What is digital marketing?
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What is digital marketing?

This is a question I get asked a lot and people are often hazy about what it actually means. So, I thought I’d write an explanation to help clarify it. Here’s the short answer:

“Digital marketing is the promotion of your business, brand or organisation through online channels. By employing digital marketing methods, you can engage with potential or existing customers to achieve your marketing targets.”

But of course, there’s more to it than that. The way we shop and spend our free time has dramatically changed with technological advances. Touch screen devices and smart speakers encourage us to spend more and more time online. We are spending less time watching broadcast television and reading newspapers in favour of online streaming and social media platforms.

Our habits are changing. So naturally, marketeers need to change their strategies too. There’s still a place for traditional marketing of course, but there are also new opportunities in the digital realm.

We can break down all digital marketing into two categories: Organic and Paid.

Organic Digital Marketing

Organic marketing is really all about optimising your existing online channels to increase your audience naturally. By online channels, I mean your website, your social media feeds, your Google profile or perhaps online trade directory profiles.

When building a website, there are lots of best practices to obey in order to optimise it for organic SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). If you have a slow website with weak language and poor navigation, you’ll find that search engines will rank you poorly. Not only that, but even if people do find your site, it’s unlikely that you’ll convert them into a customer.

Similarly, with your social feeds, there are plenty of conventions to follow in order to increase your audience engagement organically.

Organic digital marketing is about considering your audience and potential customers and understanding them. And then giving them exactly what they want without actively selling to them. By taking this approach, they will naturally find you, rather than you paying to advertise directly to them.

Paid Digital Marketing

Paid digital marketing is when you pay for advertising space online to drive traffic to your digital marketing channels. This comes in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps, the most common example that many people who run Facebook pages will see is the ‘Boost Post’ button. However, you can also pay to have your web link shown at the top of search engine results pages. Or on another relevant website that your audience might visit. You’ve all seen the sponsored posts and videos when browsing social media feeds or YouTube channels.

If there’s enough people visiting an online platform then it’s likely that there’s an opportunity for paid marketing. In this respect, it is similar to traditional marketing. However, unlike newspaper ads for example, paid digital marketing has the ability to be a lot more targeted. When marketing online, we can specify certain demographics or criteria of who we want to see our ad. This level of targeting makes it quite an efficient and effective method of marketing.

So ‘paid’ and ‘organic’ are categories of digital marketing, but they don’t really describe any actual digital marketing methods. Here’s a brief explanation of some of the key digital marketing strategies that you may have heard of.

Website Optimisation

Website optimisation (sometimes referred to as conversion rate optimisation) falls under the organic category. It is the process of evaluating your website to find out where it can be improved to enhance the user-journey. (The user-journey is the process of clicks that a user takes from landing on your site to completing a goal). This process gives your website the best chance of converting its visitors into leads or customers.

It will look at many, many aspects, including, amongst others, site speed, navigation, design, copy, imagery, and ease of use. By auditing your site and observing where people are leaving early, you can work to improve the user journey. Adding ‘Call to Actions’ and improving the ease of use of your site will increase the chances of a conversion.

Search Engine Optimisation - Screenshot of Google Analytics
Search Engine Optimisation can massively improve your website statistics

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, has some crossover with website optimisation, but has a very different focus. This involves researching keywords and ascertaining what people are likely to type into a search engine to find your website. Following this, it’s then a case of auditing your website to give it the best chance of being found for those keywords.

There are many best practices that digital marketers will need to check on your website to perform search engine optimisation. If, that is, the likes of Google or Bing are not only going to list your site, but rank it well. Users rarely click onto page two of Google. So, it’s important to rank on page one for a keyphrase that has a reasonable search volume.

Social Media Marketing

For many small businesses, social media is a bit of a thorn in their side. They appreciate that they have to have a social media presence, but often don’t know what they should be posting. That is, if they even have the time to spend on it.

Social media marketing involves optimising your profile and the content that you share to organically promote your business or organisation. By having a considered social media content strategy, you will increase your followers, improve engagement and encourage more interaction. This, in turn, will raise brand awareness, increase website traffic and boost the likelihood of winning new leads or customers.

iPads - Social Media Marketing

Content Marketing

Sometimes referred to as inbound marketing, content marketing involves the creation of genuinely valuable content. By creating content that your audiences will appreciate, you will naturally attract them to your website. Not only does it drive traffic, but it allows you the opportunity to build your authority in a subject. By offering useful content, you can build affinity with your audience and encourage them to continue their journey on your website.

By educating people or solving their problems, you’ll attract people to your site who will spend some time there. This is important as you’ll not only build your authority with search engines, but it will reduce your bounce rate.

If you’d like to see an example of content marketing, then you’re looking at one now. If you’ve read this far down this blog post, then you will have spent a few minutes on this page. Hopefully you’ll have gained some useful information and we will have gained a valuable website visitor. And we thank you for it :-).

Google Ads (PPC)

It’s a pretty safe bet that at some point in your life you’ll have performed a Google search. Well, you may have noticed that often the top three or four results have the word ‘Ad’ next to them. That’s because someone has paid money to Google to be there. Well, to be more precise it’s likely that they’ll only pay if someone clicks the link. PPC stands for Pay Per Click. Google has other payment structures, but PPC is the most popular.

Think of it this way… If someone has typed your product or service into Google, then they are actively looking for a company like yours. They have already progressed along the buyers’ journey, from contemplating their need for your product to actively researching it.

Therefore, paying search engines to be placed at the top is not a bad strategy. However, the cost of each click varies quite a lot. It depends on how many people are bidding for keywords and how many people are searching for your keyphrases. The more popular a keyword or keyphrase, the more it will cost each time someone clicks your link.

It’s really important to make sure your Google Ads account is optimised. Without the right setup and the right targeting you could be inviting the wrong people to click on your ad. If they click your ad from the wrong country or were looking for something else, then you’ve wasted your money. We would always recommend using a digital marketing agency to look after your Google Ads account. (But then we would say that, wouldn’t we?)

Laptop showing Social Media Marketing
Social Media Advertising can reach targeted audiences

Social Media Advertising

This does exactly what it says on the tin. Apart from posting organic content on social media, you have a huge amount of paid advertising options available to you. That’s why these guys exist right? To make money. First you need to decide which platform is right for you to advertise on. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, SnapChat, Pinterest and Tik Tok, for example, all have very different cost structures and audiences.

Once you’ve decided on your optimum platforms and set budgets, you’ll need to set up a campaign. You’ll then need to ask yourself:

  • What is your message?
  • What artwork are you going to use?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What type of ad are you going to run?
  • When you want the ad to start and finish?
  • And most importantly, what is your goal? (What action do you want people to take?)

There are many goals to choose from with social media advertising. It’s not always about direct sales. Social media advertising is great for brand awareness, product awareness, building audiences, growing authority and encouraging engagement. (It can also be good for direct sales though, if you do it right.)

Digital Marketing Strategy

If you are going to use any of the above digital marketing tactics, then you need a good strategic plan. Especially if you are going to use more than one strategy. You need to evaluate what resources you have available to you and how much time and budget you are going to spend.

A good marketing strategy will detail the following.

  • How much you are going to spend.
  • Where you are going to spend it.
  • What resources you will need to provide.
  • What results you expect to get.
  • How you are going to measure your results.
  • Which KPI’s will you track.
  • How you will learn from your results and improve upon them.

We’d love to hear from you

Our team have been providing digital marketing solutions for companies of all sizes for over 20 years. If you are looking to engage any of the strategies listed above, then we’d love to hear from you. Based in Horsham, we can work on all levels, from consultancy to a full-service digital marketing and creative agency. Contact us today to discuss your marketing goals.

Terminology used in this blog post

  • Digital Marketing Channels: Online tools or assets that you can use to market your business or organisation. E.g. Your website, app, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, Google Business Listing, Google Ads account, LinkedIn, YouTube etc.
  • Conversion (or Goal): When someone performs your desired action. For example, this might be filling out a contact form, buying your product online or signing up to your newsletter.
  • Call to Action: An interactive element on a digital channel that invites a user to take some sort of action. E.g. a ‘Buy Now’ button, or a ‘See examples of our work’ hyperlink.
  • Keyword: A word that you type into a search engine to find more information.
  • Keyphrase: Like a keyword, but with more words.
  • Bounce Rate: This is a metric that measures what percentage of people land on your website and then immediately leave.
  • KPI: Key Performance Indicator. A measurement or metric that measures how well a campaign is progressing.

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