This blog post won The 2016 HOTH SEO Scholarship competition for $1000.

Introduction

The world is transforming. The age of billboard advertising is over. A car passenger is more likely to be surfing the web on their mobile device than playing “I Spy” as the expanse of diverse billboards rolls by at 70 miles per hour. Digital advertising is sweeping the screens of billions of people, and a company’s online presence is no longer just an option, it is a necessity.

Digital marketing can be compared to a wave. A business has two options: ride the wave or get crushed by the wave. Businesses that ride the wave of technology get more traffic, more clients, more sales, and most importantly — more money. Businesses that elect not to invest time and resources into digital marketing simply get overwhelmed by competition and are crushed by the wave of technology.

So now that we have an idea of its importance, let’s dive into digital marketing and how it can help your company’s online presence.




What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a word thrown around by amateur entrepreneurs and veteran online marketers alike. But what does it actually mean, and how does it apply to a business? In short, digital marketing is a marketing technique using various forms of technology to reach more visitors and convert them into loyal customers.

The ultimate goal of an extensive digital marketing campaign lies within a term you will hear a lot, ROI, or return on investment. If you are not gaining more than what you spend on marketing, then your campaign has failed; it’s all about the money. Luckily, digital marketing is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing. In fact, according to hubspot, digital marketing has better cost-per-lead than any other form of marketing.

In this post, we are going to focus on online marketing, which is a form of digital marketing centered around internet and website marketing. In order to get solid returns, it is essential to start with a sharply focused marketing plan that revolves around the consumer and exactly what they want. As you read through the marketing tactics to come, always remember to keep the customer in mind, after all, they are the ones driving your profits.

The Conversion Funnel

Before we hop right into various aspects of digital marketing, let’s go over a term that is mentioned in every digital marketing resource and is essential to understanding the digital marketing process. The conversion funnel describes the steps involved in a potential visitor becoming a purchasing customer. This is the lifeblood of digital marketing — transforming new visitors into recurring customers. The goal of any business is to have the highest conversion rate possible. That means each step of the conversion funnel must be considered and tested.

Now let’s take a look at the conversion funnel.

There are many slightly different versions of the conversion funnel, but they all follow the same general layout. The funnel starts with awareness. Awareness simply refers to a potential customer identifying your product or, in the online world, visiting your website for the first time.

Once the user views the page, they either immediately gain interest or become uninterested and leave the site. Interest can be promoted through great design elements and graphics.

By this point, the user should have a pretty good idea of what your product has to offer, so they begin to make the decision whether they want to become a purchasing customer or not. This refers to the consideration section of the conversion funnel. If your product is highlighted well and the user is convinced to purchase the product, you have successfully converted the visitor into a paying customer.

Conversion is the most important part of digital marketing. You can get loads of website traffic, but if they don’t convert into paying customers, then you have failed. In addition to conversion, it is important that you retain these customers and develop a loyal customer base.

Conversion Funnel

Image representation of the Conversion Funnel.
Image courtesy of Merkle Marketing Agency




Types of Digital Marketing

There are so many forms of digital marketing that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t let the complex terminology get to you though; most aspects of digital marketing aren’t as difficult as they sound. Take a deep breath, read through these tactics, do some additional research, and get started. Results will begin to appear if you put in the time and effort necessary.

We will now take a quick tour through the most commonly known tactics in the field of digital marketing. All of these topics are important to building a strong digital marketing campaign. In addition, this tour only serves as an introduction to these fields, further research is highly recommended to refine your strategies.

Brand Building

Brand building refers to the development of a unique story or identity of your company. It is the overarching feeling of your company. Do you ever enter a certain store or restaurant and immediately feel the atmosphere and positive customer experience that it emanates? Building your brand highlights the customer experience and the positive human interaction that a consumer is provided.

It may seem like brand building focuses around your company’s history; however, it should be more focused around the positive customer experiences that your company creates. Your website should be unique and honestly cover what you offer and the experience you provide for a customer. Experienced web designers know exactly how to highlight this for a company.

Brand Building

This “bikes, coffee, and hipsters” cafe emanates a unique customer experience that helps develop this brand.
Image courtesy of Corridor Kitchen




Content Marketing

Content Marketing is simply the creation of quality content provided to customers. This content can come in a variety of different forms: free ebooks, blog posts, infographics, guides, online classes, etc. The focus here is to create quality information that is associated with your brand. This helps build credibility and reputation for your company.

Make sure to avoid tricky schemes intended to deceive users into signing up for something; educated consumers will identify this and become immediately turned off from your product. Just provide high-quality, free resources and information. Forget about marketing, and think solely about the customer and what they want (for some this may seem counterintuitive, but it works in the long run). This will help build your brand and a loyal customer base.

Here is an example of an infographic about World Octopus Day. Of course, your content should relate to your specific business’s niche. But at least you now know that large octopuses can squeeze through a quarter-sized hole. NICE!
Image courtesy of Daily Infographic

Paid online advertising is essentially purchasing traffic through online advertising. This is often done through Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn or other similar platforms.

There are several different models for paid channel advertising, but the most common forms are pay-per-click (PPC) and cost-per-mille (CPM) advertising. With PPC, the advertiser pays only for the traffic they directly obtain from the advertisement, but CPM is based solely on the number of impressions or views of the advertisement, not on how much traffic is actually funneled to your company’s site (for this reason, CPM is almost always cheaper). There are strengths and weaknesses to both PPC and CPM; further research is necessary to discover what works best for your business.

Many companies view paid online advertising with fear and apprehension because it requires direct investment. However, with a proper approach set by a PPC expert, paid online advertising is one of the most effective ways to drive more traffic and potential customers to your website.

Paid Channel Advertisements

Example of what PPC advertisements look like on a Google search.
Image courtesy of Tanton White Business Services




Email Marketing

Email marketing is the process of gathering a pool of user emails and sending periodic emails or newsletters to these users. However, this approach must be taken with great caution because it is very easy to break the fine line between useful emails and spam mail.

The key to email marketing is providing great content without spamming the target users with promotions and advertisements. A weekly newsletter with fresh, new content within your specific niche will establish long-term users that appreciate your company and its products.

Be very careful with this tactic, and pay close attention to users that unsubscribe and the timing of when they do so. If a large percentage of users unsubscribe after a series of emails, strongly consider revising your email marketing strategy.

Email marketing

A nicely designed email newsletter that offers some freebies. This free content helps keep a loyal fanbase. Sprinkle in some promotions every now and then to increase sales.
Image courtesy of WDExplorer

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a bit more complex than the other marketing methods previously mentioned. Affiliate marketing is comprised of a relationship between a company and its affiliates. The affiliate is an external entity that advertises the company’s products and services, and in return, receives a commission in relation to the number of potential clients they funneled to the company.

A contract of some sort is agreed upon between the two parties. The actual form of advertisement that the affiliate employs is variable and open to creative adaptations. Affiliate marketing is a powerful method that a company can employ to gain new leads. It is very important that the funneled users convert into paying customers, otherwise the increase in traffic is practically useless.

Affiliate Marketing

Example of affiliate marketing advertisements on a site.
Image courtesy of AM Navigator




SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a field dedicated to raising the search rankings of a website on search engines such as Google, Bing, etc. This is an important aspect of digital marketing because higher search engine rankings can drive more organic traffic to your website, which leads to more sales and more profits. SEO has grown over the years and now incorporates so many different elements that is hard to keep up with it all. Although we don’t know exactly how Google’s ranking algorithm works, we have general ideas of what Google is looking for in rankings, so we can model our SEO strategies around these. SEO can get complicated very quickly, so I recommend hiring a professional SEO firm to take care of this if you do not have technical experience.

If you want to read up more on SEO tactics, here is a little list of topics that will get you started:

  • Backlinking
  • On-page optimization
  • Keyword Research
  • Local directory citations
  • Web 2.0 Backlinks
  • Social Bookmarking
  • PDF creation and sharing
  • Video Marketing
  • Photo Sharing
  • Blog writing (especially long blog posts)
Search Engine Optimization

There are many great tools to help manage the many intricacies of SEO. SEMRush is a fantastic tool for this.
Image courtesy of SEMRush

Press Releases

Press releases are statements published at various news or media outlets to relay specific information about your company. Distributing a press release to the top PR (press release) sites such as PRBuzz and MyPRGenie will help spread your company’s name throughout the web. These links are also very powerful and help with your search engine rankings.

However, press releases are not always cost effective and may not even be picked up by journalists. If the press release is simply reposted on a bunch of low-authority websites, then it is basically useless. The days of sending PRs to hundreds of journalists and hoping it is published are over. In order to succeed with press releases, meet up with some journalists, see what they are looking for, then tailor your press release in accordance. Build up a great relationship with media outlets, it will pay off.




Social Media

Social media has rapidly become an integral part of society. Businesses can leverage social media to their advantage by creating a powerful online presence on these social platforms. Social media is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get your company in the eyes of the public.

A powerful social media campaign will increase organic traffic, provide a means to spread sales and promotions, and help with brand building. Not to mention, links that are shared often on social media platforms are given higher rankings on Google. Don’t overlook the importance of social media; many companies have entire teams dedicated to social media marketing.

Social Media Marketing

Graphic showing the most commonly used social media outlets for marketing. Not surprisingly, Facebook tops the list.
Image courtesy of Social Media Examiner

Mobile Optimization and Responsive Design

It is no myth that search frequency from mobile devices has passed that of non-mobile devices. For this reason, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you will be left behind. “Responsive web design” caters to all screen sizes and is user-friendly and functional on all devices, from mobile phones to 4k desktop displays.

Any good web developer or designer understands the importance of responsive design and how to create mobile-friendly sites. In addition, Google recently started incorporating mobile-friendly design into their ranking algorithm. In other words, responsive design isn’t just great for user-experience, it helps with SEO too!

Responsive Design

Example of a responsively designed website. It looks great on all screen sizes.
Image courtesy of Efelle Creative




How can a company use these online marketing tactics?

So now that you have drowned yourself in online marketing tactics, how can you actually implement them and start getting more traffic and more customers? You may know that you need to start brand building, develop an SEO strategy, and start delivering quality blog posts, but how exactly do you get started?

There are two options: the do-it-yourself approach or hire a professional.

If you wish to take the do-it-yourself approach, be prepared for slower results. You will make mistakes that all professionals have made in the past. It is part of learning. You will also have to put in a great amount of time to cover all of the bases of digital marketing. I’ve spent over 2000 words describing the very skeleton of digital marketing, and in order to succeed, you will have to know every tissue of the digital marketing body. This means research will be your most important asset. If you have the technical skills and/or dedication to learn digital marketing, then it may be worth it to take the do-it-yourself approach.

Now if you are a big time business owner, focused on expanding your company, then you likely don’t have the time to spend on researching and developing a digital marketing strategy. In order to streamline the process of digital marketing, the best option would be to hire professionals. There are many agencies and independent marketers that could help you. An example of this is an SEO firm such as TheHOTH. A firm like this knows the intricacies of their field and are guaranteed to deliver results.

Reading this blog wasn’t a complete waste of time though; you need to know exactly what your hired professional needs to work on. For example, you would need a content creation guy, an SEO specialist, a mobile web design guru, etc. to completely cover the bases of a solid online marketing campaign. You also know exactly what the results should be, so you can keep your workers honest.

Whether you take the do-it-yourself approach (less expensive but more time and effort) or the hire-a-professional approach (more expensive but less time and effort), it is absolutely necessary that you start a digital marketing campaign and relentlessly pursue results.

Final Conclusions

It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the size and complexity of digital marketing, but it is essential that a business focuses efforts on it. If you don’t have the time to work on a digital marketing campaign yourself, there are thousands of digital marketing companies that can help drive more customers and sales to your site. Do not let the wave of technology and competition tear your company down. Ride the wave of boosted sales, traffic, and profits that results from a well-developed digital marketing plan.

Tom Overman

Tom Overman

Tom is a web designer and developer at Octane Web Design. He also works with the SEO team very frequently. In addition to his work at Octane, Tom works on a variety of technical projects as a freelancer.

Years of work in the web industry have shown him the various forms of digital marketing. He constantly works to improve his web design and online marketing skills. Tom currently attends the University of Texas at Arlington.