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Digital Marketing Explained: (3-Minute Read)

From the eras of print, radio and TV to today’s online age, marketers have always sought to connect with audiences where they consume information. Digital marketing is any form of marketing that connects with people online, including search engines, websites, social media, email and even mobile messaging. Consumers use these channels in every aspect of their lives, especially when they seek to discover and learn about products and services.

When you consider the following facts, it is no wonder that 50% of marketers said they believe digital marketing has the edge over traditional marketing:

  • 85% of internet users search for information online at least once per month
  • 48% of consumers start their product and service inquiries on search engines, while 33% search on brand websites and 26% within mobile applications
  • Unlike traditional marketing, digital marketing enables personalized user experience, real-time engagement and accurate tracking and measuring of campaign results
  • Digital marketing is generally more cost-effective than traditional marketing

The digital marketing landscape is vast and intricate, and marketers have to be able to implement cross-channel strategies that build awareness, engage audiences and establish their brands across platforms. They must bring a scientific mindset, continually testing hypotheses, learning and making incremental improvements. Successful execution over time puts brands at consumers’ top-of-mind.

An Overview of Digital Marketing Channels

These are the most often-used digital marketing channels and tactics:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This refers to the behind-the-scenes work involved in generating “organic” traffic from queries on search engines through the optimization of online content. On-page SEO refers to optimizing a page’s content to target specific queries. Off-page SEO work enables search engines to build trust, and therefore page rankings, by improving site reputation and reliability. Finally, technical SEO builds query strength through the quality of user experience, including site speed and structure.

Paid Search: Otherwise known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, this channel refers to the purchase of ads or clicks that coincide with key search terms. PPC delivers relevant ads to consumers in order to drive web traffic. “Retargeting” ads can be purchased, which then appear across online platforms after consumers engage in searches for information or products. Facebook paid ads, Google Adwords and promoted Tweets are all ways to leverage this channel.

Email Marketing: Email remains a quick and easy way to reach prospects, deliver engaging messages and build databases. Email is a cost-effective channel for product promotions and informational “nurture stream” campaigns.

Content Marketing: Through blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, videos and other digital assets, companies can build “thought leadership” within their sphere. Content marketing is highly cost-effective, getting three times as many leads as paid search advertising. Plus, professionals can leverage the assets developed on social media and other channels. Consumers trust content marketing because it comes across as informational rather than promotional.

Social Media Marketing: Platforms including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest offer ways to reach consumers where they want to learn and engage with brands. Social media harnesses the power of social influence and proof through the voices of consumers and generates interest virally. Now one of the fastest-growing digital marketing channels, influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing in which brands work with content creators with a following or expertise. These influencers may endorse, review, mention or sponsor their products. This application is highly effective because influencers have sway with their audiences. Rakuten Marketing reports that 80% of consumers have made a purchase recommended by an influencer.

Mobile Marketing: Smartphone applications offer the potential to deliver customized content and promotions, develop unique brand engagement experiences and learn more about customer behaviors and journeys. Apps often provide real consumer value, such as Google Maps, which can help a user navigate in the real world to find places of interest. Similarly, mobile SMS marketing leverages phone numbers to reach consumers on their devices. Companies can use both apps and text where and when consumers are likely to make a purchase, such as when they are visiting retail locations.

The Importance of Digital Marketing to Businesses

Because digital marketing occurs online, marketers are able to collect data and track key performance indicators in ways that traditional marketing cannot replicate. For example, broadcasters tout ratings to advertisers, but TV Nielsen rating boxes are installed in only a small percentage of viewers’ homes. Sellers of billboard ads can tout traffic figures on the nearby highways, but they cannot be certain who has looked at the ads, let alone responded, as a direct result.

Conversely, brands record every action when online consumers engage through digital channels. Marketers get a precise understanding of metrics, including views, clicks and conversions. As data is compiled over time, digital marketing provides valuable insights into consumer behaviors.

Tracking data enables marketers to make continual incremental improvements in how and where they invest their budgets. Over time, the costs of customer acquisition decrease as they determine the optimum omnichannel strategies for their brands. Customer retention is especially important because it is five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. With omnichannel customer engagement strategies, companies retain, on average, 89% of their customers, compared to a retention rate of 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement. The top marketing tactics that boost retention are email marketing (58%), social media marketing (37%), content marketing (32%) and referral marketing (26%). Notice, three of four are exclusively digital channels, and referrals can be digital or traditional.

An advanced business degree can help you harness these digital marketing skills for success in nearly any industry.

Learn more about Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s online MBA program.

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