Over the last 5 years, I’ve written quite a bit about digital marketing, both from the perspective of industry research as well as my professional experience doing digital marketing. “Digital marketing” is a bit of a buzz phrase, and there is a little bit of misunderstanding what it is, how it works, and how to use in one’s own strategic business marketing plan. Since I am starting a fresh blog, in this post I will summarize what industry experts mean by “digital marketing”, what it is used for, and which essential tools we use.
What is “digital marketing”?
Digital marketing is the process of planning, implementation, measuring, reporting and analyzing the results of your marketing efforts using digital technology. Digital marketing methods can be applied to traditional (offline) and new (online) media. Digital marketing is the only method by which you can measure results based marketing strategies and goals.
As a digital marketer, at the initial planning stage, I try to help you understand your marketing and advertising from your target audience’s perspective as a 3 stage process: entry (usually a website landing page), funnel (or bait), and conversion (or hook). From the entry, we can gather acquisition (where they came from) and engagement (did they interact?) information.
What is digital marketing used for?
In theory, the goal of digital marketing is to continually improve the desired results of your marketing goals. In practice, once we have helped you define your goals, usually based on measurable benchmarks called “conversion points”, the goal is to to increase the conversion rates at these defined conversion points. But if we think of digital marketing in the 3 stages above, we also have important “micro-conversions” to optimize before your target audience even reaches your conversion points.
A common goal for your entry points is to maximize engagement metrics based on acquisition sources and entry content. One of the most important engagement metrics for entry points is “bounce rate”, which is the rate at which the audience does not interact. A high bounce rate means low average interaction, and so it is bad. A low bounce rate means high average interaction, which is good. We can also compare the bounce rate based on the audience source.
So, for example, we might find that our Facebook ad has a much lower bounce rate than our Google Adwords. At that point, we have a choice of trying to optimize Google Adwords to improve its targeting, or we can decide instead to move our Adwords budget over to Facebook. On further analysis, supposing we had an A/B test running between two different landing pages for both content and offer, we might discover that Facebook ads have the lowest bounce rate with a particular offer or content, and so too with our Adwords. Based on that information, it’s clear that our Facebook ads should be directed to one entry point, and our Adwords to another. Used together, we might find we get the maximum interaction rate for that particular multi-channel marketing campaign.
While a website is often the central media for a digital marketing workflow, since Google’s Universal Analytics in late 2014, digital marketing doesn’t require use of a website. Any digital device or application which can customized with the analytics code will work to transmit the data we need to report and analyze the marketing. Retail companies can often integrate analytics into their POS checkout systems and in store search kiosks. Mobile apps, of course, can be loaded with analytics. Print advertising can use analytics variables, often embedded into QR codes or short urls, in order to transmit relevant data to the digital entry point. Websites often make sense as the go to digital entry point because they are relatively easy to set up and track. The added traffic from a marketing campaign can double to boost your SEO ranks as well.
5 Essential Tools for the Lean Digital Marketer
I’ve compiled a short list of the tools which I consider essential to every digital marketer. The marketing tools I’ve listed below are all free to keep costs “lean”. They are not meant to be self-serve, do it yourself, or even easy to use. Most of them have steep and ongoing learning curves, which makes them most suitable for the professional digital marketer. While there are quite a few semi-automated solutions online now, many targeting the small and mid size business owner or marketing departments, I have found they are all very expensive, even to start. They also tend to have poor customer service, little technical support, and almost no transparency with respect to how they are spending your monthly costs, leaving the business owner with little or no business related marketing choices. Using a good professional digital marketer, you should get the highest quality customer service, understandable explanations of the technical aspects, and full transparency regarding the spend of your digital marketing budget. The professional digital marketer will also provide you with the results, their experienced insights, but leave you, the business owner, with the important business decisions. We’re not here to tell you how to run your business, but to give you the best tools and insights to effectively execute your marketing related business plans.
Google Analytics for the data
Google Analytics is the fundamental tool for the digital marketer. We use Google Analytics to track, collect, and report the relevant marketing data. While there are a number of alternatives to Google Analytics, many of them are far more expensive, less customizable, and less transparent and documented about how their reports are generated. I’m not only a huge fan of Google Analytics, I’m also certified by Google. In addition to providing means for tracking, collecting, and reporting data, Google Analytics provides a Content Experiments tool for A/B Split Testing your content variations. It also helps integrate all your digital marketing into one central place to compare the effectiveness of different campaigns, channels, sources, and content.
Your Website as a central hub
Your website should be used as a central hub for all your digital marketing. That means you should be directing all advertising to tracked entry points on your website. Again, there are a number of other tools available for automating and managing your digital marketing campaigns, but I’m not convinced that any I’ve seen are significantly better than what you can do on your own website. Using your website as a central location to manage all your campaigns seems to me to be the most efficient method in your digital marketing workflow.
Google Webmaster Tools for gauging audience interests
Google Webmaster Tools are primarily used for tracking your website pages SEO metrics for Google Search. While I think that SEO should be a high priority within your overall digital marketing strategy, it is just one source (here, Google) and one channel (organic search) of many to consider and prioritize. While SEO is not essential to digital marketing, I think the additional data it provides is extremely valuable to planning digital marketing campaigns apart from their relation to SEO. Google Webmaster Tools reports which queries (the actual phrasing used) are most used to find your pages in Google Search, for example. That can help you when you are designing and phrasing your advertising content. It can give you an idea which aspects of your business might gain the most traction if promoted.
Your Blog as a social media hub
Social media is a channel you definitely should not ignore if you are doing multi-channel digital campaigns. Your social media might sometimes be the conversion point for the campaign itself. For example, you might use multiple channels targeting gathering followers for your Facebook page. The main advantage of social media is that it streams your content directly to your followers. Instead of waiting for that piece in the mail, an email, or having to do a search for you or your business in order to discover your new content, social media presents your followers with content you publish directly as feeds.
While there are a number of tools to centrally manage your social media content across sources, and many of those are useful if you want to keep up and respond to comments, your blog can be perfectly suited for auto-publishing your new posts to multiple social media platforms at once. For example, if you have added a new product to your website, you can also write a blog post about it (linking to that page on your website), set it to auto-publish to social, and there it is summarized on your social media page as well (linking back to the blog post on your website). Plus, it is automatically sent to your social media followers. So they can link back to your blog post on your website, and from there to your new product, and hopefully you have a good call to action on the product itself.
This is a longer and more complicated funneling process than single campaigns because it involves getting social media followers first. But when executed right, socially streamed content can be extremely effective. And, of course, using Google Analytics we can track the entire process, continually revising it to become more effective. Plus, there are huge SEO benefits to this sort of interactive social process with your website. Today, Google favours these sorts of social interactions with your website much more than traditional “backlinks”. Whenever you can, you should try to double your digital marketing goals with SEO benefits. Auto-posting your blogs to social media is one excellent method.
Your Digital Marketer for their valuable summaries and insights
A certified Google Analytics individual such as myself can help you define and measure your digital marketing goals, provide tailored reports to summarize the data, and do deeper analysis to explain the data and suggest opportunities for improving your marketing efforts. While all the tools I’ve listed are free to use, the expertise of a qualified digital marketer can really help get the most out of these tools and optimize your marketing results. A professional digital marketer works with these tools every day to help businesses like yours maximize their marketing impact and ROI.
Further Information about Digital Marketing
Over the next little while, I will be consolidating and summarizing my work and previous posts regarding digital marketing. I will also explore specific topics related to digital marketing more in-depth, including industry updates as they occur. To read more, see my recent 3 part series on how to maximize the use of your website as a digital marketing tool:
Please contact me for more information about how I can help you get started or improve your digital marketing.