Types of Digital Marketing
Updated: Sep 6
This post will examine the different types of digital marketing, the pros and cons of each and whether your business should be using them. This is intended as an overview and each channel will be discussed in more depth in subsequent posts.
I am going to breakdown digital marketing into five categories that I consider the most important and talk about each one in turn. They are;
Search PPC (pay per click)
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Social Media PPC
Email and Customer Retention
It is worth also considering that each of the above categories relies heavily on a good website (or landing page) for the traffic and the importance of the website or landing page varies depending on the channel being used.
Search PPC and SEO
We are all familiar with search engines. In the UK, Google is dominant and Bing is the only other one worth thinking about (for now at least). We search when we most want to do something, it could be to find information or to find a product or service. We are therefore showing intent. We take an action (the search) to drive a result that we want. Therefore search engines are a very important marketing channel for virtually all businesses because of this user intent to take an action.
A key consideration here is that very often the time period between the user searching and then taking an action on your website can be very short and hence it is a very attractive channel. Furthermore, this channel can very often overcome deficiencies in a website's quality of experience because the user really want to take an action. So, for instance, if a website's checkout experience is cumbersome this may be less of an issue as the user will be more inclined to overcome this due to the intent shown by searching.
The difference between PPC and SEO is that PPC deals with the paid for search results or product listings (ads) which appear at the top of the search results page and SEO deals with the organic listings (unpaid) which appear below the paid for ads. Neither channel is better or worse than the other, they both have pros and cons and very often both search PPC and SEO should be a key part of your business. Note; there is also a search display network which is somewhat similar to social media PPC (below) which I won't cover here.
Advantages; quick to get results, control of where you send the user on your website, easy to measure return. Typically a high converting channel.
Disadvantages; can be expensive, you pay for every click and if you turn it off the sales go away very quickly.
Advantages; work done can last quite a while after the work has ceased, can be cost effective
Disadvantages; takes time to get results, lack of control of where users land on your website. Typically lower converting than search PPC.
Most businesses that sell products and services rely on search heavily for traffic and sales. If you offer a product or service which doesn't get searched for much then there are still ways to use search engines by thinking about problems that your product or service solves. Users may search for that with a "How do I " type search.
Should you be using? Yes!
Social Media PPC
The main areas for social media PPC are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linked In. It is safe to say that this area is one which has grown hugely in the last few years although there are still many businesses which don't use this channel at all. It tends to be that businesses that do very well with search have not really jumped on the bandwagon of social media.
Social media PPC can take many forms but most people will have seen an Ad in their Facebook feed etc. These Ads can be image based, video based or a combination of images and video. They are highly customisable and are more flexible than, say, search listing ads of search PPC.
Social media PPC, like any other channel, has pros and cons.
Advantages; can reach huge audiences, can be cheaper than search PPC, more flexible ad types, don't rely on users searching
Disadvantages; almost exclusively mobile based for most platforms, users are showing no intent in the moment before they click an ad, longer burn before a sale vs. search PPC
Social media PPC can be an important channel. It can yield huge results in a short space of time for certain (maybe fad) products. Some business have been built on social media PPC but equally some businesses sell almost nothing from this channel.
To really be successful with social media PPC, a business needs to take a longer term view of cultivating a prospect and over time hopefully turning that prospect into a customer. It is also true that the website experience or landing page needs to be well thought out and of a higher quality. When users click social media PPC ads then they are hard to continue the conversation with as they have shown no intent. They need to be inspired!
Should you be using? Possibly, especially if your product or service does not get a lot of searches.
This is an important channel for any business but there are still businesses today which put almost no effort into it. Content marketing is creating content which will add value (or help) a user with the aim of the user becoming a customer over time. It could be;
A blog post
A post on Facebook
A product page's image and text etc
Content marketing is connected to the other channels, sometimes explicitly. For SEO, a blog is one of the best ways of improving a site's authority which will facilitate higher rankings. Very often some content on your website will enable another channel, e.g. PPC to work.
Content on your website (with the exception of video content on YouTube) tends to have a higher value than content off it. This is because it has the ability to last longer. Content on your website can drive search traffic to to your website or facilitate a purchase over an extended period of time even years. Content on social media platforms tends to have a much shorter shelf life sometimes only a few hours. The exception stated being video content on YouTube because YouTube works in the same way as website content in the way it lasts longer based on what users are searching for.
If you have a new business or small (niche) business then content marketing should be a key starting point for your marketing efforts.
Should you be using? Yes
Email and Customer Retention
It is true to say that many businesses have been built online focussing on search and email only. The emails tend to be of the 'blast' type with the same email going to all users. Commonly, these businesses ask you to sign up for 'special offers'. Very often these businesses have a lot of one time only customers.
This was all well and good when search was growing exponentially every year but times are a changing and search growth is way more modest now. This coupled with high competition and increasing costs per click means that businesses should be seeing customer retention as a bigger priority. The deep well of cheaply acquired customers has dried up!
There is still a long way to go though. Many businesses today do not even track the metric of customer retention. It is important to do so though. A business needs to know how many customers come back, in what time frames and what actions it can take to drive this.
Email is an important channel for this and forward thinking businesses have largely abandoned the blast email approach in favour of personalised and well timed emails to keep customers engaged with the business and thus keep them coming back.
Should you be using? Yes.
So I have covered in this post the different types of digital marketing that I consider the most important. There are others, of course, such as affiliate marketing, display etc but those are for another day. I will cover each area in more detail in later posts.