Digital Marketing ABCs: Basic Definitions and Tips for Getting Started

Working desk with digital tablet showing digital marketing concept

Digital marketing intimidates a lot of people. Others think they can ignore it. But with so much of our daily lives taking place online, you can’t afford to neglect your internet presence. 

Here’s the good news: it’s a lot easier than you think. In fact, you probably already engage in some form of digital marketing. You may have a website or an email list, or maybe you simply went on Google to make sure that your business information is up to date.

The trick is to focus your time on an online marketing strategy. This introduction aims to help you do just that by explaining all of the digital marketing essentials you need to know, including the options that are available and what the best practices are. You can then get straight to work, using the best tips and tools suited to meet your business needs.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a lot like traditional marketing only it solely relies on the internet to promote your company through digital channels like a website, social media platforms, blog posts, videos, search engine advertising, and email. Making sure that customers can find you online is an important part of digital marketing —‌ it’s actually more than just important, it’s vital.

People often contrast digital marketing with traditional marketing, which includes everything from a hastily scrawled sign advertising a garage sale to a 30-second Super Bowl ad that costs $5.6 million. Both forms of marketing are aiming to meet the same goal: drawing in customers. How this is done varies, especially since digital marketing takes place solely online.

Mobile marketing is an essential component of digital marketing, targeting customers who access the internet via their mobile devices. With millions of people across the globe accessing the internet on their smartphones, you need to make sure all of your channels are optimized for these devices as well as for desktop use.‌

Why is Digital Marketing Important?

More than 60% of the world’s population uses the internet. That’s 4.72 billion people, which is an impressive enough statistic. But that percentage is much higher when it comes to your target market. In fact, it likely approaches 100%.

We live more and more of our lives online. That’s where we work, where we shop, and where we socialize. That’s where we get our news. That’s where we go when we’re hungry and looking for a nearby restaurant. Or when it’s three in the morning and we need tips for dealing with insomnia.

Businesses have embraced this new world order and have put a lot of money into growing their digital marketing and advertising footprint, with investments expected to grow to $389 billion in 2021. Again, this huge number is deceptively small. It only refers to formal advertising commitments. It doesn’t take into consideration every mom-and-pop store that spends a month of Sundays putting together a brand new website.‌

In other words, you can make your competition very happy by not taking advantage of internet marketing channels. They certainly do take advantage of these opportunities and are more than willing to let you cede the field.

The Benefits of Digital Marketing

Still not convinced? Here’s a quick, working list of how digital marketing can benefit your business.

  1. It’s cost-effective. Digital marketing campaigns cost a fraction of the price of traditional advertising. Plus, readily available metrics allow you to consistently update and retarget your focus to ensure the best return on your investment.
  2. It allows you to build your brand. With multiple channels and means of engaging your customers, you can increase awareness, craft your narrative and brand identity, and strengthen your credibility with a robust internet presence.
  3. It helps your target market find you. There are people actively looking for your services or products. Let them know you exist.
  4. It helps you find your target market. Generate new leads. You can engage your customers where they live. You can even hone your target audience as you discover more and more about your base.
  5. It helps you keep your target market. Bring customers back for more by staying in touch through your social media channels and by sending them emails regularly.

Marketing Analytics

Digital marketing gives you access to a wealth of information and tools that let you calculate the return on investment, or ROI, of any digital marketing initiative. Do your calls to action result in real conversions? Which social media profiles see the highest traffic? You can answer these questions easily.

The best and most popular tool is Google Analytics, which allows you to track all of the content on your website that others view or share. You can also evaluate your Google Ads performance, as well as metrics for other sites and applications. 

Digital marketing analytics give you the chance to track customers as they move through your marketing funnel, evaluating each stage and identifying potential problem areas.

What Are the Categories of Digital Marketing?

The first step in online marketing is to learn what it is and what your options are. Most digital marketing falls into one of the following six categories. Your ultimate strategy will likely cover them all in some form, but you’ll want to keep the focus on the needs of your business.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the city’s multifaceted, online tourism campaign. Don’t torture yourself with the illusion that every single one of the following six channels should spring into existence simultaneously and without effort. They won’t, and they don’t necessarily have to.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

There’s a really old joke that goes, “Where should you hide a dead body? The second page of Google.” And that punchline’s still true today. Page two is not where you want your website to land.

Search engine optimization refers to everything you can do to help your website appear on the search engine results page (SERP) when people look for related information, from your actual company to industry-specific knowledge to local establishments.‌

On-Site SEO

Google has developed an incredibly complex and constantly evolving algorithm designed to direct people to the best site in response to their search. The most important elements that influence your SEO ranking are:

  • Location
  • Language
  • User experience
  • Relevancy
  • Quality

The first two are fairly straightforward. Google doesn’t want to send someone in Mumbai who submits a search in Hindi to a San Diego establishment that primarily caters to English-speaking locals. 

User experience includes page speed, site layout, URL structure, and mobile responsiveness, or how easy it is to use your site on a mobile device. If people continually bail after a few seconds on your website, Google will count that against you in its rankings.

Think about your own experience navigating websites. Nothing is more frustrating than a site that won’t load or is hard to read on your phone. Design and update your own site to provide browsers with as pain-free a process as possible. 

Google is also able to recognize high-quality and appealing content. From posts to pages, make sure that:

  • Content is original.
  • Language is plain and easy to read.
  • Questions are answered thoroughly.
  • Sources are both authoritative and relevant.
  • Keyword use is natural.

Google’s algorithm has become a master at identifying dishonest attempts to manipulate it. Known as black hat SEO, practices such as keyword-stuffing, or crowding text with keywords that are irrelevant or abundantly overused, actually backfire and result in much lower search engine rankings.

Finally, you want your website to be relevant. Clarity is key. Use URLs and title tags that identify your business exactly, and create precise and unique titles for each page of the website. 

Write keyword-rich content and make sure those keywords show up in meta-descriptions and headings. Wondering what words you should be trying to rank for? Use Google’s free keyword planner to help you plan site content as well as advertisements.

Remember, a solid SEO strategy is crucial to make sure that both Google and internet users can locate your website and business. Without an effective website that customers enjoy using and Google recognizes, the rest of these channels will be of limited use.

Off-Site SEO

Google rankings aren’t just limited to your website. The more robust and positive your overall web presence is, the higher your site will rank. Multiple factors play into off-site SEO:

  • Domain authority
  • Online reviews
  • Backlinks

Domain authority takes time. How long you’ve had a certain domain name and the history of the name play a role in domain authority, as do backlinks and site architecture.

When it comes to reviews, you neglect your online reputation at your own peril. These external mentions influence SEO, particularly local SEO, which is crucial to many small businesses. 

Online review sites such as Yelp influence an ever-growing number of consumers who research companies and establishments before rewarding them with their business. Handle negative reviews with graciousness and prompt attention, and thank customers who take the time to post positive ones.

Backlinks appear when other websites and businesses mention your website and link to it. Other people might cite you as an authority or feature you on a blog, podcast, or trade publication. You can also post on industry forums or mutually promote a related but non-competitor business.

This introduction spends more time on SEO than any other digital marketing category for one simple reason: you can get into highly detailed and sophisticated SEO strategies, but you can’t avoid at least some basic website design and reputation maintenance.

2. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising — sometimes known as search engine marketing (SEM) — refers to a form of paid online advertising. The advertiser can choose from a variety of pricing structures, including:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC), where the advertiser pays a certain amount to the publisher each time their ad is clicked.
  • Pay-per-impression (PPM), where payment is made every 1,000 times your ad is viewed, regardless of whether anyone clicked on its link.
  • Pay-per-action (PPA), also known as performance-based advertising, where the advertiser pays a fee for each specific action, like a specific amount per a certain amount of views and another amount for clicks.‌

PPC is often used as a blanket term for this kind of marketing as well as pay-per-click ads, specifically.‌

There are two basic types of PPC advertising: search ads and display ads. The nuances of these types vary across platforms, but the basics stay the same.‌

Search Ads

Have you ever noticed that when you search for something on Google, some of your results — either at the top or bottom of the page — are identified as ads? In all other ways, these listings are formatted in the same way as the others.

SEO helps you rank high in natural search results. You don’t pay to show up in response to a browser’s search. Google just designates you as one of the best responses. 

Paid search results allow you to come at it from the other end. Instead of simply making yourself an attractive result, you can target specific searches, ensuring that your business listing turns up as a response.

Display Ads

Display ads bear a closer resemblance to traditional advertising. Think about your experience driving down a highway and seeing a billboard, flipping through a magazine and finding a perfume ad, or watching your favorite show and sticking around through the commercial break.‌

Displays ads translate that experience to the internet. They appear on a page as a banner or a box that is separate from the page’s native content.

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing includes both PPC advertising in the form of promoted posts and ads as well as your business’s own social media profiles and presence.

Social media may have a mixed reputation, but the statistics are compelling. Nine out of 10 internet users are active on social media at least once a month. The average user spends more than two hours a day on various platforms, and the following six platforms have more than a billion active users apiece:

  1. Facebook
  2. YouTube
  3. WhatsApp
  4. Facebook Messenger
  5. Instagram
  6. WeChat

Engage your customers where they live virtually. You can use Instagram to advertise special promotions or stay in touch with your community through your Facebook page. Like the rest of your digital marketing strategy, your approach will depend on your business and clientele.

One of the great things about social media marketing? You can actually let your customers do some of the work for you, especially if you design posts that are meant to be shared or encourage customers to tag you in their own posts. 

4. Affiliate and Influencer Marketing

Word of mouth still matters in this digital age. Affiliate and influencer marketing is all about working with people with loud voices in your industry. 

For example, maybe you want to connect with a certain fashion designer who has a popular Instagram account or with the writer of a popular baking blog. Invite them to create content that promotes a new line of clothing or a high-end electric mixer. They then receive a commission each time one of their followers or readers clicks a link or makes a certain purchase.‌

5. Email Marketing

With so many other channels available, email can seem old-fashioned these days. But email is still one of the cheapest and most effective digital marketing tools around. ‌

Invite customers to sign up for your email lists when they buy something or visit your website. You can then stay in touch with your base through newsletters and promotions. 

If you already have a strong mailing list, then you’re a step ahead. If you don’t, try offering valuable content in return for an email address. You can give them an informational pamphlet or a special promotion. Or enter them into a sweepstake for a free consultation or package of goods. 

Just be careful not to annoy customers by overfilling their inboxes. Keep emails relevant and segment lists where you can, personalizing the content you show your subscribers.

6. Content Marketing 

Offering an ebook in exchange for contact information is also a form of content marketing. In content marketing, you focus on producing well-written and informative content that you disseminate through your website or social profile. ‌

Two of the most popular content marketing options are videos and blogs. More people than ever watch videos online. In fact, eight in 10 adults watch videos on YouTube — a number that spans demographics. You might offer video tutorials, tours, or interviews. ‌

You can easily add a blog to your website if you don’t have one already, and use it to discuss topics that are major concerns in your industry. Don’t think it’s a good idea? Small businesses with an active blog generate 126% more leads. ‌

Content marketing does double duty. Not only can it attract a loyal audience, expanding brand awareness, but it can also make your website more attractive to Google, contributing to its SEO.‌

Which Digital Marketing Strategy is Right for You?

How should you direct your internet marketing efforts? Some businesses will likely benefit more than others from certain categories and platforms. As you research your own best approach, keep these questions in mind. 

Are You a B2B or B2C Company?

Digital marketing needs vary between business-to-business (B2B) companies and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.

If you’re a B2B business, you tend to have a long marketing funnel, attracting a niche clientele that makes rational decisions. They base these decisions on ample research and require the input of multiple people. In addition, personal relationships often matter more than they do B2C companies.

Prioritize channels of communication such as email and your company’s LinkedIn page, which will allow you to nurture client relationships. In addition, the content you generate should be professional, informational, and easy to download and share between people. 

If you’re a B2C business, your goal is to inspire desire in a wider market. Pitch content to a more general audience, and develop a social media presence that keeps you present in your customers’ lives.

What is Your Industry?

Some industries historically benefit more from given digital marketing outlets. For example, finance companies see higher conversion rates in PPC advertising. Of course, the price tag increases accordingly. 

Look into industry statistics. They will help you identify where to focus your energy and set realistic goals across your channels.

Is Your Business Local or Global?

Global businesses tend to cast a wider net than local ones do. If your business is a global one, your digital marketing should have a local focus, too. 

Establish a community presence through your social media accounts, using them to acknowledge milestones and events around town. You can also tailor your SEO strategy and website. 

Roughly 92.8% of users access the internet with a mobile device at least some of the time. All websites should be optimized for mobile use, but this is still more important for local establishments that may be discovered while customers are out and about.

Consider practicing local SEO, too. Carefully monitor business listings and reviews, making sure that information is up to date and that you’re maintaining a sterling reputation across all review sites. 

Voice-activated SEO continues to increase in importance across the board, but it matters most for local establishments. Concentrate on ranking for short phrases, which are also known as long-tail keywords. An FAQ section can also boost local SEO. Full questions are common in voice searches.

What is Your Target Market?

Your customer base will also shape your strategy. For example, you should plan your social media according to the relative popularity of each platform for your clientele. 

‌Consider the following statistics about social media demographics:

  • Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used social media platforms.
  • Pinterest is more popular with women.
  • LinkedIn attracts an educated crowd.
  • Both Instagram and WhatsApp are embraced by comparatively high percentages in Black and Hispanic communities.
  • Adults under 30 have a strong presence on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

‌Once you know where your target market hangs out most, figure out how they engage with one another.

What is the Future of Digital Marketing?

How can you plan for tomorrow as well as today? No one knows precisely what the future will hold, but here are a few tips.

  1. Incorporate a chatbot into your website. Customers increasingly want to be able to ask their specific questions and have them immediately answered.
  2. Make social posts shoppable. Link to displayed or announced products directly, streamlining the shopper’s experience.
  3. Don’t neglect SEO. This staple isn’t going anywhere. In fact, as more internet users tune out advertisements and employ ad blockers, SEO will only become more vital to a business’s success.

Get Your Digital Marketing Strategy Rolling With Redstitch

So, what’s your digital marketing future look like? This guide to digital marketing gave you all the necessary information you need to get your digital marketing strategy rolling, but you might need a little more help. If so, Redstitch is here with the pointers you need or you can work with us directly.

Picture of Written By: Wes Davis

Written By: Wes Davis

Wes is a seasoned marketing expert with over two decades of experience in the industry. His extensive portfolio includes working with some of the biggest players in the business world as well as small and family-owned business, devising effective marketing strategies to boost growth. He is driven by a passion for helping businesses of all sizes reach their full potential and has a proven track record of delivering measurable results. Outside his professional life, Wes is a devoted family man, a passionate dance dad, and coaches high school baseball. He enjoys traveling and photography as well, capturing moments that matter across the world.

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