Digital marketing is an enticing field. As the internet weaves its way into more and more aspects of our daily lives, the need for marketing to go digital has become increasingly clear: professional marketers, career businesspeople, and observers alike all know that digital marketing is the future.
But simply knowing that isn’t enough: you can’t just wade into digital marketing unprepared. If you want your marketing to be successful, then you need to understand the field in all its diversity.
That’s where these blinks come in. From SEO to social media, paid search to personalization, they survey the world of digital marketing with clarity – and show how you can navigate it too.
In these blinks, you’ll learn
- how a Dutch airline angered tens of thousands of Mexican football fans;
- how content marketing helped Hertz drastically boost its revenue; and
- why personalization in marketing is both promising and troubling.
Social media allows you to develop a new kind of relationship with your customers.
Whether or not your business has a presence on social media, one thing is almost certain: some of your customers do. According to research conducted by We Are Social in 2015, about 3 billion people worldwide use the internet, and two-thirds of them use social media. Odds are, your customers are among them.
For that reason alone, it’s hard to justify not having at least some social media presence in this day and age. It’s important to be where your customers are: if that means joining Facebook and Instagram, so be it.
But you can’t just approach these platforms with your usual marketing techniques. There are a few things that set social media apart from other forms of digital marketing.
The key message here is: Social media allows you to develop a new kind of relationship with your customers.
Trying to influence potential customers is nothing new for marketers, digital or otherwise. But what’s novel about social media is that it allows businesses to be influenced. Rather than a one-sided monologue, social media turns marketing into a constantly unfolding conversation – a situation that presents businesses with both opportunities and challenges.
KLM, the Netherlands-based airline, knows this first-hand. When the Dutch soccer team knocked Mexico out of the World Cup and KLM tweeted “Adios Amigos” in celebration, the backlash was immediate: of the 90,000 responses to its tweet, over 70 percent were critical.
But KLM soon turned its social media reputation around. It made a point of publicly answering all social media queries and complaints, no matter how negative they were. In addition, it reduced its average social media response time to just 22 minutes!
KLM’s story is one of a company learning from its mistakes – discovering that social media is a place where companies should listen just as much as they talk. It’s also a story about the importance of developing the right social media personality.
Instead of overhauling your brand’s identity to suit the network in question, you should keep your social media personality on-brand. That means that if you strive to come across as a caring and customer-focused airline, you should communicate that on social media too – and not taunt the defeated fans of rival soccer teams!
Consider your keywords very carefully.
As a digital marketer, it’s impossible to avoid the field known as SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. As soon as you develop any kind of online presence, from a website to a social media page, SEO begins to matter – a lot.
The aim of SEO is actually pretty simple: to secure a prominent position for your website among search results. It’s the digital equivalent of securing a location with constant, heavy foot traffic: being prominent is desirable because greater visibility can often lead to greater sales.
Now, for the most part, SEO focuses on one specific search engine – Google, the Goliath of search. And among the many factors that go into good SEO strategy, one crops up again and again: the choice of keywords.
The key message here is: Consider your keywords very carefully.
The choice of keywords is pretty much just what it sounds like – it means deciding which search terms you want to improve your visibility for. What type of words might lead a potential customer to your business? Which should you focus on?
When you ask yourself these questions, try not to be overly ambitious. Although saying you want to be the number-one result for “pizza in New York” might make you sound enthusiastic, it’s better to be realistic. Focus on a niche instead – like being among the top results for a certain borough, or for Neapolitan-style pizzas.
In fact, the best way to decide which keywords to focus on is by starting with audience personas. In other words, put together profiles for the types of customers you want to attract and puzzle out what words they’re likely to use. Ask yourself what age they are, what they earn, and what they value in their purchases.
If you’re focusing on a demographic that’s pressed for time – for example, working mothers with young kids – then you might want to include terms like now and fast among your keywords. If you’re targeting cash-strapped students, on the other hand, consider words like cheap or sale.
In other words, figure out the needs and tastes of your target market – and let your choice of keywords proceed from there.
Paid search is a simple and attractive digital marketing tool.
SEO isn’t the only way to increase the traffic your website gets from search engines like Google. There’s an easier way to increase your prominence – but this one costs money. It’s called paid search, and it’s pretty self-explanatory.
When you Google “hotels in Havana” and see a few ads at the top of the results page, you know that the companies in question are making use of paid search. In short, they’re paying Google to advertise their websites when relevant keywords are entered.
Paid search is attractive for several reasons. First of all, you only pay when your ad is clicked – not every time it’s viewed. Second, setting up a paid search campaign couldn’t be easier.
The key message here is: Paid search is a simple and attractive digital marketing tool.
When it comes to paid search, you can apply all the same principles that you would to SEO keywords, from devising personas for your customers to not being overly ambitious. Just like with SEO, it’s important to choose your battles when it comes to paid search too: the cost per click for keywords in high demand, like “online casino,” will be far too steep for most smaller businesses to afford.
It’s also worth noting that the term paid search doesn’t actually tell the whole story. That’s because it’s not money alone that determines the prominence of your advertising. Google also assigns each ad a quality score based on factors like how often users click on it, how relevant it is, and how long you’ve been advertising with Google.
If your quality score is good enough, you can actually out-rank a competitor who’s willing to pay more for each click.
To make paid search work for you, it’s vital to keep an eye on your campaign’s metrics and analytics. Crunch the numbers and find out which ads are the best performers, which cost more than they’re worth, and which you need to tinker with and launch again.
Unlike SEO, paid search does come with a price tag – but used properly, it’s a powerful digital marketing tool.
Personalization is powerful but problematic.
Back in 2014, Facebook faced a global backlash after it emerged that it had subjected unwitting users to a secret psychological experiment: it had subtly manipulated user news feeds, curating the content they saw in an effort to change their moods.
When Facebook reviewed those same users’ own posts, it found that the experiment had been a success – exposing people to curated content could indeed influence their emotional states. But, in marketing and reputational terms, the experiment was a dismal failure: the Guardian, the British newspaper, published a poll showing that 84 percent of respondents had lost trust in the social network as a result of its experiment.
The way Facebook tailored the content of each newsfeed, and then tracked its effects on users, was an example of effective personalization. This doesn’t have to be creepy – in fact, it has some positive applications.
The key message here is: Personalization is powerful but problematic.
Most of the recent developments in personalization have occurred in a branch known as behavioral personalization. Basically, that means targeting customers with ads curated for them, based on their previous online actions.
These actions might include opening an email, visiting certain parts of a store, or just engaging with online content. The upshot of behavioral personalization is that digital marketing can achieve an unprecedented degree of relevance.
Gone are the days of generic and irrelevant spam emails: every ad can now be tailored to a user’s personal interests and behaviors. With the advent of personalized advertising, in other words, marketing is poised to become far more effective.
There’s a caveat, though. Not everyone is happy about the amount of data about them that’s stored online. People have genuine concerns about the security of their private information, and wonder whether it’s in their best interest to allow tech companies to accumulate so much data on every aspect of their lives.
The more effective and specific we want personalization to be, the more data we require. But the more data we gather, the greater people’s concerns about their privacy. As regulation emerges in the coming years that lays down increasingly stringent rules about how companies obtain and store user data, the field of behavioral personalization will have to do its best to adapt.
Content marketing can be game-changing.
Content is a word you often come across in the field of digital marketing. And yet despite its significance, it’s a word that seems to refer to just about anything. Blog posts, videos, reports, podcasts, and so on – all of these fall under the very broad heading content.
So, what exactly is content then? In short, it’s media designed to engage the attention of potential customers. It generally tends to be less on-the-nose than traditional advertising and tries to attract the attention of customers in a softer, more engaging, and less direct way.
The key message here is: Content marketing can be game-changing.
So how does content work? Let’s look at a real-world example – a clever content marketing strategy that helped an established multinational company, Hertz Car Rental fend off competitors. Hertz is one of the world’s leading car rental companies, but in recent years, it had begun to face pressure from cut-price competitors, particularly when it came to vacation rentals.
In order to keep its rivals at bay, Hertz commissioned a report outlining strategies it could employ to maintain its market share. Perhaps surprisingly, content marketing was to play a key role in its plan of action.
Why? Well, the report found that Hertz was seriously underperforming when it came to the content it published online. This was true of both its functional content, which is less-entertaining stuff like product descriptions and user reviews, and its engaging content, like articles and videos, the kind of thing designed to pique customer interest and get people talking.
Hertz’s SEO performance was being hampered by its underwhelming and underpowered content strategy, particularly for localized search phrases like “car rental in Naples.” But the company was determined to fix this.
There were no half measures in the firm’s new approach. It produced over 11,000 pages of both functional and engaging content, zeroing in on the localized niches where its competitors had been gaining ground.
The results were tremendous: Hertz saw exceptional revenue growth across the six European markets it had targeted in the campaign, and drastic improvements in its rankings for localized search terms.
Along with the tools we’ve already discussed, content marketing is a worthwhile addition to any digital marketer’s arsenal.
Digital marketing is an exciting and multifaceted field, and it necessitates a new kind of marketing approach. On social media, that means learning to converse with customers, not just speaking at them. In terms of content, it means investing in engaging and relevant media that sparks conversations and boosts your search rankings. Finally, pick your keywords very carefully, optimize your website, and opt for paid search if necessary.
And here’s some more actionable advice:
Keep your content relevant.
In the rush to produce content that audiences find useful and engaging, digital marketers can sometimes get carried away and produce a mountain of content with little or no relation to the company’s own identity and mission. If you’re a car manufacturer, don’t produce content about the ten cutest breeds of puppies. You want your content to be fun and engaging, sure – but also relevant and on-brand.