A practical business guide to developing a Digital Marketing Strategy
So What is Digital Marketing?
Businesses face many challenges when it comes to marketing on the internet. From the dynamic rate of change on the web to the multitude of different suppliers offering various online marketing services, tools, and platforms, and the sheer volume of information online available on the subject all mean it’s becoming very difficult for businesses to make informed decisions about how to market their business on the internet.
On top of all this we have the jargon to contend with; PPC, SEM, SEO, CPA, PPC, CPC, CMS, wiki, blog, mash-ups (you know I could go on). You might have a good understanding of what all this means if you are active in the internet marketing world, however if you are a typical managing director (or even a traditional marketing manager) this is highly likely to completely confuse you. This post attempts to discuss a business focussed approach to marketing on the internet and key steps involved in developing an internet marketing strategy or a digital marketing strategy as it’s becoming more commonly known.
The Changing Nature of the Internet
So the web is growing (yes I am stating the obvious) and the growth statistics are staggering. The ‘Build it and they will come’ philosophy has never worked when it comes to websites and while that message has taken a long time to permeate the business world another myth has arisen – ‘facebook it’ and they will come’. The hype around social media has now led many business to believe that there is a panacea of traffic and customers they can access by simply ‘getting involved’ with the big social media sites. This is again myth and while the evolution of the web has opened up great new opportunities and new routes to market for businesses the reality is you need to act smart to get results and acting smart online means you need to be more well informed than ever.
The way the web works has changed. New web technologies have made it possible for non technical users to interact with the web in all sorts of ways and this interaction is what we typically call ‘social media’ a term which actually does a pretty poor job in defining the range of interactions happening online from business chat, support channels, consumer feedback, reviews, online video, blogs etc. It’s not just about the big social networks. As these levels of interaction go up, the volume of content online is increasing exponentially and there are many ways to access information in many different formats.
Google and Digital Marketing
This change in the web has led a myth that search engine rankings (Google Rankings) are no longer as important as they once were and ‘social media’ interaction should be the main focus of online marketing. While you do need to look wider when planning your internet marketing efforts, Google is still an absolutely fundamental piece of the puzzle and actually still the best place to start when thinking about marketing on the web. Sure there are lots of Facebook users but if you think about where you typically go online when looking for a product, product review, researching a topic etc then Google is still the main starting point for most web journeys. Just by looking at the Google search results these days you can see how they are blending in video, blogs, news, social results etc thereby putting their search engine right in the centre of multiple content channels and acting as a conduit to the ‘social web’. Their social search – functionality takes this one step further by personalising user search results based on their social network connections.
Online Market Research
The research phase of online marketing is possibly the most important yet probably the most overlooked step in most online marketing efforts. It’s important for business to understand the landscape they are trying to compete in before entering into a space online. The outputs from an online market research exercise should include all kinds of information, from data on how people search for related products and services, data on specific keywords and key phrases used in search, profiles of web properties associated with target markets, Industry sites, blogs, forums, social groups and so on. This is what I would call the digital profile for a market . Once this has been mapped out the next stage becomes much clearer
Online Market Research – Practical Steps
Simply think like a user/customer – Start with Google and start searching on keywords and key phrase related to your business/products etc and focus on your user journey. Take note of the type of sites which are ranking and also the types of content (video, blogs, forums, shopping feeds results, social results etc). After a while you will find most of the highest ranking (high authority) sites in your market as well as the sort of content which seems to rank such as video content and so on. Use the sidebar on Google to break down results into different types of content (blogs, discussion etc) and see what ranks in these sub sections, click on related searches to help you brainstorm different keywords related to your market etc.
Keyword Research – Use the Google Adwords Keyword tool to get some real Google data on how often terms are actually searched for on Google.
Social Media Analysis – There are lots of specialist social media monitoring/analytics tools available but you can learn a lot by just exploring what others are doing on social media sites. Check your competitors presence on Facebook and sign up to follow them on Twitter. Look out for best practice. You will know what best practice is when you see active user engagement. It’s not about the numbers of fans/followers its about how engaged they are.
Competitor Analysis – Use sites like Alexa, Semrush and Compete to get great data about competitor sites, ranking details, demographics of visitors etc. There are advanced paid options with most of these sites/tools but free versions still give you lots of good data.
More advanced toolkits are available from reputable companies such as the excellent Seomoz toolkit which I use myself and the Hub Spot products which are also very well regarded.
Digital Marketing Activity
So once your company better understands its space online and has done the ground work on online market research, competitor research etc. the next step, in theory is simple. You want to put your business, your products and your key messages right in front of your target customer audience. This means you want to rank on Google for the main keywords you have researched and you want your content to be placed on many of the relevant sites and web properties that you found when you were running through your customer journey exercise. All of this can be summarised by the following phrases – ‘Develop great content and do very smart things with that content’ . The video below explores what this might involve in terms of what needs done on your website and what you need to do off-site (interaction around the web, social media etc).
Outsource Digital Marketing?
The decision on whether to outsource all digital marketing or bring in-house (or blend both) is an important but difficult decisions for many businesses to make. The video below explains some of the key factors that companies should consider before making this decision.