Here’s QL Tech’s comprehensive guide to digital marketing, irrespective of your size or budget.
Whether you own and run a business, or work in the marketing department, you can’t escape digital marketing. It is the buzzword and covers a vast set of opportunities – as well as its own, unique terminology.
In this article, we’ll cover all digital marketing comprehensively, with detailed explanations. After reading through, you’ll know what your options are, and how best to leverage them effectively.
What is Digital Marketing
Digital marketing covers all the activities that involve reaching out to people via the internet. Its foundation is content (information), which is used to attract people to get acquainted with, and buy your products or services.
Speaking of content, remember, that even a well written (and free!) Google My Business listing counts. However, as you get savvier, you’ll want to ramp it up to increase eyeballs and revenue.
There are multiple methods and channels you can use to put your message across. Some are free. Others cost money.
But, the internet is vast and diverse. It accommodates everyone, offering several smart ways to do it, irrespective of your size, or budget.
Why Digital Marketing is Hot (And Will Continue to Be)
Advertising online is the in thing. Any other reasons to join the bandwagon?
Reason #1: Digital Marketing Works, Because it’s Targeted and Relevant
Let’s explain that further. Targeted means you can show your message specifically to the people you choose to. Relevant, as you can show different messages to different audiences.
Billboards and TV ads are displayed to everyone watching it. Some may like it. Others might not even relate to it.
Reason #2: When You Market on the Internet, Costs are Way Lower
A billboard costs between $2,300 to $100,000 per month. A sought-after TV spot during the grand finals will cost even more. And that’s not counting the production costs.
On the other hand, you can advertise (with plain text) on Google search pages with a budget of a hundred.
You can also pass on your message for free, with a good content marketing strategy – we’ll be expanding on this later.
Reason #3: With Online Marketing, You Only Pay for What You Get
While there are multiple billing methods on the internet, nearly all involve paying only when a user takes an action. It might be a view or a click – you choose.
Reason #4: The Internet Opens Up a Larger Audience
89% of Australians are on the internet. You have more chance of connecting with them on the internet, than anywhere else.
Reason #5: You Can Change Your Marketing Strategy by the Minute
Once you’ve made an offline marketing campaign, you’re more or less stuck with it, irrespective of the performance. With digital marketing, you can alter your strategy in seconds. You can change your audience, messaging and even the amount you’re willing to pay.
Reason #6: Your ROI is Measurable
It’s really hard to measure how much of your sales were due to a TV, print, or billboard ad. With digital marketing, you know which ad or piece of content resulted in a conversion. This allows you to fine-tune your messaging to a T.
Reason #7 You Can Beat Rivals With Deeper Pockets
The Internet makes the David vs Goliath story an everyday reality. You don’t need to shell out big bucks to fight for limited space on a newspaper. If you play it smart, betting on the right keywords and messaging, you can beat the competition at their game.
How Digital Marketing Works
Effective internet marketing is built on 3 key foundations (ranked in the order of importance):
While content is king, your audience is your God. They decide what will work, and what won’t.
That’s why it’s critical to understand who your prospects are, their likes and dislikes. You need to know where they hang out on the net. Their lingo. And their online habits.
Once you get to know your audience, you can then create content tailored to them. You speak their language. You address their pain points. You like the things they like. And your pet peeves are the same.
- Understanding the Buyer’s Journey
In broad terms, there are 3 stages of the buyer’s journey online.
First comes the awareness stage, when your audience becomes aware that they have a problem, and wonder what the solution could be. You know the answer – you! But, don’t shout it out just yet. Address their problem, and let them in on all the possible solutions, including any you don’t own.
Second, comes the consideration stage, when your prospects are weighing the solutions very seriously. This is the time to give your products or services centerstage, expressing why you’re the best option.
Finally, there’s the decision stage. Your prospects have made up their minds. All they require is a nudge into your shopping cart. Time for a discount maybe?
What are the Elements of Digital Marketing?
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Content Marketing
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Retargeting & Remarketing
- Pay Per Click (PPC) & its Variations
- Affiliate Marketing
- Marketing Automation
- Sponsored Content & Native Advertising
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of optimising your website and content towards search engine queries.
Unless you’re a well-known brand or name, a search engine is the most likely place to be discovered. After all, nearly half of product searches start on Google.
Optimizing your content for search engines is important because users may use different terms to the ones you think they do.
Lets’s say you own a shoe store. You’re wondering which of your products should take centre stage and build your content around. Should you focus on sneakers, trainers, runners or running shoes?
You think about it a lot, and decide that you’ll focus on the word ‘sports shoes’. After all, more people will search for a generic term, right? If you look up the Google search data, here are the results.
As you can see, the word ‘sports shoes’ is not so popular among Australians on Google.
Here’s another insight you can get from search data.
If a person searched for just runners, they might be referring to carpets! So it’s a term you must use carefully.
The key to SEO is to do keyword analysis on Google Adwords, and find the terms related to your product that people search for. You can then build your site content around these terms.
While at it, also create content related to your main keywords. When you’ve covered the topic completely, Google will consider you to be an expert in that realm, and direct more traffic your way.
SEO falls into 3 categories:
- On-page SEO
It refers to all the content optimization efforts done on your site, like in the example above. It includes keyword research, and then adding keywords in your content (not stuffing them), especially in the headlines and subheads.
You must also add keywords in your metatags and meta descriptions – they let the search engine bots know what your site is about. Meta descriptions also appear on the search results page, just under your page’s title. Do note though, Google might decide to take other content from the page if it feels that’s more relevant to the search query.
- Off-page SEO
There’s another factor besides the quality and authoritativeness of the content on your site, that Google uses to rank you for a certain keyword. It’s the number of backlinks you have.
Backlinks are the links pointing to your site from an external source. And it’s very important to have as many of them as possible.
Consider it to be like a good reputation. You wouldn’t give too much importance to a person himself claiming to be very good. On the other hand, if many other people told you he was really very good, you’d definitely take notice.
At the same time, if a lot of shady characters recommended the guy, you’d be downright sceptical. Therefore, your backlinks must be from good sources.
2 factors determine the quality of your backlinks.
- Relevant Anchor Text
Anchor text is the words within which your link is embedded. So, if you want to rank high on Google search results for shoes, it helps if the links to your site come attached to the word shoes or related terms.
It also helps if the links are from pages with relevant content. Plus, links pointing to your homepage are not as beneficial as those pointing to a page hosting the content you’re optimizing for.
- Domain Authority
DA is a term that gives you an idea about the quality of a website. It ranges from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the more of a ranking boost you’ll get.
A DA score above 70 is very good, but it’s not easy to get a link from such sites.
DA between 70 to 20 is good, and that’s where you should aim to get links from.
A score below 20 is like a shady reputation. Give it a miss.
Remember, that you can’t trick Google with shortcuts like placing links in comments, or using sites that are built solely for generating backlinks. Tactics you can use are guest blogging, republishing (modified) content, and creating classy infographics.
The bottom line is to simply create awesome and original content that others will want to link back to.
- Technical SEO
SEO also has a more technical aspect related to your website, and how it is structured. You need to ensure that all of your pages are accessible to Google’s search engine bot, as it crawls the internet looking to find new pages and categorise them. A good web designer will help with this.
2. Content Marketing
Content is the #1 way to stand out from the competition on the net.
But, creating good content is not enough. You also have to put it out there, calling attention to it.
Content marketing is the process of generating quality content and distributing it across multiple channels across the net.
As you can see, there are two steps to it. First, create useful information that your audience is searching for. Next, share it across multiple channels and fora to bring visitors to your site.
Both the traffic generated, as well as the engagement that your content earns (such as likes and shares will make Google sit up and take notice.
You can only put so much content on your main pages. So to achieve the critical mass required for success, you need to diversify into multiple content types. Some of them are:
Having a blog, and posting articles regularly is key. The first step is to figure out the broad topics that you want to cover and write a bunch of articles around each. Answer the questions your audience have on their mind. Address their pain points. Offer solutions and advice. But, don’t hard sell all the time.
- Whitepapers, Guides & Ebooks
Such long forms of content serve multiple aims.
They establish you as an expert. They also give your audience something to take home and keep with them.
And the best part is, that you’re giving all this helpful advice for free. Well, kind of! Before giving away your pdfs, you can ask for their email in return. That way, you can build a database of customers – a very important part of digital marketing.
The data you collect can be loaded onto a customer data platform or CRM, and you can send across emails, newsletters, exclusive offers, and more.
The one drawback of giving access to your best information only after filling a form is that Google can’t crawl it. It means that the content in your pdf won’t help your search engine results page (SERP) rankings as Google doesn’t know you have it.
Therefore, put most of that information on the page, with a button that leads to the form.
Everyone loves visual content. You’re probably watching more videos than you’re reading articles. Videos are a good way to provide value for your audience’s time.
Did you know that Youtube is the most visited site after Google? On average, an Australian user spends 18 minutes on it, visiting 10 pages every day. That’s even more time than spent on the search engine.
Besides, 82% of all consumer traffic on the net will be directed towards videos by 2022. And here’s the best stat – your video has a 50 times higher chance of appearing on the 1st page of Google, as compared to text content on the same topic.
3. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
While SEO and content marketing are free, SEM is when you pay to be placed on the first pages of Google. Your ad appears when a user types in your keyword in the search box – this is called paid search. The ad also appears above the usual search results – also known as organic search.
This is especially useful when you’re starting, or you need a quick burst of sales volumes.
What you need to do, is first identify the keywords that you think will drive traffic and/or sales. Google Adwords indicates the volume and competitiveness of each keyword. The ideal one to pick has high search volumes and low competition.
That way, you can get your message across to a large number of people, without paying as much.
Once you’ve picked your keyword, you’ve got to place a bid for it. That’s what you’ll pay if a user clicks on your ad. There are 2 ways to bid:
- Manual Bidding
You manually set how much you’re willing to bid for each keyword.
- Automated bidding
You set an average daily budget per click. Google then automatically places a bid, to maximize your clicks within your budget over a month.
So, do you have to outbid everyone else for your ad to be seen? No. Google decides which ad appears based on this formula:
Ad Rank = CPC Bid x Quality Score
What is the Quality Score in Google Ads?
Google measures your quality score based on 3 factors:
- Expected Click Through Rate (CTR)
How likely is it that your ad will be clicked on for a certain query?
- Ad Relevance
Does your ad content match the user’s intent?
- Landing Page
Are the landing pages (where the click takes users) relevant and useful to those who’ve clicked?
The gist of it is, that your ad content and landing pages must closely match the user’s keywords and intent. How your ad performs over time ultimately determines the quality score.
By fine-tuning your content, you can get your ad to appear higher, despite bidding lower than your competition.
Another big advantage of SEM is that you can show your ad to very specific audiences. You can define who sees your ads based on demographics and current location. You can also create different content to be shown to different audiences, even if they type in the same thing.
You can also be picky about the keyword variations your ads appear for. You can choose:
- Broad Match
Your ad appears if your keyword matches with the intent of the query
- Phrase Match
Your ad is displayed if the keyword phrase is included in the query.
- Exact Match
Your shows up only if the exact keyword or a close variation is typed in.
- Negative Keywords
You can also choose to not show your ads if a certain word appears along with the query. For example, if you’re targeting the word ‘runners’ for your shoe store. You can ensure your ad does not appear if the word ‘carpet’ and related terms appear.
The wider your net, the more impressions your ad will receive, but it will also increase your costs.
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
Social Media Marketing is simply promoting your content on social media. There are 2 ways to do it.
One is to create highly engaging as well as share-worthy content and promote it among your social communities. This is absolutely free. You can also take part in social discussions, and converse with influencers to spread your message.
Besides, networks like Instagram allow users to follow the hashtags of their choice. When they do, they are shown posts containing the hashtag, even from people they don’t follow.
So, add relevant hashtags that your audience is likely to be interested in.`
The other way to market on social media is to pay for your ad or content to be shown. This is great to connect with new audiences.
Here’s proof. 60% of Instagram users in a survey have followed a new brand after seeing an ad.
Social media is also a great place to sell. More than 33% of the respondents in the same survey have made a purchase after seeing an ad on Instagram.
Some of the top social sites are:
The most common mistake marketers make when on social media, is taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
Each channel is different, and the same audience does things differently on each. You should do the same too.
Tailor your messaging to mimic your audience’s actions. Use the appropriate content format. And focus on building a community of believers.
Paid social media marketing works very similarly to PPC. Each channel has its version of the quality score. And all allow you to target specific audiences.
But, there’s one additional variable when it comes to user targeting on social media – audience behaviour.
You can, for example, show your sports shoe ads to people who follow a certain athlete, are part of a fitness community, or, liked/shared a post related to sports in the recent past.
This allows you to show your ad to more precise buyer personas, allowing for more clicks and conversions.
- Email Marketing
An email is perhaps the one means of communication that you’re sure will reach your prospect. But the drawback is that every other marketer knows this, and inboxes are flooded with emails – most of them unwelcome.
So how do you stand out among the clutter?
Here’s the step by step way to being welcome in your audience’s inbox.
- Create a Database of Customers
Offer every visitor to your site something in return for their email id. It could be an eBook download. A discount code. Or a newsletter they’d love to read.
You can do the same across social media channels too.
- Segment Your Database
Segment your users according to their personas, tastes, and stage in the buyer’s journey.
- Send Personalised Emails
Send emails that are in tune with each user segment’s needs. Also, refer to each person by name. If your database is huge, an email or marketing automation tool can help you achieve this without a sweat.
- Avoid Spammy Content
There are certain words email service providers use to classify mail as unwanted and send them to the spam folder. Words like FREE, offer and discount are red flags.
- Allow Easy Unsubscribing
Make it easy for a user to stop receiving emails. Otherwise, you might end up in the spam folder, and that’s always a black mark against your email id.
- Display Advertising
Display ads are visual ads that appear on websites. To put up a display ad, you can get in touch with a site popular among your audience directly, or link up with a display ad network.
The top display ad networks are:
- Google Display Network (Adsense)
- Facebook Audience Network Ads
- Yahoo! Network
- Apple Advertising
Each of these networks has its own advantages, and it’s up to you to pick the right one. Facebook Audience Network Ads, for example, uses the humungous user data the social network has, as well as its other in-house channels like Instagram and Whatsapp.
Apple Advertising gives access to the apps in the Apple app store. Taboola lets you display ads on its vast network of affiliate sites.
There are hundreds of display networks. Many focus on niche categories and geographical locations. So, find the sites your audience frequent, and create the appropriate messaging for each site you’re advertising on.
In addition to PPC, there are 2 more ways to decide the terms on which you’ll pay.
- Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM)
You pay every time 1,000 users view your ad.
- Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
You pay only when a predetermined conversion occurs.
7. Retargeting & Remarketing
Retargeting is simply sending a relevant message to users who’ve already interacted with your site before.
They may have visited a few pages without taking any real action. They may have loaded an item onto a shopping cart, but haven’t returned since. Or, they could have visited a CTA page, without filling in the form and pressing the button.
In the first case, wouldn’t it be great if you could offer a guide related to the pages the prospect was browsing? For the second, a discount on that very product might turn the tide in your favour. And in the last case, offering that CTA page goodie without having to fill the entire form (only keying the email id) – might be a nice display of empathy.
All of the above actions are possible, and it’s put into action by the humble cookie.
When a visitor visits your site, you can allow the browser to place a cookie on his or her computer. When another site is visited by the same user, you can display the appropriate ad. For this to happen, you’d have to tap into a display network, and give them a collection of display ads. The network will then display the ad.
This form of retargeting is also known as offsite retargeting.
With the help of the cookie, you can also perform actions on your site. Like an on-page popup displaying a discount, or maybe offering to take the visitor back to the page they were last on. This is an example of onsite retargeting.
Remarketing is essentially the same thing, except that you use cookie information to send highly contextual emails.
In addition, display networks also allow you to use a visitor’s email id to identify and send them the right ad. In this case, the line between retargeting and remarketing blur, to mean the same thing.
8. Marketing Automation
As you’re probably wondering, how is it possible to retarget visitors? After all, everything occurs in milliseconds.
The visitor visits your site. Then leaves to visit another site. Between the time your prospect clicks on that site, and the page loads, the decision on which ad to display is made. And when the page content appears, your message is there too.
All of this is possible with marketing automation. It connects all the key players in your online marketing efforts – website, customer database, email engine and marketing systems – as well as your sales and marketing teams.
The perfect marketing automation system helps you identify and segment your audience, create the right content, and automatically perform the appropriate actions based on what your audience is doing – in real-time
Here are some examples.
You can retarget site visitors, send thank you emails on a purchase, and send the appropriate newsletter to the right audience segment. All, without moving a muscle.
Nurturing Leads into Customers
You can send the apt information at the appropriate time to your prospects, to nudge them along in the buyer’s journey. The information can be sent via multiple channels – free as well as paid – and coordinated across your marketing, sales and service teams.
Targeting the right audience at the right time with the right messaging – automatically, is called programmatic advertising. All of this happens in real-time.
There are multiple ways to measure ROI. You might want to calculate your returns based on conversions, sales, or simply brand engagement. With an automated system in place, you can check all of these factors on the go. With such information at your fingertips, you can focus on your marketing strategy, recalibrating it by the minute.
When it comes to online marketing, conversion usually happens over multiple touchpoints. A customer may have read a blog, then viewed a video, and finally clicked on a display ad with a discount before buying.
So, which of these touchpoints do you give credit to?
There are various attribution models. Some give credit to the first touchpoint(s), and others to the last (few). There are also attribution models that distribute the credit to different touchpoints in a weighted manner.
An automated digital marketing system can automatically attribute your successes to the touchpoints you choose. Over time, you can decipher which of your assets are giving you the most returns.
Marketing automation allows you to let the system handle all the mundane, repetitive tasks, allowing you to focus on the strategic decisions that’ll grow your business.
9. Affiliate Advertising
You can display ads from other brands on your site, to earn additional revenue. To do so, you’ll have to join an affiliate network. After you join, you can open up spaces on your webpage for advertisers on the network.
There are many compensation methods, including:
- Revenue sharing/commissions/pay per sale (PPS)
- Cost per action/acquisition (CPA)
- Cost per click (CPC)
- Cost per thousand impressions (CPM)
Getting a commission on a sale is the most popular way to get paid as a member of an affiliate network. So, ensure that your audience, the content of the display page, and the ad messaging are aligned, for best results.
10. Sponsored Content & Native Advertising
As you know, ads are sales-y and viewers know you’re making a pitch. To overcome this hitch, there are forms of advertising that are not so obvious.
- Sponsored Content
Sponsored content may be in the form of an advertorial, where a website or online publication publishes an article that conveys information about your brand and/or products. Influencer marketing is also a form of sponsored content, where you pay social media stars in cash or kind to promote your products.
- Native Advertising
Native advertising is creating promotional content for a site in a format and tone that looks exactly like the other material on the site. A good example is this article on the dreariness of filing tax returns on The Onion by H&R Block, a tax payment firm.
Three Ways to Minimize Costs With Digital Marketing
The key to minimizing your online advertising costs is to target your ads to as specific an audience as possible. That way, you display your ad to the people most likely to take the desired action, driving down advertising costs, and pushing up conversion rates and ROI.
Besides the targeting techniques mentioned in the article so far, here are 3 more:
- Ad Scheduling
You specify the time periods when your ads are displayed, picking the times your audience is most likely to be online.
- Device Targeting
You choose the device on which your ad is displayed, like picking mobiles for queries with ‘near me’ in it. That’s when your prospect is most likely to buy.
You aim at users within a target radius, ideally when they’re close to your store.
Digital marketing is the holy grail of marketing today, and leveraging it effectively is critical to win customers and make friends in the digital age. The advantage of internet marketing is that small players can punch above their weight, and quick, agile marketers can outfox the heavyweights.
As you transform your business into an online marketing machine, remember to keep your audience at the centre of all your efforts. Focus primarily on your customers, not the competition. Create content that they’ll love. And spread it across the channels they frequent, in their everyday language.
Remember, as the world moves online, a well-thought digital marketing strategy will give your business the immunity to survive the pandemic and its crippling effects.
At QL Tech, we’ve been aiding businesses in their digital transformation efforts with market analysis, process & marketing automation, customer database platforms, and digital marketing. Get in touch, and we’ll help you get ahead too.