Complexity: Entry Level

This article is ideal for: business owners who want to get to grips with this practice, and anyone looking to get started with a digital marketing campaign.

Digital marketing is a huge umbrella of a term that first appeared in the 1990s, and it can encompass a lot of different techniques, tactics and products. Traditional marketing; you may know it simply as marketing, has historically been focused on offline marketing, think: print, PR, events. Digital marketing has developed quickly and alongside the increasingly important online marketplace. 

Most, if not all businesses, now need to have a digital marketing strategy to remain competitive and to continue to make sales. With the continuing rise of search engine optimisation and paid online marketing campaigns, two of the more well known types of digital marketing, more and more businesses are looking to figure out how to get the most from digital marketing and how to do so on a budget that works for them. 

This article aims to help you understand the role of digital marketing for a business, what the different avenues are and what you can expect to do based on the budget available to you.

What does a digital marketer do?

Put simply, digital marketers are the experts in digital marketing, they strategise and enact campaigns, at times with the support of content writers and website developers.

There are digital marketers who have the ability to carry out most, if not all, of the digital marketing strategies that a business could need. However, there are also digital marketers who are specialists in certain areas too. No two digital marketers will have the same experience but most will have a similar foundational understanding of the various types of digital marketing.

What does a digital marketing agency do?

Digital marketers are available for in-house hiring, as freelancers and via agencies. Digital marketing agencies are often the best choice for small or medium sized businesses because they offer a wealth of experience within their digital marketing team, along with various specialists and even additional expertise in website design, hosting and other valuable areas.

What are the types of digital marketing?

There are lots of types of digital marketing to choose from and each has its own benefits for a business. It’s important to remember that not every business will benefit from every type of digital marketing and that picking and choosing, with the advice of a digital marketer, is advisable.

The most popular types of digital marketing are:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
  • Content marketing
  • Affiliate marketing/Link building
  • Social media – paid and non-paid
  • Email marketing

Let’s look in a little more depth at what these different types are, how they relate to one another and why you might want to target one over another.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

What is SEO?

SEO is one of the most well-known types of digital marketing, though not necessarily the best understood. Much like digital marketing, SEO is an umbrella term and can be used for a lot of activities with the goal of improving the visibility of a website in search results. 

How does it fit into a larger digital marketing strategy?

Google is the most popular search engine, with the latest data from April 2019 listing an 88.47% share of the market. As a result, most digital marketers and digital marketing agencies will focus their SEO campaigns on Google Best Practices – the ways in which Google advises websites to work in order to help them appear in results for the right searches.

This doesn’t mean that digital marketers and SEO practitioners are only thinking with Google in mind, rather they are focusing on the largest market share and are aware that many of the same criteria are being used in the algorithms for the other search engines. Some digital marketers are specialists in certain search engines, like Bing or Baidu, and this can be valuable for businesses whose traffic mainly comes from these search engines.

How long does it take to see results?

SEO is one of the longer term types of digital marketing. Though there can be ‘quick wins’ which digital marketers can identify, most of the SEO strategies take two to three months to yield results.

Most of what would be considered SEO tasks involve carrying out research and data analysis, building recommendations and then carrying out those tasks over a period of time. Then it is all about waiting for the results and adjusting plans accordingly. Though this technique sounds like a science experiment, SEO is not in fact an exact science. 

Search engines, Google in particular, will change their algorithm in small ways every day and in larger ways regularly, all to improve the results. This means that SEO practitioners need to be aware of changes and adjusting plans to reflect what is happening. It’s a difficult process but one where the results are sustained for longer, in most cases. 

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) 

What is PPC?

Pay-per-click advertising does it exactly what it sounds like. You create small ads, which can be a few sentences, including images or icons, and which link to whatever page of your website that you want. You pay for each click that someone makes on your ad, it’s that simple.

How does it fit into a larger digital marketing strategy?

Okay, it’s not quite that simple. While it is easy to set up a PPC campaign, the real skill is in the assessment of your ads reach, making changes to improve the number and quality of clicks and that can take a little bit of time. 

PPC ads can be really valuable for new websites/businesses who want to bring in traffic and start getting users onto their website. PPC is often recommended by digital marketers alongside SEO since SEO can take a little time to get going and PPC can be set up and activated right away.

How long does it take to see results?

Results can be immediate with PPC. As soon as you’ve set up your campaign/s and payment, your ads will be visible. You’ll start getting clicks immediately; this will only not happen if you ad is deemed to be irrelevant for the keywords you are targeting.

PPC is highly budget oriented, meaning you will only get a certain number of clicks for your budget. You can let campaigns run infinitely, billing you at the end but this can be dangerous as the cost per click varies widely. The more popular a search term or keyword, the more competitive it is, which drives up the price per click. While some searches may cost only a few pence per click, others can be up to £60 for a single click and that is just in the UK. In the US, a cost per of click of over $200 isn’t uncommon

Content marketing

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is another smaller umbrella, covering any articles or copy used as part of a digital marketing strategy. This can include: onsite copy, blogs/articles on a website, offsite content – see also affiliate marketing below. It can also include videos, images and non-article content like infographics.

How does it fit into a larger digital marketing strategy?

Content marketing is a key component of any digital marketing campaign, or at least it should be. Google and other search engines learn about your website by the words that are used on it. As a general rule, a search engine will see you website as being more valuable to users if it can see that you have a lot of useful information. 

Creating content around frequently asked questions, as well as detailing your products and services, will improve the experience of users on your website and therefore should help you attract more enquiries and/or sales. There are lots of types of content that can be produced onsite and offsite and a digital marketer will be able to help you identify where you need to focus your content marketing time.

How long does it take to see results?

Content marketing isn’t a fast task, though there will likely be some content that can be created relatively quickly. If you create the right content and get it online in good time, you could see results within a few days or weeks. Content marketing has long-term results as pages can attract new traffic for years to come, and at no extra cost of time or money.

Affiliate Marketing/Link Building

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a technique where a website earns a commission by promoting another’s company, services or products. This can be a very transparent process where a blog or third party site mentions a brand and says they’ve been asked to review something, or it can be a more behind the scenes arrangement – Google isn’t fond of the latter.

What is Link Building?

Link building, aka link acquisition, aka backlink marketing, is a way of using articles or reviews to get a website to link to a business’ website. These websites might be blogs, such as mummy blogs or fitness advice blogs, they could also be news websites or specialist websites. Articles may be supplied by the company wanting a link, including their website among others, or it might be written by the blogger.

How do they fit into a larger digital marketing strategy?

Affiliate marketing and link building are both well-established techniques but time consuming ones, mainly due to the amount of outreach that is needed to find bloggers and websites willing to take part. 

They can also be costly, especially now that so many third party websites are aware of the value of a mention or a link. Charges can range from hundreds to thousands of pounds. If you have that kind of budget, you’ll be able to make good use of these techniques. If you don’t, then they are likely to be fruitless in most cases.

A digital marketer can advise on cheap or free and valuable ways of acquiring mentions and backlinks. The availability of opportunities will largely be contingent on your industry, niches and your brand’s appeal.

How long does it take to see results?

Results can take a bit of time to see. Both affiliate marketing and link building are long processes, often ongoing, and so a pipeline of three to six months is not uncommon. Results can then take another three months from when mentions or backlinks appear as search engines can take a little time to register them and reward your website accordingly.

Social media – paid and non-paid

What is Social Media?

You probably already know what social media is: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, those are the big four in the western world. But in the context of digital marketing we are talking about two approaches to social media, the paid and unpaid. 

Unpaid is what it seems, the manual posting of information, images, links, videos, etc about your business and from your website, all designed to enable users to have another touch-point with your business. 

There are various types of paid social media and the options available depend on the platform, but whichever one you choose is going to cost you. You can improve the visibility of your posts, create ads that target specific users (like with PPC) or even sell directly via various social media apps and platforms. 

How does it fit into a larger digital marketing strategy?

Social media is a valuable way of getting in front of users from a brand awareness point of view. It can also be a great way to connect with users – for the good and the bad. You can use well-established and regularly active social media channels to promote content marketing, look for backlink opportunities and drive traffic to your website. 

A digital marketer can advise you on the best way to utilise your social media profiles and suggest when and where you should be paying for social media ads. On some platforms, you have to pay to be visible as a brand, on others, you can get away with being active on a free version. There are also tools you can use to automate posting and manage ads.

How long does it take to see results?

Results from social media will depend on your goals. Once you begin to post and interact, you’ll start to see the results of your engagement. How long it takes for this to turn into other tangible results will depend on what you are aiming for. If you want instant results, paid social media will offer you data on views and clicks, like with PPC, as soon as you launch your campaign.

Email marketing

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of marketing and is still effective today. You will need a list of email addresses to get started, and with GDPR rules and regulations, you’ll need to be sure who has given you consent to market to them. From there you can share offers, updates and newsletters, all with the goal of improving brand awareness and/or increasing traffic to your website.

How does it fit into a larger digital marketing strategy?

Email marketing can be an important part of a digital marketing campaign, though it is typically in a supporting role. Want to get more readers for your latest articles? Use email marketing to share monthly updates. Need to announce a ticketed event you are putting on? Drum up interest using an email marketing campaign. 

What you never want to be doing is sending more emails than customers want to read and you never want to create spam. What it boils down to is creating email marketing that aligns with specific goals within your wide digital marketing strategy and not doing it just because you can.

How long does it take to see results?

The great thing about email marketing is that there are lots of systems, like MailChimp or ConvertKit, that will help you send out emails and collect data on who opened, who read, who unsubscribed and more. You’ll be able to get pretty quick results, which you can feed into your next email marketing campaign in order to improve it.

How much will it cost? Budgets for digital marketing.

Now that digital marketing is firmly established, companies are hiring in-house digital marketers. This can be a cost-effective way of making sure you have someone dedicated to all the areas of digital marketing. However it is mostly big businesses who hire in-house since they have the budget to hire teams and have them focused solely on marketing, including digital marketing. 

Most small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the financial ability to hire a digital marketer, which is why many are turning to digital marketing agencies. Rates for agencies will vary quite a lot, in part depending on their size (a bigger agency will have more overheads) but also depending on what services you are looking to receive from them. 

In most cases there will be a freelance digital marketer or agency who fits the budget you have for digital marketing. For cases where funds are very limited, getting training or consultations on an on-off basis can equip your team with what they need to get started with a digital marketing campaign.

By Nick Gomez

What to read next

Now you’ve learned a bit more about how digital marketing works and exactly what is included in it, you might want to dive further into the ways in which your business can make the most of its website, social media and more. Browse our free articles and guides and take your pick from a range of intriguing topics.