In the series of ‘A Complete Guide to Digital Marketing 2021’, I’ll introduce you to the basic features of and trends in digital marketing as well how to strategically and skillfully execute this powerful mode of marketing in 2021. This post is an introduction that will guide you through the basics of digital marketing. Subsequent posts will lead you towards deep insight and successful execution.
The Concepts and Components in Digital Marketing
To know and understand what digital marketing is, you can have a look at the following info-graph. It will not only help you in defining digital marketing but also give you a clear picture of entire digital marketing concepts, compactly, and comprehensively. In the next section, I’ll deal with the detailed aspects and present some of the most meaningful definitions of digital marketing.
What is Digital Marketing in Real Sense?
Digital marketing, online marketing, internet marketing, or even web marketing are different terms diversely used for the same practice. However, the definition and meaning of digital marketing or related words might be a little confusing. Due to its widespread usage and the umbrella phenomena of it, many people get confused around the term. Few blog writers even include a few of the traditional media like the radio, television, and electronic billboards as the variations of digital marketing due to the involvement of digital technology within those. Even Wikipedia doesn’t include all the phenomena and aspects it involves while defining the term. As a practical approach, digital marketing doesn’t depend only on technology; it also depends on at least the other five aspects. Those are – media, platform, device, data and strategy, and all the involved phenomena.
There are many significant differences between the traditional (mode of) marketing and digital marketing. Unlike the earlier, the latter is more interactive, audience-specific, data concentric, strategic planner, inbound result-oriented, and most cost-effective as well as available and widespread. Out of the above eight aspects, few of the traditional media that are using digital technology at present might attempt to achieve a half. That includes – audience specification, data concentration, strategic planning, and inbound result orientation. However, there are two-way limitations for these media. First, they might not achieve all at best, even after their best efforts in the above four aspects. It’s due to their dependency mostly upon third-party service providers. A seller of a product or service in 99.99% cases, for example, neither owns a television channel nor has his/her analysis mechanism. The same is the case for radio and billboard advertising. Second, for example, the digital billboard ever has been neither interactive nor audience-specific nor data concentric nor cheap nor even available at ease. In the case of a radio marketing campaign, you may have a comparatively cheap means than other traditional electronic media for advertising and marketing purposes. Boosting of low range FM channels made it possible for some interactive session by hiring a PRO by the business concerned or paying for the service by the channel owner at the radio office. However, it’s not easily manageable. More complex phenomena arise for television marketing. To reach the television for your products/services/brand, you need a lot of money. You may highly successful in persuading the audiences by glamour and allure; however, you can’t deliver an interactive message directly aiming at conversion.
The platform provided by the internet through the World Wide Web and multiple digital devices like desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, well as through available technology qualifies for each of the above eight aspects of an effective marketing campaign. You can use it under your conveniences, your budgetary allocations, your requirements, your choices, and your orientations. You can act as your PRO. You can analyze the impact factors through some shared or individual software. You can interact with your audiences and increase the conversion rate. And, most importantly, you’re not going to spend much amount in comparison to the digital billboard near a crowded traffic signal or a few second ads on a television show. Digital marketing qualifies for everything else, while traditional marketing can and can’t. The additional advantages are that there are ample scopes and freedoms to act in their handiness.
Though there are several channels for going digital, the internet is the most prominent platform for this purpose. Within the last decade, digital technology has changed our lives. It is that around 68% of people worldwide are searching for almost everything else on the internet, and making a decision in accordance. If it’s a matter of making decisions for purchasing products or getting services, the figures and statistics are rapidly growing. It is the primary reason why business runners and marketers must go digital. There are also many other grounds that no one (in the market) should avoid such easily obtainable, cheap, and widespread channels of marketing and advertising.
Like other marketing methods, Digital Marketing also involves some complexity in terms of strategies, techniques, and implementations. Having a website and posting regularly on social media doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing Digital Marketing. The field requires adequate involvements in terms of research, conceptualization, planning, strategy building, test delivery, and observation, fine-tuning of the methods and strategies, re-delivering, and getting actions (engagement and conversion) along with Return on Investment (ROI). It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a specialized university degree or pays for an online certification course to be a successful digital marketer. However, you need to spend more time on the internet, do observe different marketing techniques by digital marketers, and do your homework to get everything clear. To be more enlightened and specific result-oriented in your goal, you may regularly read my blog posts and subscribe to my free e-books. It will help you.
As our discussion till far is concerned, you can define digital marketing as the marketing of products and services in digital ways. The question is – What are the digital ways? Those are 6Ds, viz., digital technologies, digital media, digital platforms, digital devices, digital data, and digital analysis. None of the 6Ds can be omitted for a proper conceptualization of the term, understanding its processes, and applying the same. The basic of digital marketing is the internet through the World Wide Web on almost all digital devices and apps on mobile devices.
Components of Digital Marketing
We can divide the component of digital marketing into three main divisions:
- Assets, and
Like any marketing campaign, digital marketing also needs clear and well-defined strategies to be set first. Starting from defining your requirements, you have to perform a series of tasks. Those include – finalizing your Key Performance Indicators (KPI), doing data-based research and analysis, preparing a plan and strategy, developing and updating assets, defining end audience, designing action, and evaluating the test result, etc.
Once you have finalized your approaches, it’s wise to make a checklist for the available assets with you. The prerequisite or the parent asset for you is a ‘dynamic and interactive website’. Your other assets, such as branding assets (business name, logo, and trademark), content asset (blog posts, e-books, infographics, whitepapers, look-books, images, slides, videos, etc.), earned assets (testimonials, feedback, social media pixels, etc.), social media linkage and interactive tools need to be well structured within your website for optimum output.
Under the umbrella term of digital marketing, there is several interrelated as well as individual modes exist. Most effective are –
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Content Marketing
- Pay per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Affiliate and Referral Marketing
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Inbound Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Mobile Marketing, and a few others
Let’s have a look at a glance.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
When I talk about SEO, I become excited to say, SEO is the most crucial aspect of a digital marketing strategy. Business those who ignore SEO can miss a vital portion of their leads, customers, partners, and, eventually, dollars.
So, what is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the strategic and technical efforts of getting better visibility on search engines like Google or Bing.
Let me elaborate the points.
When you search something on Google or Yahoo, or on any other search engine (SE), within a few seconds, you will find thousands of relevant results for your search terms. Search engines collect that result from trillions of content available on the World Wide Web. While delivering the search outcomes, search engines arrange them following their relevance to your search terms and overall quality. Search engines determine relevance and quality based on optimization efforts put by the content owner (webmaster). The relevant web content of a well-optimized website gets the top position in the search output.
Now you have many options. You may click on any of the results that appear on the top of the SERP, or you could scroll down to find out more, or you may go for the next pages. But as a general indication, most of the users of search engines, click on any one of the first few results that seem to be more relevant for their search terms or actual requirements. Maybe the user is satisfied with the information available in a single search result, or he/she might search for another website depending upon his/her requirements and satisfaction.
Your web content can appear at the top for a relevant search query if you have optimized it well. There can be millions of results for a single search. However, the best-optimized content can obtain the first position. Other well-optimized content can be on the first search engine result page (SERP).
So, getting better visibility on search engines depends upon your SEO attempts. The websites or web pages that are visible at the top of any SERP do not happen as an autonomous process. Instead, the webmaster of a website needs to optimize his/her website with well-defined techniques and skills to increase visibility on SE. Google or any other SE, while displaying the result one after another, a complex mathematical algorithm of indexing works. In compliance with the algorithm, SE decides which web page or its content is more relevant to the search term entered. The spider-based crawl technology makes an instant ranking in harmony to the relevance and index it accordingly.
The webmaster of a website needs to understand the entire process. A website or its contents only can be visible to a SE if the site connects to the SE console. After connecting to the SE console, the webmaster or admin needs to set a meta-tag and description tags along with search keywords to get a better ranking and optimized for SE. Getting better optimization for SE is not an easy task. It needs plenty of professional skills and experiences. The entire process is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is an unpaid service you can avail from any search engine provider like Google, Bing, Ask, and Yahoo just by agreeing with their terms and conditions. In the dictionary of Digital Marketing, any of the free or unpaid services is known as organic. Wikipedia rightly defines SEO as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid (organic) results.”
Content is the pivot around which most of the marketing activities revolve. It has been repeatedly declared as the king of all marketing approaches by marketers and industry experts.
You may wonder – what is content marketing?
Content marketing is a strategic and marketing approach that focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and reliable content to attract and maintain a clearly defined audience that can lead to profitable customer action. It doesn’t directly promote a product or a service or a business or a brand. But it stimulates interest for it through creating and sharing online content like blog posts, videos, images, and infographics. The purpose of content marketing is to help brands or businesses to create sustainable brand loyalty and provide valuable information to consumers, as well as to create a willingness to purchase products or services in the future. It doesn’t involve direct sales. Instead, it’s a mechanism of building trust and rapport with the audience. Not the advertisement but the story, not the commercial but the show – is the basis of content marketing.
Content has a direct connection to SEO. Search engines rank the webpages that have plenty of quality content in them. Without content, you can’t even imagine gaining success in your SEO activities.
This evergreen marketing method needs a lot of expertise and experience in building strategy, creating content, and sharing the same, as well as getting the desired outcome.
Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
The acronym PPC stands for Pay per Click and is not unrelated to SEM. There are two phenomena of PPC. When you opt for SEM, you don’t have to pay the SE until a user clicks on your link. The good news for you is that, just by advertising on Google or Yahoo or Bing, you’re not going to pay for it. Based on the number of clicks on your link, you will have to pay. The next good news is that the mechanism of PPC doesn’t singularly serve for SEO. Instead, the PPC mechanism automatically places your advertisement and promotion on other relevant third-party web pages that are approved by the SE as partners’ pages; and the SE is paying its partners on the ground of mutual terms and conditions. On which page and for which visitor your ad will be visible is decided by the complex algorithm of the concerned SE. It bases on the constant automated records and analysis of online user behavior.
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, which is slightly different from SEO. While SEO is unpaid or free, you need to pay for SEM. You can run an advertising campaign on Google or any other SE by agreeing to pay on a daily expenditure basis at the end of your billing cycle. Based on your daily agreement amount, target audience, and selected keywords, your web pages and the content therein will get more chances to be visible on SERP.
Affiliating and Referral Marketing
Affiliating Marketing is a performance-based and accordingly commission based marketing strategy. In this case, a business or brand gives a commission to one or more affiliates (promoters) for the purchase made by the affiliate’s marketing effort.
Affiliating Marketing is sometimes confused with Referral Marketing because in both cases, the purchase is made through third-party involvement. However, affiliating marketing is purely commercial, while referral marketing is based on relationships and trust. A customer being satisfied with a purchase may refer to his/her friend or known one to purchase from the same merchant. When the business able to sell or even only gains good faith from the referred, it rewards the referee.
Social Media Marketing
It’s a strategy to create brand awareness through follow, likes, comments, shares, recommendations, and invitations on social media posting and converting the individuals on social media to potential buyers. Among various modes of Digital Marketing, social media marketing is the most prominent one. Almost all brands and businesses prefer to have a business account on each popular social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, Pinterest, etc. About 65% of conversions come only from social media. Facebook individually does half of the conversions. Besides, almost all social media give you amazing tools to easily interact with your audiences and keep them actively engaged.
Social Media Marketing is on both free and paid terms. If you already have a moderate brand image, you do not necessarily need to pay social media for getting more followers and boosting your posts. You can get active audience engagement, naturally, if your viewers consider your content as valuable or appealing, or both. But at the initial stage or for stepping up, you may spend a few dollars on a daily budget basis for promotion and advertisement of your brand. The advantages of SMM are that it’s very flexible, cost-effective, and able to provide you an immense interactive platform. For status, reputation, and brand awareness, as well as for purely commercial promotions, no other medium as available on the date is better than social media.
An inbound marketing technique is a mixed digital marketing strategy that simultaneously uses search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), content marketing, and branding to convert a stranger to an active buyer. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing is mostly target and result oriented. It directly aims at action, engagement, and conversion. It may be the SEO or the SMM or content marketing – choosing a target audience based on age, gender, location, occupation, interest, social behavior, and purchase action is no more a difficult task. Based on data available on social media and search engines analytic, the artificial intelligence of such platforms directly delivers your message to your target audience. Such a mechanism can easily convert a stranger to an active buyer within a very short phase. Most of the Digital Marketing techniques are inbound. However, large portions of the traditional marketing approaches are generally outbound in characteristics.
Email Marketing is the way of directly delivering both commercial (products, services, offers, etc.) and non-commercial (content for information, entertainment, and stimulation) newsletters to the mailboxes of individuals who directly or indirectly intends or provide consent to subscribe to your feeds. Though it is another powerful tool and one of the cheapest marketing, you need some effort and carefulness in a) getting consent from individual visitors to your site or your social media followers or incidentally come across viewers to receive your emails, b) preparing a mailer list and c) creating relevant and quality content for the regular emails. Once you manage to make a massive mailer list of potential consumers and interesting value-added content for emails, you may jump for a rewarding email campaign. You may either send regular emails to a large number of receivers with few mouse clicks from your website’s automated tool or you may manage it from your business email account’s address book. Once you have an automated mailer tool or a business mail account, you don’t need further expenditure for regular email marketing. Personalized emails empowered by various interactive tools help highly in target audience engagement and subsequent conversion.
Mobile marketing is a singular term for all marketing activities performed through a multi-channel network to which the target audience is persistently connected by using personal mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, etc. through SMS, MMS, mobile application, social media, e-mail, search engine, net browser, etc. The widespread use of mobile devices provides ample scope for business owners and marketers to reach each target audience in numerous ways. SMS Marketing, Push Notification, In-game Mobile Marketing, app-based Marketing, QR code Marketing, Location Based Services (LBS), User Control Media (UCM), and Interactive Voice Mail (IVM) are a few among many mobile marketing techniques. All of us know that this is the ‘Era of Mobile’, and more than 80% of internet users access anything digital-only through mobile devices. Besides its additional features, people mostly use social media, search engines, emails, games, and the web on mobile devices in comparison to desktop computers. The importance and future of mobile marketing don’t need any further clarification.
Local Business Listing
Local Business Listing is an opportunity to promote your business on the internet through third-party promoters. But it is different from Affiliating Marketing in many senses. Third-party promoters, in this case, are the owners of websites with large networks separated for different cities and business/service/product categories. Though the network is controlled centrally at a national headquarter, small and medium business runners can attract city and near-by based local potential customers by listing their businesses with details of products/services and contact information on these site’s local pages. Listing businesses on such websites are generally free. But you need to pay the site owners if you intend to get a premium listing badge and to get more leads due to the effort of the third party. When you pay on an annual or any other term basis agreement, the third-party service provider takes care of ranking your business better and providing your contact details to the visitor of the site who looks for a particular service or product at the local market since he/she has no idea about where to get it or who is the better option to choose. Sure shot lead generation is not guaranteed. Online Yellow Pages and Business Directories are examples of Local Listing Sites.
Next Steps to Follow: Digital Marketing for Beginners
I can assume that now you are crystal clear of the very concept of digital marketing. You also learned the types of digital marketing and their meanings. However, this section only introduces the basic idea of digital marketing, along with kinds and components. But the objectives of the series ‘A Complete Guide to Digital Marketing 2021’ go far beyond. To get the most of the series, keep reading.