Digital marketing encompasses all marketing efforts that use an electronic device or the Internet. Companies use digital channels such as search engines, social media, email and other websites to connect with current and potential customers.
An experienced inbound marketer might say that inbound marketing and digital marketing are virtually the same thing, but there are some slight differences. In conversations with marketers and business owners in the U.S., U.K., Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I’ve learned a lot about how these minor differences are observed around the world.
What role does digital marketing play for a business?
While traditional marketing can exist in print ads, phone communications or physical marketing, digital marketing can exist electronically and online. This means brands have far more ways to reach customers, including email, video, social media and search engines.
At this stage, digital marketing is critical to your business and brand awareness. It seems like every other brand has a website. And if they don’t, they at least have a social media presence or a digital advertising strategy. Digital content and marketing is so common that consumers now expect and rely on it as a way to learn about brands.
In short, to be competitive as a business owner, you need to consider some aspects of digital marketing.
Because digital marketing comes with so many options and strategies, you can get creative and experiment with a variety of marketing tactics. With digital marketing, you can also use tools like analytics – dashboards to better monitor the success and ROI of your campaigns than with traditional advertising content like a billboard or print ad.
How does a company define digital marketing?
Digital marketing is defined by the use of numerous digital tactics and channels to engage with customers where they spend a lot of time: online. From the website itself to a company’s online branding assets-digital advertising, e – mail marketing, online brochures and beyond-there is a spectrum of tactics that fall under the umbrella of “digital marketing.””
The best digital marketers have a clear picture of how each digital marketing campaign supports their overall goals. Depending on the goals of their marketing strategy, marketers can support a larger campaign across the free and paid channels available to them.
For example, a content marketer may create a series of blog posts designed to generate leads from a new eBook the company recently created. The company’s social media marketer can then help promote those blog posts through paid and organic posts on the company’s social media accounts. Perhaps the email marketer creates an email campaign to send more information about the company to those who download the eBook. We’ll talk more about these specific digital marketers in a minute.
Types of digital marketing
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Social Media Marketing
Pay Per Click (PPC)
Here’s a brief overview of some of the most common digital marketing tactics and the channels involved in each.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
This is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results pages, increasing the amount of organic (or free) traffic your website receives. Channels that benefit from SEO include websites, blogs, and infographics.
There are a number of ways to approach SEO to generate qualified traffic to your website. These include:
On Page SEO: This type of SEO focuses on all the content that is “on page” when you look at a website. By finding keywords for their search volume and intent (or meaning), you can answer questions for readers and rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) producing those questions.
Off Page SEO: This type of SEO focuses on all the activities that take place “off page” when you want to optimize your website. “What activity not on my own site could affect my ranking? “You might ask. The answer is inbound links, also known as backlinks. The number of publishers linking to you and the relative “authority” of those publishers affect how high you rank for the keywords that matter to you. By networking with other publishers, writing guest posts on those sites (and linking back to your site), and generating external attention, you can earn the backlinks you need to pull your site up on all the right SERPs.
Technical SEO: This type of SEO focuses on the backend of your website and the coding of your pages. Image compression, structured data, and CSS – file optimization are all forms of technical SEO that can increase your website’s loading speed-an important ranking factor in the eyes of search engines like Google.
This term refers to the creation and promotion of content assets for the purpose of generating brand awareness, traffic growth, lead generation and customers. Channels that can play a role in your content marketing strategy include:
Blog posts: Writing and publishing articles on acompanybloghelps you demonstrate your industry expertise and generate organic search traffic for your business. This ultimately gives you more opportunities to convert website visitors into leads for your sales team.
Ebooks and whitepapers: ebooks, whitepapers, and similar long-form content further help educate website visitors. You can also exchange content for a reader’s contact information, generate leads for your business, and move people through the buyer’s journey.
Infographics: Sometimes readers want you to show, not tell. Infographics are a form of visual content that allow website visitors to visualize a concept to help you learn.
Want to learn content marketing and apply it to your business? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free content marketing training resource page.
Social Media Marketing
This practice promotes your brand and content on social media channels to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads for your business. Channels you can use in social media marketing include:
If you’re new to social platforms, you can use tools like HubSpot to connect channels like LinkedIn and Facebook in one place. This way, you can easily schedule content for multiple channels at once and monitor analytics from the platform as well.
In addition to connecting social accounts for posting purposes, you can also integrate your social media inboxes with HubSpot so you can get your direct messages in one place.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC is a method of driving traffic to your website by paying a publisher each time your ad is clicked. One of the most common types of PPC is Google Ads, which lets you pay for the top slots on Google search results pages at a “per click” price of the links you place. Other channels where you can use PPC are:
Paid ads on Facebook: Here, users can pay to customize a video, image post or slideshow that Facebook publishes to the news feeds of people who match your company’s audience.
Twitter Ads Campaigns: Here, users can pay to place a series of posts or profile badges in the newsfeeds of a specific audience, all designed to achieve a specific goal for your business. That goal can be website traffic, more Twitter followers, tweet engagement, or even app downloads.
Sponsored messages on LinkedIn: Here, users can pay to have messages sent directly to specific LinkedIn users based on their industry and background.
This is a type of performance-based advertising where you receive a commission for promoting someone else’s products or services on your site. Affiliate marketing channels include:
Hosting video ads through the YouTube affiliate program.
Posting affiliate links from your social media accounts.
Native advertising refers to ads that are primarily content-driven and displayed on a platform alongside other, non-paid content. BuzzFeed-sponsored posts are a good example, but many people also consider social – media advertising to be “native” – Facebook ads and Instagram ads, for example.
Marketing automation refers to the software used to automate your basic marketing operations. Many marketing departments can automate repetitive tasks that they would otherwise perform manually, such as:
Email newsletters: email automation not only allows you to automatically send emails to your subscribers. It can also help you shrink and grow your contact list as needed, so your newsletters are sent only to the people who want to see them in their inboxes.
Social Media Post Scheduling: If you want to grow your company’s presence on a social network, you need to post frequently. This makes manual posting a recalcitrant process. Social media scheduling tools push your content to your social media channelsfor you, so you can spend more time focusing on content strategy.
Lead Nurturing Workflows: Generating leads and converting those leads into customers can be a long process.You can automate this process by sending specific emails and content to leads when they meet certain criteria, such as downloading and opening an eBook.
Campaign tracking and reporting:Marketing campaigns can include a lot of different people, emails, content, web pages, phone calls, and more. Marketing automation can help you sort everything you’re working on based on the campaign it serves, and then track the performance of that campaign based on the progress all those components make over time.
Companies use email marketing as a way to communicate with their audience. Email is often used to promote content, discounts, and events, as well as drive people to the company’s website. The types of emails you might send in an email marketing campaign include:
Blog subscriptions Newsletters.
Follow-up emails to website visitors who have downloaded something.
Customers, welcome emails.
Vacation promotions for loyalty program members.
Tips or similar series emails for customer support.
Online PR is the practice of securing your online coverage with digital publications, blogs and other content-based sites. It’s a lot like traditional PR, but in the online space. Channels you can use to maximize your PR efforts include:
Reporter outreach via social media: Talking to journalists on Twitter, for example, is a great way to develop a relationship with the press that produces social media opportunities for your company.
Appealing online reviews of your business: when someone reviews your business online, whether that review is good or bad, your instinct might be not to touch it. On the contrary, With engaging business reviews, you can humanize your brand and provide powerful messaging that protects your reputation.
Appealing comments on your personal website or blog: Similar to how you would respond to reviews of your business, Responding to the people who read your content is the best way to have productive conversations in your industry.
Inbound marketing refers to a marketing methodology where you attract, engage, and delight customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. You can use any digital marketing tactic listed above in an inbound marketing strategy to create a customer experience that works with the customer, not with them. Here are some classic examples of inbound marketingversustraditional marketing:
Blogging vs. pop – up ads
Video marketing vs. commercial advertising
Email contact listsvs. email spam
With sponsored content, you as a brand pay another business or entity to create and promote content that discusses your brand or service in some way.
One popular type of sponsored content is influencer marketing. With this type of sponsored content, a brand sponsors an influencer in their industry to share posts or videos related to the company on social media.
Another type of sponsored content could be a blog post or article written to highlight a topic, service or brand.
For more information on sponsored content, check out this blog post.
What does a digital marketer do?
Digital marketers are responsible for driving brand awareness and lead generation across all digital channels-both free and paid-that are available to a business. These channels include social media, the company’s own website, search engine rankings, emails, display advertising and the company’s blog.
The digital marketer typically focuses on a different key performance indicator (KPI) for each channel so they can properly measure the company’s performance in each channel. For example, a digital marketer responsible for SEO measures their website’s “organic traffic” – from that traffic coming from website visitors who found a page on the company’s website through a Google search.
Digital marketing today is performed in many marketing roles. In small businesses, a generalist might own many of the digital marketing tactics described above simultaneously. In larger companies, these tactics have multiple specialists, each focusing on one or two of the brand’s digital channels.
Why is digital marketing important?
Digital marketing helps you reach a larger audience than traditional methods and target the prospects most likely to buy your product or service. It’s also often less expensive than traditional advertising and allows you to measure success on a daily basis and pivot at will.
There are some great benefits to digital marketing. Let’s dive into four of them now.
1. You can target only the prospects most likely to buy your product or service.
When you run an ad on TV, in a magazine, or on a billboard, you have limited control over who sees the ad. Of course, you can measure certain demographics-including the typical readership of the magazine or the demographics of a particular neighborhood-but it’s still largely a shot in the dark.
Digital marketing, on the other hand, allows you to identify and target a highly specific audience and send personalized, high-conversion marketing messages to that audience.
For example, you can use social media’s targeting capabilities to display social media ads to a specific audience based on variables such as age, gender, location, interests, networks, or behaviors. Alternatively, you can use PPC or SEO strategies to serve ads to users who have shown interest in your product or service or have searched for specific keywords related to your industry.
Ultimately, digital marketing allows you to do the research necessary to identify your buyer personas and refine your marketing strategy over time to ensure you’re reaching prospects who are most likely to buy. Best of all, digital marketing helps you market to subgroups within your larger audience. If you sell multiple products or services to different buyer personas, this is especially helpful.
2. It’s more cost-effective than traditional marketing methods.
With digital marketing, you can track campaigns on a daily basis and reduce the amount of money you spend on a particular channel if it doesn’t have a high ROI. The same is not true for traditional advertising methods. It doesn’t matter how your billboard works – it still costs the same whether it converts for you or not.
Plus, with digital marketing, you have complete control over where you want to spend your money. Maybe instead of paying for PPC campaigns, you decide to spend money on design software to create high-converting Instagram content. A digital marketing strategy allows you to continuously pivot and ensure you never waste money on channels that don’t perform well.
3, Digital marketing allows you to outperform larger players in your industry.
If you work for a small business, it’s probably difficult for you to compete with the big brands in your industry, many of which invest millions of dollars in television ads or national campaigns. Fortunately, there are many ways to outperform the big players through strategic digital marketing initiatives.
For example, you can identify specific long-tail keywords that relate to your product or service and create high-quality content that helps you rank for those keywords in search engines. Search engines don’t care which brand is the biggest-instead, search engines prioritize content that resonates best with your target audience.
In addition, you can use social media to reach new audiences through influencer marketing. I don’t personally follow big brands on social media, but I do follow influencers who occasionally showcase products or services they like-if you work for a small to mid-sized business, this could be a good way to go.
4. digital marketing is measurable.
Digital marketing gives you a comprehensive start-to-finish view of all the metrics that could matter to your business – including impressions, shares, views, clicks and time on page. This is one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing. While traditional advertising can be useful for certain goals, its biggest limitation is measurability.
Unlike most offline marketing efforts, digital marketing allows marketers to see accurate results in real time. If you’ve ever placed an ad in a newspaper, you know how difficult it is to gauge how many people actually turned the page and paid attention to your ad. There’s no surefire way to know if that ad was even responsible for sales.
On the other hand, with digital marketing, you can measure the ROI of pretty much every aspect of your marketing efforts.
Here are a few examples:
With digital marketing, you can view the exact number of people who visited your website’s homepage in real time using digital analytics software available on marketing platforms like HubSpot.
You can also see how many pages they visited, what device they used, and where they came from digital analytics data, among other things.
With this intelligence, you can prioritize which marketing channels you want to spend more or less time on based on how many people those channels drive to your website. For example, if only 10% of your traffic comes from organic search, you know you probably need to spend some time on SEO to increase that percentage.
With offline marketing, it’s very difficult to tell how people are interacting with your brand before they have an interaction with a salesperson or make a purchase. With digital marketing, you can identify trends and patterns in people’s behavior before they reach the final stage of their buyer journey, which means you can make more informed decisions about how to entice them to your website right at the top of the marketing funnel.
Content performance and lead generation
Imagine you’ve created a product brochure and published it in people’s mailboxes – that brochure is a form of content, albeit offline. The problem is that you have no idea how many people opened your brochure or how many people threw it straight in the trash.
Now imagine if you had that brochure on your website instead. You can measure exactly how many people viewed the page it’s hosted on, and capture the contact information of those who download it using forms. Not only can you measure how many people interact with your content, but you can also generate qualified leads when people download it.
An effective digital marketing strategy, combined with the right tools and technologies, allows you to track all of your revenue with your business back to a customer’s first digital touchpoint.
We call this attribution modeling, and it allows you to identify trends in the way people research and buy your product, helping you make more informed decisions about which parts of your marketing strategy deserve more attention and which parts of your sales cycle need refinement.
The link between marketing and sales is hugely important – according to Aberdeen Group, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate, compared to a 4% decline in revenue for companies with poor alignment. If you can improve your customers’ journey through the buying cycle using digital technologies, it will likely have a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.
What types of digital content should I create?
The type of content you create will depend on the needs of your audience at different stages of the buyer journey. You should first create buyer personas (use these free templates or try makemypersona.com) to determine what your audience’s goals and challenges are in relation to your business. At a basic level, your online content should aim to meet those goals and overcome their challenges.
Then you need to think about when they are most likely ready to consume that content, in terms of what stage they are at in their buyer’s journey. We call this content mapping.
With content mapping, the goal is to target content according to:
The characteristics of the person who will consume it (this is where buyer personas come into play).
How close that person is to making a purchase (i.e., their lifecycle stage).
In terms of the format of your content, there are many different things to try. Here are some options we would recommend at each stage of the buyer’s journey:
Blog posts. Great for driving your organic traffic in combination with a strong SEO and keyword strategy.
Infographics. Very shareable, which means they increase your chances of being found via social media when others share your content. (Check out these free infographic templates to get started).
The short videos. These are also highly shareable and can help your brand get found by new audiences by hosting them on platforms like YouTube.
Electronics. Great for lead generation because they’re generally more comprehensive than a blog post or infographic, which means someone is more likely to share their contact information to get it.
Research Report. This is another high-value piece of content that is great for lead generation. However, research reports and new data for your industry can also be great for the awareness phase, as they are often picked up by the media or industry press.
Webinars. Because they are a more detailed, interactive form of video content, webinars are an effective format for viewing content because they provide more comprehensive content than a blog post or short video.
Case Study. Detailed case studies on your website can be an effective form of content for those who are ready to make a purchasing decision, as this helps you positively influence their decision.
Customer testimonials. If case studies aren’t a good fit for your business, having short testimonials on your website is a good alternative. Think a little more loosely about testimonials for B2C brands. If you’re a clothing brand, these can take the form of photos of how other people have styled a shirt or dress, pulled from a brand hashtag where people can contribute.
How to do digital marketing
Define your goals.
Identify your target audience.
Create a budget for each digital channel.
Strike a good balance between paid and free digital strategies.
Optimize your digital assets for mobile.
Conduct keyword research.
Iterate based on the analytics you measure.
1. define your goals.
When you first start digital marketing, you must first identify and define your goals, as you will shape your strategy differently depending on those goals. For example, if you want to increase brand awareness, you may want to pay more attention to reaching new audiences through social media.
Alternatively, you may want to increase sales of a particular product – in this case, it’s more important to focus on SEO and content optimization to bring potential buyers to your website in the first place. Furthermore, if sales are your goal, you can test PPC campaigns to drive traffic through paid ads.
In any case, it’s easiest to design a digital marketing strategy after you’ve determined your company’s biggest goals.
2. Identify your target audience.
We’ve mentioned this before, but one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing is the ability to target specific audiences – however, you can’t take advantage of this if you haven’t identified your audience the first time.
Of course, it’s important to note that your target audience may vary depending on the channel or target(s) for a particular product or campaign.
For example, you may have noticed that most of your Instagram audience is younger and prefers funny memes and quick videos – but your LinkedIn audience tends to be older professionals looking for more tactical advice. You want to vary your content to appeal to these different audiences.
If you’re starting from scratch, take a look at how you find your target audience.
3. Create a budget for each digital channel.
As with anything, the budget you determine really depends on what elements of digital marketing you want to add to your strategy.
If you’re focusing on inbound techniques like SEO, social media, and creating content for an existing website, the good news is that you don’t need much budget at all. With inbound marketing, the focus is on creating high-quality content that your target audience will want to consume, and the only investment you need is your time, unless you plan to outsource the work.
You can start by hosting a website and creating content using HubSpot’s CMS. For those on a tight budget, you can start with WordPress hosted on WP Engine using a simple plugin from StudioPress and build your website without code using Elementor Website Builder for WordPress.
With outbound techniques like online advertising and buying email lists, there is undoubtedly some cost. What it costs depends on what kind of visibility you want to get as a result of advertising.
For example, to implement PPC with Google AdWords, you bid against other businesses in your industry to be displayed at the top of Google’s search results for keywords associated with your business. Depending on the competitiveness of the keyword, this can be reasonably affordable or extremely expensive, so it’s a good idea to focus on your organic reach as well.
4. Strike a good balance between paid and free digital strategies.
A digital marketing strategy will likely need both paid and free aspects to be truly effective.
For example, if you spend time creating comprehensive buyer personas to identify your audience’s needs and focus on creating high-quality online content to attract and convert them, you’ll likely see strong results in the first six months despite minimal ad spend.
However, if paid advertising is part of your digital strategy, results can be achieved even faster.
Ultimately, it’s recommended to focus on building your organic (or “free”) reach using content, SEO, and social media for more long-term and sustainable success.
When in doubt, try both and iterate your process as you learn which channels – paid or free – work best for your brand.
5. Optimize your digital assets for mobile.
Another key component of digital marketing is mobile marketing. In fact, smartphone usage accounts for 69% of total digital media time spent in the U.S., while desktop – based digital media consumption accounts for less than half-and the U.S. is still not the biggest fan of mobile compared to other countries.
This means it’s important to optimize your digital ads, web pages, social media images and other digital assets for mobile devices. If your business has a mobile app that allows users to interact with your brand or shop your products, your app also falls under the umbrella of digital marketing.
Those who engage with your business online via mobile devices need to have the same positive experience they had on desktop. This means implementing a mobile-friendly or responsive website design to make browsing user-friendly for users on mobile devices. This may also mean reducing the length of your lead generation forms to create a hassle-free experience for users downloading your content on the go. With your social media images, it’s important to always have a mobile user in mind when creating, as image dimensions are smaller on mobile devices and text can get cut off.
There are many ways you can optimize your digital marketing assets for mobile users, and when implementing a digital marketing strategy, it is extremely important to consider how the experience will translate to mobile devices. By making sure this is always at the forefront of your mind, you’ll create digital experiences that work for your audience and get the results you’re hoping for.
6. Conduct keyword research.
Digital marketing is all about reaching target audiences through personalized content – none of this can happen without effective keyword research.
Conducting keyword research is crucial to optimizing your website and content for SEO and ensuring people can find your business through search engines. In addition, keyword research on social media can be helpful in marketing your products or services on various social channels.
Even if you don’t have a full-time SEO strategist, you still want to do keyword research. Try to create a list of powerful keywords that relate to your products or services, and consider long-tail variations for additional opportunities.
7. Iterate based on the analytics you measure.
To create an effective digital marketing strategy for the long term, it’s important for your team to learn how to pivot based on analytics.
For example, after a few months, you may find that your audience isn’t as interested in your content on Instagram – but they love what you’re creating on Twitter. Sure, this could be an opportunity to revisit your Instagram strategy as a whole, but it could also be a sign that your audience prefers a different channel to consume branded content.
Alternatively, you may find that an older web page isn’t getting the traffic it’s become accustomed to. You can refresh the page or remove it entirely to ensure visitors find the freshest, most relevant content for their needs.
Digital marketing offers businesses incredibly flexible opportunities for continued growth – but it’s up to you to take advantage of them.
I’m ready to give digital marketing a try. Now what?
If you’re already doing digital marketing, you’re probably reaching at least some segments of your audience online. No doubt you can think of some areas of your strategy that could use some improvement, however.