How to Approach Digital Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide 
If you’re still unsure of the paradigm shift marketing has taken over the last few years, time is already working against you! Digital marketing is here and it’s no longer the next generation thing. It’s for your business to capitalize on — whether you’re big or small, start-up or stalwart.
You may not like the idea, but the truth couldn’t be more clear. Without digital marketing in 2020, your products or services are not going to see the light of day. The sooner you shift your focus away from conventional mediums to the digital ones, the faster will your growth needle move in the months to come.
In what follows, I’m going to discuss digital marketing and its relevance from the context of small businesses. In other words, I’ll try to shed light on what digital marketing is, why it’s so important, and how it can help your business grow in today’s digitally transformed world.
What is Digital Marketing?
Here’s a neat chart created by Unbounce that sums up all kinds of channels in digital marketing and their subtypes.
Digital marketing is a broad term and encompasses a wide range of modern marketing techniques, including search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM), email marketing, affiliate marketing, content marketing, and more. The vastness of digital marketing can be both an opportunity and, sometimes, a threat. If handled the right way, digital marketing can enrich brands in ways that are not common in traditional marketing. By the same token, if mishandled, the repercussions can be more severe than one might anticipate.
What that essentially means is that, as a business, you must not go after every approach without knowing the “why” and risk your scarce marketing dollars in vain pursuits. It also means you must not play it too safe to not even try what the potential power of digital marketing can bring to the table. The best approach, if you ask, is to start off small, do some A/B testing, and expand the scope of your campaign once it starts to see some signs of life.
Why is Digital Marketing Important to Your Business?
Marketing has always been about communicating your brand message to the right audience in the right place. In today’s context, that means connecting with them where they spend most of their time on — the internet.
The internet is taking over traditional marketing channels as it allows businesses to connect with their target audience in a more meaningful and affordable way. Forward-looking companies know how to cash in on it. Backward-looking companies distrust the digitized way of marketing, only to stay behind and watch their competitors take the lead.
Here are just a few stats that indicate why digital marketing, in general, is essential to just about every business today:
- There are 4.1 billion Internet users in the world (as of 2019) and the number is growing every day
- 80% of all mobile phone users are accessing the Internet from their mobile phone (as of 2019)
- Spending on digital ads and media is going to reach over $375 billion in just a few years
- In the U.S. alone, spending on SEO will grow to $80 billion by 2020
- For every $1 spent on Google Ads, businesses generally make an average of $2 in revenue
- Over half of the smartphone users (51%) find new brands or products using their mobile devices
- Over 37% of online shoppers report that they use social media for inspiration to make new purchases (other than just connecting with their friends and family)
- Businesses can increase their brands’ audiences by 46% simply by showing up in search ad results on the internet
The list may go on and on. The point is, investing in online marketing is no longer a choice. It is a necessity and an urgent one.
Now that we have set the stage, let’s discuss where and how you should begin the process. The number one rule is: if you are a beginner in the race, get a handle on the basics and learn how to pace your move. Don’t go too aggressive and understand that starting off small will work to your advantage most of the time.
Start With Local SEO
Search Engines and SEO are at the heart of digital marketing. If you are in doubt, here is a quick perspective:
Search engine optimization is the method businesses use to push their websites or business listings to the top of search engine results page. When users search for terms like “auto repair shops near me,” Google pulls up an extensive list of local results, making it only natural for the users to click on what appears on the first page. So, usually, it’s the few lucky sites that manage to rank at the top get the user attention, the rest are usually ignored!
Now, SEO in itself is a broad field. As a beginner, it only makes sense that you aim for exposure in the local search results. For some business models, ranking locally may not have the right impact; but, in the case of a lot of small businesses, local SEO makes perfect sense. Assuming you’re in the auto repair business, you probably only want customers who could drive through your shop and have their vehicles examined. If your shop is based, let’s say, in Islamabad, it makes more sense that customers from the same city should be able to see your listing first.
According to Google’s Consumer Insights, there has been a 900%+ growth in “near me tonight/today” searches in the past two years.
Local SEO is more relevant, less costly, and relatively easy to achieve. You don’t usually face stiff competition as there are fewer players trying to dominate the top spots in local searches.
Although local SEO is a subset of search engine optimization, there is a lot that goes into it. The rules are no different when it comes to the key SEO processes. You have to start building a strong SEO foundation through on-page optimization and prop it up with solid off-site marketing to generate real results.
Leverage it with Social Media
Forward-thinking businesses with a solid social media presence clearly have an advantage over those that don’t. At a time when social media is becoming more integrated into our daily lives, not realizing its marketing potential is a grave mistake. People are spending hours on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter on a daily basis — and your specific customers are no exception.
As of 2019, about 42% of the world’s population (3.2 billion users) is using social media with an average spend-time of 2.2 hours. North America, in particular, has one of the highest social network penetration rates (at 70% compared to the global average of 45%).
These findings basically tell us that social media is a highly untapped opportunity, and there is no better time to harness its power than now. Creating and sharing informative and engaging content is fine, but you also need to remember that responding to comments and replying to messages is more crucial to driving customer experiences on these platforms. According to research, the majority of users (about 71%) having a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family. You can take the social media affair lightly if you don’t care about the impact it can have on your brand.
Incorporate a Pay Per Click Program
You might have heard people say that SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. But does that really mean you can never be at the top unless you earn the spot organically? With Pay Per Click, fortunately , you can!
PPC platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads allow you to pay for a premium spot on their search results page (through search ads) or on their partners’ sites (through display ads).
Google Ads is the king that rules the PPC world. PPC ads, according to Blue Corona, are responsible for 41% of clicks on Google search engine. So if your focus is short term and you want some quick-fire results, PPC is the way to go.
Sure enough, the Pay Per Click model is a smart choice if your goals are specific and you want to reach specific people in a specific region. The caveat, however, is: it can be costly.
Now you may be wondering if PPC is really worth it from an ROI standpoint and should you really consider adding it to your marketing mix in 2020 (and beyond)? The answer is: Of course, you should!
The cost may sound like a deal-breaker in the short run, but the lifetime value of the customers you acquire through PPC is well worth those marketing dollars. If served well, every customer can become a recurring one, making it all the more profitable over the long haul. Moreover, there are ways you can reduce your pay per click cost in Google Ads. Google Ads is based on an auction system that rewards advertisers who have high-quality ad campaigns with better ad placement and lower costs. The metrics used to determine your Quality Score are, in some ways, tied to your search engine optimization efforts. For example, if your landing page is relevant and contains high-quality content, the quality score of the ad targeting that page will go up, resulting in lowered costs. By the same token, your website/landing page would win more brownie points in SEO if it contains relevant and high-quality content that your end users value.
In a nutshell, it’s always advisable to start off with a good SEO foundation, leverage it with social media efforts, and finally expand the scope of your efforts to cover paid advertising mediums.
What to Expect Next?
The aim of this post was to give you some basic context around digital marketing, why it is important, and how to proceed with it. It is by no means a comprehensive guide to how exactly you should implement the strategies discussed in the post. To that end, we are planning to roll out a series of articles, covering each of the methods suggested in the post with complete details and real-life examples. Ultimately, our goal is to help businesses like yours to learn, implement, and maintain successful digital marketing programs that can help them achieve growth and profitability.
So stay tuned!