SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, PPC, content marketing and more – there are many platforms available for marketing your business online and thousands of websites and articles offering free advice on how to use them.
Perhaps your business has decided to take the plunge into digital marketing and you've created a new website. You then realize you need to rank at the top of the search engines, so you hire an SEO service. The results are taking too long, so you look into PPC (pay-per-click). Businesses often explore all avenues for marketing in an attempt to cover every angle.
However, should your business really be investing in all of them, or should you be focusing your efforts into a single channel?
I guess that leaves the question many business owners are asking: "What should I spend my marketing budget on?"
To answer that question, you have to know the goals of your company, what budget and resources are available, and how long you can wait for results.
Online marketing channels
Before delving into your company goals, let's first explore what online marketing channels are available. Below are the most common marketing strategies you can use online.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
This is the process of ranking your website on top of the search engines for relevant keywords. SEO is easier to understand than most people think, but it can be complicated to put into practice. It involves keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, content marketing and more.
If SEO requires work and time to rank at the top of the search engine results, PPC just requires money, and the results are immediate. You bid on keywords to appear at the top of the search results, and to do this effectively requires optimizing the ads and bids to generate a favorable ROI.
Much like with PPC, you are paying for advertisements to appear on third-party websites for the purpose of creating brand awareness or generating traffic. You can use display advertising for retargeting or marketing to specific demographics.
Social media marketing
SMM is the process of leveraging social media platforms to create traffic and awareness for your website or brand. This may also include advertising tactics within the social media platforms.
This is the process of collecting email addresses from potential leads, free or paid. You can then market to them via a series of emails.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
The goal of CRO is to increase the percentage of conversions from visitors to your website. You can implement CRO for specific goals such as sign-ups, leads or sales.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the available marketing channels, let's explore your company goals and priorities. Most businesses have at least one of the four following types of goals.
Does your potential customer only buy from reputable brands? Are they aware of your brand? Do they trust or have enough familiarity with it to make a purchase?
If brand awareness is a top priority for your business, then display marketing may be the strongest marketing channel for you. Display marketing allows you to display your brand to as many people as possible within a targeted demographic, allowing them to engage with your content and website to create familiarity and trust.
The ROI is difficult to measure, as the primary goal of the campaign is to raise awareness. However, it's this awareness that can build the foundation for a much larger customer base.
The other options are social media marketing and content marketing, as these can also get you in front of your potential customers, even if they're not searching specifically for your brand.
Sometimes, your customers won't look for you, not because you can't be found, but because they are not aware of their problem and the solution you provide. They might have never stopped to think you could make things better for them with your product or service. This may be reflected in low search volumes for your target keywords.
If the primary issue for lack of sales or traffic is the lack of awareness for what your business has to offer, then you have to educate your potential customers on the problem, and then offer your solution.
Many brands have successfully used content marketing and social media marketing as vehicles to educate their potential customers.The holy grail of content marketing is viral content that spreads across the web, carrying a subtle message within it. Content must benefit your company and/or create awareness of your brand or product.
An example of this is Samsung's and Apple's approach to content marketing and social media marketing. As large as the Samsung brand is, it needed a way to wrestle some Apple customers away from Apple and into its brand.
Sometimes faith in the brand isn't enough. Your customers need to be educated about what you do, the benefits, and why it's better than what they currently use.
Traffic has always been one of the most sought-after KPIs to increase. With higher-quality traffic, the result is usually more leads and sales, so it makes sense that most business owners see this as a priority.
As much as viral content can do wonders for your traffic, it's not entirely within your control, and even the most successful and prolific of viral content creators can't predict which of their content offerings will go viral. If the primary goal is traffic, then PPC and SEO may be the best online marketing channels for you to focus on.
PPC allows you to control the amount of traffic flowing into your website depending on your budget, and the perfect scenario would be a PPC campaign with a good ROI.
The alternative to PPC is SEO. Unlike PPC, it is a long-term investment, and you have to wait at least six to nine months to see a positive return on your investment. Companies can either do SEO in-house or hire an agency. The advantage of SEO is the perceived lower cost, recurring "free" organic traffic and all the other benefits that come along with being top of Google.SEO can also boost brand awareness by increasing business exposure in the search results for your targeted keywords.
SEO also has one of the highest ROIs along with email marketing, according to this marketing report.
Sales of their product or service is the end result most businesses want. If your business has a clear demand online for sales, then you probably need a combination of traffic, email marketing and CRO.
Again, email marketing has one of the highest potential ROIs. You can either run a cold email campaign or set up an email marketing campaign for the warm leads and sign-ups you have collected. Many online marketers will tell you there is a direct correlation between the number of sales they make and the number of email subscriptions they have collected.
You can also generate more sales with a combination of more traffic and increased CRO. PPC or SEO will generate the traffic to your website, and a focused campaign on CRO will allow you to convert more of that traffic into sales.
Budget, resources and time
Aside from your business goals, your available budget, resources and time will also dictate what strategy you should use. PPC, display advertising and social media advertising allow you to generate traffic and awareness to your brand almost immediately. These options can be quite costly, and if the cost outweighs the ROI, they may not be the best choice.
If you're a small business with limited resources, it will also depend on the talent and resources you have available. If you have creatives and copywriters on the team, then perhaps email marketing and content marketing campaigns would be the most effective. Make the best use of the talent you have available when choosing your marketing strategy.
None of these are stand-alone tactics; you often have to take a holistic approach to your online marketing strategy. The best SEO campaigns may require good PR, social media marketing and content marketing. Spending money on PPC whilst having a poor conversion rate may be a waste of money. Most tactics provide a superior ROI when used in conjunction with complementary approaches.
Coming back full circle, it's important to explore all avenues of marketing. The above information is by no means a comprehensive guide, as far more variables come into play when you're deciding which marketing strategy to use.
However, as the phrase goes, energy flows where attention goes. It is important to clarify your business goals before deciding which marketing channels will be the most effective for achieving your objectives.