Digital marketing has changed dramatically in the last few years. The current market demands marketing managers to be well-rounded and have deep knowledge of tens of different channels and strategies. There are hundreds of new platforms and channels popping up every year and if you want to be competitive you have to learn how to work with influencers, affiliates, create user-generated content, optimize your site for conversions, and master eCommerce and online marketplaces.
In this guide, we break down digital marketing and cover all of the top strategies, tools, and platforms, step-by-step.
But first, let's cover some of the recent changes in digital marketing, and how they are going to affect your business moving forward.
New digital consumers, new industries trends
Few technological revolutions have had as deep and wide of an impact on the world as the internet, and this of course applies as well to the world of business and marketing. Digital marketing has quickly become one of the critical tools and success factors of businesses of all sizes. We know how hard it is to figure out digital marketing, so we have created this comprehensive guide to help you make sense of it all and win the marketing game to help your business expand and thrive.
The digital age has led to significant new trends in various industries and dramatically changed the way consumers interact with businesses. The new digital consumer, and especially millennials, increasingly rely on the internet as their primary source of information and this presents an important opportunity for marketers and business owners.
While several years ago marketers may have viewed millennials as a specific niche market with unique needs that can be catered to separately from the core marketing strategy of the business, today as millennials grow up and enter the workforce they have become key to the future growth of businesses, and marketers are increasingly shifting their attention and efforts to this important consumer segment.
As a matter of fact, according to US Census projections, millennials are expected to outnumber baby boomers and for the first time make up the largest living generation in the US by 2019. Coupled with a growing portion of older generations who are also embracing the internet and becoming digital consumers at their own pace, we believe that one of the most critical and relevant missions of marketers today is to understand the needs of digital consumers and shape their marketing strategies accordingly.
So who exactly are these digital consumers and what do we need to know about them when defining our digital marketing strategy?
Digital Consumer Profile:
- Always connected (83% of millennials sleep with their smartphone nearby)
- Dependent on social media (the average consumer has seven social media accounts)
- Short attention span (the average consumer scrolls 300 feet of social media content daily)
- Increasingly willing to make mobile purchases (45% of ecommerce will be mobile by 2020)
- Skeptical and tired of traditional advertising methods and channels (84% of millennials don’t trust traditional, impersonal and generic advertising)
- Rely on influencer marketing and online reviews/recommendations (53% use mobile devices to look up products before purchasing)
- Increasingly engage in brand advocacy and share their experiences with products online (44% of millennials are willing to share positive experiences with products and brands on social media in exchange for rewards)
- Participate in loyalty and reward programs (77% of millennials actively seek and participate in such programs, and 33% admitted to buying things they didn’t need just to earn points or status in a membership program)
- Expect personalized, targeted ads (78% of consumers like personalized ads and 54% find them more engaging than general ads)
- Increasingly seek blended digital and physical experiences (for example, global ownership of stand-alone digital voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home grew by over 50% in 2018, and the number of owners in the US grew by a staggering 130%)
Evolution of digital consumers in the 21st century
As the internet expands to billions of users in emerging and developing markets around the world, its level of influence on marketing and retail grows. The digital adoption path of different markets can be summarized by 3 stages, according to BCG:
- In the first stage, the internet is still gaining ground and becoming more prominent and consumers are just starting to seek out information that can influence their retail decisions from online sources.
- As the internet becomes more common, the market advances to the second stage and the level of digital influence increases dramatically. Consumers increasingly rely on online information to shape their retail decisions, but they still make the vast majority of purchases in traditional offline settings.
- Finally, as markets evolve to the third and most advanced digital stage, consumers are heavily influenced by the internet and it plays a crucial and primary role in retail decisions. Consumers not only consult digital sources to seek information that will influence their buying behavior, but the share of e-retail from total retail spending begins to increase as well.
The evolution of the digital consumer in the 21st century can be summarized by 3 major shifts that occurred over the past several years:
- Moments of Truth
- Zero Moment of Truth
- Accelerated Loyalty Journey
Moments of Truth
This popular and long-standing marketing model, originally created by marketers at P&G, brilliantly outlines a consumer's journey and decision making process when encountering a product and brand.
The first moment of truth (FMOT) is described as the moment when a consumer first encounters a product, whether in a store or in an advertisement. Typically, marketers have just a few seconds during this FMOT to successfully convince the consumer that their product is superior to all the other options and to turn the consumer from a browser into a buyer.
Once the product has been purchased, the second moment of truth (SMOT) occurs when the consumer experiences the product firsthand. At this point, the consumer is able to compare the true experience with the initial brand promise or expectation prior to the purchase. This crucial stage provides the consumer with key information that will influence future purchases and determine the level of brand loyalty.
In later years, particularly after the growth of the internet and social media, marketers introduced a third moment of truth (TMOT), in which consumers give feedback on a product or brand and decide whether or not to become a brand advocate and recommend the product by word of mouth or on social media.
Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)
In 2011, Google added an additional moment of truth to the model in response to significant shifts in the consumer journey caused by the digital age and the increased amount of information and number of sources readily available to consumers at any time thanks to the invention of smartphones.
This stage refers to the research that consumers conduct about a product or brand before they take any other action. For example, consumers can search for reviews on social media or compare the features of various products online before even going to the store and seeing the products in person.
Google found that 88% of American consumers conduct research about a product before deciding whether or not to purchase. The digital era and the growth of smartphone use have caused a major shift from the previous linear model (from stimulus to purchase decision to product experience) to a new multi-channel and multi-directional consumer journey.
Consumers today have the ability to conveniently and comfortably bounce back and forth, from platform to platform and from device to device, searching for reviews and prices online, seeing ads in various channels, talking to friends and family in person or on social media, finding which local stores have the product in stock to see them in person, and then going back to seek additional information online before making the final purchase decision.
Accelerated Loyalty Journey
Another important and increasingly evident impact of the digital era is the decreased attention span of consumers. This is a critical factor for marketers to take into account when developing their digital marketing strategy.
Consumers are constantly and simultaneously exposed to vast amounts of information from many sources. This means that marketers can no longer rely on the previous consumer decision making models because they simply take too much time.
In today's day and age, the path through the various moments of truth no longer spans over several days or weeks, but rather to just a matter of minutes or even seconds.
The goal of marketers today is to catch consumers' attention and convince them to buy immediately, because if not, they will move on to the next product in a matter of seconds and it will be very difficult to convince them to come back again in the future. This means that marketers no longer focus only on the content and quality of the information they provide to consumers, but also to the quantity and timing.
There is an increased emphasis on delivering crucial and targeted information to relevant consumer segments in the shortest amount of time possible, with the goal of convincing consumers to act immediately.
Different industries influenced by the new digital consumer behavior
Broadly speaking, the level of digital influence on consumers can be viewed through two lenses:
on one hand, the use of digital sources to seek information about products and brands,
and on the other hand, the use of digital sources to make retail purchases.
There are significant differences between various industries in terms of the number of consumers using the internet to gather information and to make online purchases.
For example, a 2018 study by BCG found that approximately 85% of air travel consumers use the internet to seek information and over 50% have made an online air travel purchase at least once. On the other hand, while 80% of car consumers use the internet to seek information, less than 10% have made a car purchase online.
Case Study 1: Beauty Industry
The beauty industry is a leading example of industries that have been significantly influenced and revolutionized by the changes and opportunities presented by digital marketing and digital consumers.
In general, the beauty industry is heavily impacted and guided by consumer trends, and the growing desire for personalized marketing and product offerings have made great waves in the beauty world. Beauty brands can no longer afford to rely on one generic and all-encompassing standard of beauty.
Digital consumers, and particularly millennials, are increasingly diverse, individualistic, cosmopolitan and connected to the global market. The increasingly fragmented consumer segments and need for personalization present a significant challenge for beauty brands and marketers, who face demanding and well-informed consumers that want to be able to identify with brands on a personal level and won't settle for anything that doesn't feel just right.
While the beauty industry has never really had the luxury of being able to operate under a "one size fits all" paradigm, the digital age has pushed it even further away from this idea. In order to succeed today, beauty brands must offer an ever growing number of options to satisfy shifting consumer needs.
For example, according to a Nielsen retail study, the number of cosmetic color options offered by cosmetic brands in the US grew by 25% between 2013 and 2017.
Another major development in the beauty industry has been the rapid growth of e-commerce. Consumer spending in the beauty industry has shifted online faster than nearly any other industry in the US, with approximately 30% of sales on beauty products taking place through digital channels in 2017, up from 24% in 2016.
This trend has had a massive impact on the balance of power between the traditional beauty super brands that dominate brick-and-mortar sales and the thousands of smaller boutique brands.
While the top 20 cosmetics manufacturers account for a staggering 96% of traditional retail sales, the same 20 manufacturers make up just 14% of e-commerce sales, demonstrating the huge opportunities that the digital age presents to small and medium sized businesses.
Additionally, the beauty industry has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the rapid growth in digital voice assistants, with approximately 30% of Google Home and Amazon Alexa owners using their devices to purchase personal care items.
Case Study 2: Wellness Industry
Another example of an industry that has been significantly impacted by the digital age is the health and wellness industry. The most prominent effect that the internet and particularly the emergence of e-commerce have had on the industry is the ability to reach a much larger and more diverse customer base.
Millions of consumers who in the past may not have entered traditional brick-and-mortar health and wellness stores now have online access to the various products the industry has to offer.
Key consumer trends driving the wellness industry:
- 63% of consumers try to eat healthier
- 44% of consumers eat more at home rather than going out
- 45% of consumers read product labels to look for healthier choices
- 48% of consumers shop local for natural and organic products
- 80% of consumers use vitamins and supplements
The growth of the health and wellness industry is particularly strong with millennial consumers, as many studies have shown that they care about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and are willing to spend significant amounts of money in doing so. According to the Organic Trade Association, over 50% of organic consumers are millennials.
But consumers seeking healthy living don't rely just on healthy food. They adopt a holistic approach, looking to purchase healthier products and services that will improve their wellness in all aspects of their life.
As of 2017, the global wellness market was valued at a staggering $4.2 trillion, with just $700 billion accounted for by healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss. Health and wellness consumers seek to create a healthy home, a healthy workplace, a healthy school and an overall healthy lifestyle.
This includes purchasing fresh, organic food with clean labels, gym or sports memberships, ditching cars in favor of walking or biking, living an active lifestyle and taking vacations that include physical activities and excursions, and taking time to rest and relax such as spa dates and massages.
In recent years the health and wellness industry has also seen huge growth in new technologies such as fitness trackers, workout apps and countless startups dedicated to helping people live healthier.
Case Study 3: Tech Industry - SaaS Companies
One of the biggest technology trends in recent years has been the explosive growth of B2B SaaS startups and apps such as Salesforce and Intuit. While in 2011 just 13% of companies adopted SaaS, as of 2018 that number had grown to over 74%. But what does SaaS really mean, and what are the most important things for digital marketers to know and understand about this popular buzzword?
First of all – let’s start with the basics. SaaS stands for Software as a Service, a revolutionary business model in which technology providers license various software products to consumers on a subscription basis, while hosting the service centrally on their own servers or cloud.
Companies of all sizes have quickly started adopting the SaaS model for just about every aspect of their day-to-day business and management activities, effectively outsourcing systems such as payroll processing, accounting, customer relationship management (CRM), management information systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resource management (HRM), and many more.
The SaaS industry was estimated to be approximately $72 billion in 2018, with an annual growth rate of 23%. And according to forecasts, the share of organizations operating the vast majority of their apps using SaaS will increase from 43% in 2017 to 73% by 2020.
There are several reasons that businesses are rapidly shifting their operations to SaaS solutions:
Now that we’ve covered the SaaS basics, we can dive into the implications for digital marketers trying to sell SaaS.
The primary and most difficult disadvantage for SaaS marketers to overcome is that when trying to sell SaaS to prospective consumers, it is very difficult to show or demonstrate to them the product itself. Naturally, software is not a physical product that can be advertised simply by showing a picture. Software is a complex and non-physical hybrid of a product and service that is constantly changing and evolving and is very difficult to describe or display, especially in the era when consumers' attention spans are shorter than ever.
In order to cope with this challenge, SaaS marketers have come up with the common tactic of giving away their software for free, or in traditional retail terms, giving out free samples to help convert leads. There are many different models of this tactic, including limited free trial periods, trial with credit card information, trial without credit card information, "freemium" software, free software with ad revenue or the ability to eliminate ads by purchasing a full subscription, etc.
Another key trend is that enterprise buyers looking for SaaS solutions are not interested in dealing with sales representatives or scheduling meetings, phone calls, webinars, guided demos, etc. According to research studies, approximately 60% of potential buyers prefer not to interact with a sales representative at all and 75% say that buying directly from a website is more convenient.
As is the case with many other industries, the sales cycle of the SaaS industry is very short and constantly getting even shorter. Unlike the traditional historical retail process, consumers no longer take weeks or months contemplating, consulting, shopping around until finally making a decision and taking a trip to the store to buy their chosen product.
In today's fast moving digital world, and particularly in the technology industry, when potential SaaS consumers decide to search for a particular software solution, that means they have an immediate problem that they need to solve as quickly as possible. They will likely spend a few minutes or hours researching online, perhaps ask colleagues or friends for recommendations, and then quickly go ahead and download a free trial of their liking.
The entire sales process may take only a few hours or days before the consumer finds the product that satisfies their needs and decides to buy the full version. This means that digital marketers have to be more efficient and effective than ever in order to successfully generate leads and convert sales in the SaaS industry.
Top Digital Marketing Channels
Once digital marketers have a well designed strategy and plan of action, it's time to explore and choose between the many different tools and channels available to reach consumers. Each channel has its own characteristics, pros and cons, and it is important to determine which one (or several) best suits the needs and priorities of your organization and product, as well as the needs, wants and behavior of your potential consumers.
In this guide we will cover in-depth the 3 most effective, readily-available and commonly used channels for small and medium-sized businesses today:
- Google Ads
- Social Media Marketing
Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising platform operated on Google's search engine, in which businesses of any size can pay to feature brief text or display ads at the top of Google search results and other websites in the Google Display Network, as well as video ads in YouTube search results and videos.
- Affordable and accessible to businesses of any size
- Pay-per-click model means you only pay when potential consumers clicked on your ad
- Relatively quick and easy to learn and use the basic features
- Ability to reach a huge audience. Google has billions of users, and the Google Display Network is estimated to reach 90% of internet users around the world.
- Ability to target specific consumer segments
- Built-in data analytics and insights give you instant feedback on your ad performance and help you continuously tweak and improve your ads
- Google is often the first (and sometimes the only) place potential consumers search for solutions
- No need to worry about the hardest step of a marketer, convincing consumers to change their behavior. If they reached your ad, it means they are already searching for a solution. You just have to convince them that yours is the best.
- The basic features are often not enough, and mastering the advanced features takes time and effort. Often businesses hire dedicated experts to consult or run their Google Ads altogether.
- Extremely competitive, hundreds of businesses bidding for the same keywords
- Consumers, and particularly millennials, are growingly skeptical of ads and often filter them out (whether with browser add-ons or subconsciously)
- Rigid rules and guidelines regarding ad format (length, etc.), style (editorial guidelines) and content (restricted products, etc.)
Google is arguable the most important channel for any business looking to establish an online presence and reach potential customers. When consumers are shopping online or looking for information or reviews about brand or products, Google is more often than not the first (and sometimes the only) place they go.
Particularly for the millennials, most of whom have never known or cannot remember the world before Google, and who rely on Google to answer just about every single question they think of day after day, just a few clicks away on their smartphone, no matter where or when they need it.
In fact, approximately 40% of all online advertising budgets are dedicated to Google Ads alone, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google Ads has become Google’s largest source of revenue, with Google’s total advertising revenue reaching over $95 billion in 2017!
Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) is an affordable and customizable platform that allows small and medium-sized businesses to expand their online presence and generate leads with potential customers who encounter their ads on Google. Before we move forward and describe the ins and outs of Google Ads, it's important to understand a few basic and very important concepts:
As it sounds from its former name (AdWords), Google Ads is based on keywords that businesses want to associate with their website in order to attract potential customers who are searching the relevant words in Google searches.
Google assigns every website a Quality Score which estimates the quality of your website's ads and landing page and its relevance to your chosen keyword.
The Quality Score also takes into account your historical performance, rewarding websites that have performed well in the past. While the precise formula for determining the Quality Score is not known, the idea is to determine how relevant your website is to the keyword you have selected, with a goal of predicting how likely you are to succeed in generating leads and ultimately sales.
For example, if you own a furniture store but you decide (for some reason) that you want to advertise your business with the keyword "bakery", it is safe to assume that your website does not have any content relevant to bakeries, and if potential consumers would visit your website looking for something related to bakeries, they would most likely be disappointed and press the "back" button immediately.
Therefore, Google would likely assign your website with a very low Quality Score for this keyword. On the other hand, if you were to choose the keyword "furniture" and your website is full of high quality and relevant content and media (more on that later), you will most likely receive a high Quality Score which suggests that you will be more likely to successfully generate leads.
Google thrives by delivering high quality and relevant content to its users, and in order to encourage businesses to provide such content, they offer significant incentives. If you have a very low Quality Score, it doesn't matter how much money you are willing to pay Google, it's highly unlikely that they will place your ad at the highly coveted #1 spot in their search results.
On the other hand, the higher your Quality Score, the more likely it is that Google will place your ad higher up in the results, generating more leads and also giving you a cheaper cost per click (CPC). Generally speaking, a Quality Score of 7 or higher is considered good.
As we described above, the Quality Score has a direct impact on the cost of your ads. Google Ads operates with a bidding system, which allows you to define in advance the maximum cost per click (CPC) you are willing to pay for a given ad.
When you set your maximum bid, you are in fact bidding against many other competitors (both direct and indirect) that are presumably also interested in appearing high up in the search results for the same keyword. For example, it is very likely that other furniture stores in your city are also bidding for the keyword "furniture", and perhaps also delivery companies offering their services to customers who just bought new furniture.
While in general the ads of the highest bidders will be placed the highest in Google's search results, as we described above, the Quality Score also has a significant impact.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
The CTR is defined as the number of times users clicked on your ad and entered your website (clicks) divided by the number of times your ad was displayed on Google's search results (impressions). In essence, it's a measure of how successful your ad was in drawing the attention of potential customers who searched for your given keyword and convincing them to click on the ad to find out more about your brand or product.
For example, if your ad appeared 1000 times on Google's search results and 25 people clicked on it, your CTR would be 25/1000 or 2.5%. Of course, the higher the CTR the better, as your goal is to attract as many potential customers as possible to your website. Generally speaking, a CTR of 2% is considered good, although it does vary by industry.
Take a look below at an excellent graph showing the results of a study conducted by AdEspresso which found the relationship between the Quality Score (they call it the Relevance Score), the CTR and the CPC. As you can see from the graph, as the Relevance Score increases, the CPC decreases and the CTR increases.
Google Ads has some important guidelines that are important to keep in mind when creating your ads.
First of all, the text ads featured at the top of search results are designed to mimic the organic search results that are displayed below the ads when users search a given keyword on Google.
They are intended to blend in with the organic results in order to avoid overly differentiating and causing skeptical users to immediately skip over the ads. The only identifying feature that differentiates your ad from the organic results is a small box with the word “Ad” in green.
See the screenshot below for an example.
We put a red circle around the “Ad” label to help you find it. In order to closely mimic the organic search results, Google limits ads to a maximum of 3 headlines with up to 30 characters each, 2 descriptions with a maximum of 90 characters, and 2 URLs with a maximum of 15 characters each.
One of the most important and challenging tasks of digital marketers is to create the best and most concise message that catches the attention of consumers and delivers all the necessary information to generate a relevant lead, in as little time as possible.
When creating your ads, Google allows you to adjust various settings that can have a huge impact on the effectiveness and overall cost of your leads and conversions. Here are a few of the basic and most important options:
It's extremely important to limit your location to a relevant area. Otherwise, you may be wasting impressions on irrelevant users who have no interest or ability to purchase your products or services.
For example, if you own a local furniture store that only operates and delivers in your city and the surrounding suburbs, there's probably no need to reach users in other countries.
Google allows you to set the target location to ensure that only users in your desired area will be targeted by your ads.
Keep in mind that while you are setting the desired target location here, it does not guarantee 100% success in only exposing users in your target area to your ad.
Therefore, it's important to check your "user location report" every once in a while to see a breakdown of impressions by location.
Even though you may have targeted your city, you may find that users in other countries are still seeing your ad. Here you have the ability to exclude specific non-relevant countries to ensure that users from those countries will no longer see your ad.
Another option that you can choose is the type of devices you want to focus on and target with your ads.
For example, your marketing strategy may rely heavily on mobile advertising, and in this case you can alter your settings to focus more on mobile ads and less on computers.
Google allows you to individually adjust your bids per device type, so for example, you may decide to bid higher on mobile ads and lower on computer ads, meaning that you will have a better chance of your ad being placed higher in the search results of mobile users than computer users.
In this section of the settings, you can also see a breakdown of the number of clicks you have received from each type of device.
In this section you can define specific target audiences that you want to focus on by age, and this is one of the most significant advantages of the Google Ads platform.
For example, you may decide that you only want to target consumers between the ages of 25-44 for a given ad, with a particular focus on the 25-34 segment.
Google allows you to exclude altogether any other irrelevant age groups, and also to adjust your bid for the groups you want to target.
So you may opt to increase your bid for your primary 25-34 age group and bid somewhat lower for the secondary 35-44 segment, while excluding all other age groups altogether.
As it sounds from the name, this section allows you to create a schedule for your ads and define specific days or times you want your ads to appear.
For example, you may find that typically Wednesdays are a slow day for your business, and you would like to use Google Ads to generate new leads specifically on Wednesdays.
Here you can also see detailed data about your ad's performance broken down by day and time, and use this valuable data to alter your strategy in the future.
This section allows you to add various extensions to your ad to provide additional information or attract more attention to your ad. There are various types of extensions you can add, such as Sitelink, Call, Reviews, and many more.
Sitelink allows you to add several additional links to different sections of your website below the main ad, in case you want to allow users to directly access them without going through your homepage. For example, a furniture store may want to allow users to directly visit different pages for Kitchen, Bedroom, and Patio furniture, in addition to the generic link to the homepage.
Call is a basic extension that adds a button next to your ad linking directly to your phone number, allowing mobile browsers to conveniently click on the button and call you immediately, without having to go to your website, find the phone number and manually dial it on their phone.
Reviews allows you to add brief user testimonials or a 5 star rating next to your ad, which can be a very effective way to convince potential consumers that your brand or product is superior to your competitors.
Top Google Ads strategies
Whether you are just starting out and learning the ropes or looking to expand and improve your digital marketing on Google Ads, here are our top recommendations to keep in mind when designing and executing your campaigns:
What's your goal?
When you first set up your Google Ad campaign, one of the first steps will be to define the goal of the campaign.
Whether it be generating new leads, increased sales, or more website traffic, this crucial first step should always be your guiding star in every decision you make throughout the marketing process.
For every subsequent decision you make when designing and executing your ads, you should always think back to this question. The decisions you make should always aim to help you achieve your overall goal.
Different goals may lead you to make different decisions or to view the effectiveness and performance of various ads in a different light.
For example, when reviewing your analytics data you may find that a certain ad was very successful in generating website traffic but did not generate any sales. If your goal was to increase website traffic you will be satisfied, but if your goal was to increase sales then you will be disappointed.
It's important to always keep this in mind.
Explore and play around with settings
While we have covered the basic and most useful settings in this guide, there are many more options and functions available in Google Ads.
The best way to get to know them and to figure out what works best for your business is to dive in and try it out first hand. Practice makes perfect! In the dynamic and rapidly evolving world of digital marketing, there's no one size fits all answer.
One of the biggest advantages of the Google Ads platform is that it was designed to be very easy to learn and user friendly, guaranteeing that it's accessible and relevant to businesses of any size.
When you try out different settings, always keep in mind your overall goal and how to best design your ad with the best settings and options to meet that goal. You can try out different settings for trial periods and then compare results to see which ones work best. This brings us to our next recommendation.
Take advantage of analytics data!
We can't underscore this point enough.
Businesses often pay vast amounts of money for experts and software that summarize and analyze their marketing data, to help them make changes and improve in the future.
Google Ads provides you with these statistics for free as a built-in part of the platform.
Don't forget to periodically check in, analyze your results, compare the performance of different ads and different settings to see what works best and what needs to be improved in order to help you achieve your goal and thrive.
Now that you've gotten the hang of Google Ads, let's move onto SEO:
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of digital marketing, and it's one of the most valuable tools businesses of any size have at their disposal.
Search engine optimization (SEO) means increasing the prominence of your company's website in online search engine results. Generally, the higher up your website appears in search results, the more likely users are to visit your website.
- Huge target audience, with billions of people searching on Google trillions of times every year
- In theory, SEO is free, in the sense that you do not have to pay directly to use any platform or a pay-per-click model
- Similar to Google Ads, SEO helps you attract users who are already actively searching for a solution to their given need. You don't need to convince them to buy something they don't already want.
- Consumers are typically quite skeptical of ads, and therefore organic search engine results typically have much higher success rates than paid ads such as those from Google Ads.
- SEO is extremely time-consuming and an ongoing process. You can't just set it up and forget about it. It also takes a long time to see results.
- If you manage to successfully claim the top spot in search results, your competitors will quickly notice and step up their own SEO efforts to get ahead of you.
- Big companies invest significant resources in SEO, including dedicated in-house employees or external experts. While the process itself is technically free, it's hard for small businesses to compete with the mass resources available to large corporate competitors.
Similar to Google Ads, SEO is relevant for consumers who have already recognized a need for a certain product or solution and are actively searching for options on Google or another search engine.
This is a key target audience for businesses, because it means that there is no need to invest resources in the difficult and important task of convincing consumers to change behavior and to purchase something they may not initially need or want.
When consumers search for a brand or product online, chances are they already want to buy it or are at least considering the possibility of a future purchase and want to gather information about the various options.
We know that the vast majority of people only scroll down so far in the search results. It's extremely rare for people to click even to the second page of the results, unless they are looking for something very specific that they didn't find on the first page.
In most cases, people look at the first few options and choose the one that is most appealing and best seems to meet their needs.
The ultimate goal of every business is to appear at the top of the search results for the most relevant keywords. SEO is the process of improving a company's website in order to make it appear higher up in the search results.
While the exact algorithms and calculations used by Google to determine the order of search results is unknown, we do know the various factors that impact a website's place in the search results. These factors include content (both quality and quantity), coding and web design (for example HTML), use of relevant keywords, and structure to avoid being filtered out by search engine algorithms and indices.
SEO is different from Google Ads in the sense that it is not a platform for creating and designing ads from scratch. In a certain sense, we can look at SEO from the opposite perspective.
Rather than creating something from scratch and adding to it gradually to make it better and improve results, much of SEO involves taking a company's existing website and looking for issues and problems that are preventing search engines from indexing the website and placing it higher in the search results. It can be thought of as somewhat similar to the work of a detective or investigator looking for clues and things "harming" the website's chances of being placed higher in the search results.
Slowly but surely, as we find and fix or remove these issues, our website will move up higher in the list of search results, increasing the chances that potential customers will visit our website. From there, it's the job of traditional marketing strategies and tactics to convert the potential lead into a sale.
First, let's learn a few important basic terms that are critical to understanding the SEO process:
In order to understand and master SEO, first we need to understand what search engines are and how they work. Search engines can be thought of as a sort of dedicated personal helper that provide us with answers to specific questions or requests.
We ask the search engine a question (although it doesn't necessarily have to be explicitly in the form of a question) and receive a list of potentially relevant answers.
But where do these answers come from, and how does the search engine know which answers are more correct or more relevant than others?
This is where the concept of crawling comes into play.
Crawling refers to the process that search engines conduct in order to discover and catalog all available content on the internet, such as text, images, videos, documents, etc.
The search engine surfs all over the internet, with a goal of encountering and tracking every single website available for any user to find.
This is of course a dynamic process that must be updated continuously, since websites are added, removed and changed constantly.
After a search engine has crawled and tracked all the websites available on the internet, it has to map, categorize, and sort them into relevant results.
This is referred to as indexing.
Indexing is the process that determines where your website will show up on a search engine's results when a user searches for a given keyword.
Based on the content that was mapped during the crawling phase, your website is indexed accordingly.
Next, let's take a look at some of the most common "issues" that we search for and fix as part of the SEO process:
An important thing to understand about the indexing process is that it only sees text. While your website may be full of colorful, engaging and content-filled images, the search engine cannot read the text in your images.
So while your image may contain important keywords that are relevant to the things users are searching for, and you may believe that the image will help bring users to your website, that's a huge missed opportunity!
The search engine will not pick up the important keywords contained in images, unless they are also included in text form.
Page loading time:
Another factor that impacts the quality of your website as far as search engines are concerned is the speed at which your website loads.
Search engines consider the speed at which users can read your website as an indicator of its level of quality.
If your website is too large and slow, for example, with too many heavy images that increase the load time, this can negatively impact its position in search results.
Sometimes websites contain links that don't work or lead to empty pages. This is often the result of human error or unintended or unnoticed changes.
It's important to regularly check all the links on your website and ensure that they are working properly and leading to the correct destination.
Dead links not only negatively impact your website's position in search results, but more importantly, they lead to a poor user experience and can harm your company's reputation in the eyes of potential customers.
Sometimes website owners purposely duplicate content on their website for various reasons, and sometimes certain pieces of content or even entire pages are duplicated inadvertently.
In any case, search engines consider this to be a negative factor, since it is confusing and negatively impacts the user experience.
Make sure your website is as clear and concise as possible, without unnecessarily repeating or duplicating content, because this can lower your website's position in search results. Search engines often penalize websites by completely ignoring duplicated content altogether.
Top SEO Strategies
In the world of SEO there are two important types of techniques that it's important to know and understand.
The first is called "white hat SEO".
This refers to all the standard, legitimate techniques and best practices that are considered fair and permitted by search engine rules. The main purpose of these techniques is to improve websites to provide better value and results to users.
You should always strive to use and master these techniques.
On the other hand, "black hat SEO" refers to techniques that aim to "trick" or "game" the search engine system in order to artificially improve your website's position in search results, without actually improving the content of your website or making it more relevant for potential customers.
While these techniques may sometimes work and succeed in moving your website higher in search results, search engine rules are very strict and do not permit the use of such techniques.
Aside from the ethical issues, using them puts you at risk of being penalized or even removed completely from the search engine index, meaning that your website will never show up on any search results.
We strongly recommend only using white hat SEO techniques, and if you decide to hire an external SEO consultant or an in-house expert we recommend making sure they are not employing any of these risky shortcuts.
We highly recommend to use an SEO tool to track your site's rankings, keywords, and backlinks. One really simple tool to use is called MorningScore, it displays an SEO score for you every day and you can easily track how you're doing. It also has a really cool interface:
Here are a few more helpful recommendations to help you succeed in the SEO process:
- Always keep in mind the ultimate goal of the process: improving your website to make it more relevant, engaging and valuable to users and potential customers.
- Keywords, keywords, keywords! This is one of the big "key" factors of effective SEO. Make sure you include the most important and relevant keywords at the start of your website's title, in the URL, in the first paragraph of your website's text, in image titles, filenames, ALT tags and descriptions, and in meta-titles and meta-description tags.
- Make sure your website is full of clear, relevant, engaging and easy-to-find content. This includes clear, concise and easily visible headings, links, URLs, descriptions and titles.
- URLs are important! Make sure your URLs are short and easy to remember, but also descriptive and logical.
Last but certainly not least, let's take a look at social media marketing:
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Ads
Advertising on Facebook, and on social media in general, involves maintaining a profile for your business, regularly uploading content and interacting with users, and targeting specific consumer segments with paid ads.
- Wide potential audience with billions of active users
- Ability to get started with a very limited budget, since minimum costs are very low and flexible to suit your needs and abilities
- Very user-friendly and easy to learn
- Facebook allows you to take advantage of detailed and specific demographic data to target exact consumer segments relevant to your brand or product.
- Although the minimum costs are low, with a small investment your visibility will be very limited and you will not reach very many potential consumers.
- Successful Facebook marketing involves regularly maintaining and updating your business page with new and interesting content. This is time-consuming and a significant commitment. It's not as simple as designing an ad and forgetting about it.
In the growing world of social media, no digital marketing guide can be complete without covering Facebook. Social media sites, led primarily by Facebook, have revolutionized the way consumers interact with businesses and serve as an important channel of two-way communication. Creating, updating and actively managing your Facebook page and marketing campaigns is a key part of digital marketing strategies.
Even though most small business owners understand the importance of social media and make use of marketing campaigns on Facebook, a study found that 62% say their paid Facebook ads don't succeed in meeting their targets.
Of course, at the end of the day the success of a Facebook campaign, like any other marketing campaign, depends on how you manage it. Once you learn the basics and follow a few key rules of thumb, you should be all set to get started and manage your Facebook marketing effectively.
Facebook marketing is very dynamic and offers a wide variety of ads that you can produce and distribute, depending on your budget and business needs. Facebook offers 11 different types of ad formats:
The pricing scheme for Facebook ads is somewhat similar to the Google Ads bidding system, in that you tell Facebook exactly how much you are willing to spend on your ad campaign, and based on that amount, Facebook determines where your ad will appear and how many views and clicks you will receive. This is based on a behind-the-scenes algorithm and formula, and while the exact calculations aren't known, some of the factors determining your pay-per-click cost include:
- Timing (length of time your ad will run, specific days or hours when competition is higher, etc.)
- Target audience
- Relevance Score (more on that below)
- Ad placement
When creating an ad on Facebook, one of the first steps is defining your ad's marketing objective. Based on your selection, Facebook's algorithm determines how to optimize your ad placement to best help you achieve your objective. So it's very important to think carefully about the goal of your and choose the appropriate objective to help you successfully meet your goal. There are 11 different objectives for you to choose from:
- Brand awareness
- App installs
- Video views
- Lead generation
- Catalogue Sales
- Store Visits
One of the most important advantages of Facebook ads is the ability to effectively target a specific consumer audience based on various demographic details. Because of the nature of Facebook, in which users enter various demographic details about themselves as well as data that Facebook tracks and stores about users' behavior and characteristics, businesses are able to take advantage and reach very specific audiences. When setting up your ad, Facebook allows you to define your audience based on an extensive list of options, such as (just a few examples):
- Life Status (e.g., relationship, job, education, etc.)
- And much more…
Like Google Ads, Facebook makes use of a quality indicator to evaluate how good and relevant your ads are to users, rewarding businesses with high quality ads and punishing those with poor ads. On Google Ads this is called the Quality Score, but on Facebook it's called the Relevance Score.
Ads with higher Relevance Scores are rewarded by being displayed more often and by costing less (with a lower cost-per-click), meaning that for each dollar you spend on the ad, you will receive much more visibility and hopefully conversions and sales.
The Relevance Score can be anywhere from 1-10, with 10 being the best. Unlike Google's Quality Score, the Facebook algorithm looks at actual user behavior to assign your Relevance Score. Once your ad has been served a minimum of 500 times, Facebook analyzes the results and user interaction (or lack of interaction) with the ad to predict how likely future users are to react positively to your ad.
Additionally, the Relevance Score is dynamic and can change from day to day. Your ad may have started out with a high score, but if user engagement drops over time, so too will the Relevance Score.
Top Facebook marketing strategies
While investing time and resources developing effective ads is important, it's not enough. Much like on Google your landing page and website are important to keep potential customers engaged after they have clicked on your ad, the same applies to your Facebook profile. After you have succeeded in drawing a potential customer's attention and convinced him to click on your ad, you need to ensure that your Facebook profile is interesting and engaging enough to win over the user and convert the lead into a sale.
Plan and design your ads very carefully and pay attention to character limits to ensure that your text doesn't get cut off. Different types of ads have different text limits. The most common ads (photos and videos) allow up to 25 characters in the headline, 30 characters in the link description and 125 characters in the body text. Check out this helpful guide which includes a full list of the text limits for different types of ads.
Make use of the excellent resources available on Facebook to learn and improve your Facebook marketing skills. The Facebook Business site includes guides, help center, and free online courses to teach you from the basics to the most advanced features and techniques available on Facebook Ads. Whether you're a beginner or a pro, we recommend checking out these resources as there is always a chance to learn something new and improve your skills.
Digital marketing is all about effectively and accurately deliver the right information to the right consumer segments in the right amount of time. In order to accomplish this challenging goal, we suggest that digital marketers always keep the following steps in mind:
Invest significant thought, time and resources in the consumer segmentation process. When businesses have only a few seconds to convince consumers to act, it's important to accurately map and understand the various target audiences and ensure that each segment receives the right message. The consumer segmentation process should rely on a well thought-out and detailed strategy. We also recommend making use of market research surveys and supporting technologies, such as machine learning and AI platforms that automate the process and provide marketers with valuable information that helps to identify consumer needs and behavior and to refine the marketing strategy accordingly.
Develop genuine relationships with consumers. In the social media era, consumers are increasingly willing and expecting to have a more personal and involved relationship with brands and products. By developing genuine relationships with consumers and involving them in the marketing process, we are better able to understand their needs and concerns and create more effective ads on one hand, and we also show them that we genuinely care about them and what they have to say on the other hand, which increases their sense of connection and loyalty to the brand. It's a win-win!
Recruit and advance employees (or external consultants) that truly care about your product. One of the most difficult yet most important tasks of marketing managers is to recruit and promote employees (or find external consultants) that genuinely care about the brand and product and believe in the values they represent. Genuine marketers are able to understand the true identity and needs of consumers, and this allows them to build genuine long-lasting relationships.
Try, try, try again! Digital marketing is an incredibly dynamic and fast moving field. What worked yesterday may not work today, and nobody knows what tomorrow has in store. When you’re just getting started, don’t get frustrated if your first ads aren’t very successful. Be patient, keep trying and learning, and slowly but surely as you refine your skills and gain more experience, your results will improve and the hard work will pay off. Good luck!