Guide to Online Marketing
Since its earliest days, marketing has been a practice that is constantly changing. The ways in which content is consumed on an individual level has also changed and expanded. The intersection of marketing and content consumption has dramatically expanded the role of “digital marketing.”
Digital marketing is the use of digital technologies to promote products and services to a brand’s target audience. The key point in this is “digital technologies.” Internet World Stats points out that 40% of today’s population has access to an internet connection. The global proliferation of the internet has opened up vast avenues for marketers to expose themselves to users.
Now more than ever, it’s critical for marketers to craft relevant content in the digital avenues where their target consumers are spending their time. With this guide to digital marketing, you will be that much closer to understanding how to leverage today’s technologies for success.
Digital marketing is an ever-changing focus of business, and because of this there are a number of trends that come and go. Even with continuous change, the one constant has been the results that content marketing produces. If you were to ask a panel of experts to define content marketing, my guess is each answer would be somewhat different because there is no concrete definition for content marketing.
Understanding the core areas of content marketing is the perfect way to get a better understanding of this component of digital marketing. The content marketing process previously outlined by Zion & Zion can be broken up into three categories: content strategy, content development, and content implementation.
It’s likely your brand has a strategy that acts as a driving force for all marketing decisions. You’ll want to craft content that’s consistent with strategies already in place. Creating content that’s irrelevant can alienate those relationships you’ve put so much stock into.
For example, say you own a small organic farm whose sales are 100% local. Your company’s mission statement is “to provide the local community with organic alternatives to common grocery that make for a better self and a better world.” This mission statement should act as the voice and overarching message for all of the farm’s future content. For more information on how to create a content strategy, take a look at Zion & Zion Content Strategist Kristi Bielewicz’s blog post on the subject.
Once you’ve honed in on a strategy that your content will follow, you’ll want to get down to the creative process of content marketing. Content marketing is all about creating relationships and bringing a brand to life, and the responsibility falls on the brand to make this happen.
In any niche, there’s likely to be dozens of competitors going after the same segments of consumers you are. For this reason, it’s vital to understand what it is consumers value in a brand. Uncovering the wants, needs, behaviors, values, etc. of your consumers is necessary for crafting a voice and style that best resonates with them.
Once you understand exactly who your readers are, you can begin crafting content that aligns with your strategy and your consumers’ desires.
Consumers are digesting more content than ever before, so it’s important to create content through a variety of mediums such as blogs, video, websites, infographics, and more. Using our organic farm as an example, say a blog was posted outlining the cultivation process the farmer uses for produce. The farmer would be wise to couple the blog post with a video that takes the viewer on a visual journey through the farmer’s day. In addition to a video, the farmer might want to make an infographic that visually depicts the benefits of their organic process with graphs, statistics, etc.
Integrating all the various types of content is the best way to create a valuable experience for consumers, and will more than likely lead to a favorable outcome for your content marketing campaign.
Successful content relies on delivering relevant information that brings value to your users, as well as an element of engagement that will keep those eyes coming back to your site. Blogs have consistently been the best medium for delivering the content that sets your business apart from the competition.
Before getting into the benefits of blogging for your digital marketing campaign, we need to identify the two key blog types: personal and business.
Digital marketing isn’t exclusive to businesses. In fact, the proliferation of technology has given all of us the opportunity to create our own online presence. One of the most powerful tools for improving your personal brand is through a blog. Personal blogs are your opportunity to showcase your unique talents and observations to the roughly 3 billion people online today.
A great example of a personal blog would be Stitching Dreams. The blog’s owner, Carol, has amassed an enormous following of readers looking for anything and everything related to their cross stitching hobby. By creating insightful and engaging content through her blog, Carol has established herself as a key influencer in her niche.
Free Options for Your Personal Blog
For more options and other information on these platforms, check out this article from Dear Blogger.
Business blogs are very similar to personal blogs in that they are often centered on a specific category (i.e. digital marketing) and they offer informative, in-depth perspectives on related topics. The key to distinguishing between the two is to compare the goals of each one.
Personal blogs are done often for hobby purposes, while business blogs seek to drive traffic, improve SEO, generate conversions, and more. In addition, business blogs should be part of your company’s website rather than a standalone domain. This isn’t to say that your business blog should only focus on the products and services of your company and shy away from some of the more playful elements of blogging. On the contrary, your business blog should present content in a way that motivates visitors to stay once they’re on your site, and entices them to return in the future. A perfect example of a business blog that is engaging and rich with quality content is Connectivity. More so than ever, your business’s digital strategy should be focused on bringing your consumers the best experience possible—and this can’t be done without a strong blog presence.
Blogs offer an invaluable way to inform consumers and generate influence in a specific niche. But they lack the virality and engagement that video offers in the digital marketing landscape. According to Cisco, “consumer internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2014.” That means in the future, a blog post like this one very well may be replaced by a 5 minute informational video hosted on YouTube.
Understanding the benefits of video content is paramount to successful digital marketing.
- A video of any length now has the ability to become a hit. Viral videos create a short moment in time where the brand in question is seeing a huge increase in mentions, word of mouth, etc.
- If brands were to attempt to purchase the amount of shares, views, and website traffic generated from a viral video outright, they would have to spend a fortune. Instead, shareable videos are most often produced with a minimal budget while having the ability to produce outstanding results.
- Video’s innate opportunity for creativity gives marketers the chance to create a piece of content that can entirely rebrand the perception of a company. For example, Old Spice was once a product largely bought by older generations, but through their continued use of bizarre videos, the company has completely rebranded itself in the minds of today’s millennials.
Social Media Marketing
In the previous section we went in depth on the topic of content marketing, but we clearly omitted a major component of any content strategy: social media. We didn’t believe a small subsection would do the juggernaut that is social media justice. Socialmediatoday.com claims, “there are over 2.206 Billion active users, a global penetration of 30%.”
With nearly a third of the world’s population interacting on social media platforms, you’ll be hard pressed to find a brand that isn’t active on social media. Some key reasons a brand would be wise to commit to a strong social presence are:
- Brand Recognition
- Digital marketing is all about reaching customers through their own digital technologies. Social media puts you right in front of the consumer’s eyes at a fraction of the price of a paid advertisement. Creating social content that speaks in a brand’s unique tone and voice goes a long way.
- Inbound Traffic
- This one is fairly obvious. Having a large social following means more consumers are engaging with your promotions. More people seeing these promotions means more people actually visiting your site to get a better feel for your product or service.
- Brand Loyalty
- Social media provides a unique opportunity for a brand to develop a personality and a sense of humanness that other marketing channels don’t. As a company, actively engaging with a consumer base in an authentic way helps develop brand advocates.
- With the above-mentioned brand loyalty comes a greater likelihood of conversion. The humanized element of social media provides comfort in the buying process. We tend to trust people more than we trust brands.
Social media—like all digital marketing channels—is constantly changing, and therefore requires constant monitoring of current trends to understand who the industry leaders are. It’s not enough to simply know what social media platforms are out there, but also what each platform is bringing to the table.
The undisputed behemoth of social media is still Facebook. With 1.49 billion active users every month, Facebook is a no-brainer for any digital marketing strategy. However it’s important to understand your business, customers, and both of their needs. Not all social media platforms are right for all brands, so consulting with a social media expert is advised. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for businesses to reach consumers organically, and some have begun running Facebook ads, in addition to their regular posting schedule. A Facebook business page offers the opportunity to use paid advertisements with very specific goals, as shown in the image below.
Once a business has kicked off its Facebook campaign, it has the insights tool at its disposal for in depth information about post engagement, fan demographics, and much more.
Unlike Facebook, there are no company specific profile options for Twitter. Creating a company profile offers no difference from any of the other 316 million monthly active users. In many ways this non-distinction between personal and company profiles can be an advantage for your brand.
Twitter’s micro-content nature allows brands to easily interact with their consumer base and as a result, creates a genuine sense of transparency between brand and consumer. Furthermore, Twitter’s feed is based off of time of post rather than an algorithm, meaning a brand’s posts don’t get buried in the news feed like they might on Facebook.
In terms of B2B digital marketing, LinkedIn is king. With its large number of self-described “professionals” and company accounts, the social media platform is a powerful medium for B2B networking in a digital world. Just like Facebook’s highly targeted ads, “LinkedIn Ads” provides marketers with advertisements able to target specific industries, job titles, and alma maters.
Once an ad is live on LinkedIn, digital marketers will want to track performance through the site’s analytics section. Metrics listed in the analytics section include impressions, clicks, interactions, followers acquired, and engagement percentage.
Social Media Best Practices
Now that you have a grasp on what social media means for online marketing, it’s important to know some best practices for your brand’s social presence.
- Understand the Audience
- For example, if you run a financial consulting firm, your clientele is most likely business professionals. As such, you’ll want to deliver content that is formal and informative. Posting memes and silly gifs probably won’t resonate with the financial community like it would for an online gaming community. Crafting content to be relevant will go a long way in creating brand loyalty.
- Remain Social
- Nothing turns users off more than content that’s obviously promotional. Of course you’ll want to use social media to promote products and services, but be careful not to let your business’s social media accounts become a hub of advertisements. Actively interacting with your target audience is, more often than not, much more likely to generate a lead than a redundant ad.
- Go for Local Loyalty
- It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to achieve the same reach as multinational corporations. Instead, focusing your social media efforts on a highly specific segment of your brand’s niche may yield better results. The advertisement options available on social media give digital marketers the perfect way to achieve local loyalty.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when looking at the various social media platforms available for digital marketing. The Zion & Zion 2015 Guide to Social Media offers a more in depth look at the social media climate.
Online advertising can technically be classified as any form of promotional content found on the internet. This incredibly vague definition captures everything a business does to promote themselves online (i.e. social media, blogging, video, etc.). The technology available to digital marketers has made online advertising much more distinct. Two leaders of online advertising are display ads and paid search.
I guarantee you’ve been exposed to display ads in the past Display ads are those that are placed on websites. They can be found in the form of audio, video, flash, images, text, etc. Many will be quick to associate display advertising with the dreaded pop-up ad, which we’ve all come to loathe for slowing down our computers and generally making for a terrible online experience. The fact is, pop-up ads have become irrelevant and digital marketers have moved towards display ads.
Google gives you an idea of some of the newer forms of display ads here. Once you’ve decided what type of display ad works best for your company and audience, you’ll have to decide on which one of three ways you’ll buy display advertising.
For more information on display ads, check out the article What is Display Advertising?
Direct to Publisher
This display ad buying method is the best way to guarantee an ad’s placement on a site.
The process of direct to publisher goes as follows:
- Find a website you want to display your ad on.
- Contact the site’s webmaster or sales team, if they have one.
- Negotiate a rate.
- Send insertion order (commitment to run a campaign on the site).
- Execute the ad campaign.
The process seems easy enough. But deciding what site best reaches the audience you’re pursuing can be an incredibly daunting task. Luckily, ComScore gives users the opportunity to see the monthly visits, visitor demographics, and more specific actions taken by users for each site.
Surprisingly enough, ad networks are a buying method for digital marketers that exposes a brand’s ad to a network of hundreds of aggregated sites. Ad networks place display ads on both short tail sites (google, yahoo, CNN) and long tail sites (more niche specific e.g., dog walking sites).
A downside to most ad networks is the buyer’s inability to know where their ads are being placed. The alternative is to use transparent ad networks, which allow buyers to pick and choose where their ads end up.
The past couple of years have seen programmatic advertisements ascending to the top of total ad spending. Even with such a rise in popularity, the question remains: What is programmatic buying?
Programmatic buying relies on demand-side platforms (advertisers) and supply side platforms (publishers) engaging in real-time bidding and selling of ad space. The process is entirely automated. Each platform engages in an auction process, looking to either buy or sell ad space through a platform called an Ad exchange.
Have you ever visited a website and added a product to your cart, but failed to complete the purchase? For whatever reason, you changed your mind at the last second. Marketers don’t consider this last second decision as a “failed” conversion—they see it as an opportunity to retarget!
Retargeting is a form of advertising in which advertisements are displayed as a result of actions not resulting in a conversion by a user. Now you may be asking yourself, “How did they know I added that dress to my cart?” The simple answer is cookies, which are small snippets of data sent from a website to a web browser while a user is visiting a site. With this cookie, online advertisers know a user expressed interest in that dress and will display advertisements directly related to that dress to help promote conversion.
Paid search refers to advertisements found at the top of a search engine’s results or directly within an affiliate’s site. The paid search advertising model pays the search engine or the hosting site only based on whether the ad was clicked (pay-per-click, or PPC). Google AdWords is Google’s answer to the needs of the thousands of marketers out there who are looking to increase their reach and influence.
The AdWords platform is where you’ll be able to begin your paid search campaign.
Google AdWords offers a great platform for your paid search digital marketing campaign. Unfortunately, Google won’t be able to automatically tell what keywords you’ll want your ad appearing for. This dilemma is settled through keyword bidding, where the user will set a total campaign budget and then either manually set the price they will pay per click, or google will automatically set your price based on your budget.
Once you have your list of keywords set up as an ad group, it should resemble the following image:
On the left of the chart, we see “match type,” which helps Google know which types of searches will trigger your ad.
- Broad Match
- Google’s default match type. With broad match, your ad may display for your keywords in any order, with additional terms and variations of your keywords. An issue with broad match is relevancy. With such broad terms possibly triggering an ad, there’s a good chance the ad displayed may not be relevant to the user.
- Phrase Match
- Phrase match involves placing your keyword within quotes. For example, “Goodwill nearby.” The quotes tell AdWords that you want your keywords to display in the exact order they’re in, but with room for variations and additional terms. A search for “Goodwill nearby Tempe AZ” would work for our keywords, because phrase match accounts for the misspelling of words and additional terms like “Tempe AZ.”
- Exact Match
- This match type restricts the type of searches your ads will display for when you put your keywords in brackets. Your ad will only display for exact searches of your keywords and minimal variations of your keywords like misspellings, plural, and singular forms.
AdWords is definitely a fantastic way to diversify your digital marketing reach. However, internet search has become increasingly competitive and with that has come more competition for Google’s ad platform, such as Bing Ads. Once you have a grasp of paid search, it would be wise to add a Bing paid search campaign, on top of AdWords.
Our Paid Search team at Zion & Zion strongly recommends ponying up a share of your ad budget on Bing in the informative article, 9 Reasons You Should Use Bing Ads in Addition to Google.
Online advertising, and more specifically display advertising and paid search, has given digital marketers the tools to narrow down their promotional efforts like never before. The classic model of advertising was reliant on crafting a message and hoping it reached the right people. The current model of online advertising puts power into the marketer’s hands to create content and promotions tailored to their exact target audience.
Now that we have looked “behind the scenes” of paid search, we must look at the opposite end of search: SEO. SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimization, is the process digital marketers use to organically improve their site’s ranking on each respective search engine.
This caveat of SEO—being rooted in organic ranking improvements—is the main distinction between paid search and SEO. Organic improvement of a site is largely related to how a site is being interpreted by search engine algorithms.
How Search Engines Work
Internet Live Stats points out that Google processes around 40,000 queries every second. But it’s unlikely the majority of those making the search understand the underlying dynamics of such a seamless part of our digital experience. When users enter their keywords in a search engine, an algorithm is used to find the most relevant results for the specific keywords. Algorithms are constantly changing to improve the results users are getting, and to fend off black hat SEOs.
Before a website can ever appear for a unique query it must go through the indexing process, where a search engine’s crawlers/spiders scan each page of a website and follow both internal and external links. This indexing process categorizes websites into a large database that’s used to pull relevant results from each time a search is made.
While crawlers analyze each site and its internal and external links, they don’t see sites like we do. Instead of seeing the images and colors of a site, crawlers scan html code to understand its content. Now the question is: what are these crawlers looking for when they rank websites on a search engine results page, also commonly referred to as the SERP?
Search Engine Ranking Factors
While it may seem like a given, creating relevant and useful content for your website is one of the best ways to work your way up to the top of a search engine’s rankings. Is your website engaging visitors in a way that enhances their digital experience? If so, then you have little to worry about.
Long-form content has proven to rank well, but this isn’t to say simply reaching that 1,500 word milestone is enough. Ranking well goes back to creating content that is useful and relevant, which in many cases requires in depth analysis and explanation through long-form content.
A search engine’s goal is to provide the most relevant answer to a user’s query, but what good is relevancy if a site is so unresponsive or poorly structured you can’t get the information you need? This is where user experience comes into play. Examples that could lead to a bad user experience include slow page speed, hidden content, multiple 404 errors, poor organization, and more. When your site is optimized for an enjoyable user experience, you’ll likely begin to see higher Click-Through Rates (CTRs), lower bounce rates, and more shares.
When it comes to SEO, a quote to live by is: “make pages for people, not for search engines.”
Good Use of Keywords
Keywords can help users and crawlers know what your site will be offering. While keyword stuffing was a popular tactic in the early days of SEO, it’s now one of the many ways to get your site potentially deindexed. Today’s SEO landscape sees keywords being used for indicators of relevancy.
Properly used keywords should be used in the following:
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- A URL
- The specific address for your site, with each page having its own unique URL. When the search engine displays your URL, you’ll want it to act as a preview of the page’s content. Using excessive subcategories and identification numbers makes URLs too long and complicated for users.
- The clickable links that display in a search engine results page. Google will most likely only display 55-60 characters for a title tag. It’s important to keep your title within this range to avoid leaving out keywords that could help a user understand what your site is about. Use a title that concisely states the page’s content while being unique enough to warrant a visit.
- Meta Descriptions
- The bodies of text you find under the URL for a search result. These descriptions are another way to concisely (between 150-160 characters) inform users of the most valuable information to be found on your site. Choosing not to add a description into the <head> of your code will often result in google choosing a snippet of text from your site, which may not always be relevant to the user’s search query.
Links are the gateway from site to site for our online digital experience. The two broad categories of links are internal and external links. Crawlers use both to determine relevancy and user experience for specific queries.
Internal links act as the network or architecture for users to bounce from page to page within a single domain. You’ll want to make sure all of your different pages are uniform in the domain’s overall architecture so users and crawlers are getting a proper experience.
External links are those that, when clicked, will take you off the original site and onto a new one. For consistency purposes, use external links that would be valuable for visitors.
Furthermore, external links on other domains that link back to your page are called backlinks. Backlinks are interpreted by search engines as votes of confidence for the site being linked. These votes of confidence aren’t all created equal. A backlink from Adweek is more valuable to crawlers than a backlink from a small, local agency.
If you’re planning on going out and buying a bunch of new backlinks for your site, you won’t see the same results as an organic link from an authority such as Adweek. And you’re most likely on your way to being banned by Google.
Social Media is a great way to get the word out about your new blog post, product launch, or any other information related to your company. Once your social media campaign starts to pick up steam you’ll see the interaction and shares trickle in. Many claim social media metrics have no direct relationship with search algorithms. Even so, social media continues to grow in influence, and it’s always a smart idea to promote your business through all available channels.
There’s much more to SEO than just understanding how the search engines work and a few of the key ranking factors. Testing out what does and doesn’t work for your site will go a long way in curbing some of the more complicated aspects of SEO. The single best piece of advice that SEOs give to those just starting out is one that’s been stated time and time again: “Make your site for users, not for search engines.”
If this brief guide has piqued your interest I suggest reading our more comprehensive SEO guide.
While it’s a common function of the standard marketing/advertising agency, public relations involves no form of paid exposure. Instead, PR professionals use “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” according to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The PRSA’s definition drives home the importance of building and maintaining relationships between a company and the public, as well as the company and the media.
Given the fact that the public and the media are hugely important for your business’s future success, it is imperative to configure a public relations strategy. At Zion & Zion, we’ve been able to effectively leverage the use of three PR tools to create mutually beneficial relationships with the public and the media:
Of the PR tools available to PR professionals, the press release is definitely one of the best weapons of choice for getting news out about a company. A press release is a perfect way to outline a newsworthy event with enough detail and engagement for a variety of readers. Typically one page long, a press release outlines the key takeaways for an event, news story, etc.
While many use their own format, these components should be included in each press release:
- Make a conscious effort to hook your audience in within the first few sentences. Other PR professionals are looking for the same exposure as you. Media members are likely reading dozens of press releases each day, and only the most engaging ones will garner their interest.
- A strong title seems like a given, but it’s an often over-looked component of an effective press release. It’s the first thing readers will see, so you’ll need to make sure the title is engaging and informative enough so the reader has a sense of what the rest of the content will be about.
- Once you’ve caught the reader’s attention with an informative title and engaging hook, you’ll want to get into the body of the press release. For example, when announcing a new hire, the body content could announce what said employee’s work will be concerning, what goals they have, etc.
- In concluding your press release, you’ll want to include a boiler plate and your PR contact info, which should look something like this:
When you strip away some of the additional descriptions and information that goes with a press release, you’re left with something that resembles a media alert. Media alerts provide only the most pertinent information: who, what, where, when, and why. The condensed format of media alerts makes them an excellent way for PR professionals to encourage the local news, or prospective attendees, to join your event.
Before ever being able to secure the media coverage you’re looking for, you’ll need to create a pitch for your media list. The pitch highlights what news you’re attempting to break and why it’s relevant for the respective media member. Relevancy can’t be understated, as media members have their own niche they report within, and anything sent to them outside of this niche will be ignored.
Let this serve as a very brief insight into how most public relations professionals work to ensure their clients’ news and events reach their target audience. The importance of relationships cannot be understated in public relations. If you’re able to consistently bring engaging and relevant news to your media contacts, your agency or business will have guaranteed themselves a bevy of relationships to leverage for future digital marketing campaigns.
Just how much digital marketing has changed, and will continue to change, cannot be reiterated enough. Technology that was once on the cutting edge eventually becomes outdated, leaving room for a more efficient platform to take its place. For success in digital marketing, it’s essential to integrate all of the current components discussed in this article, as well as explore the more innovative technologies that might not have caught on yet.
Society is anything but static in how it consumes information, and your digital marketing campaign needs to represent a constant push for innovation and change.