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Aug 02 2018

Evolution of Digital Marketing

evolution of digital marketing

Quick Links to Explore What Digital Marketing Works

Remember popup ads? Digital marketing has come a long way in the last 30 years. In fact, it has come a long way in the last five years.

As technology changes and consumer behaviors adapt, the value of different digital marketing strategies shifts as well. As consumers become more sophisticated, marketing strategies from just a few years ago have become obsolete (or downright spammy). Brand marketers need to keep up with the ever-shifting digital landscape, while focusing their efforts on the channels and tactics that will deliver results in the near and long-terms.

Read on to find out more about how marketing has changed and what your best bet is for 2018 (or just skip to the parts you care about)

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Digital Marketing’s Best Kept Secret

Think about the top competitor in almost every industry – what do they have in common? Bigger budgets. In most cases, large companies can simply out-spend their competitors, elevating advertising costs too high for smaller companies to participate. The same can be said of both traditional media (print, broadcast) as well as digital (PPC, social media ads). When companies are all competing for the same market share, with the only real limiter being what CPC each campaign can afford, biggest budget = most exposure.

But, there is a big secret in the world of digital marketing – a secret the largest companies don’t want you to know. In almost every marketing arena, small and medium businesses can’t compete with the industry giants — every arena except one: content.

Content is the great equalizer.

Every marketing campaign, whether large or small, huge budget, or tiny, should involve some level of content marketing. Content marketing is the most reliable, cost-effective, long-term investment marketers can make in their brands.

Creating great content doesn’t have to cost much, but its rewards are huge.

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History of Digital Marketing

Content as a marketing strategy is not a new thing. In fact, it has been around since 1895, with the publication of John Deere’s Furrow magazine. But in recent years, it has been overshadowed by the instant gratification of social media advertising and pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google. To understand today’s market, let’s take a quick look at how things used to be.

Search Engine Marketing

Google AdWords launched in 2000, taking the guesswork out of online advertising. For the first time, advertisers could ensure their messaging reached people actively searching for related products and services through keyword search.

In addition, ad networks sprang up, greatly simplifying the online ad buying process, allowing advertisers to serve text and display (banner) ads on sites of all sizes and types. As time progressed, ads transitioned from blinking neon screamers to pop ups/unders to ones capable of sophisticated dynamic remarketing.

As banner ads became more ubiquitous and specific keywords became more competitive, advertisers find the ROI for these types of ads beginning to dwindle.

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Social Media

Enter social media. Since its inception in 1997 with SixDegrees.com, through MySpace and Friendster and now Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, social media has grown increasingly powerful as a marketing platform. Facebook alone has 2 billion active users and more than 2 million advertisers.

As people flocked to social media, they began divulging personal, social and behavioral data like never before. And brands ATE IT UP. For the first time, a bank could target 25-35 year old women, who are renters and new moms, with an average HHI of $75,000+. Or a sneaker company could exclusively reach 18-25 year old males who are single, play sports and like skateboarding.

Social media gave brands the key to connecting with their customers on a basis like never before. The marketing applications were limitless

Content Marketing

Proven to work offline, content marketing online was a different story. Primitive search engines rewarded keyword frequency, backlinks and tagging. This resulted in keyword stuffing, purchased link exchanges and content generally designed without the reader in mind.

As Google has refined its algorithms, focus has shifted from ‘gaming the system’ to providing useful, quality content that benefits readers. Brands that have adopted this more user-focused strategy have experienced staggering results in organic traffic, brand awareness and overall conversion rates.

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Where Are We Now?

Today, digital marketing opportunities are limited only by a marketer’s imagination. Branded podcasts, augmented and virtual reality, drip marketing, geofencing, vlog channels – the list goes on.  Even more, marketers can customize messaging to individual audiences through sophisticated targeting and optimization methods. That said, many brand’s don’t have the ability on their own (budget, technical skills, bandwidth, etc.) to explore all of the options at their disposal, so they focus on a few key methods.

The most common digital marketing strategies today still involve the big three: search engine marketing, social media marketing and content marketing. Let’s take a look at the state of each option in today’s marketplace.

Search Engine Marketing

Within the category of search engine marketing, there are numerous applications, but the most used are Google AdWords, YouTube and Bing Ads. These cover PPC keyword search and display advertising, where advertisers are able to market based on 1) specific search terms that potential customers would use when looking for your product or service, or 2) profiling consumers based on demographic or psychographic traits and serving ads on videos or other websites that attract ideal customers.

ProsCons
Hyper-targeted around specific keywords that resonate with your customersCompetitive terms price out many smaller budgets
Able to spend as little or as much per day as you wantConstant monitoring required to optimize campaigns and avoid waste and excessive cost-per-acquisition (CPA)
Flexible and able to allocate budget towards high-performing keywords instantlyNo shelf-life – ads are only effective while you have budget. Once you stop spending money, you get zero exposure
Advent of cookie-based display ads that drive return traffic to sites delivers stellar results, using tactics such as dynamic targeting featuring customers’ abandoned shopping carts

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Social Media Marketing

Facebook is the king of social media marketing, with sites like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat not far behind. Advertising on social media has become the bread and butter of digital marketing today – but should it be? Here are some of the pros and cons of social media marketing:

ProsCons
If done well, able to seamlessly integrate brand marketing into consumer’s feeds, without feeling like “advertising”Organic reach (unpaid) is basically non-existent now for companies due to Facebook’s changing algorithms, which prioritize family and friend content over brand page posts
Superior targeting abilities (demographic, geographic, interests, behavior, et. al)Super crowded space, with more than 2 million advertisers vying for the same people. As a result Facebook ads were 43% MORE expensive in Q4 of 2017, with only a 4% increase in ad impressions.
Market online to your offline customers by uploading client dataPaid advertising (including boosting posts) is the only guaranteed reach – and its only effective, while you are still paying
Instant and highly relevant. Brands are able to be responsive to current events and trends, maintaining a dialogue with consumersPrivacy concerns stemming from current events are reducing targeting abilities, eliminating third-party partner data and transforming data collection and transparency into the future

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Content Marketing

In 2018, branded content knows no bounds. From text-based forms like blogs, featured snippets, white papers, newsletters, checklists and case studies to audio/visual content such as branded YouTube channels and vlogs, podcasts, slidedecks, infographics and webinars, brands from every industry can find the right form of content(s) for their audience. So, what are the pros and cons? Read on.

ProsCons
Initial, one-time investment results in continual reach through organic searchRarely instant results, relying more on the long-tail philosophy of building traffic over time
Able to stack with other marketing efforts, leveraging content to increase effectiveness of both organic and paid campaigns on other platformsSeems intimidating to start building a content library
Offers a natural way to differentiate brand, based on features, mission, expertise, culture or other factors that resonate with consumersRequires a talented writer, with a focus on quality over quantity
Establishes a brand’s point of view through tone, messaging, design, and topic-selectionMay feel difficult to generate content ideas that will attract the right audience and break through the noise
Enables brands to position themselves as thought-leaders, trend-setters, disrupters or experts in their industry,Analyzing results is trickier than concrete digital PPC and social ad campaigns, with effects seen over time and frequently in intangible ways
Elevates organic search results, while encouraging natural inbound links
Highly shareable via social media, extending reach beyond organic and paid

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Why Content Should Be the Cornerstone of Your Marketing Strategy

Content Marketing and ROI

Digital marketers are busy. Like crazy busy. Managing every existing campaign, planning future efforts, analyzing data and insights, researching new opportunities, optimizing, optimizing, optimizing… the list goes on. So the concept of building a marketing tool that will keep working in perpetuity is insanely attractive – and that is exactly what content does for brands.

Content lets you publish now, and reap the benefits indefinitely.

You don’t even have to be good at math to see how that can affect your ROI. Unlike other digital marketing, where you need to pay on a daily basis, content marketing allows you to continually benefit from a one time investment. That is the definition of amazing ROI.

Content marketing is a cost-effective strategy, costing 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3x the leads. – Content Marketing Institute

Obviously, to really see the ROI from content marketing, you can’t produce one piece and let it ride. The concept behind content marketing is to continually expand your net. Keep investing in new topics, new ideas, new pieces of content that will interest your customers. But, behind-the-scenes, everything you have ever created is still hard at work for your brand, growing your traffic, building your brand awareness and increasing your leads.

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Content Marketing Boosts Web Traffic

While measuring the results of paid search and social media advertising are significantly easier, the positive benefits of content marketing for a brand cannot be denied. At CMDS, we strongly believe that the proof is in the pudding when it comes to digital marketing – and content marketing is no exception,

We just conducted a full analysis of our clients that use content marketing at least once per week, examining both new and long-term content users. The results show in one glance, what a thousand words from us would only touch on.

In the first three months, brands implementing content marketing for the first time experience an average of 60% growth in organic website traffic (with a range of 23-97%).

Looking a little farther down the road, brands generating 6 months of content experienced an average of 139% growth in organic website traffic (with a range of 47%-231%)

We expanded our scope to some of our longer term digital content users and unsurprisingly to us, results were fantastic, with an average of 213% organic web traffic growth (ranging from 104%-323%)

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Great Content Makes Google Happy

So happy that they reward it in multiple ways. Primarily, Google will boost well-written, useful content on SERPs. The higher a page ranks on Google, the better the chance someone will click on it. Generally, people trust Google to show them the results they care about most and click accordingly.

  • 75% of clicks go to the first page
  • 20% of clicks go to the first result
  • 13% of clicks go to the second result
  • 13% of clicks go to the third result
  • 9% of clicks go to the fourth result
  • 6% of clicks go to the fifth result

REALLY well written content gets a special bonus from Google – the Featured Snippet. The Featured Snippet is an area at the top of the results page where Google highlights a particularly relevant and useful page for searchers. Google tends to choose pages that are well-written and answer a specific question in-depth and clearly. The featured snippet link earns nearly a 9% click-through rate, so earning that coveted spot can be huge.

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Content Marketing Makes Other Digital Marketing Better

Finding enough to talk about online to stay in front of your customers in every channel can be daunting. Savvy marketers let their content strategy take the lead, with other platforms trickling out from there.

For example, a distillery produces a blog post describing the perfect summer BBQ cocktail, complete with a video of a mixologist creating a drink. This is great content, optimized properly, and garners a third-page placement on Google organically.

Now, instead of looking for new content for other platforms, this brand can leverage their content and promote it on Facebook and Twitter. They can alert their existing customer base via email. The video can be uploaded to their YouTube channel. Consumers that see the video or visit the web page from social media will share it with their network.

All of these efforts work together to increase the page’s popularity, driving it up on the SERP. Now, this blog post is on the first page and the brand found ready-made fodder to talk about in all of its other marketing channels – a win-win.

Conclusion

While the digital marketplace continues to evolve, companies looking for long-term growth need to seriously consider, not only including content marketing in their portfolio, but putting it in the driver’s seat. Providing quality, consumer-oriented content will help any sized company compete for attention in the crowded digital space.

A strategic content marketing plan has the power to build website traffic, increase organic ranking, and boost your entire brand’s marketing conversation. If you are looking to step up your marketing content, talk to the experts at CMDS to gain expert advice and help building your digital content library.

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