It’s hard to think of a business that doesn’t focus on digital marketing but, whether you’re new or simply haven’t needed to, there are a lot of companies that simply haven’t. However, as the internet becomes the predominant place to conduct business, this is rapidly changing for everyone.
Here, we want to answer the core questions of what is digital marketing, what do digital marketers do, and why your business needs digital marketing!
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing refers to the various methods within marketing that take place online or otherwise use digital technologies to promote a company’s products or services.
A company will often use digital marketing to increase their online presence, both with or without other traditional marketing avenues. This applies to organizations that have a physical presence, such as retail stores, as well as those that do not, such as many service-based entrepreneurs or wholesale products.
In broad strokes, marketing can also be split into inbound and outbound strategies, both of which also apply to digital marketing:
Inbound marketing includes the likes of content marketing, social media, and SEO, all of which focus on encouraging users to find and come to your website from somewhere else.
Outbound marketing focuses on more direct advertising, putting your business in places where the target user is. In the case of digital outbound marketing, this can include Pay Per Click campaigns, direct sponsorship on guest platforms, and many other forms of advertising. This may also be known as performance-based marketing, due to how the costs are often calculated.
What do digital marketers do?
Because of the variety of strategies available, an individual digital marketing expert often has a specific specialty or focus. Content marketing specialists, for example, focus on the creation, analysis, and promotion of content, while performance marketing specialists will use direct advertising methods to draw people to your website under specific offers.
At the start of a business, some techniques may prove more valuable than others. However, this often grows to the point that a company should employ as many techniques as possible. This omnichannel approach is essential for ensuring you’re connecting with your business’ target audience or customer base. Likewise, because of this, a digital marketing team will often consist of individuals with different skill sets in order to create the necessary overall range of expertise.
What does digital marketing involve?
In marketing terms, content can refer to anything from videos to whitepapers but is most often used to describe blogs and other articles, too. In other words, it’s any media that can be consumed by an individual.
Content marketing focuses on creating topics that bridge the connection between your company and the customer. This can be in direct relationship to your business or those adjacent to it - so long as it provides value to those who read it.
For example, we provide numerous technological guides because we know this is something that many people ask about it. Likewise, we write topics like this because these are topics that also come up - we work with people who run a business or want to push an application, so the topic of marketing is very close to this issue.
Producing great content, however, takes more than just understanding the topics at hand. It requires numerous skills, depending on which content you wish to focus on. Video content requires the likes of on-screen talent, video crews, and editors, while even a simple blog requires someone to write in a UX-friendly way. If the content doesn’t deliver that key message or value, it’s likely to fail in its overall marketing objectives.
Similar to content, your website is an important digital marketing tool. All your inbound marketing is drawing people somewhere and, because of this, your website is very much your ‘online store’. Even if you don’t have actual stores, your website is often the first impression people have about your company.
As such, there are numerous factors that marketing teams need to consider. What is the core value of the business and how can this be most effectively shown to the user? Is the website easy to use or are people getting lost? Does the website reflect the expectations set up by inbound marketing and outbound promotions?
A website is a lot like an application. If people get frustrated with loading times, or they can’t navigate easily or even find the one thing they needed, they’ll go elsewhere. In addition to leading people to your corner of the internet, marketing works to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an area that overlaps with both your website and content marketing efforts. SEO refers to techniques designed to get your website appearing on search engine platforms - with Google being the most well-known example. Both require an understanding of Search Engine Metrics (SEM) to operate.
Roughly speaking, there are two areas of SEO:
Content SEO, also known as on-page SEO, refers to the content itself. Because a large part of SEO involves keywords (the queries users type into search engines) and linking (a potential indicator of how useful the content is - assuming the links are of high quality and not spam), content specialists produce content that meets needs and queries that are being searched. This, paired with some well-earned links (because the content meets user needs) can give your content a better chance to appear on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for those respective queries.
Technical SEO, on the other hand, refers to all of the ways Search Engines ‘crawl’ or ‘index’ websites. Crawling and indexing are how search engines read websites and their ability to do this can impact how well your content ranks. Slow loading pages, terrible navigation, or even poor mobile websites can all ruin your chances. Technical SEO focuses on ensuring pages load, are able to be read by search engine crawler bots, and otherwise don’t hinder this process.
Most people spend at least some time every day on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which makes them prime candidates for both inbound and outbound marketing techniques.
With inbound marketing, businesses can create pages for their own company or service, encouraging users to organically follow and receive updates. This interaction is designed to spread awareness, with the hopes that people will choose to head over to your company and convert into customers.
On the other hand, social media platforms also have their own advertising options, which you can use to target specific audiences whether its age, geographical location, interests, or job title (depending on the platform itself). While you have to pay for this, it’s a great way to promote a specific audience.
Pay-Per-Click campaigns come in many forms, including the aforementioned social media promotions. The name comes from the fact that businesses are charged every time someone clicks on the ad, regardless of whether or not they convert.
Other than social media, the most well-known example of PPC is arguably Google Ads. These are most commonly seen on Google itself; they’re the sponsored posts that appear based on specific searches. While this might seem like an easy way to get on the SERPs instead of content marketing, PPC involves entering a ‘bidding’ system with other companies. The higher the interest in specific searches or audiences, the more you typically have to pay per click, so choose your battles wisely!
It might seem a little old fashioned, but there’s still lots of value in email. However, the recent introduction of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and similar rulings in other countries have changed the landscape somewhere. It’s no longer about spamming people.
Instead, email marketing can focus on providing those who have expressed an interest in additional content or incentives. Newsletters are the best example of this. If someone likes the content that’s produced, they may sign up for your newsletter - this way, you can send them more content with their consent.
Whatever you do, marketing needs to be able to evaluate its results and determine what worked and what didn’t. Without analytics, the process can’t be refined and optimized for further improvement.
Everything we do can be analyzed, for example:
With content, we can measure how many people consumed the content, where they came from, and if they shared it (or any other actions undertaken afterward).
As for the website, we can see how people use the site, what they are most drawn to, and if this aligns with our objectives.
When it comes to SEO, we can combine our content and website to see how people are finding us on search engines and how they’re subsequently exploring the website (and thus, your business). Here, we want to ensure we’re answering their queries while also providing extra incentive to stay (and hopefully engage with us directly).
On social media, we can see how many people viewed each post (impressions) versus how many people clicked or engaged. We can also measure the number of followers our profile has, as well as if the demographic breakdown is relevant to our target customer base.
In terms of PPC, however, we are always checking to see if our adverts are working - are people clicking through and converting in a way that justifies the cost? PPC is one strategy that always needs optimization, as we want to lower the Cost Per Click (CPC) as much as possible, while also improving the Click Through Rate (CTR) and Conversion Rates as well.
A key part of this analysis is to ensure Key Performance Indicators are in place. Not every piece of digital marketing will make a sale - sometimes we first need to simply make people aware of the brand or service. This can vary wildly from industry to industry. For example, in B2B sectors, highly expensive services, such as legal aid, can be a long process, as companies want to ensure they’re making the right investment. A single piece of content won’t make a multi-million dollar sale.
However, for an e-commerce shop in the B2C sector, especially those that sell cheap goods, this might actually be the case. If someone needs something, they search for it. If they find it, there’s a good chance they’ll make a purchase right there and then, depending on the need.
In either case, digital marketing influences how they find your business, navigate through your offer, and ultimately choose to engage. KPIs are vital for ensuring each step of this process is performing optimally.
Next to strong analytics, we also need to talk about the high importance of being creative. Whatever you do, there’s more than just a need to create a link with the customer - there’s a need to stand out from competitors trying to do the exact same thing.
We see this in-app design, for example, when we aim to include Unique Selling Propositions in our product designs. This is also something that needs to come across in our digital marketing.
In Branding, we need to ensure our brand’s tone and style reflect our audience well. A clothing store can be cool, light-hearted, and full of energy, but this might not work for legal consultants. Likewise, you also need to stand out from the competition - there’s a reason Pepsi and Coca Cola use different colors.
Messaging also forms a subset of branding. It’s how businesses talk to customers and showcase the value their business can offer. Content marketing plays a big role here, as the content produced greatly influences how users feel about your organization, even if they haven’t approached you directly yet. For example, trying to answer something everyone knows (is the sky blue? yes!) is seldom going to work, but offering insights they might never have come across before just might - inspire people to engage.
Even in choosing the marketing techniques to use, it’s sometimes good to stand out from the crowd. If everyone in your niche is applying the same techniques and on the same platforms, the competition can lead to high costs, so it’s good to look at other options too. However, you should only do this is you have confident analytics to measure which approaches are working, putting you in a position to adapt your budget accordingly.
What is digital marketing? Everything
So, what does digital marketing involve? Well, it’s all of the above and then some. If your business is doing anything online, it probably comes under marketing.
For example, even after you’ve done all of this, you also need to consider your online reputation. From app stores and social media networks to the likes of Trustpilot and Glassdoor, customers have plenty of places to leave reviews. As a business, you need to encourage positive reviews and respond to negative reviews as well - you want to ensure an individual’s first impression is as positive as possible.
Ultimately, digital marketing is about being adaptive. The industry itself emerged as the internet became essential to daily business - it’s marketing own adaption of itself. Whether you’re a small local firm or a large multinational, digital marketing is essential. However, not every company needs the same identical strategy, so it’s vital to have an expert that can recommend the best way to move forward, to ensure you’re investing as wisely as possible.
TL;DR - What does digital marketing involve?
If your business is doing something online, that’s digital marketing, but it’s also so much more than that. Digital marketing is about methods to draw people to your business and hopefully engage directly, but it’s also about being creative, analyzing the results, and constantly optimizing how your business is both found and evaluated online. The internet is a big place so, without digital marketing, how will your customers find you?