Digital marketing covers a lot of turf in the online marketing world. Which digital marketing strategies should you be using? Well, this is a good place to start to understand what you'll be dealing with.
DIGITAL MARKETING 101
Digital Marketing broadly defines any method of marketing that uses the electronic information (the internet) as a medium to find prospective clients. Here are some of the most commonly used digital marketing strategies and some insight into which might work for your business.
Having a website is NOT Digital Marketing
... although most digital marketing companies must be able to produce and work with websites.
It almost goes without saying that you need to have a digital presence in order to do digital marketing. That most often is your website or at the very least, a landing page (which still is by definition a website). Your website is not by itself a marketing strategy any more than your physical business space is considered a marketing strategy. It's just real estate, and in the case of your website, it is virtual real estate.
But it helps to consider the analogy for a second. Let's say you have a store. Your store is not itself "marketing". What is? How about signage? How about ads and coupons that you publish to drive people to your store? Billboards? Direct mail? News paper and radio advertising? The Yellow Pages? People have different definitions for the word marketing. Mine is simple. Marketing is the process of driving prospects to your business. All of the traditional methods used to drive traffic to your business now have an analogous part on the web.
So what is the website? The website is the digital house where you sell . Your website is waiting for someone to enter. It's job is show, tell, answer and sell. Each page should discuss a specific topic and link to other pages that are logical links to similar information. Once a client enters your website, the goal is to answer any question the prospective client might have about what you're selling in whatever way the prospective client finds convenient to ask (chat, email, faq, site map, site search, phone call, form submission, etc. in a way that will ultimately lead to a sale. This is not necessarily an easy task. I won't get into the specifics of conversion strategies for websites here. Suffice it to say, that once the visitor is at the doorstep, the job of the website is to walk the visitor toward a sale - if not actually sell something.
Search Engine Optimization - Essential Digital Marketing
Visibility is the hallmark of all marketing strategies. In the physical realm, location is a key component. Having a good location presumes that a percentage of the foot traffic will come through your doors. Is there something that compares with physical location on the web? Not exactly (see social media below). Your business has a physical address. Your website is located at an IP address. A physical business chooses location based on demographics and volume. In a sense, the internet is a great equalizer for small businesses. I don't need a towering office building to get noticed. Visibility on the web is on a much more equal playing field.
The Search Engine is to your Website What the GREETER is to Walmart
The very first time you walked into a Walmart, you were lost. You had two choices. You could navigate randomly or you could just ask the Walmart greeter! The search engine site is your Walmart greeter for the web! You can browse at random or you can simply ask. 65% of search traffic goes through Google. (the rest is split up among Bing, Yahoo!, Ask, AOL and and a bunch of 2nd tier sites). Amazon is also a search engine - and a pretty darned good one!
Search engine optimization is the process of telling the search engines where you are on the internet (your domain) and what you're selling. It is digital signage. The search engines simply take the search request and sends the person to what it considers to be the correct place relative to the request. It's like asking the Walmart store greeter where the tennis racquets are. Search Engine Optimization is by definition a digital marketing strategy because its purpose is to attract prospective clients to your website via the internet search engines defined best practices.
SEO should be done BEFORE any other form of digital marketing.
In my opinion, EVERY legitimate business website should be engaged in SEO if the goal is to increase business through the use of the internet. It should be the FIRST form of digital marketing. Here's why: let's say that you embark on an SEO strategy that effectively increases the amount of traffic you get to your site. After you start seeing some traffic, you'll be able to determine if your website is effectively driving business. THIS IS CRUCIAL! Here's the point: If you are getting 500 visits a month and no business from your website, would you consider spending $5000 to get more traffic? I wouldn't. THIS IS A VERY COMMON MISTAKE. A lot of businesses will create a Google Adwords campaign to drive more traffic to their website without ever considering the fact that the traffic they're already getting is not generating business (as a percentage of their total traffic).
After you have a ground-swell of traffic and before you embark on any other digital marketing campaigns, you need to make sure that your website is delivering customers. If your website is not generating a revenue stream by bringing in more leads to your business, you need to consider making changes to your website before you spend any more money driving traffic. That said, you may consider spending money to drive traffic to TEST if a particular part of the site is effective or not. But do not ramp up your digital marketing expenditure with the goal of driving traffic if you have no idea how that traffic is going to respond once they land on your website.
Website Optimization and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are NOT the same thing
People confuse website optimization with search engine optimization. Website optimization focuses on what happens to the visitor when he or she is already on your website. If the goal of your website is to generate more leads, website optimization metrics include total emails and phone calls generated. If the goal is to increase sales, the metrics measure total revenue generated. The metric for SEO is traffic (usually associate with a specific audience). You might argue that I should optimize the website even before SEO. My answer is "I'd love to, but how can I measure the performance without any traffic?" (You either do SEO or you pay for the traffic).
Search Engine Advertising (Pay Per Click Digital Marketing)
Pay per click (or PPC) is the biggest revenue generator for the major search engine companies. Are you one of those people that says: "I never click those ads!". Well, somebody does - to the tune of about $30 Billion dollars per year - and that's just Google (via Google AdWords). There's a reason. IT WORKS. The strategy is simple. Choose a search phrase (referred to as a keyword) and tell Google (or another search engine) how much you are willing to pay to send the person who typed that keyword to your website. Be prepared because clicks are not cheap. In some markets, keywords can cost $50 PER CLICK! Now perhaps you can see why I stated earlier that you'd better understand the ability of your website to convert visitors to clients before you embark on a Pay Per Click digital marketing campaign.
Social Media Advertising
Social media advertising has ballooned in recent history partly because search engine advertising is or can be expensive but also people and businesses are migrating to this internet medium to conduct business. Remember that we said that location does not have an analogous component in digital space? Social media has changed that! Social media lets you hang out with like minded businesses and communicate in ways that were not really possible with a stand-alone website. People can even ask other people who they should work with... just like in the real world. Cluetrain described this years ago (www.cluetrain.com) : "These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."
Here's the kicker with social media. EVERYONE on the platform is logged in and has a profile and a newsfeed. Facebook taps into that by allowing you to advertise to very specific demographics within your market. Your ad will be exposed ONLY to the people whose characteristics closely match those you've set up your marketing campaign to reach. You can't do this on the search engines (at least not as well).
Referral based Digital Marketing and Reputation Management
Because of the ability of your market (or markets) to communicate so effectively with each other across social media platforms and digital landscapes, word of mouth has entered the digital realm and a new form of digital marketing - often referred to as reputation management. The search engines, the social media sites, the ecommerce sites and the travel sites are all asking for your opinion. People value other peoples opinions and experiences more than they value or believe what you're telling them directly. It's human nature.
I think reputation management can be a wake up call for many businesses. None of us want to deliver a bad experience and certainly if it does happen, we don't want it to be published all over the web. The concept of reputation management has helped many companies revise there customer service strategies with the goal of ALWAYS satisfying the client. The customer service is not digital marketing per se' but ASKING for positive reviews is. Devising a strategy to increase the number of 4 and 5 star reviews delivers more clients to your business products and services. How you deal with the 1,2 and 3 star clients is also part of your marketing strategy - especially if you can convert them to 4 and 5 star clients.
Retargeting and Remarketing - FOLLOW ME Display Ads
Whether it's social media advertising or search engine advertising, there are many advertising mechanisms within the framework. Retargeting and remarketing have seen a remarkable growth in recent years. These campaigns are driven from Social Media sites and Search Engines and can even be launched directly from your own website. Here's how they work on Google for example; if someone types a search on Google, they may or may not click your Google Adwords. BUT Google can drop a little snippet of code on that visitors browser. Whenever that person goes to a web page that includes advertising space, ads that are relevant to that prior search begin popping up! On another site they pop up again... and again. They FOLLOW you. Eventually you might click one of those ads. These campaigns can charge per impressions or per click. My preference is per click if available. In any case, they are an effective digital marketing strategy (and often cheaper than Pay Per Click).
Email Marketing - Very LOW COST Digital Marketing
Perhaps one of the most under utilized digital marketing strategies is email marketing. Perhaps because we are all sensitive to spam, we shy away from it. But email marketing, if done right is a terrific, low cost digital marketing strategy to maintain contact with existing clients and attract new clients. You can purchase a list if you want but be aware that most email marketing platforms have rules against doing just that. But the truth is most small businesses don't even take advantage of their internal email client list. It may be time to consider an email marketing strategy beyond a simple newsletter. Getting an email is often the ONLY goal of an effective business website. The followup email campaign is where the lead nurturing occurs.
This blog just touches the surface of the digital marketing landscape. My advice is to take digital marketing one step at a time. Map out a customer journey through your website. Try to walk in the visitor's shoes and see how you would respond as a client to your own site (it helps to think about a keyword that you would have used to find the site - then follow yourself through the website and see if it leads you where you want your client to end up). Create opportunities for interaction in your website so you can measure response. Remember the cardinal rule in any sales process - you need the visitors name (and email address). Don't push or your visitor will push back. It's nothing personal and on the web its REALLY nothing personal. They'll simply leave. When you think you've got something that works, try it (SEO or Paid Traffic). Measure the results, make some changes, and test again. You should know BEFORE you embark on a major digital marketing expenditure what the result will already be! If you take this approach, you will experience true organic growth in both your website and your business. And like your business, your website is never finished. It is constantly changing and responding to the market and to new opportunities. Don't let it just sit there.
Blog published 11/15/17 - Digital Marketing Dayton Ohio ranks 100
11/16/17 - Digital Marketing Dayton Ohio ranks 120 (hmm?). Responded by adding more content to home, Force Google Fetch, resubmit sitemap
11/17/17 - Digital Marketing Dayton Ohio ranks 26 (nice jump but not first page - YET!)
11/24/17 - Digital Marketing Dayton Ohio ranks 18th organically. Getting there (This page is the one that is ranking)
12/21/17 - Digital Marketing Dayton Ohio ranks 5th organically. Merry Christmas! (STILL NOT DONE). Getting there is half the battle. The other half is staying there!