San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

Why DIGITAL Marketing Specifically?

In 2014 I took a business trip to the San Francisco Bay Area and stayed with some friends in Berkeley. Each day I made the one hour train ride from the East Bay into the Embarcadero, surrounded by hundreds of other people.Some of those people were reading books and others were knitting yarn but the vast majority were on their cell phones or tablets. Texting, checking Twitter, Facebook, browsing the web. Those people were not reading the newspaper. They were not looking at billboards. They were not reading magazines. Instead they were on their phones browsing digital content.

This phenomenon is not new by any means, and with the rapidly spreading use of mobile devices, digital marketing is only increasing in importance. To drive business through advertising, companies and businesses need to be present in the digital space. The days of hanging an “open” sign in the window and waiting for customers to walk in are fading. With more competition than ever (especially in leaner economic times) seeking customers out is more common and that means being active in the locations where clients are located, which is increasingly in the digital space.

Fret not, however. Digital communities and social media make it easier to target specific segments and demographics of people. In many ways, digital marketing is more efficient because of its ability to strategically position marketing content in locations where customers are spending their time. In other words, let’s get the most out of our marketing money by spending it on people who are interested in the stuff we’re selling or producing.

Content Marketing

The simple truth is that we’re overwhelmed with advertisements. Everywhere we go we’re bombarded with messages aimed at selling us something and some estimates peg that statistic at 5,000 ads per day. With that many messages, we’ve become desensitized. We expect advertisements. We know when we’ll see them. We know where we’ll see them. We know how long they will last. And with that knowledge in mind, we’ve learned how to ignore them.

Why should we invest in advertising if we suspect our message will be ignored? And if traditional methods are no longer effective, what do we do?

Content marketing isn’t new by any means, but it’s increasingly important.  Let’s create content that people find interesting and want to engage with. Let’s create content of value – that goes beyond advertising – and give people something they want/need. Such as? Photos, videos, how-to guides, articles, interactive quizzes, online resources & tools, podcasts – the possibilities are virtually endless.

These are the things that draw users to websites (and encourage them to come back). Paired with calls to action and links back to products or services, a good piece of content is a strong traffic driver and lead generation asset.

Search Engine Optimization

Here’s a little story about SEO that explains my take on it through a bit of historical context.

At great risk of sounding like a clickbait headline…Search Engine Optimization shouldn’t be top priority when evaluating or building a website. Top priority should be ensuring that the site is easily usable, and focuses on users, and second priority should be ensuring that search engines can navigate the site and understand what it’s about.

Now and in the future, this sounds like a no-brainer, as these two goals correlate well. Many of the things that make a website SEO friendly also make it user friendly and vice versa. There was a time not too long ago (before I got into SEO, to be truthful) when these things were mutually exclusive. Things that worked for search engines were inherently bad for the user experience. Tactics that successfully got websites “ranked”  were detrimental to site visitors. It wasn’t enough to create a nice site with great usability because those sites would get buried in search results by lower quality sites focused on gaming the system, regardless of whether those sites provided any value or not.

Then search engines got smart, so to speak, and realized that for people to continue using them, they needed to constantly focus on ridding themselves of spam and improving the quality of the results they provide. They implemented algorithms to penalize the spammers and put a greater emphasis on quality sites. The black hat SEOs got hammered and had to backpedal and work to reverse the very tactics they’d spent years employing. Those who took the moral high ground were rewarded, provided they were able to hold on.

This story is shaping up to have a lovely Disney-style ending where the spammers and scammers get their just desserts and are exiled from the industry while the authentic SEOs ride in on white horses and save the day. Sadly that isn’t the case. Even now there are still people who cling to those early tactics, working to game the system through practices that might not be malicious, but certainly fall into some kind of gray area. And to be honest, Google & others have not refined the process enough to completely rid this industry of these charlatans.

I joked recently, in a tweet, that the work I do is more worthy of the title “Website Life Coach” than Search Engine Optimizer. As ludicrous as that title sounds, there’s some truth to it. A good chunk of what I do on a daily basis is less focused on ranking web pages in SERPs and more focused on creating a better experience once they get to the site. Acquisition is still important, mind you, but it has little value if the site is a train wreck. As social media and search engine optimization continue to meld, I’m always keeping an eye on new traffic sources and how to optimize for them.

Analytics

Very often I’m surprised by how much time, effort and budget get spent on marketing and advertising, only to find that reporting and tracking isn’t set up properly or used to its full capability. I shouldn’t really be surprised, because the truth of the matter is that modern reporting tools can be mind-bogglingly complex. This complexity is great, but in many cases provides more features than are utilized. It can be easy to overlook core features that are squirreled away

OK, you’ve got a great optimized website and a comprehensive marketing plan – you’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you’re posting and blogging consistently, and all indications would appear that your digital marketing efforts are doing well. But are they?

Are people reading your blogs? Are they spending time on your website and if so, how long? Where are they coming from? Who’s visiting? Where are they located?

 

Social Media

Ask anyone who works in marketing and they’ll tell you that social media has drastically changed the media landscape. In the traditional model major broadcasters had the voice and their audiences passively consumed the content they created. The rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have put the power in the hands of the individual and given everyone a voice. There are bloggers and Twitter users who have accumulated hundreds of thousands of followers without any major media endorsements or publicity.

Social media is great for individuals, but businesses can capitalize on it too. People on Twitter and Facebook are out there telling the world what they want, what they need, what they like and what they don’t. Your customers are on these networks talking about you – it’s important to log on and listen.