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  • Angela Dobbie

Back to Basics: What is Digital Marketing?

Before we answer the burning question, "what is digital marketing, exactly?" perhaps we should answer the more basic question, "What is marketing?" first.


Marketing is the general term applied to the activities a company undertakes to promote its products and services. So knowing this, we're in a better position to answer the question, "what is digital marketing?"


Digital Marketing Basics
Digital marketing encompasses all of the promotional activities that occur via digital devices, such as internet and web-based platforms, cellular devices (apps & text messages), and augmented / virtual reality devices.

While this may sound simple enough, the rapid growth and broad spectrum of channels and platforms available for digital marketing has made it a very complicated landscape to navigate.


Basic Digital Marketing Terminology


To give you a head start, we've outlined below some basic terminology used in the digital marketing realm that should help "demystify" things a bit for you:


  • offline vs. online marketing: offline marketing refers to traditional forms of marketing - such as print advertising and large format display / signage - whereas online marketing generally refers to web-based digital marketing platforms.

  • organic vs. paid: organic refers to the engagement or results you receive from your non-paid efforts (such as Facebook post likes) whereas paid refers to engagement or results you receive from your paid digital advertising campaigns.

  • owned, earned and paid media: owned media refers to the channels you own (such as your website or social media pages), earned media refers to the channels where your content is shared free-of-charge, such as news outlets or other website link sharing, and paid media refers to channels you pay to use, such as social media advertising or online display ads. (More info on the different media types available in our blog post "Hitting the Media Trifecta: Owned, Earned & Paid Media.")

Google Search Inquiry
  • Search Engine Results Page (SERP): this is exactly as it sounds - the page of results your search engine (Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go , etc.) provides after you input a search query. This page is particularly important when measuring your SEO & SEM (see below).

  • SEO vs SEM: SEO - Search Engine Optimization - is the science of optimizing your website design, performance, content and coding to rank higher on the organic Search Engine Results Page (SERP). SEM - Search Engine Marketing - is the process of using paid search ads (Google or Bing) to show your company's website links higher on the SERP in the various "Ad" sections.

  • Search vs. display ads: search ads are those that are triggered by search queries and show on the SERP, and are formatted to mirror organic search results with a headline link & text snippet. Display ads also have an embedded link however they also have a graphic element - such as an image or icon - and are placed in other locations across the web (like banner ads on websites).

Online Advertising to Increase Sales
  • CPC advertising: CPC - Cost Per Click - is a type of digital ad where you only pay for the number "click throughs" to a linked destination page (see below).

  • Destination page: this is an existing page of your website, or a new webpage designed specifically for the campaign, that traffic is directed to when someone clicks on your ad.

  • CTR: CTR - Click Through Rate - is the percent of clicks-throughs your digital ad receives compared to the total number of impressions (see below).

  • Impressions: this is the total number of times your ad is displayed on any device, whether it's a desktop, tablet or mobile phone.

  • Reach: this is the number of unique users (by IP address) that your content or ad is shown to. This differs from impressions as reach represents one individual, whereas impressions can include multiple devices from the same individual. Because of this, reach is generally a lower number than total impressions.

  • Engagement: this is the total of all interactions with your content, whether it's a like, share or comment.

Targeting and hitting the bullseye
  • Targeting: Targeting is the process of defining and setting up your ideal audience to serve your digital ads to, and is based on demographics, interests, behaviors, descriptors, geographic region, device, or just about any other type of data that can be measured and tracked by digital platforms. (More info on customer targeting is available in our blog post "Know Your Audience - the First Rule of Marketing".)

  • Retargeting: This is the process of directing your ads to prospective customers who have already visited your website or social media pages.

  • A/B testing: this is the process of setting up two similar ad campaigns with slightly different details - whether it's a different image or wording - to see which one performs better with your target audience.

Lead magnet drawing in customers
  • Lead capture: this is the process of obtaining contact information from prospective customers, usually through lead capture forms placed on your destination pages to obtain an email address or phone number.

  • Lead magnet: also known as inbound marketing, this is strategic content that is used to draw customers to your website for the your purpose of lead capture. This could be through a blog post, monthly newsletter subscription, document download, private video link, etc.

  • CPA: CPA - Cost Per Acquisition (also known as CAC - customer acquisition cost) - is the amount you spend on your advertising to capture a lead or secure a customer. This can be determined by a single campaign - the cost for the campaign divided by the number of new customers acquired from the campaign - or the total of your advertising spend in a set period divided by the number of new customers you acquire in that same period.

  • Opt-In: This is the process of prospective customers actively choosing to be added to your email contact list. This is done through a specific statement applied to the lead capture form that the customer must select to authorize use of their email, and is a mandatory requirement through the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

  • Bounce rate: This can refer to either the percent of website users who immediately exit after entering your webpage, or the number of emails that do not reach a valid email address. Either way, you want this number to be as low as possible!


Basic Digital Marketing Channels


Now that you've got an understanding of some terms used in digital marketing, you can apply them to your knowledge of digital marketing channels. Below is an overview of the most commonly used digital marketing channels that you're likely already familiar with:

Website development
  • Website development: arguably the most important aspect (and largest single investment) of digital marketing as your website is the hub from which all your other promotional activities stem.

  • Social media management: this is the strategy of using your owned social media channels to share corporate content with your audience.

  • Social media marketing (SMM): this is the use of social media to promote your products or services, usually using paid social media advertising but can also extend to using other features of social media such as offers, jobs, marketplace, groups, etc.

  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization includes both on-page SEO (using keyword rich content that "answers" common search queries) and off-page SEO (use of web page coding, page performance, mobile optimization, responsive design, URL slugs, snippets, / meta descriptions, alt text, etc.)

  • SEM: Search Engine Marketing includes paid search and display advertising, location services, company profiles (Google My Business) and rich results to boost rankings on the SERP.

Email marketing to customers
  • Email marketing: this can include sending limited time offers, newsletters and other company updates to an "opted in" email contact list. This may also include email automatons (see below).

  • Automated marketing: this is the use of a custom software or app that delivers select corporate content to leads as they reach set thresholds, such as downloading a document, opening an email, or clicking a link.

  • Digital campaigns: these encompass all aspects of a promotional campaign, including social media ads, search ads, banner ads, mobile alerts, organic social media posts, etc.

  • Online surveys: these are useful to engage customers and conduct market research for informing future campaigns or product / service development.

Using analytics and graphs for data measurement
  • Analytics: this is the process of monitoring data to measure campaign or digital channel performance. (More info on analytics is available in our blog post "Know Your Strengths - Using Analytics to Measure Performance".)

  • App development: this is the process of developing proprietary custom software to share company product or service information with prospective customers.

  • Augmented (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR): this is an emerging technology where promotional messages are displayed on AR or VR headsets as users enjoy an immersive experience.


Unique Elements of Digital Marketing


While the list above includes common digital marketing channels, it can certainly be expanded upon as you dive deeper into the realm of digital marketing. And even though the list is diverse, there are elements common among all the channels that make digital marketing unique as a whole:


  • They're all available through digital means, and because of this,

  • They're measurable and/or trackable. Digital technology leaves footprints as users navigate websites and apps, and because of this,

  • They're capable of targeting. While you can't drill down to an exact individual identifiable by email, name or contact info, you can target just about any other trackable data point (such as gender, age, city, interests, etc.), and because of this,

Cost effective to fuel growth
  • They're cost effective. Not only can you focus your ads on your Ideal audience, you can actually limit your ad spend to only those who engage with your ad (CPC), making the cost of digital advertising much lower than their traditional offline counterparts. And probably one of the greatest elements of digital marketing is,

  • They're relatively "instant". Digital platforms offer the ability to publish content and changes almost immediately (with the exception of platform ad reviews or website / search engine propagation). They also offer almost instant results; you can see the results of a campaign or content update as soon as it goes online and for the duration of its virtual life.


How Digital Marketing Can Benefit Your Company


Hopefully by this point you've begun to discover the endless opportunities digital marketing has to offer: from targeting and tracking prospective customers to results measuring, digital marketing is an economical and effective way to promote your company's products or services. And as we said at the very beginning, that's exactly what marketing is all about!


How to Get Help


Now you know a bit more about digital marketing - its terminology, common channels, and the benefits it can offer your company - but perhaps you're still a bit confused or feeling overwhelmed by it all?


Looking for answers
Don't be daunted or overwhelmed by digital marketing. There are many resources available online that can help steer you in the right direction, and reading this blog post is certainly a great start!

There are also digital marketing agencies who can fill the gaps where you still need help; a good digital marketing company (we know of one we can highly recommend!) can help explain things to you on a level you'll understand, and help you "demystify digital, simplify social, and optimize your online brand!"

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