Decoding Digital Marketing

By Lindsey Laughlin

As a marketer, there’s a good chance you’ve had your CEO or internal stakeholders stop by your office and request a digital campaign. But what is digital marketing, and where do you start?

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is advertising that’s delivered through digital channels, such as search engines, email, websites, social media, and mobile apps. Before we go further, let’s clarify the difference between content marketing and digital marketing, since the line between them can be blurry. Content marketing focuses more on educating and entertaining your audience, which can result in brand awareness and potentially sales, whereas the primary purpose of digital marketing is to drive a specific action, typically sales (or donations, in the case of non-profits). Content marketing opportunities can often be low-cost or no-cost, whereas digital marketing typically involves paid placement. For example, a real estate agent might use content marketing to stay top-of-mind with potential buyers and sellers by sending a monthly educational email newsletter and blogging about home maintenance and renovation tips. They could use digital marketing to run a paid search campaign and social media ads to target people looking for a local agent.

Content marketing focuses more on educating and entertaining your audience, which can result in brand awareness and potentially sales, whereas the primary purpose of digital marketing is to drive a specific action, typically sales (or donations, in the case of non-profits).

When it comes to digital marketing, there are quite a few placement options. Below are some common ones, as well as some terms you should know. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but it will provide an overview to help you determine where to start.

KPIs

There are two primary Key Performance Indicators that are often looked at for digital campaigns:

  • Click-Thru-Rate (CTR): The ratio of clicks on an ad compared to the number of impressions (or views).
  • View-Thru-Rate (VTR): The number of completed views of a skippable ad compared to the number of initial impressions. Note: your goal may not be to optimize a campaign to improve VTR; you may want people to click through from your video instead. For video campaigns, determine at the start whether clicks or views are most important.

Targetable Segments

These are niche audiences that can be targeted through cookie-based insights, IP address targeting, etc. The audience profile may be demographic, geographic, contextual, behavioral, etc., or defined by a combination of criteria.

Placements

  • Display: Banner ads and animated .gifs that appear on websites, such as news sites, blogs, etc.
  • Pre-roll Video: Video ads, usually 15 seconds or less in length, that run on a website prior to a video story and are often paired with a companion banner ad. Pre-roll video is similar to watching Previews before a movie in a theater–it’s video that is shown before the main attraction.
  • Connected TV (CTV): Video placements that mirror traditional TV spots and target people who stream content via a smart TV.
  • Paid Search: Displaying text-based ads on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs). Advertisers compete to have their ads appear, and cost is typically incurred when the ad is clicked.

Getting Started

The best way to start is with a clear plan. Below is an outline of steps to take and questions to answer to prep for your next digital campaign.

1. Define the Basics

Clearly outline the purpose and goal(s) of the campaign. Who is the audience (be as descriptive and detailed as possible since you’re able to reach niche audiences with digital), and what do you want them to do?

2. Outline Your Campaign

Now that you’ve defined your goals and audience for the campaign, it’s time to determine which digital methods will be utilized. Here are a few considerations for some of the common digital components:

  • Paid Search & Display Network (Google Ads): Paid search can be a great way to capture traffic from people actively searching for what you offer, and the Display Network gets your ads in front of an audience you define. However, there can be more of a learning curve to be able to create and manage campaigns. If outsourcing campaign management isn’t an option, you’ll want to take the time to go through online training for Google Ads and subscribe to updates so that you’re aware of new features and changes that could impact your campaign.
  • Video: 80% of users can recall a video they watched online in the past month, and 64% of shoppers are more likely to purchase after watching an online video*. Obviously, video can have a positive impact on your campaign, but being able to produce a quality video to use in a campaign may require specialized expertise. Talk to your video partner about creating versions of the video for different placements (i.e. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram), as well as a cut for your website.
    • Skills Needed:
      • Copywriting (Script)
      • Production and Post-production
      • Placement – YouTube, Social Media, etc.
  • Email: Email is a great way to stay top-of-mind with your audience and let them know of new offerings or sales, upcoming events, and more. It can also be a cost-effective way of reaching an audience that has expressed an interest in your company. You can look at your email performance data to generate lead reports, test headline copy, etc. Note: email can easily fall under both content marketing and digital marketing, depending upon the approach. From a content marketing perspective, email can be used to share educational content, such as in the real estate agent example above. It can also be used for sales purposes by promoting special offers and making it easy for the audience to take action (i.e. click to apply, purchase, etc.).
    • Skills Needed:
      • Copywriting
      • Email Design

3. Plan for Action

Once you’ve identified what your audience should do, outline how they should do it. Digital campaigns typically direct to a website, and you’ll want to be mindful about where you send click-thru traffic. The paid search or banner ad may be the only frame of reference someone has for your brand, so consider creating a special landing page for this traffic. If your company sells basic widgets, linking to a product or store page may work well for you. If what your company provides is more complex, however, a unique landing page can help to provide the additional information about your brand and your products/services that people may need to convince them to purchase. You may want to pull some information from various parts of your website, such as About, Products/Services, and Contact, to build this page.

Make sure that you make it clear what people are to do next. If a visitor lands on this page from a digital campaign, the next step in their user journey should be obvious, whether it’s a button to purchase, a form to request more information, etc. Tell people what they should do and make it easy for them to do it!

Whether you’re considering a full digital campaign or just dipping your toe in the water, there’s a type of digital marketing that can meet practically any goal and budget. So give it a try! With some thoughtful planning and a dash of creativity, digital marketing efforts could make your next campaign your best one yet.

* Source: 40+ Video Marketing Statistics for 2019 by Social Media Today

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