alerts, and content to direct the user to a website.

One thing email marketing is NOT: Buying a list of email addresses from somewhere and sending out broadcast email messages, even if it is with an interface like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. This is called spam, and it has a very low rate of return. Does it work, I guess sometimes, but there are other ways of building your list with interested users instead of spamming people!

Content Marketing

We continue to explore topics without acronyms. Like social media marketing, there are many aspects to these categories, so I don’t think one acronym works.

Content marketing is very broad and can take a lot of forms:

  • Blogs
  • E-books / Whitepapers
  • Webinars
  • Case Studies
  • Infographics
  • Video
  • Images (although this typically requires some content with it)

This isn’t an exhaustive list but just some examples, so you have an idea of what we use in content marketing.

Content Marketing is typically used to generate leads or an audience for further marketing.

There are examples of content marketing, where the conversion is a purchase. This typically happens with video in social media channels about an instant-purchase product. You won’t see this happening with B2B products or anything that requires some research.

Otherwise, content is usually good for filling the top of your funnel and creating a warm audience, which you use the other tactics to drive closer to a purchase.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is something you will hear about the more you research and dive into digital marketing. There are millions of people across the globe making their full-time paycheck with affiliate marketing, and it is almost exclusively done with digital marketing.

Affiliate marketing is like a commission-only sales job.

You create content, broadcast videos, send emails, and so on promoting someone else’s product. When you are the source of the sale, you get a commission on the sale.

I bring this up, because you may find affiliate marketing appealing for two reasons:

  1. You want to make money without creating a product or service
  2. Your product or service may be a good fit for affiliate marketers

Companies with products that can be sold digitally often use other affiliate marketers as another sales distribution channel. If the commissions are lucrative, you will get more interest from affiliates to push your product or service.

Why Does Digital Marketing Matter?

By now, we have inundated you with all types of ways you can engage with digital marketing. You may already have some of these tactics in place, and you may be considering using some now.

The big question is, why does digital marketing matter?

I’m not sure many people still question if digital marketing should be considered, but I think people are asking why we should consider it compared to other channels. One of our best-performing articles is about Digital Advertising vs. Traditional Advertising.

Marketers are still pulled in the easier direction of placing a few print ads (probably same ad over and over) or throwing up a billboard and praying for results. It is just easier.

Digital marketing, on the other hand, takes a few more steps. You may have to upload an article, place conversion tracking on the thank page, build the ad, and launch it in the ad manager of Facebook or Google.

The difference? Tracking!

With digital marketing, you can track so many metrics from the initial cold traffic impressions to complete sales conversions and place to optimize your conversion rates. You have a wealth of data at your fingertips.

Traditional media relies on inflated estimates, poor sample user studies, and just no precise tracking of effectiveness. You have two things: ran the ad and track the sales.

There are too many steps in between that we can track and adjust to improve the campaign.

And did we mention the time to adjust a digital campaign?

Once the traditional ad goes out, it gets printed in several weeks, and you wait for the results. 3 months later, you decide if it worked or didn’t.

With most digital marketing campaigns, you can see results in 24 hours to 1 week, make adjustments, and have a very successful campaign within 30 days. There are a lot of variables I am breezing through here, but you get the idea.

This ability to track and adjust so quickly has made a lot of marketers and business owners successful in digital marketing!

What Does It Mean for Your Business?

If you are reading this for fun or a research project, you probably have what you need. Most readers, however, are looking to improve their business, influence, or something they want to grow.

Digital Marketing is a pretty cost-effective way to grow your business. It is like other means of marketing and promotion, but more and more people are online.

Even if you use offline, traditional forms of marketing (and we propose you do in the right situation), you should be driving the user to either call or jump into your digital assets like your website or landing page.

Metrics for your business

As we mentioned earlier, digital marketing comes with a lot of data. There are so many metrics you can watch and improve. This helps you understand what is working, which part of your sales funnel needs attention , and where to adjust on the fly. To get you started, so you don’t get buried in a sea of reports and KPIs (key performance indicators), here are the top three metrics that matter:

  • Traffic (to website, to calls, to social channels, etc.)
  • Number of Leads from Traffic (total and %)
  • Total Customers From Leads (total and %)

These are good metrics for your Board of Directors, CEO, and weekly check-ins. You or your marketing team can dig in deeper to find ways to improve email open rates, social media ad reach, and so on, but then you are getting deep into data again! Let’s save that for another time.

Digital Marketing FAQs

What is Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing is the advertising and promoting through online or electronic marketing channels. Businesses and influencers use tactics like search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, content marketing, social media channels, and other websites to drive awareness, create leads, and grow their business (or reach).

What Are Some Digital Marketing Examples?

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC)
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing

Why Digital Marketing?

Unlike most traditional forms of marketing, digital marketing gives you more data and analytics to measure and monitor your marketing efforts. Digital Marketing is more agile, can be adjusted faster, and target more steps of your sales funnel. The possibilities are endless with digital marketing, and the barrier to entry is typically much lower than traditional avenues.

How Effective is Digital Marketing?

Digital Marketing is like any other form of marketing. It is only as good as your plan and strategy; however, digital marketing gives marketers more data and metrics to measure campaigns and each aspect of the strategy. Unlike traditional forms of media which rely on the promise of XX number of eyeballs, digital medias have actual metrics of impressions, conversions, and more.

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