The guts of marketing online

A 5 minute read written by Josh September 2, 2015

An illustration of a cursor clicking on a blank advertisement.

People no longer have to ask questions of your organization. They will find the answers and make a decision from what they found. Not being part of that information delivery means missing an opportunity. Have you missed a big opportunity? Thousands of little ones? It’s tough to tell unless you dig into the numbers.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is information delivery. It is whatever informs your audience about what you have to show them. The overarching idea is leading people to becoming customers, but it is more than that because what a customer is depends on how you define the term. It could be a business lead, an e-commerce transaction, or simply the viewing of an ad or page.

Although there are about 100 sub-niches within these categories, the digital marketing industry is roughly broken out into the following:

  1. Analytics
  2. Search
  3. Banners
  4. Content
  5. Social media
  6. Affiliate
  7. Email
  8. Influencer

So how do you get started, and most importantly, why?

1. Measure something

What matters to your organization the most? Establish what to measure before any marketing begins and what the organization’s senior management is focused on accomplishing. Mission statements and annual reports are great first places to look.

From there, get an equation down on paper. How much did the traditional marketing cost? What do trade shows or other marketing ventures cost? Comparing all channels will provide a nice reference point.

Cost per pageview, lead, signup, or sale are very common places to start measuring online. Once that return on investment equation is established, it makes digital marketing much easier to understand when it’s succeeding. And more importantly, when it’s not.

2. Use analytics

Web Analytics will often tell you where your measurement starts. Google Analytics has 30 million installs, is free, and plugs nicely into almost everything in the digital marketing world. The ability to interpret what the numbers are saying and how to act on them is the real power of analytics, but there’s a very good chance you have something installed and there’s adequate data to measure against.

3. Set your own bar

One major question is “What is the industry average?” The error in the question is that “the industry” of digital marketing covers every industry. Your local bakery doesn’t compete with Goodyear, so the numbers will be drastically different between the two. If you can find a digital marketing agency that has experience in your industry, that’s the best bet, because they can begin to compare apples to apples.

With that said, competition and data privacy policies should not allow someone to compare your data against a competitor. Also, international corporations have different measurements of success than small businesses, so getting data to set your own bar is usually the best bet.

4. Research keywords

Analytics cannot track everything, including most of the keywords people use to get to your site through a search engine. Privacy laws prevent tracking usage when a user is logged into things like Gmail or Youtube, which is now most people. This necessitates Google Webmaster Tools, which does not connect user behaviour with search terms. Webmaster Tools is before the visit and Analytics is after.

The search marketing industry has been relying more heavily on Webmaster Tools for the past few years because it shows users a glimpse of potential traffic rather than actual. The impressions category in Webmaster Tools shows the amount of times your site shows up and is not clicked on. It also shows click rate — the percentage of people that clicked on a keyword. This is a clear showcase of lost potential. If you’re seeing five per cent of clicks going to your site, you know that the other 95% went somewhere else.

5. Try more than one thing

The only way to know if something will work online is if you try. SEO is important, but banners might be the right thing for organization or marketing effort. And how would you know which is more important without trying?

Don’t listen to experts tell you what to do, be the expert in knowing what to do! This investment in trying several things and finding key channels will pay off in the long term and provide the necessary feedback that you’re not missing out on a high-responding channel.

6. Find out what users like

Great advertisers listen. They understand their audience and speak to them about what is important. Given the micro-targeting of online advertising, there’s no excuse to continually use blanket messages to cover all facets of communication. The nuanced method of iterative copy and creative can turn a seemingly small increase such as two per cent into four per cent. It’s not a big deal until you realize it’s a 100 per cent improvement.

Once the marketing is live, it is easy to optimize. The beautiful thing about online marketing versus traditional placements is that ads can be taken down, revised, and published in minutes. Measuring success and continually revising what works can save a lot of money and get a lot of results.

7. Iterate again!

Reap the rewards of revising ads. Google and Facebook rely on Relevancy Score. Google’s 0 to 10 score takes ad copy, keywords, landing pages, click rate, and user feedback into account when providing an advertiser with its advertising cost. A 10/10 advertiser will pay much less that a 1/10 advertiser. This system was introduced to punish irrelevant advertisers or those that just turned on their ads and left them. Relevancy Score does a beautiful thing: It cleans up the Internet. The search results are accurate and so are the ads, which is exactly what people want.

8. Report

Get a report that means something. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy; it just needs to be meaningful.

At the heart of the matter

When you break it down, digital marketing is easy to start and the tools are free. I wrote about a $370 per click ad a few years ago — so many people are investing a lot because they’re getting a lot. To say that digital marketing is important is an understatement.


Josh has been executing digital marketing campaigns for 15 years and heads up The Status Bureau, a Google Partner located in Vancouver and Edmonton. He is the Analytics Manager for the IABC and is Google Adwords and Google Analytics certified.

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