Digital marketing is a critical component for your businesses in today’s economic landscape. A staggering number of individuals now use the Internet to guide their purchasing decisions. With the technological advances in mobile devices, it is now more important than ever for a business to establish an online presence. Digital marketing involves the methods you use to establish that presence.
Marketing your business online can seem like an intimidating endeavor. Many business owners, especially those who run brick-and-mortar shops, have no idea where to begin. Here is some important information that will help you succeed at getting in step with digital marketing.
Digital Marketing Overview
If you have a business, you probably already understand what marketing is. It can be simply defined as the methods you use to promote your business and reach customers. Digital marketing has precisely the same goals, but these goals are accomplished by creating a strong online presence.
People today are spending more time online, and their shopping habits have changed. This is largely due to the presence of mobile devices that allow shoppers instant access to the Internet wherever they are. A person who needs new tires can search for providers from the coffee shop parking lot in their local city. Individuals can compare the prices at physical shops with those offered by online retailers as they stand in front of a display at a local store.
What is Digital Marketing?
Marketing efforts conducted online are know as digital marketing. The most successful businesses leverage multiple digital marketing channels and strategies. A business website is just the beginning. Businesses can also combine digital marketing with social networks like Facebook and Twitter, create blogs that engage shoppers and provide helpful information, and create email newsletters that encourage customers to buy often. The premise behind digital marketing is as old as business itself. You have to go where the customers are in order to succeed. Today, those customers are most often found online.
The term digital marketing is a catch-all for your online marketing efforts. Digital marketing includes everything from Pay Per Click advertising to the creation of a Facebook business page. What you must understand is that digital marketing is a necessary practice. The failure to market your business online will place you far behind your competitors. Maybe your digital marketing strategy needs some work.
Social Media Marketing
Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram have become a cultural phenomenon. If you don’t believe in the popularity of social media, look no further than the current President of the United States. These networks may have been conceived as a fun way for individuals to socialize, but they now serve a far greater purpose. Social networks allow you to communicate with a mass audience in real time. They are perfect channels for digital marketing.
A business can advertise its services and products to literally thousands of customers multiple times a day. In many cases, digital marketing with social platforms costs nothing but the time invested in making a post. Facebook pages for businesses can be created for free. Twitter accounts for a business cost nothing to set up. Social media marketing offers a lot of potential. There are, however, some keys to getting it right.
A quick overview.
The first thing for social media marketing is that you must have a plan. Throwing up a business page and making a few random posts won’t get the job done. The most important thing to consider is your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? Obviously, social media marketing will serve you much better if your potential customers are young adults. It can still be effective in reaching the older adult demographic, but the strategy used will be different.
In all cases, you want to inform. The biggest mistake made by businesses on social media is turning every post into a sales pitch. Customers want to be engaged by social media. They want entertaining stories. If your business sells hiking gear, make posts about great hiking locations. Don’t try to sell a pair of hiking boots. It’s all about brand identity. Followers on Facebook and Twitter are called that for a reason. They follow your business because it establishes itself as a reliable source of information.
Another important aspect of this form of digital marketing is creating a connection with your customers. Before the Internet, customers valued a business where they were recognized by name. It’s the same in the digital world. When you interact with customers online, they feel important. They believe that their patronage means something to you.
Here are a few of the best ways to market with social platforms:
- Use the platform to build a brand identity. Your social pages should define the image of your company.
- Promote other content. You can use social networks to drive traffic to your main website. How to set up a Google My Business Page.
- Demonstrate consistency and reliability. Being active on your social account preserves the bond between retailer and customer.
Blogging is still one of the best methods of digital marketing. The Internet itself is rooted in access to information. People regularly return to their favorite websites when they need information about a product or service. Adding a blog to your website provides value that helps to establish you as an authority in your field. Creating your first blog can be intimidating to set up and write a blog but it is well worth it.
Let’s say that your business markets pet supplies. Blogging articles on the subject of pet care can drive a lot of traffic to your website. You will please both new and returning customers by offering information that pet owners need. At the same time, your reputation as an authority on pet supplies will increase.
How important is authority in digital marketing?
It’s important enough that Google makes it a primary element of their website ranking algorithm. Sites that have established authority with valuable content, backlinks from other authority sites, and the age of their domain typically achieve the highest search rankings in Google.
Blogging may sound simple. The truth is that while creating a blog is easy, filling it with valuable content takes some time and effort. Your authority will not improve if your blog is just a rehash of information that has been presented a thousand times. What you really want to do is create a new conversation or contribute something new to an existing one.
The Benefits of Blogging
- Promotes visitor engagement
- Helps establish authority
There was a time when marketing with email was the primary digital marketing strategy. It’s value may have dropped a little today, but email lists are still important. The best thing about using email to market is that it lends itself to audience targeting like few other strategies.
Email marketing has its own unique set of protocols that are quite different from other digital marketing efforts. You must become familiar with these rules. A failure to follow them can create huge problems for you business. If you master them, however, an email list can almost be like printing money. Create an email offer, send it out, make sales, and repeat.
Things to know.
The first thing to know about effective email marketing is that it is a permission-only endeavor. The individuals who receive your emails must opt-in to do so. They must also be given an opportunity to opt-out if they no longer wish to receive emails from you. If you proceed without following these rules, spam complaints will ensue. A large number of spam complaints can get you banned by your email provider or web host if you are using a hosted email server.
The best way to get individuals to opt-in to an email list is by offering something in return. Many businesses will use a free e-book to attract subscribers. Let’s say that your business sells supplies for koi ponds. You could offer a free e-book that details care tips for koi fish. An entertaining monthly newsletter is another way to gain subscribers.
The key is to offer something of value. A big mistake is making every email a sales pitch. Your emails should primarily be geared toward engagement and building your brand. You want to provide information that will encourage visitors to visit your website. The occasional flash sale or promotion can be very effective, but first you have to lay the groundwork. Establish yourself as an ethical brand that has a concern for its customers’ needs.
Asking those who receive your emails to whitelist you is also important. Some ISPs and email providers like Google and Yahoo will mark emails from businesses as spam. These emails go to an individual’s spam folder where they are often lost for good. You should seek to have your customers add you to their address book to guarantee delivery of your emails.
The number one reason people unsubscribe from an email list is too many emails. You don’t need to be sending emails every day. A good email marketing campaign involves a lot of planning and preparation. Many marketers have had great success creating a campaign that ranges over several weeks. The culmination of the campaign is a call-to-action for a product or service.
Once you have successfully completed a few campaigns, that’s when things get interesting. Data for targeting will begin to grow. Many email marketing companies like MailChimp and Constant Contact will provide you with a whole host of tools for segmenting. You will be able to determine which days of the week are best for sending emails, which hours work best, and even the demographics of your list. You can create multiple lists, too. One list can only include those who have purchased products in a certain category. Another can include men, another women. The possibilities are endless.
Here is a quick list of best email marketing golden rules:
- Use an opt-in method to build your email list
- Don’t send too many emails
- Provide lots of information and only a few sales pitches
- Use targeting to improve the ROI of your list
Search Engine Optimization
Here is one of the most important truths of digital marketing: a website that no one can find is worthless. Write that down, ingrain it in your memory. Customers find your business online because of something called search engine optimization (SEO), or “getting to the top of Google“.
Keywords are used to search for information on the Internet. That keyword can be the name of a product, a location, or a service. It can also be a combination of all three. These are a few things you might type into the Google search bar if you wanted to find a website selling cheap drones:
- “Affordable drones”
- “Drones under fifty dollars”
- “Drones for sale in Dallas”
Any of those searches will return a list of websites that Google thinks are useful. The websites that are nearest the top of the search rankings get the most traffic. Period. End of story. Your business needs to rank high for carefully chosen keywords.
Here is the thing about effective search engine optimization; getting it right can be difficult for the novice. The best firms in the country that specialize in SEO have spent many years perfecting their methods. They know what strategies are working best at any given moment in time. If you are trying to manage search engine optimization on your own, the process can take a long time and a lot of trial and error. This is one area where hiring an SEO professional makes financial sense.
Things to Know
If you are determined to attempt it yourself, there are a few basic things you should know. First and foremost is to understand search engines exist to provide answers. People are looking for information. Those websites that provide useful information build what is called authority. As the authority of a website increases, so does its search ranking.
Secondly, the use of keywords on your website has to make sense. There may have been a time when stuffing a page full of keywords was effective in its own right. This is not the case anymore. Keyword usage has become proportionately less important than other search engine optimization elements.
Building links to and from other authority websites in your chosen field will also help with search engine optimization. Once again, it is best to prefer quality over quantity here. The links you build should involve websites that have a good reputation. Links to a spammy website will only damage your own reputation.
Entire books ave been written on the subject of SEO. It is a discipline unto itself. At the very least, talk to others who have optimized their own websites successfully. This will give you some idea of what the process involves before you begin.
Pay Per Click
Pay Per Click advertising can be one of the most cost-effective methods of digital marketing when done properly. You are essentially buying web visitors with this method, but you only pay when your advertising earns a click to your website. Search engines like Google offer you the opportunity to place ads and bid on how much you are willing to pay for a click. Facebook and other social platforms also have similar programs.
Have you ever noticed the ads at the top of Google when you search for something? Those ads are obtained by businesses who bid to have them displayed. Some keywords require a hefty bid. Others can be purchased for as low as $0.05 per click. Once you have stated what you are willing to pay for each click your ad receives, your ad will go into rotation with others. It will be shown by Google to hundreds or even thousands of web visitors.
Things to Know
There are many aspects which contribute to a strong Pay Per Click campaign. The first is research. You must try to target keywords that are getting a lot of searches, but you also need to be specific. Specific keywords will yield lower bids and a higher ROI. For example, bidding on the term “pet beds” will probably require a hefty price per click. A bid on “beds for dogs under 20 lbs” will be much more reasonable. It will also provide better targeting if you are selling dog beds for small breeds.
One of the main providers of Pay Per Click services is Google. They offer the service through Google AdWords. Before we even broach the subject of Google AdWords, we need to make something clear. Google enforces strict rules for advertisers. Break them and you are out. Forever. Trust us when we say that getting banned by Google AdWords is a very bad thing. So, before you even begin to use the service you need to study the terms and conditions.
AdWords is basically an auction site for keywords. You will execute a search on the keyword you would like to bid on. The search will return an estimate of how much it will cost you per click to have your ad displayed on the Google platform. You will make your bid, the ad will go into rotation, and you’ll get clicks. Or so Google wants you to believe. The truth is that setting up a profitable PPC campaign is not that easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.
You’re going to be paying for a lot of clicks that don’t result in sales. This is especially true if you haven’t planned your campaign. There is no way around strong keyword research for your PPC campaign. It is time consuming and difficult, but it will pay rewards if you are diligent. Here are some important things to remember about the keywords you want to bid on in a PPC campaign:
- Keywords must be relevant. Don’t bid on “sofas” when you are trying to market “leather sofas.” Be specific.
- You should include a long list of keywords. You need to use a tool like SEMrush to determine variations of the keyword you want to target.
- Evolve. You should be constantly refining your campaign and tweaking it for better results.
Website Design and Web Development
Many individuals trying to market a business online have the notion that they can manage their own website design. In almost every case, they are wrong. Web development involves multiple elements. Layouts must be chosen. Color schemes must be selected. Shopping carts and payment gateways must be configured. For those with no previous experience, web development can be overwhelming. Your website design determines the trustworthiness of your business.
Thankfully, there are some platforms out there which simplify website design. One of the most popular is WordPress. Many businesses power their website using the WordPress CMS. It has a simple interface that lets you make edits to a pre-made theme. You can then dress up the theme with plug-ins and other elements. Many business owners have had tremendous success with this platform.
No matter how you decide to proceed, understand that a website for your business is a must. You cannot ignore this fact. Your website is the online identity of your business, your virtual storefront.
Website Design Considerations
When thinking about website design and web development, there are a few standard considerations. The first of these is securing a domain name for your business. A domain name is the address customers type into the address bar of their web browser to reach your site–www.yoursite.com. You will need to purchase a domain through a domain name seller for a set fee, usually between $12-$15 for one year. You will then have to renew that payment each year to retain ownership of the domain.
Once you have your domain in order, the next step is to obtain web hosting. A web host rents you space on their servers. This is where your website will “live” on the Internet. Access to the server will be provided for the purpose of uploading your website design files. It is possible to obtain web hosting for less than $10 per month, but you get what you pay for. Some inexpensive plans will severely limit the bandwidth and storage space you receive. Make sure that the plan you choose is going to meet your needs. See our website hosting guide.
If you are going to be selling products on your website, a secure socket layer or SSL is a must. This is a form of encryption for your website. To protect the personal data collected on your website an SSL uses encrypted hashes. To keep customer information from being revealed to hackers and data thieves an SSL is a huge benefit. The cost of an SSL can vary, but don’t even think of doing business without one. For starters, a payment processor won’t let you use their gateway on an unsecured website.
Digital Marketing Conclusion
It would take thousands of pages to fully explain all of the nuances of digital marketing. Hopefully, you now have a basic understanding that will prompt you to do further research. You should also begin developing your own digital marketing plan. Consider every element that we have mentioned. Begin with web development and work your way through to PPC advertising and blogging. Realize that digital marketing is vital to the long-term success of your business.