- The businesses that are thriving today are the ones that are effective at attracting, engaging, converting, and retaining their customers online.
- Digital marketing is effective at generating awareness, traffic, leads, positive brand perception, and revenue.
- Digital marketing includes many types of marketing, from SEO to content marketing, paid search, display advertising, native advertising, email, video, affiliate marketing, and more.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, stock market investors have experienced a very bumpy ride. Through it all, though, digital marketing leaders have been crushing it.
Ecommerce giants Amazon and Shopify reign supreme with accelerated growth. Zoom, Microsoft, Apple, and Salesforce? They dominate with strong organic growth. Many investors agree that over the long term, digital leaders are one of the safest plays around.
That explains why profitable non-tech retail companies all have one thing in common: a massive emphasis on digital marketing. From Target, Lowe’s, Lululemon, and Peloton to FringeSport, many businesses remain on a bullish trajectory as the economy overall collapses across various sectors. They do this while managing to cut through the noise on the internet with meaningful, memorable digital marketing initiatives.
Those who are thriving today are giving the rest of the economy a masterclass in digital marketing. These businesses are the most effective at attracting, engaging, converting, and retaining their customers online.
Superior digital marketing is not just something to propel companies through uncertain times. It’s now essential for any company that wants to thrive into the future. In this digital marketing guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to win.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is a specific branch of marketing that leverages the internet as well as electronic devices such as smartphones or desktop computers to promote products and services. This includes:
- PPC / Google Adwords
- Online PR
- Content marketing
- Video marketing
- Social media
- Display ads
- Native ads
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Email marketing
- Conversational marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Mobile apps
- Affiliate marketing
- Conversion optimization
- Podcast sponsorships
While this list captures many digital vehicles, it’s not exhaustive. The list is always expanding as individuals develop novel preferences and businesses increasingly turn to digital avenues to connect and engage with them.
Non-digital marketing channels are shrinking
By contrast, the number of viable non-digital strategies is shrinking. These include:
- Trade shows
- Live events
- Direct mail
- Print ads
- TV commercials
- Radio ads
Certain tactics that used to sit squarely offline, though, have become more difficult to categorize. How might we categorize TV commercials today? Would our answer change if the majority of our audience discovered the commercial on YouTube or through social media? What if they shared it online with others, who then blogged or Tweeted about it? Or, what If the ad mostly ran on streaming programs?
This ain’t your grandma’s TV. So, there’s even a bit of digital strategy with many offline marketing tactics nowadays.
Digital marketing trends
Our digital marketing infographic showcases the most lucrative trends and channels today.
B2C digital marketing overview
The dynamic world of today’s consumer keeps B2C marketing departments on their toes. Consumers love what’s new. So, they’re quick to adopt the latest trends, including social media platform, memes, devices, etc.
At the same time, many continue to cling to past habits. This is why some individuals prefer TikTok while others use YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Consumer behavior is fractured among different platforms rather than being consolidated.
They also voraciously consume content. And that content comes in all shapes and sizes, whether blogs, lookbooks, YouTube videos, infographics, podcasts, or Instagram photos. If you want to connect with consumers, content is your surest bet.
Demographics also influence how you might connect with your audience through digital marketing. Gen Z and Millennials grew up digitally. So, they expect just about everything to be available online and accessible on their mobile devices. That’s where they consume their news. It’s where they discover brands. To these generations, online is simply a way of life.
Even older generations are shifting towards digital lifestyles. The current pandemic has only accelerated this evolution to a digital world.
This is why online advertising is now bigger than print and TV advertising. It’s also why mobile advertising is now bigger than TV advertising. And it’s why there are more than 7 billion searches in Google every single day.
B2B digital marketing overview
There’s still a persistent (albeit fading) stereotype that business-to-business (B2B) companies lag behind when it comes to digital marketing. While that may have been true in the past, it couldn’t be further from the truth today.
B2B marketing professionals are now highly attuned to their audience’s preferences. That includes a lot of content and email, online events including webinars and virtual conferences, a good deal of LinkedIn, and a smattering of other social platforms as part of an overarching B2B content marketing effort.
And digital marketing delivers real returns for B2B brands. According to Chief Marketer’s “2020 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey”, email, B2B SEO, and content marketing were the top-rated channels for lead generation ROI.
If you want to generate awareness and traffic then you need a digital marketing playbook. The lead generation and nurturing process that’s fundamental to B2B success has largely moved online. You’ll need to produce content that addresses audience needs throughout the funnel. Grow and nurture interest through email marketing. And get featured in industry resources.
B2B digital marketing is a full-funnel strategy designed to capture and amplify interest throughout their journey.
Digital marketing 101: fundamentals
Next, I’ll explain some digital marketing basics so you know exactly what outcomes your program should drive.
Expand awareness (top of the funnel)
Customers are more likely to convert when they’re familiar with your brand. Therefore, it’s critical to build reach and awareness in order to fill the top of the conversion funnel.
When you’re a major brand, you’re often already on the radar. But, you can still introduce yourself to your audience in new ways to remain top of mind.
Connect yourself to the solutions people need. Find ways to inform people, make them laugh, move them, or answer their questions.
SEO is one of the most cost-effective ways to generate awareness because everyone turns to Google for answers. With more than seven billion daily queries, organic search is the best place to build brand awareness.
Paid media is another way to get in front of new audiences. However, it’s usually an expensive proposition for the top of the funnel because it typically doesn’t convert right away. Therefore, it reduces a brand’s return on ad spend (ROAS). Also, your awareness vanishes when you stop buying ads. That’s why organic marketing outperforms paid digital media marketing at the top of the funnel.
Awareness is about not only getting on their radar, but also staying there and being top of mind. Find out more in our post, “What the Heck is ToFu, MoFu and BoFu?“
Drive website traffic
When people are on your website, you have the home court advantage. You control the experience and every message the user receives. In other words, you have the ability to showcase your brand to the fullest. Merchandising your products on Amazon or selling on Instagram might be an important part of your omnichannel strategy. But, only on your own website are you fully free from being overshadowed by another brand.
Because of this, many digital marketing strategies are driven by the primary or indirect goal of getting visitors back to the home base. Impressions matter, but clicks are king.
Digital channels like SEO, content marketing, digital advertising, PR, affiliate marketing, and more were all tailor-made to capture the interest of curious visitors and send them knocking at your website’s digital door. Add retargeting to your digital marketing mix, and you’ll cost-effectively increase traffic from those who have already expressed an interest, visited your site, yet did not convert for whatever reason.
With digital marketing, driving website traffic is absolutely critical. It’s the start of all the good things that impact your bottom line.
Generate leads with demand gen strategies
Once you’ve generated brand awareness and traffic, it’s time to focus on lead generation. Digital marketing is ideal for effective B2B lead generation because you can track so much data and user activity.
Salesforce is an excellent example. They continually launch new digital campaigns in order to acquire new leads. For instance, each year Salesforce publishes the State of Marketing.
High quality research like this becomes its own marketing flywheel. Salesforce promotes the report through its landing page, blog, email, and social networks. What’s more, 80 other websites link to the 2020 version, while 225+ link to the 2019 version.
Salesforce is a demand generation machine. Other titles they’ve recently produced include:
- “State of the Connected Customer”
- “Enterprise Technology Trends”
- “Discover the Secrets to CRM Success”
- “Nonprofit Trends Report”
- “Mastering the Consumer Experience”
- “Digital Advertising 2020”
- “Trends in Financial Services Marketing”
These are merely the research reports that Salesforce uses in its digital marketing to drive leads. The brand also promotes learning from “Trailblazers” and business leaders. In addition, they strategically leverage their blog with various types of CTAs throughout, and on-demand broadcasts to get even more leads.
As Salesforce demonstrates, digital marketing and lead generation just go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Influencing brand perception
One of the most important digital marketing concepts to master is its ability to shape brand perception. That’s massive, because brand sentiment directly influences whether customers will even consider purchasing from you in the first place.
For example, in a Terakeet commissioned study by Forrester Consulting titled “The New SEO Paradigm Shift: How Integrated SEO Can Unlock New Areas Of Value For The Brand — Beyond Just Incremental Sales,” it was found among 266 SEO decision-makers that nearly 70% of executives associate SEO with having considerable impact on improving the perception of their brand.
Along those lines, Terakeet’s reputation management initiatives helped a national furniture retailer recover $32.7 million per month in lost revenue due to online reputation issues. Brand perception matters!
Brand reputation directly influences the purchase decision, and therefore should be factored into your digital marketing decisions.
The pay-off of reaching new prospective leads or customers, deepening relationships with existing customers, and influencing brand perception is large.
The bottom line, though, is revenue.
Digital marketing drives revenue growth directly, from building the top of the funnel through nurturing them to the bottom of the funnel and everything in between. Among all marketing options, it’s the most flexible, enabling companies to vary tactics, formats, and messaging as needed. That adaptability is exactly why digital marketing is crucial for driving long-term business success.
For example, Terakeet helped an online bank increase monthly organic account enrollments by 553% through SEO within 19 months. Sure, we also increased monthly organic search traffic by close to 700K during that time, but what matters most to the business is revenue. And the more accounts they secure, the higher their revenue.
One of the greatest benefits of digital marketing is its ability to drive revenue, and so it’s critical to invest sufficient resources and energy into your digital marketing in order to ensure future growth.
Different types of digital marketing
The following is a round-up of some of the most popular areas of digital marketing for your brand.
Organic search generates 20X more traffic than PPC.
68% of online experiences begin with a search engine
The first 5 organic results in Google get 57% of the clicks
From technical optimization to content optimization to off-page SEO, SEO helps businesses capture non-paid search traffic from a relevant, interested audience.
SEO is special because it’s the one digital marketing vehicle with the deepest insight into your audience’s mindset. SEO reveals their thought processes and unlocks meaningful connections. It’s the keystone of your digital marketing process that amplifies and unifies all of your marketing and digital channels.
Beyond that, it’s hard to beat the ROI of SEO at about 25 cents on the dollar.
Terakeet’s SEO partnership with a home furnishings brand drove exponential growth. They transformed from a small marketing team with a single-page website to a booming company valued at more than one billion dollars. Terakeet increased monthly organic traffic by 340,000 within two years to high-dollar transaction pages.
Today, SEO is more central to any business’ performance. CEOs frequently discuss their SEO strategy during quarterly earnings calls, and they understand how organic search impacts the business overall. For example, Cars.com often points to their domination of the search engine results pages (SERPs) as a reason for increased leads and financial results when talking with investors.
67% of marketers believe SEO is the best way to improve content performance
The top 3 positions in Google are 45% longer than the content in position 20
73% of B2B buyers consume 3 -7 pieces of content before speaking with sales
Content marketing & content strategy
Content marketing is both independent from and intrinsically connected to SEO. A great content strategy as part of your digital marketing efforts has huge organic payoff. So, comprehensive SEO strategies always include a heavy focus on content creation.
But, an overarching content marketing strategy is about more than organic search rankings and organic traffic. It’s also about:
- Connecting with your audience
- Delivering a captivating experience
- Projecting your brand personality
- Driving engagement
- Influencing perception
- Increasing online sharing, and
- Generating conversions
This is why Terakeet publishes a long-form blog consistently. We help our audience acquire new customers, increase ecommerce sales, and improve brand reputation through SEO. In each blog post, we link to related content, whether other blog posts, case studies, white papers, or research studies.
On top of this, we host an SEO Knowledge Hub that, beyond blogging, is filled with expert guides and articles we’ve written on third party sites. In addition, we publish SEO white papers such as “Achieving Smarter & Scalable Enterprise SEO”, and we commission studies to understand high-level business impacts and significant market shifts.
Other examples of content in digital marketing
Ours is just one example of how to integrate content in your digital marketing activities. Content can take many different forms, though. Consider that:
- Appcues offers a personalized product launch planner
- Progressive publishes an “Answers” portal
- HubSpot offers a persona builder
- Glossier has reams and reams of user-generated content
- Schwab broadcasts three different podcasts
- Etrade hosts an educational library
Your options for captivating content are nearly limitless. Dive into topics or tools your audience is passionate about, and your content will be a valuable component of your digital marketing.
Love him or hate him, marketing rebel Elon Musk knows how to pull off a great PR stunt. A few years ago, Musk famously used the SpaceX rocket Falcon Heavy to send a Tesla car into space.
While the Tesla brand benefited from the visibility, the goal of the campaign was to demonstrate the power of Falcon Heavy. It’s difficult for rockets to launch heavy satellites and other objects into orbit. Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket on earth, could do this with ease – and it proved that with a two-ton car.
Humans are social creatures who largely rely on the opinions of friends and trusted influencers to make decisions. Robert Cialdini, in his bestselling book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, highlights social proof as one of the most powerful influencers of human behavior.
PR strategies leverage this truth by using external resources (and their influence) to tell the story of the brand. It’s not just a question of getting people talking; it’s a matter of getting the right people talking in the right ways as part of your overall digital marketing efforts. That can be as simple as securing product reviews from influential bloggers or as grandiose as sending a car into outer space.
Social media marketing
Over 130 million users engage with shopping posts monthly on social media
LinkedIn users have 2X the buying power of the average web audience
200 million Instagram users visit a business profile daily
B2C social media
Social media, both organic and paid, is a wildly popular form of real-time digital marketing. Anyone who second guesses this need look no further than the MoonPie Twitter feed.
All kidding aside, social media is useful for communicating and building a relationship with an existing audience. Look at the meteoric rise of the brand Glossier, with 2.8 million Instagram followers. The brand treats every woman as an influencer, helping to spread the word socially in a compound fashion and generate a mountain of user generated content.
Social media is not something that’s typically effective as you progress down the funnel. Even so, it has its place in an overarching digital marketing strategy, especially with consumer brands.
B2B social media
Social media isn’t strictly for B2C brands. Companies like GE continue to show the world that you can never be too industrial for social marketing.
When you think of GE, you might think of a boring industrial company. But, what GE really wants you to know is how cool its technology is (and how cool working at GE is, by extension). This feeling is palpable even among its highly industrial businesses such as wind turbines, jet engines, and sustainable transport.
The company launched an Instagram content marketing campaign that features stunning images and video of cutting-edge aviation testing centers and other industrial facilities. GE invited Instagrammers and GE super fans to tour the factories and take pictures. Then, they posted them online using the hashtag #GEInstawalk.
The campaign brought their fans behind the scenes to the most innovative facilities around the world which highlighted GE equipment and technology in unexpected ways.
GE also hosted a website where it showcased these images and promoted upcoming events.
The initial tour covered 7,000 acres of “beautiful machines”. In the first 48 hours alone, the hashtag #GEInstawalk received over 200,000 engagements. In the early phases of the campaign, each tour reached an audience of 3.3 million.
84% of people say that watching a brand’s video convinced them to buy a product or service
Tweets with video get 10X more engagement
93% of Twitter video views happen on mobile
If I was writing this post on February 13, 2005, then video would not have been included. However, the following day, YouTube was born, and digital marketing has never been the same.
Well-crafted, optimized video content adds an experiential element to digital marketing that is hard to match with other marketing formats. Video is effective at evoking an emotional response from an audience, and at creating memories and higher recall.
One of the all-time masters at video marketing is Nike. Watch the following “You Can’t Stop Us” video, and just try not to feel the energy swell up inside you:
Videos can also be great at showing an audience how to do something or how to solve a problem, as evidenced by this Lowe’s video about sharpening garden tools:
Or they can provide insight and advice related to current events, as this Vanguard video shows:
Or videos can bring a social message where a brand takes a stand, as Google does in this powerful video about racial injustice:
Paid search (PPC)
Many businesses invest in pay-per-click advertising as a reliable revenue channel (as long as they continue to buy it). Given its reputation for faster results, PPC is also great for short-term campaigns, new product releases, testing audience interest in potential future products, and jump-starting traffic.
PPC can be a predictable revenue stream in a brand’s online marketing mix once they achieve a profitable return on ad spend (ROAS). This is why PPC is often a staple for retailers to generate immediate revenue from a percentage of the clicks.
However, most large retailers typically spend a lot on PPC monthly. Search for “mens jeans”, and you might find PPC ads from Levi’s, Bonobos, Stitch Fix, Eddie Bauer, among others. Search for “black leggings”, and you might come across ads from lululemon, adidas, Fabletics, etc.
The challenge with PPC is the upside-down economics of enterprise SEO. PPC can generate immediate results, but it’s expensive. In order to keep the traffic and revenue coming, you need to feed the beast constantly. Once you stop, all corresponding traffic and revenue immediately drops to zero.
Also, PPC usually isn’t profitable at the top of the funnel. Since you pay for every click, it’s more appropriate for the bottom of the funnel.
So, although paid search certainly has its place in a comprehensive digital marketing plan, it is often most profitably used in a highly targeted manner or for a short-term campaign. Read more about SEO vs PPC here.
When you think “topless,” what comes to mind? Don’t worry; if your mind went straight to the gutter, you’re like many people. VW decided to take advantage of this with an innuendo-rich, but ultimately PG display ad campaign.
VW has always been known for clever, minimalist advertising, and display ads are the perfect format for the company’s ethos. Display ads are visual and can be featured on social media and more. They’re the billboards of the digital marketing world. As such, they’re ripe for the same vibrant creativity as traditional marketing like visual ads.
Display advertising is typically an option for driving top-of-funnel awareness. It’s an expensive form of digital marketing, but it can expand your reach very quickly.
What’s more challenging for display advertising campaigns is direct response, where they get your audience to hand over their email address or otherwise take a specific action. Display ad campaigns are known to generate measly click-through rates, often as low as 0.1%. In those cases, it’s typically more effective to combine display advertising with content marketing, whether you market a specific download or event in order to drive click-throughs.
Display advertising has its place in the digital marketing mix, but it’s definitely not on the conversions and revenue-generation side.
Affiliate marketing is the process of paying a commission to bloggers, social media influencers, and other affiliates who bring paying customers to your business. Just as you only feed the PPC meter when someone actually clicks on a paid search ad, you only pay your affiliate marketers when a sale can be attributed directly to their referral.
For many businesses, this makes it a win-win. Best case scenario, your affiliate marketer sells your products like hotcakes. Worst case scenario, you pay nothing – and maybe someone who saw the referral will remember you at a later date and enter the pipeline.
Downsides to stay aware of: affiliate marketers that run spammy, link-riddled blogs can do your reputation more harm than good, and there’s a risk of affiliate commissions eroding your bottom line. Run the numbers through a variety of possible scenarios, and stay picky about who you work with. Some brands find that it makes the most financial sense to work exclusively with super affiliates.
However you may decide to work with affiliates, they can be a low-risk, conversion-focused piece of your overall digital marketing campaigns.
Native advertising matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. While that’s a very broad definition, most people use the term to discuss sponsored in-line content, feed-based social media ads, and video-based YouTube ads.
In this way, they do not appear as an “intrusion” on the content being viewed, like, say a display ad might be interpreted, as they take the exact form of the other content on the page. It just so happens to be paid content instead of organic.
Some digital marketers use native ads because they capture attention more than banner ads, while targeting an audience with 18% better purchase intent.
Native advertising may be effective for certain brands as part of the digital marketing mix. The key is to test native advertising across different platforms to see which works optimally with your audience.
Email newsletters might feel like a relic compared to other digital strategies, but email marketing is alive and thriving. In fact, email marketing generates $38 for every $1 spent, making it one of the highest ROI digital marketing channels available.
On the B2B side of things, email is the top source for B2B leads and has the highest return on investment (ROI), according to Chief Marketer’s “2020 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey”.
The marketing potency of email is no surprise. Just consider the reason behind email marketing’s success: mobilizing existing fans is far easier than capturing new customers.
Email marketing is effective in that it provides your brand a one-to-one channel with your audience. Through effective audience segmentation, you can control the messaging that reaches each buyer persona consistently while ensuring its relevance
While awareness-driven strategies at the top of the funnel are critical to your business’s success, don’t neglect the low-hanging fruit of email marketing – and the chance to deepen your relationship with your audience – in the process.
You’re on a home improvement website checking out the gardening tools and supplies. You navigate around the site, but leave for a new distraction shortly afterward.
Later in the day, you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed when you see an ad for gardening tools from that very same brand. Then you head over to CNN.com, and you see a similar ad from the same brand again.
For the next week or so, similar ads follow you everywhere.
You can configure remarketing ads to trigger when someone clicks on an ad, visits a website, or views a particular page on a website. In fact, retargeting is more successful when it’s highly specific to something a user engaged with.
Another retargeting tactic is to change up your CTAs for returning visitors vs. first time visitors.
Retargeting through email can also be used to recover abandoned shopping carts. This enables the individual to return to the same cart with one click and complete the purchase process. Retargeted emails can include related product recommendations, cross-selling opportunities, and discount codes, providing brands with flexibility to pursue the sale.
Retargeting is an accelerant for greater digital marketing results. It’s not your core focus, but instead can help you incrementally improve your results. Your SEO and content marketing work may have brought the traffic to your site, for example, but retargeting can keep their attention and bring them back to close the deal.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) of your digital marketing
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is what ultimately turns one dollar from your digital marketing into two, three, or four. You may be optimizing your site, producing YouTube videos, running ad campaigns, and churning out email after email, but in the end, you want to maximize conversions.
That’s where CRO comes into play.
Even the best-laid digital marketing can bleed a budget dry if you’re not bringing people to a conversion-optimized website. From making landing pages beautiful to ensuring a smooth checkout process, CRO is the critical final piece of the online digital marketing puzzle.
Leverage heat mapping, click mapping, scroll mapping, user testing, and other forms of behavioral analytics to find the friction points where your website loses potential customers.
From there, it’s all about A/B or multivariate testing. You can conduct A/B testing to uncover the right message, offer, CTA language, CTA color, imagery, video, layout, page length, social proof, and a whole lot more. A/B or multivariate testing enables you to explore different modifications to the page until you find the winning combination that maximizes your conversions. In the process, you’ll also develop a deeper understanding of your customers.
As we’ve seen, digital marketing comprises a full spectrum of marketing platforms, vehicles, tools, tactics, and strategies. To make the system scalable, use marketing automation.
Marketing automation makes marketing processes efficient, seamless, and free from human error. For example, you can automate the segmentation of audience members based on the form they submit, the content consumed, or the products purchased. You can tag site visitors based on their behavior or behavioral patterns on your site. You can segment them according to the stage of the funnel. There are many segmentation options, and it’s the first step towards automation that works effectively.
Based on audience behavior, you can automatically distribute relevant email sequences, and can further customize the sequence based on their interactions with those emails.
Further, these automated systems can be connected via an overarching CRM or ERP system.
On a micro level, as well, automation plays an important role. With SEO, there are various tools to assist you with keyword research and technical analysis. With social media, there are tools to help you with social media monitoring, publishing, and scheduling.
Digital marketing integration
Digital marketing is more than the sum of its parts. It connects, engages, automates, and converts to deliver compound results for your organization over time. Internet marketing unlocks your ability to reach and influence internet users at scale with greater efficiency.
Integrated digital marketing campaigns provide a seamless, cohesive experience through every channel and touch point. Not only is your message shared across platforms and devices, but the entire experience with your brand is galvanized.
When you start to add in user-generated content (UGC), marketing personalization, and interactive experiences, you take your digital results to an entirely new level.
Wendy’s is an example of a brand that consistently integrates its marketing well. In its recent breakfast at Wendy’s push, you can find fun videos on YouTube, Tweets on Twitter, images on Instagram, ads everywhere.
Integrated marketing messaging includes, “Wendy’s is changing the game… to a breakfast that eats other breakfasts for breakfast”, “Who said you can’t have a Baconator for breakfast?”, and “You can let some clown hand you an L for breakfast, or you can start your day with a W”.
Within five months of launching the campaign, breakfast now represents 8% of overall revenue for Wendy’s. The end result for consumers? A great experience, no matter where they turn.
Need help with digital marketing? Contact us today.