What Is Digital Marketing?
In a nutshell, digital marketing is an umbrella term for all marketing and engagement activities done through online media channels. The role of digital marketing is to help you get found, get noticed, get leads, and then turn those leads into returning customers.
A brief history of Marketing
The 1940s pretty much marked the beginning of marketing as we know it - with traditional approaches such as direct mail, cold calling (telemarketing), radio ads, TV ads, etc. These forms of marketing are referred to as outbound marketing, and are fundamentally about advertising TO people.
The 1980s saw the first mobile phones and computers, but because the internet wasn’t all that accessible for the wider public, digital marketing did not make an appearance before the next decade.
The 1990s gave birth to giants like Google and Yahoo!, and the first web banner ads. Email and basic SEO also became possible and with all that we saw the rise of digital marketing.
The 2000s saw the arrival of Social Media, as well as the birth of ‘Web 2.0’. The ‘Web 2.0’ is basically the second generation of the internet, with websites coded in HTML. It allows users to participate and engage with each other and content via the internet (through user-generated content such as social media posts, blogs, etc., etc.). This meant that marketers had to come up with a new approach - inbound marketing. And ever since, it’s been all about creating an experience that people want to be a part of (through creation and distribution of relevant content), and using the new marketing channels available.
The main (but by no means all) digital marketing channels nowadays are:
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC)
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social media marketing
Let's take a quick look at these channels..
Fact - 75% of people judge your brand based on your website, so it is arguably your best marketing asset. Think of it this way - if the internet was a shopping mall, a website would be your storefront. It is also required for inbound marketing, as otherwise you don’t have a destination for all that traffic. To be successful a website needs to be fast, secure, mobile-friendly and optimised for search engines.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
There’s two parts to SEM - search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid search ads (PPC).
Did you know that the first organic position on Google search has a 43% clickthrough rate? That drops to around 10% for position 5, so key is to get your website to be in that top-ranking position for as many search terms as possible. SEO is the process of tweaking and updating your website code and content to get your web pages to rank higher in the search results organically. As you might have guessed already, this is where Content Marketing comes into play.
Means paid ads where you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Most people think of paid search ads on Google when they come across PPC but fact is there’s many other search engines (often with a more unique and refined user base), platforms and different ad formats, such as:
- Paid search
- Paid Social Media
- YouTube ads
- Display ads
When someone visits your website from any device, your retargeting partner (Google, Facebook etc) places a cookie in the user’s browser. Then, when this cookied user leaves your website, the cookie tells your retargeting partner when the user lands on a different website. And - POOF - your ad appears! It works, too - website visitors retargeted with ads are on average 70% more likely to convert when they return to that website.
Email marketing is pretty much what it sounds like - marketing sent through email. It has a wildly high ROI when compared to other digital marketing channels, so growing your mailing list and including Email with your marketing is definitely something you should consider.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing refers to any marketing activity done via social media profiles and platforms. There’s obviously tons of platforms out there these days, but the most popular (and sophisticated, when it comes to advertising) are:
However, not all platforms are created equal, and picking the wrong ones can definitely tank your social media strategy. All depends on who the audience are, where they’re likely to be (in terms of SM platform & Geo location) and what the message/content is that you want to post.
The Important one - Tracking and Analytics
None of the above matters unless you’re monitoring your campaigns and tweaking them based on results. However, thanks to today’s massive data analytics capabilities, most companies are drowning in it. The key here is to identify which metrics matter, and to do that, you need to understand the difference between a metric and a Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
A metric is a number. Bounce rates, page views, time on page, new visitors, and search rankings are all useful metrics that can help refine specific strategies.
A KPI is a metric that is most closely tied to the overall business success. KPIs that really matter to a digital marketing strategy include Transactions, Leads, Revenue, Return on investment, Conversion rate and Cost per lead/sale.
The future of Digital Marketing
Privacy, Cookies & Tracking
Cookies are likely to disappear in the next few years. Google has already announced plans to phase out third-party cookies, which will also mean an end to any cookie based technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web. Apple has also made a huge step toward protecting the user's privacy online, with their recent iOS 14 update. I’m sure other major players will soon follow suit. Essentially we’re waiting for the ‘big five’ (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft) to lead and the rest of the world will follow. One possible future tracking technique that could become a thing is called “browser fingerprinting”, which takes many elements of data from your browser, like fonts on your machine, the time zone you’re in, screen resolution and even little things like the emojis used. It then creates a unique profile which can be used to identify you out of the sea of other internet users.
It's no secret that people are constantly looking for the most convenient way to gain information or news, so it only makes sense that the future will be seeing an increase in voice search technology. Similar to SEO, marketers will need to optimise their content to voice-friendly terms and phrases to increase their searchability as they are becoming more common in modern households with their usage only expected to increase in years to come.
Artificial & Virtual Reality
The growing popularity of artificial reality will eventually lead companies to incorporate this trend more than ever before. AR will allow consumers to see products in 3D before making the final decision regarding whether or not to purchase a specific product. Without having to leave their homes, customers will have the experience of shopping in-person through artificial reality.Similar to artificial reality, virtual reality will see increases in future marketing use. Companies will be able to create the illusion of in-store shopping for customers through the use of gadgets like VR glasses.
Facebook’s main focus is currently on the creation of a Metaverse, the successor to mobile internet. A concept related to VR and AR that will be worked on by many other companies. It involves creating digital worlds that multiple people can inhabit at the same time. It’s basically an embodied Internet, where instead of just viewing content you’re actually in it (think - “Ready Player One”).