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What is Digital Marketing? A Beginners Guide


Digital marketing is the promotion or publicizing of brands or products online via one or more forms of electronic media. It involves platforms and channels, whose reach and impact can be assessed and measured in real time. These metrics include impressions, the number of likes, retweets, views, sales conversions or post shares. The Internet is the platform most associated with digital marketing. The others include e-billboards, digital radio, and TV, podcasts, phone apps, instant messaging, etc. One of the biggest trends is digital convergence in which one app is able to update and monitor all other digital marketing apps from one platform.

Why Digital Marketing Is Important

Digital marketing is so pervasive, real-time and accessible that it has officially edged out most forms of traditional marketing. In digital marketing, the end users can access the information at whatever time and point that they want to, and react to it whichever way they feel. The best part about digital marketing is that it embraces a social dimension which makes it less salesy yet more convincing. It incorporates news, shopping, interactions, and entertainment into the marketing. Most importantly digital marketing primarily embraces the use of personal brands, friends and celebrities who carry more convincing power than a mere ad.

You as a Digital Marketer 

If you are venturing out into digital marketing, you need to understand that the digital marketing field is very broad. It covers Search Engine Optimization (SEO), graphic design, writing, web development, content marketing, etc. Most digital marketers are only able to specialize in one or two of these fields at a time. One of the basic skills that you need as a digital market is to be data-oriented. The best way to be a digital marketer is to have a broad understanding of the digital platforms but specializing in one or two. This way you are able to handle a wide array of challenges while still capitalizing on the two most important apps which maximize the reach and effectiveness of your digital campaign.

What Digital Marketing is NOT

Being a new field, most people still misunderstand the aim and functionality of digital marketing. To understand digital marketing we need to classify it for what it’s not. Print, radio, billboards and TV are traditional forms of marketing. Even though they can be linked with digital formats to enhance the marketing experience, this doesn’t make them digital platforms. The traditional forms have a one-way rather than a two-way communication formats. They also lack the analytics and real-time format that is central to digital marketing. Lastly, unlike digital marketing, traditional marketing has a very limited ways that they can enhance user experiences.

Digital Marketing Training is Critical

The field of digital marketing is very dynamic. Lots of features are added and removed from the platforms and apps at dizzying speed. That’s why you have to consistently update your digital marketing skills and stay in touch with the upcoming trends for each platform. For example, nearly 76% of marketers think that marketing has significantly changed in the last two years. As the access to internet grows and the price of low-end smartphones drops, digital marketing experience will continue to reach even more people than anticipated. To demonstrate this, 2 in every 5 firms can’t get someone with the requisite experience to handle their digital platforms.

Challenges Facing Digital Marketers

In the last few years, hundreds of apps that specialize in digital marketing have been invented. This has led to the segmenting of the digital marketing landscape. This is further exasperated by the fact that each of these sites have unique strengths and weaknesses. This makes it hard for digital markets to reach clients effectively across the platforms. The other main issue is that the affordability and availability of digital marketing platforms has led to intensifying competition for the potential clients, since even small firms can afford it. It’s also harder to assess consumer data for precise targeting since the volume of consumer generated data is overwhelming.


The 7 Big Categories Of Online Marketing Are:

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is a set of techniques, strategies and tactics used to raise the ranking of a site on search engines thereby increasing its visibility and online traffic. The leading online search engines are Google, Yahoo and Bing. Higher search ranking is very critical i.e. less than 10% of people proceed to page 2 of Google. The best part about higher ranking is that it generates greater organic reach which in turn increases the chances that newer users will find it. The SEO is simply tools and techniques that webmaster uses to make a site more efficient in line with search engine logarithms.

2. Search Engine Marketing (SEM). The SEM is similar to SEO but far much broader. It involves paid listings, competitive analysis, keyword research as well as SEO. SEM used to refer to both SEO as well as paid listing. Over time it as evolved to simply refer to paid listings alone. SEM covers a broad field including paid search ads, paid search, pay per click, cost per click, cost per a thousand impressions etc. Google AdWords and Bing Ads are the most popular SEM/paid search platform for digital marketers online. There are many other 2nd tier PPC platforms as well. SEM is the easiest form of digital marketing with one of the greatest conversion rates. That’s because it’s much easier to track with clear metrics.

3. Content Marketing. Content marketing involves creating and distributing relevant, consistent and useful information about a particular product or service. Most often content marketing is targeted at specific audiences. Instead of pitching you are essentially informing potential clients and regular site users how they can utilize a certain product or service to their benefit. Therefore content marketing tends to be instructional with headings like; how to, ways of, etc. It is mostly used by leading brands. This technique usually relies on the social capital that the writer or the platform has to persuade the potential clients, rather than using ads to reach them.

4. Social Media Marketing (SMM). Social media has taken over our lives and changed how we consume news. The focus of consumer- generated data has impacted entertainment, news, marketing, journalism and a whole host of other fields. Social media marketing essentially means gaining traffic through social media sites. There are many of these social media sites. However, only 6 or 7 dominate the market. Each site is unique in terms of what it can offer, and therefore you have to master their individual strengths and weaknesses. Most social media sites allow for even greater reach through promoting your content to tailored regions, gender and age groups.

5. Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC). This is a type of digital marketing in which you pay a certain amount each time online traffic clicks on your ads. Essentially it’s a means of buying traffic to your ads or site. Search engine advertising is the most common form of pay per click. It allows for bids for placement of ads at the top of the search list every time users type out a particular keyword or phrase into the search engines. For effective PPC you need to keenly select, and organize the keywords, then optimize the landing page for greater conversions. With proper keywords and ad listing, this form of digital marketing can deliver impressive results.

6. Affiliate Marketing. This is a digital marketing process that involves earning revenue or commission by promoting other people’s products or services on your site. This can either be charged based on traffic to the site or a flat rate fee. The brand on sale simply leverages on your existing relationship with your site visitors. The best way to go about affiliate marketing is to promote products that you are extremely familiar with. It’s often easier to market products that you’ve used or a service that you’ve experienced before. It’s a far much more subtle yet highly effective, form of marketing

7. Email Marketing. Email marketing has become one of the most popular ways of reaching out to potential clients. Emails are such a central part of communication. For instance, in 2010 alone more than 90 trillion emails were sent worldwide. That’s about 3 million emails per second. The popularity stems from the fact that it’s very easy and convenient to use. In the last ten years, email marketing has been the form of digital marketing that’s delivered the highest ROI for marketers. For every $1 spend on email marketing it generates about $38 in returns. The best way of winning when it comes to digital marketing is to rely on a marketing mix that optimizes your top two or three platforms.

In essence, digital marketing is about optimizing digital technology to achieve set marketing goals and objectives. That’s why digital marketing is better off handled by the marketing department or an outside agency. There are specific analytical and technical skills required for proficiency in digital marketing for those who want to venture into it. The best combination of competencies is 50% creativity and 50% technical skills. Many marketers spend more than 50% of their time on digital marketing which underscores its importance. It’s best to hire a digital team rather than an individual since this enables you to have the widest range of skills that cover all the main branches of digital marketing.


Article by Joe Forte, founder and CEO of Marketing Forte, a digital marketing and advertising agency in Phoenix, AZ.

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