Digital Marketing: When Marketing Meets the Internet
I never thought I'd end up in marketing, let alone digital marketing. I graduated from college (proud BYU-I graduate here) with a degree in Business Finance and a degree in Accounting. I figured I'd go down the accounting route.
My first opportunity out of college was to help a very fresh startup get its books in order. The books were a mess. For those who aren't aware, you can't count a loan as revenue 😟.
As the startup grew, I took on more and more roles that weren't necessarily related to accounting. These included but were not limited to bookkeeping, finance, IT, product development, manufacturing, sales, customer service, HR, website management, and marketing.
To say I got to learn a lot is an understatement. I loved learning and seeing how to build a business. Entrepreneurship had always interested me. It was a perfect fit!
One thing I noticed early on was how exciting it was when orders would flow in from the website. It was almost like printing money.
I quickly learned that there was much more to "build it and they [money] will come".
Between trying to figure out how to drive more sales on the startup website and traffic to my sister's blog, I delved deeper and deeper into all the facets of digital marketing. I became even more entrenched in it when a couple of years later found my way into email marketing and eCommerce at Emergency Essentials.
What is Digital Marketing?
First, let's define marketing as a whole. The AMA defines marketing as the following:
"Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."
So another way of putting it, how companies sell and get you to buy things.
During my time at the startup, I found I enjoyed more and more the marketing activities that were internet-focused (or using the internet in some way). This is precisely what digital marketing is:
"The act of promoting and selling products and services by leveraging online marketing tactics." - DigitalMarketer.com
The internet has always fascinated me. Its ability to give us so much information so freely (almost), and how the underlying technology (more specifically websites and apps) work under the hood. This was solidified during my time at Emergency Essentials.
I started in the IT department (under the guise it was a 'web development' role...be careful with those job descriptions peeps). The company quickly realized I knew my way around HTML and CSS when they started asking me to make updates to the website and coding emails after being told one too many times it 'wasn't possible' or no one knew how to.
From there I participated in several roles: Technical Marketing Manager, eCommerce Manager, Online Marketing Manager, and Director of eCommerce and Online Marketing (or digital marketing). I learned a tremendous amount about digital marketing in these roles. It was a lot of fun!
Types of Digital Marketing
Most of my experience is in technical marketing (the 'use of modern technology as a marketing tool' definition), SEO, and email marketing, but, I participated and oversaw much more than just those three.
The most common types of digital marketing are:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Content Marketing
- PPC (Pay Per Click)
- Email Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing (Influencer Marketing)
- PR (online Public Relations)
- Native Advertising
- Sponsored Content
- Marketing Automation
- Viral Marketing
- Inbound Marketing
I'll go into depth with these in their own articles but here's a quick rundown:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
This type is one of my favorites but it can also be a little tedious at times. SEO is the act of optimizing a web page so that Google (or other search engine) ranks it higher in search results. This is an entire industry itself.
The main idea is to increase the amount of organic (think FREE) traffic to your website.
There are three main types of SEO:
- Technical SEO: This type deals primarily with the backend of your website and how it's coded. It's concerned with making sure your website is fast, crawlable for search engines, has a healthy link structure, no duplicate content, good security, proper data structure, sitemaps, and internationalization. I'm a huge proponent of building your site with the jamstack where most of these are much easier to achieve, especially site speed.
- Off Page SEO: This type deals with any activities that are not on your website. The most popular being backlinks (links from other sites to yours). Google looks at links from other websites like a vote of confidence. You'll rank higher with more backlinks (as long as they're from reputable sources).
- On Page SEO: This type is mainly concerned with the content on your website. Generally, you would research what keywords people are commonly using in search engines and then generate content focused around that keyword.
Social Media Marketing (SMM)
Promoting your company via social media channels can drive more traffic to your website, generate leads, and increase your brand awareness. Today there are too many social media channels to count but the top includes:
Social media marketing can also be used for things like public relations and customer service.
This type has a tie in with on page SEO. The idea is to generate content and promote that content to create awareness, grow traffic, capture leads, and ultimately land some customers. There are many channels this can be done with but the most common are:
- Infographics: A picture is worth a thousand words, right? An infographic is where copy meets imagery. It's one of the best types of content for conveying an idea.
- eBooks and Whitepapers: Long-form content is meant for readers who are serious about your topic. This is where your expertise can shine. They're usually used as a way to capture email addresses. Pushing users deeper into your funnel.
- Blogs: You've probably heard that everyone should have a blog. A blog not only helps Google know what your website is all about, but it's a great way to demonstrate your expertise. A blog is central to a lot of digital marketing.
PPC (Pay Per Click)
PPC, CPC, SEM, Paid Search...which is it? They're all the same, mostly (though I'd also like to see SEM as an umbrella term because it makes more sense to me that way). Typically when talking about PPC, or as I'd prefer to call it, Search Engine Advertising, companies are referring to ads that show up in search engines. You pay for each click on a search result where an ad is positioned above the natural listings.
PPC specifically isn't just reserved for the search engines though, social media and a bunch of other channels qualify:
- Google Ads: Google was built off of its advertising channels. There's Google search ads, Google display ads, Google video ads, Gmail ads, Google shopping ads, local search, and local service ads. It's astonishing how much companies spend on these, but hey, they work 👍.
- Twitter Ads: You can pay to promote your tweets, promote your account, or promote a trend.
- LinkedIn Ads: You can pay to create more awareness for your brand or even generate event registrations.
- Facebook Ads: Granular targeting is super easy with Facebook. While not specifically unique to Facebook, but the powerhouse in this regard, you can target a very specific demographic.
One thing I've learned from this type of paid advertising is you have to commit a big enough budget for a minimum duration (i.e $5k per month for at least 3 months). This allows the algorithms, which determine where the ads are placed and who they're placed in front of, to learn the best placement for your goals. They're rather sophisticated that way.
This is where the
spam magic happens. Seriously though, email marketing can be a great channel for any business. When a user gives you their email address they're permitting you to send them information and advertisements about your product/service.
It's virtually direct access.
With this comes great responsibility though. Send too often you're spammy, send too little and they'll forget about you. It's tricky to figure out the best cadence, but when you get the flow it's a beautiful thing.
There are lots of approaches to the types of emails you can send:
- Tips, tricks, and tutorials.
- Blog subscription or newsletter.
- Welcome series (typically a drip campaign).
- Product/Service promotions (deal, coupons, sales).
- Delivery of content users signed up for.
I may be biased but email marketing is one of the best channels for digital marketing. It's tough starting out building your list and there's a learning curve figuring out what converts your subscribers, but once you do, you've figured out how to properly convey your value proposition. Use that knowledge in other channels!
Affiliate Marketing (or Influencer Marketing)
This type of digital marketing is where a person or company who has a niche audience (or large audience) posts links or promotions to your product or service. Anytime a user purchases your product or service from one of those links the affiliate or influencer gets a percentage commission for helping drive the sale.
PR (Online Public Relations)
Working with the press, digital publications, and interacting with reviewers or commenters is all part of online public relations. While historically it was a way to generate backlinks to your website, it's more of a humanization of your brand tactic. Increased exposure is also a benefit of working with the press via 'earned media opportunities'.
While many people call Facebook and Instagram advertising native, it's typically content-based advertisements that are placed around other content (in other words they are paid ads that match the function, feel, and look of the medium they appear in). So when you are reading blog posts, news articles, etc. you typically will see advertisements placed in or around those content pieces.
This type is similar to influencer marketing. Typically another company or person will create the content for you and promote it. You've probably seen Instagram influencers create videos around a specific product and promote it on their channel. This can also be done via blog posts or articles.
While I don't consider this a specific channel or type of digital marketing, it's more of a tactic of implementing various types or channels.
Marketing automation is when, via technology, a marketer can automate repetitive tasks that are common in digital (or traditional) marketing. Here are a few obvious ones:
- Social Media: It's common to schedule out social media posts. Posting frequently is paramount, especially with dwindling organic reach. There are many tools out there to help you create and schedule posts across most of the popular channels.
- Email Newsletter & Lead-nurturing: Sending an email to users at the right moment is big money in the digital marketing space. Keeping your list clean and relevant is also a major consideration for email marketing. Sending out a series of emails, content, etc. isn't realistic without automation. All of this can be automated (which saves a ridiculous amount of time and headache mind you).
- Tracking & Reporting: This one is pretty straightforward. Collecting the data, generating the reports, and modifying the tactics can mostly be automated via sophisticated systems.
This is a tactic where content is generated with shareability in mind. The idea is to have the public at large sharing your brand and content rather than just your normal target audience.
Inbound vs outbound marketing (trade shows, cold calling, etc.) is the strategy of attracting engagement from your target audience by being "found" rather than putting yourself in front of the masses who are actively trying to block you out. There are three phases:
- Attract: Become the authority in your niche and attract your ideal demographic with high-quality content.
- Engage: Highlight the pain points that the demographic is facing and properly showcase the solution (typically where purchases happen).
- Delight: Make sure to provide world-class customer support so your customers can enjoy your product and service.
Digital marketing helped answer many questions I had when first starting out. Such as how were we going to get more people to the startup website and Emergency Essential's website? How could we get users to trust us enough to buy our products? How do we help them see the value of our products? For my sister's website, how were we going to keep readers coming back for more? How do we get the website more visibility? How do we target a specific demographic (in this case the Celiac and Gluten Intolerant crowd)? And on and on.
The channels, types, and tactics listed above (and I've only listed the most common!) all help answer those questions.
Digital marketing is only getting bigger and bigger. With more people going online every day it's not going away any time soon. The internet is the perfect arena to connect with your customers. Educate them, entertain them, and delight them.
Digital Marketing Links
Here are links to some of my favorite digital marketing resources (I'll add more as I remember which ones I read the most :