Digital marketing is popular and in the same time enigmatic term for many software technologists. That’s because marketing in general (not just digital marketing) is outside of our area of expertise. Despite that, recently quite often we see marketers working together with technologists to build tools which are helping them with everyday tasks.
Digital marketing world is changing rapidly, there is a huge demand for new tools, for integration with various platforms, for more features to increase conversion rates or simply reach wider audience. In this situation it’s essential for technologists to get solid understanding of digital marketing business.
In this post I would like to demystify digital marketing for software technologists. I will break down digital marketing world into small pieces to help you understand what digital marketing is, and what kind of challenges it sets to us.
So what do you mean when you say Digital Marketing?
Many technologists, especially those who are close to web content management systems (WCMS) find digital marketing term to be yet another buzz word. For WCMS technologists, digital marketing is something that we are all fairly familiar with, we instinctively feel it … but it’s enigmatic in the same time. I always had a problem describing with my own words what stands behind it. It was even harder to tell the difference between digital marketing, online marketing and social media marketing. It took me a while to crack it and know I would like to share with you my guide to digital marketing world.
So where does it all start? Digital Marketing or Online Marketing?
First thing on the way to solve this puzzle is to find the broadest term. It will be our foothold. Starting from there I will explore digital marketing world step by step and in the end, hopefully, everything will fall into its place.
Let’s get it started then …
Wikipedia defines digital marketing like this:
Digital marketing is the use of digital sources like Internet, digital display advertising and other digital media such as television, radio, and mobile phones in the promotion of brands and products to consumers.
From this definition you can clearly see that digital marketing is not only about Internet, it has a broader meaning, it covers also channels of communication like TV, radio or mobiles.
In this post I will focus mainly on internet marketing as this is where my expertise is.
Interesting thing to note is that over last few years, popularity of term internet marketing is decreasing while digital marketing is increasing. Time of internet marketers ends, they have to transform into digital marketers or die.
Let’s take a closer look on Internet Marketing
Internet marketing is also known as online marketing, web marketing or e-marketing. Some people will argue that there are some minor differences between the terms but I think it is safe to treat them all as synonyms.
Far more interesting is extensive variety of different sub-areas which internet marketing consists of:
Question to you now – do you recon one person can do all of that? And second question – can one person be expert in all of those areas?
I’m convinced that amount of knowledge required to master all of different aspects is way too wide for one person. Another complexity is that internet marketing is very dynamic and rapidly changing environment. It makes staying up-to-date very time-consuming task, not to mention being an expert.
In next sections I will jump into details and talk about each area one by one. But thing is that that those areas are not completely independent from each other. On the contrary, in digital marketing world everything is linked together. It’s not easy, but I think it’s vital to understand how different areas of digital marketing are connected with each other. Efforts or shortages in one area have impact on other areas. It’s good to have a big picture because it gives you a chance to see the patterns and identify root causes for various changes.
Some people say that content is a king. Other people say that it’s not about content; it’s all about remarkable content. There are even more extreme views like marketing is impossible without great content. Whoever is right, one thing is sure; you need content to tell your story; you need content to tell about your products and services; you need content to generate traffic. And later you need traffic to engage with visitors can convert them into customers.
Content marketing used to be very popular among bloggers and in small business. It’s no longer the domain of small businesses, recently also big global companies like Coca-Cola are focusing their marketing efforts on content marketing. Coca-Cola lunched recently Content 2020 program.
Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, recently stated that:
All advertisers need a lot more content so that they can keep the engagement with consumers fresh and relevant, because of the 24/7 connectivity. If you’re going to be successful around the world, you have to have fat and fertile ideas at the core.
Do you need more to be convinced?
Okey, but how to do content marketing? First step is to publish remarkable content. Second step is to make a lot of noise about it to reach to as many people as possible. This is why social networks and other sites focused on sharing cool stories are so popular among marketers. Check the rise of content marketing infographic to get an idea about the numbers. That explains why integration with Digg, Reddit, Delicious, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ is crucial. Marketers want to see sharing/voting/bookmarking widgets on their site to make it easy for visitors to take an action. On the other side this is exactly what visitors want – people love sharing cool stories.
Another important aspect of widgets is that they display number of likes, number of re-tweet and so on. Why does it matter? Because high numbers mean that a lot of people consider given content as remarkable, high value, worth reading and sharing. High numbers are a social proof. Social proof has a strongly influence on future visitors – they are far more likely to consider content valuable. They are more likely to take an action.
Marketers who take content marketing seriously have a publishing schedule and an editorial calendar in place. You can also see them guest posting, writing eBooks or creating infographics.
What technologists should keep an eye on?
- sharing new content on social networks should be easy, possibly even automated!
- integration with sharing/voting/bookmarking widgets are often key requirements
Thanks to analytics marketers have insight into site’s performance. Answers about traffic sources, popular content, users behavior are there. But marketers also use analytics to track actions. What actions? It can be something like brochure download, account signup, RSS or newsletter subscription.
Starting point to track actions and visitors behavior is integration with Google Analytics or commercial counterparts like Omniture. Second step is setup of conversion goals. Actions can be simple like a single click on download button but can also consists of multiple steps.
With analytics marketers can figure out which pages are the best (have high conversion rates) and which ones require some attention (low conversion rates). They can figure out, in multistep goals (called funnels), which step for some reason doesn’t work and cause people to leave without closing the deal. Having this information, it’s much easier to prioritize improvements.
Finally thanks to analytics, it’s possible to track and measure effectiveness of various campaigns. Simple example – if you bought on Google AdWords ads for X pounds and as a result it generated sales worth 2*X pounds then of course you are on a good way to get rich. But without analytics you don’t really know which part of sales have been generated by your AdWords campaigns.
What technologists should keep an eye on?
- integration with Google Analytics (or some counterpart)
- marketers may need a flexibility to add custom actions to links/buttons on a site
Paid Search Marketing (PPC)
The easiest way to get more traffic is to buy ads with Google’s AdWords. Challenge of course is to make sure that conversion rate is high enough to make entire venture profitable.
This is where landing pages are getting important. Marketers often build separate landing page for each product, service and sometimes even for each campaign. Why? Because each product, service or campaign are targeted at different audience. Therefore each landing page will be slightly (or very much) different, each landing page will be focused on a single product for particular audience. But the goal is always the same – landing page should encourage visitor to take action.
Some of things to consider in this area – marketers will pay for the traffic, but they want to make sure that it won’t be just any traffic, they want to see certain type of visitors to come and see their offering. Paid search marketing will be different depending on target audience as different type of users have different habits. For instance on Facebook there are different types of users than on Flickr.
Social Media Marketing
This is huge topic because there are many social networks and each of them is different. To name a few key players: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+. On each platform there is a different audience, on each platform there are different strategies to attract attention.
Why marketers bother about social media?
There are lots of people on social networks, so there is a big audience which can be potentially converted into visitors and later customers. Another reason for marketers to be there is to make sure that they control their brand and news about their brand on social networks.
Being present on social networks increases brand’s creditability, helps manage it’s reputation and allows better control over news related to the brand. About Twitter people say that “Twitter is not a technology. It’s a conversation. And it’s happening with or without you”. The same goes for other social networks.
The problem with social media is that having an account there is not enough to get people’s attention, you need to be active; you need to share great stuff. Therefore marketers constantly need new and fresh, high value, content. Here is a nice guide how to grow your brand on Twitter.
A few things on which technologist should keep an eye:
- social media marketers will need a custom Twitter background which on account page
- another aspect is Facebook, marketers needs branded design for Facebook page
- other social networks (like Google+) might also need branded pages
Newsletters are not dead! This is one of the easiest ways to stay connected with the audience. Therefore marketers work hard to convince people that subscribing newsletter is a good idea. Subscription to a newsletter is a very common conversion goals.
What are the benefits of having large email list? People check their inboxes a few times per day (or even per hour) so newsletter gives marketers powerful tool to stay top of mind and attract client’s attention whenever they have something interesting to say/sell.
What technologist should keep an eye on:
- marketers often use third party emailing systems, therefore some integration to pass information about new subscribers is always required
- custom, branded, emails are also very common
- having a large email list, there might be a need to run more advanced campaigns than “send to all”. This is when segmentation comes into play
Search engine optimization (SEO) also known as organic search marketing (OSM) is a very broad and dynamically changing topic. To be clear, SEO is about unpaid traffic, it’s about positioning your pages high, ideally on the first position, in SERPs (search engine results pages) for targeted keywords.
SOE in very high level steps:
- The most fundamental step is to find keywords/phrase for which the site and content will be optimized for. It has to be something relevant for your business but also something that people are looking for.
- Next step is to create content and organize the site in a way which is optimized for selected keywords/phrases.
- And finally get tons of backlinks to your pages. Remember that links should come from multiple domains – it’s more natural and more difficult to achieve. Also links to your pages should use relevant keywords in anchor text.
One thing to remember is that Google rank pages not sites. What does it mean? If you want to reach first position in Google for some keyword/phrase, you need to create a page, single landing page, highly optimized for this keyword. Having this page, you need to make sure that there are tons of links to this page. How many? It depends how competitive given keyword is. Phrases are almost always less competitive. Usually the rule is that more words your phase contains it’s easier to reach first position on SERPs. (on average first item on the list is clicked in 36% of search result displays)
And what does it mean that keyword/phrase is competitive? By competition you should consider all pages which are targeted at the same keyword. Highly optimized pages, which have keywords in domain name, high page rank and tons of backlinks are difficult to beat.
Here is a short list of the most important aspects on which technologists should keep an eye on?
- URLs – should be SEO friendly, human readable, without old-fashion query parameters and ideally should contain keywords
- marketers should have full control over SEO sensitive meta tags like meta description, title
- proper use of HTML headings (only one H1 tag etc.)
- on images full control over alt tags, titles, file naming is also important. The same goes for videos
- make sure that bot will index unique content only under single URL to avoid content duplication (again meta tags)
- full control over links – for instance some links should be marked as nofollow using rel attribute. Typically it should be done for outgoing links, but sometimes it’s also a good thing for links within your site (footer for instance)
- remember that fast loading pages are ranking higher
- remember about sitemap.xml
- enable integration with Google Webmaster Tools to get information about links to your pages, performance of your pages in search results for different keywords and many more
Conversion Rate Optimization
Marketers take lots of actions to increase traffic on their site. But the real goal is to convince visitors to take some action. Usually it’s not a good idea to send all the traffic to a homepage because homepages are too general, designed for number different user types, not focused on a single product/campaign/service/offer. As a result there are way too many links, way too much action, and visitors can be easily distracted away from desired action in that particular campaign.
Guidelines say that it’s much better to have landing pages which are optimized for specific audience, focused on a single product (or service) and with single CTA (call to action). These way marketers have more flexibility to modify landing page in order to maximize conversion rate. What actions can be undertook? Here are a few ideas:
- Content optimization (simple and easy to read language, single message)
- Effective use of rich media like videos
- Layout and design optimization
- Better placement of CTA module
- Different size or colours of CTA module
- Adding some sort of social proof showing that people use your product and recommend it
More advanced option is use A/B Testing tools to check different variations and measure conversion rate for them.
For sure technologists and marketers will keep working together. Probably even closer than ever before. Challenges which digital marketing sets are huge for both parties so I think joining forces is inevitable to be successful. On this way marketers will have to learn a lot about technology and technologists will have to learn a lot about marketing. Maybe even marketing technologists will arise.
In a meantime take a look on this video which predicts the future of online digital marketing 2012-2015
This is not a full guide to digital marketing, you won’t find all the answers here. But my intention is to keep working on this page, keep adding and refining information. If something big is missing – let me know!
I hope you have found this page useful and informative. If yes then please share this page on social network of your choice. Help to me reach more people! Thanks in advance.