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Your Definitive Guide to Digital Marketing

How to make a digital marketing strategy, from start to finish.
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This is a definitive guide to running a digital marketing campaign that works.

If you want to -

 

  • Understand the KPIs that define a successful campaign.
  • Learn how to implement a campaign that delivers results.
  • Track, evaluate, and refine things to ensure ongoing success.

 

Then this guide is for you.

What's in the guide?

The sections in this guide cover the digital marketing process from start to finish -

 

  1. An introduction to digital marketing
  2. Defining your audience
  3. Getting your site ready for a digital marketing campaign
  4. Creating a digital marketing strategy
  5. Creating content and collateral for your campaign
  6. Tracking the performance of your digital marketing
  7. Evaluating performance and refining future campaigns
  8. How to outsource your digital marketing activity

 

This guide is suited to complete beginners looking for guidance through the whole process, for experts looking to brush up on certain areas, and anyone in between.

After reading you'll be fully equipped to design, implement, track, and evaluate your campaign.

Let's dive in.

 

What is Digital Marketing

If this question has you scratching your head, don't worry. 

Digital marketing is a huge umbrella that brings together many disciplines. It can be tricky to conceptualise clearly.

Here's how Wikipedia defines it - 

 

Digital marketing is the component of marketing that utilizes internet and online based digital technologies such as desktop computers, mobile phones and other digital media and platforms to promote products and services."


- Wikipedia, Digital Marketing

 

Digital marketing is the interplay between disciplines sharing the common objective of attracting, retaining, and converting visitors to your site.

They are -

 

 

In an increasingly digital world it makes sense that marketing follows suit.

Interest in digital marketing has sky-rocketed in recent years. You need to be up to speed to ensure you're not left behind.

 

 

- Google Trends

 

Let's explore how these disciplines combine to create an awesome digital marketing strategy that works.

This guide is focussed on B2B digital marketing, but the insights are applicable to B2C as well.

Defining Your Audience

Over 4.5 billion people were active on the internet in July 2020. And let's face it: Only a tiny fraction of them will qualify as prospective customers.

So for a digital marketing campaign to be effective, you must tailor it towards a specific audience.

Doing so ensures you're targeting the right people in the right places with the right information to guide them toward a purchase.

Defining your audience comes down to four key areas:

 

  1. Understand the stages of the buyer journey.

  2. Understand where your prospective customers are in their buyer journey.

  3. Identify their needs and challenges at each stage.

  4. Find out where they spend time online.

The Stages of the Buyer Journey

Traditional thinking splits the buyer journey into three key stages: Awareness, consideration, and decision.

Here's a top-level definition of each:

 

  • Awareness: The prospect is trying to understand, frame and define a problem they're facing, but are not yet looking for a solution.
  • Consideration: The prospect has a better understanding of their problem and are weighing up potential solutions.
  • Decision: A prospect is prepared to make an investment in order to resolve their problem.

 

Marketing methodologies vary between stages.

The next step of defining your audience helps to crystalise your understanding of the needs of your prospects at each stage.

Create Your Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customer. They're based on market research and insights from your actual customer base, and they're an invaluable part of your marketing.

There's no limit to the number of buyer personas you can create. As long as each represents a viable segment of your prospective customer base, they are a great way to -

 

  • Tailor your marketing efforts toward the exact challenges a prospect is facing.
  • Create content that a prospect is most likely to engage with.
  • Target the platforms and publications where a prospect spends time.
  • Attract more prospects to your content, website, and your product.

 

Investing time in creating personas representative of your prospective customers is the difference between effective marketing, and slinging mud at a wall until something sticks.

Identify the Needs of Your Prospective Customers

Part of building accurate and useful buyer personas is understanding the needs and challenges your prospects are facing. This is true at every stage of the buyer journey.

At this stage you should look to understand -

 

  • The undefined challenges your prospects may be facing
  • The direct questions your prospects are asking
  • The potential solutions your product offers

 

With these things defined, you pave the way for a strategy that addresses the needs of your prospects and guides them toward purchase.

Getting Your Site Ready for a Digital Marketing Campaign

The goal of digital marketing is to attract prospects to your website, then to guide them along their buyer journey toward making a purchase.

But here's the thing -

Regardless how good your marketing efforts are, they will fall flat if one or both of these things are true:

 

  • People can't navigate through your website.
  • People can't find your website in the first place.

 

Search engines know that poorly configured sites will be difficult to navigate, and these sites rank poorly as a result.

This is why a well-configured website is the bedrock for any digital marketing campaign. Get it wrong, and you won't rank. If you don't rank, people won't come to your site - simple as.

 

Here's how to get it right.

Configure Your Site's Technical SEO

Technical SEO is all the stuff under the bonnet of your website. Things like - 

 

  • Title elements to clearly communicate the role of pages.
  • Lang tags to ensure delivery of content in the right language.
  • Meta data to give clear information on site content.
  • XML sitemaps to give clear information on site structure.
  • Structured data markup to show how content maps onto structure.
  • Thread management to ensure optimal delivery of content.
  • Image optimisation to ensure visuals load quickly and efficiently.
  • Alt tags to attach non-visual meaning to visual elements.
  • Internal links to connect content together intuitively

 

This list is not exhaustive, but if you get these things nailed you'll be in good stead.

 

You also need to -

Ensure Your Site is Fast

Google made speed a ranking factor for desktop searches in 2010. In July 2018, mobile followed suit.

This means that if your site isn't fast, you will be penalised.

Think about it: You're looking for the answer to a question, but the website you arrive at still hasn't loaded after ten seconds. Do you wait, or do you hit 'back' and try the next search result?

The answer for most people is to hit 'back' and try something else.

Your website needs to load quickly on any device. This means - 

 

  • No huge image files
  • No clunky JavaScript or other interactive content
  • Streamlined code
  • Adequate hosting that can handle expected traffic volumes

Ensure Your Site is Fully Responsive

Your site needs to render properly on any device, too. 

Google introduced mobile-first indexing a few years back. Here's what that means - 

 

"Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking"

 

- Google Search Central

 

The core tenets of mobile-first indexing are as follows. You'll notice some overlap with technical SEO points from the previous sections - this is a good example of why it's so important to get technical right.

 

  • Give Googlebot access to all mobile content
  • Keep content the same on desktop and mobile. Layout can change.
  • Check your structured data is configured correctly.
  • Put the same metadata on both versions of your site.
  • Check ad placement.
  • Check visual elements render properly.

 

You can find full responsive design best practice guidelines on the Google Developer blog.

Also bear in mind that often, a full site redesign isn't necessary. Fine-tuning the backend your existing site and tweaking front-end pages with growth-driven design principles in mind can deliver huge gains.

Build Landing Pages With Compelling CTAs 

In digital marketing, landing pages serve a special purpose.

Rather than a page build around your normal website template, with a top nav, footer, and various content competing for your attention, a landing page has one function:

To guide visitors toward a specific CTA.

When a prospect clicks a link from a piece of content you've shared - whether it's an email, tweet, blog post, or anything else - a landing page gives them all the information they need to move towards the next step of the buyer journey.

Such pages should be clutter-free and laser-focused on the CTA in question.

Here are the basic components of effective landing page design [(you can find more in-depth info here)]:

 

  • A laser-focused description of your offer
  • Clear and eye-catching headlines
  • No more than three related images
  • A testimonial or equally powerful trust signal
  • A clear call to action (CTA)
  • Simple layout: Bullets work best
  • No clutter: Remove site nav
  • A form that asks for as little info as possible

 

Landing page design is an ongoing process. Best practice dictates that you should build multiple landing pages and use A/B testing to determine which works best.

Use CRO to Streamline User Journeys

CRO stands for Conversion Rate Optimisation. Here's our full guide to the question, "what is CRO?"

Put simply, this is the art of increasing the number of prospects who convert when they arrive at your website.

Conversion can mean two things -

 

  • A prospect takes a desired action on a page: They sign up to a newsletter, request a resource download, ask for a product demo, or similar.
  • A prospect makes a purchase.

 

This discipline is the unsung hero of digital marketing, and represents the fine-tuning of each and every step of your marketing funnel to invite and encourage increased conversions.

After all: Bumping up your conversion rate by even a fraction of a percent can translate to huge increases in ROI.

 

Creating a Digital Marketing Strategy

Once your audience is defined and your site is ready, it's time to put together a strategy.

A digital marketing strategy covers the following things -

 

  • This is what we want to do
  • This is why we want to do it
  • This is how we are going to do it
  • This is what happened
  • This is what we'll change for next time

 

At each step of the strategy you gain insight that will refine and improve future marketing activity.

Set Strategic Goals

The fist step is laying down some goals - "This is what we want to do".

Your goals can range from broad ("get more sales") to narrow ("increase conversion rate at the awareness stage by 12% this quarter"), but the most useful goals are SMART.

Now, you've probably heard about SMART goals a million times. But hear us out: there's a reason this framework is useful.

 

Your goals should be -

 

  • Specific: Focussed on one area, and clearly stated
  • Measurable: Attached to a quantifiable metric you can track 
  • Achievable: Something your business has the resources to actually achieve
  • Realistic: Something grounded in reality
  • Time-bound: Attached to a timescale 

 

According to Coschedule, 61% of marketers have a documented strategy, and those people are a whopping 313% more successful than those who are winging it.

Establish KPIs

The next steps is laying out some KPIs - Key Performance Indicators.

This stage is the "Why we want to do it". KPIs are the outcomes that determine whether your digital marketing strategy is working.

Some examples of broad, business-oriented KPIs include - 

 

  • Revenue growth
  • Return on investment
  • Profitability over time
  • Cost per acquisition

 

Other KPIs have a more narrow focus, specific to the platform(s) being used -

 

  • Conversions
  • Impressions
  • Referrals
  • Followers
  • Open rate
  • Bounce rate

 

Attaching KPIs to each of the goals at the heart of your digital marketing strategy allows you to track and evaluate progress.

Build a Content Plan

A content plan is the "How we are going to do it" part of your digital marketing strategy.

It contains all the content you'll create, split out into -

 

  • The stage of the buyer journey each piece of content will target
  • The people each piece of content will target - think back to your buyer personas
  • The topic(s) that each piece of content will address
  • The platform(s) where each piece of content will be published

Choosing the best format and platform for your content is important. Text-based blog posts are great, but you also have the option to use infographics, videos, podcasts, ebooks, downloadable guides, checklists, whitepapers, and so on.

As a general rule, B2B companies place a higher value on educational formats such as blogging, webinars and infographics.

Think about which stage of a prospect's journey the content targets: Your content should be aimed at providing value; helping to attract customers (Attraction stage), offering them informed assistance (Consideration stage) and finally helping them make a purchase (Decision stage).

Build an Outreach Plan

Having a content strategy is great, but guess what?

Content is useless if nobody ever looks at it.

And while search engines trawl through millions of websites to decide what content to rank for millions of queries, you can't rely on organic search traffic to all of your content.

Which is where manual outreach comes in. You may hear this called PR, digital PR, outreach, or any of various names. But it all comes down to one thing -

Letting people know that your content is out there.

An outreach plan involves 

 

  • Identifying people who may be interested in your content
  • Putting together a pitch that will attract their attention
  • Contacting them, usually via email, to let them know about it.

 

Build a Social Media Plan

Social media serves two main purposes:

 

  • Amplifying your content 📣
  • Engaging your audience 🤼

 

A social media plan is your roadmap for social activity off the back of your content plan.

In it, you'll plan what to post and when in order to give your content the best chance at being seen and engaged with.

Specific goals for social media include -

 

  • Attracting prospects into the funnel
  • Building brand loyalty
  • Building brand awareness 

 

 

  • Who am I trying to attract through social media?
  • What content do I distribute?
  • How do I measure the success of my social media activity?
  • Who is responsible for implementing the strategy?

 

Alongside content promotion, remember to engage with your audience within the social media platform they use to reach out.

Decide Whether to Incorporate Paid Marketing

Paid marketing includes PPC (pay per click) advertising, promoted social media posts, and more.

Some people consider it a vital part of digital marketing; others ignore it completely.

Depending on the scope and nature of your strategy, paid marketing may have a lot to offer.

Here's how to tell whether you should incorporate PPC into your marketing campaign.

And if you do incorporate PPC, here are the metrics you need to be tracking.

Creating Content and Collateral for Your Digital Marketing Strategy

You've got overarching digital marketing strategy prepared, with subsidiary content, outreach, and social media strategies backing it up.

The next step?

Create your content.

This is where you and your team get to flex their creative muscles, and create truly excellent content to target your prospects.

The broad  goals at the content creation stage are -

 

  • Research the keywords your prospects are using.
  • Create content that addresses their needs at every step of the funnel.
  • Optimise that content for search.

 

Let's take a look at each.

Do a Comprehensive Keyword Audit to Target Your Content

Keywords are a critical part of getting your content seen. 

When someone types a word or phrase into Google, the results they see at the top are the ones deemed most relevant to that keyword or keyword phrase.

So, optimising your content around relevant keywords that people are searching for is vital.

There are several types, each with its own benefits:

 

  • Short-tail keywords:
  • Long-tail keywords
  • LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing)

 

A comprehensive keyword audit is the first step. This involves using great SEO tools like AHRefs, Google's Keyword Planner, SEMRush or many others to do the following -

 

  • Find keywords relevant to your offering
  • Ascertain their search volumes to see which are worthwhile
  • Understand how competitive each one is
  • Build lists of keywords to incorporate into your content

 

Find out which questions your prospects are asking

Equipped with keywords, it's much easier to target your content and increase search visibility.

But to really appeal to human readers, content should answer questions.

There are some great ways to find questions people are asking -

Google's 'People Also Ask' box

You'll see this box on pretty much every results page. It shows all the questions people are asking related to the search term you provided.

What is digital marketing

Quora

This social media platform is based entirely around asking and answering questions, so there's a wealth of inspiration here.

Quora

 

Create Digital Marketing Content

You've got a content strategy, a comprehensive list of keywords, and accurate buyer personas. Now it's time to create the content.

The best content is engaging and effective. The idea is to attract people, provide real value, address their queries, and guide them toward the next step of their user journey.

There are hundreds of content creation tools and software to choose from, and the exact combination will depend on the content you're creating.

Here are some pointers -

 

  • Grammarly: A text editor that edits and improves your writing as you go.
  • GIMP: An open-source version of Photoshop with incredibly versatile image creation capabilities.
  • Canva: A graphic design platform used for creating all manner of visuals.
  • Animaker: A video creation tool with plenty of functionality.
  • Pexels: One of many free stock image platforms.
  • Google Charts: A great tool for creating advanced data visualisations.
  • Make a Meme: Sure they're silly, but a well-used meme can make a huge impact to content.
  • Giphy: A tool for creating animated gifs, which are a great way to spice up content.

 

Brent Rambo

Tracking and Evaluating the Performance of Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Back in the 'Creating a Digital Marketing Strategy' section we wrote about what a strategy does.

The last two points were -

 

  • This is what happened
  • This is what we'll change for next time

 

This section is all about tracking what happened when you implemented your digital marketing strategy.

There are two key factors at play here: Attribution and analytics.

Attribution

After a while of active digital marketing you'll have content published on various platforms, and a gradual trickle of incoming traffic that will - hopefully - evolve into a healthy stream.

When this is the case, knowing how people arrived at your site is a vital piece of the puzzle.

The reason?

This information lets you see where people are coming from, and indicates which marketing efforts are working best.

This process is called attribution tracking, and is a key step in tracking and evaluating your performance.

Analytics

Analytics software tracks peoples' journeys to and around your site. 

This information is indispensible. It gives insight into everything from -

 

  • How people found your site
  • The links they followed to get there
  • The search phrases they used to get there
  • The relative performance of content pointing to your site
  • The effectiveness of your landing pages
  • How easy your site is to navigate
  • Drop-off points where people abandon your site

 

From this you can identify opportunities to improve your site navigation and structure to make it more conducive to ongoing buyer journeys.

You can evaluate which platforms and content types work best, letting you refine future strategy.

You can see which content on your site generates leads, which generates sales, and whether this aligns with your plans and expectations.

Evaluating Performance Against Goals and KPIs

Earlier in this guide we outlined the process of setting goals and establishing KPIs.

The purpose of this stage of creating a digital marketing strategies is to give you reference points for success or failure.

As you implement your strategy and begin to see it perform, evaluating the performance is a vital step in ensuring ongoing marketing efforts are effective.

At this stage, look back to your goals and KPIs to see whether they've been achieved.

If so, pat yourself on the back and decide whether to keep them the same, or refine them upward.

If not, take a look at what went wrong and revise future goals to be more achievable.

This is the final step of the strategy: Deciding what we'll change for next time.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Being aware of common issues is one way to defend against the chance of them happening.

But as the adage goes, "the best laid plans go to waste."

These words should encourage rather than discourage you. No matter how carefully you plan and implement your strategy, things will go awry.

How to Outsource Your Digital Marketing Activity

As we said earlier, digital marketing is a huge umbrella.

And with so many disciplines falling under it, not every business has the resource to effectively design, implement, track, and evaluate their digital marketing efforts.

Which is where digital marketing agencies come in.

As trained experts with tons of experience in every aspect of digital marketing, agencies provide two invaluable services -

 

  • Digital marketing consultancy and training to skill-up your team
  • Full external oversight of your digital marketing activities

 

The former is great if you want to develop your in-house capacity. You can tap into a bank of expertise, and build internal skillsets to improve your capacity to deliver ongoing digital marketing.

The latter is great if you want to outsource and have everything taken care of externally. You'll still be involved in the process, signing things off and providing as much steer at each stage as you see fit.

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