An Introduction to Digital Marketing for Businesses

The growth in digital online advertising and marketing spending is an area that all companies need to be aware of.


According to Google, the shift in media consumption since 2010 has been the following:

Chanel                        2010                         2014

TV viewing                 47%                            38%

Digital / online          25%                            43%

Radio                          22%                            16%

Print                           5%                              4%

This introduction to digital marketing is the blueprint for all of my blog posts for the next while. Why you may ask would I lay out how to set up your own marketing plan and explain all the moving parts? This is my company’s online CV. If you are conducting the work your self it is good to have understanding and direction – and you are likely not part of my target market.

Ask why – when you read or it is suggested that you engage in online spending, asking why can get to the route of the usefulness of the task. So if an SEO strategy expert like myself tells you your website needs links – ask why? The social media expert tells you how you need a big Facebook following – ask why – what are the outcomes – what is the profit short and long term?

Every digital marketing plan needs clear direction and measurable goals. Being on the first page is a clear goal – however, it is not specific enough. Earning an additional €30,000 per month via Adwords spend is a much clearer, measurable, and specific goal.

The following are the main elements that can work together to create a digital marketing action plan.

Website or Platform

For most businesses having their own website is the main target where they want to interact and draw prospective customers to. I have seen Facebook used as the main platform, however investing heavily in a platform that you do not have complete control over is a long term risk to your business.

Responsive Websites: a responsive website is a site that can adapt to any size of screen and therefore resizes for phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. A responsive web design is a must; the following statistics illustrate why:

  • 74% of consumers have a smartphone; this is expected to be 90% by 2020
  • 40% of online sales are on a smartphone or tablet
  • 67% are more likely to buy from a mobile friendly website
  • 40% of visitors will go to another site if the site is not mobile optimised
  • 65% of decisions start on mobile and end on other devices
  • 94% of smartphone users look for a local store near their location
  • 66%, of the last above, visited the store and 26% made an in-store purchase

The investment in a good web design is the first item in any digital marketing plan.

Blog: the decision to blog or not will be outlined in a later post; however for many businesses it is a waste of scant resources, some do have the time and money to invest and promote their blog posts.

Everything online needs to be promoted after it is created. Sayings like “write and they will come” and “publish great content” do not tell the whole story, those strategies do not work without intense promotion.

Before a website is launched keyword and competition research should be undertaken. In the real world, this is rare. Google Analytics and Google Search Console should be added to the site.

See our guide to digital marketing for small businesses in Ireland as well.

Email Marketing

Over lunch one day a friend asked me about his digital marketing. He was interested in social media and a monthly SEO plan. In my usual manner, I started asking questions and discovered that he has several hundred current clients.

The only contact he has with his clients is when some work needs to be completed.

The first and best way forward for his business was adding all these current clients, and past clients, to a newsletter. He can now let all his clients know each month about new investment opportunities and keep up awareness of his company.

Email marketing is the under valued child in digital marketing. Collecting email address on your website, setting auto responders, and sending out newsletters, can produce a quick profit and customer engagement than any other marketing stream and considerably help you increase B2B sales.

Search Engine Optimisation

mobile digital marketing

So far I have created this list in order of importance. Yes, SEO is more important than Adwords, social media and all the other items below.

There are two distinct areas to optimising your website; SEO that Google recommends and the other that they frown upon and have penalised websites for engaging.

On-site optimisation is recommended by Google, they even publish a PDF explaining the areas to address. If your website is correctly optimised it will lower your costs in Adwords and provide the correct titles when pages are shared on social sites. This is the quickest way to increase your traffic from Google, however, without the second part of SEO, your website will struggle to rank well.

Link building has become a dirty word in the online marketing community during the last few years since Google started to penalise websites for certain types of links. Instead of link building, we have content marketing, inbound marketing, anything to stop companies being regarded as link builders.

Without links, your website will not rank well in Google.

Local SEO

Local search optimisation is great for companies that target a geographical area. For example, if you have a plumber in Dublin, or even more granular plumber in Ballsbridge.

Local SEO enables a company to target a few keywords and rank in Google’s 3 or 7 pack that is often shown on the first page before other organic results. Compared to other online marketing costs the return on investment for local optimisation is tremendous. See our guide to Beginner’s SEO for more information.

Adwords, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn etc.

Online advertising can provide targeted instant traffic.  Many smaller businesses though have had a negative experience of Adwords and other online paid advertising; this I believe, once I see the accounts, is mainly the result of not having a Google Ads agency to setup campaigns.

There are many mistakes made on small accounts that lead to a waste of company profits on Adwords or other advertising platforms. Either taking the time to learn how to use the interface or pay an Adwords manager can save a company a huge percentage of their online spend and turn using Adwords into a positive experience.

I work both sides of the fence, those who love the easy measurability of Adwords and those that would rather not pay Google and therefore use SEO. However, somewhere in the middle is often the better strategy. If I consistently make a profit of €100 for every €100 spend on Adwords I would be {fill in yourself} not to use it…

Facebook ads are great when targeting certain markets and I have used LinkedIn ads to target only groups or people of a particular profession. The online advertising options are almost endless and include:

  • text ad
  • video / animated / interactive
  • image / banner
  • remarketing
  • mobile
  • expanding

Social Media

Social media marketing is not all hype, however, as I will demonstrate in a future post the revenue from visitors via social is the lowest revenue on my site. That said it works great for particular purposes and in certain sectors.

Facebook for my company is a waste of time, Twitter allows me to connect with others in my industry, and LinkedIn helps me to connect with prospective customers. The breakdown is different depending on industries and resources available. For example who would have thought that a sports betting website could have a huge following on social but Paddy Power have the resources and are willing to take fairly large risks; they have 1.4 million followers.

Social Proof: social media buttons and counters on your own website can be a great indicator of social proof. If you have social buttons on your website, you MUST make sure there are at least a few shares, zero shares across your website is not a good message to give customers.

One last thing about social media marketing – it takes time.

Conversion Tracking and Optimisation

Once you have some traffic it is worthwhile making sure that visitors are following your expected paths on your website.

Conversion tracking is one of the free services offered by Google. After a click on your advert conversion tracking can tell you what happened next – did they buy, sign up for the newsletter, visit your contact or about page?

Conversion optimisation is the art of increasing the conversion rate of your website. For example, Google continually experiments with advert colours, placements, fonts, and sizes, to increase their CTR, click through rate, and profit on adverts.

The simplest form of conversion optimisation is split testing. Take two pages and send half your traffic to one page and the rest to the other. Take then the best performing page and split test again, and again, and again.

Where elements are on the page, the colours used, the fonts, the writing, there are a huge amount of elements you can test for better and continual improvement.

Inbound Marketing / Content Marketing

The descriptions of inbound and content marketing are so similar that it is hard to distinguish a difference. In essence, they are the process of using various types of content to bring visitors to your site rather than having to go and find customers – in reality, they are the new form of link building.

That said there are some great companies in this field who have built a process that simplify all the steps and pull data together for easier analysis, the best known of these is Hubspot.

Reputation Management

If your company is not well-known users will often look for reviews. This is very common in the web hosting and hotels area. Both of these are however gaming the review websites with negative and positive reviews.

Online review websites can hold a company to ransom, the best way to deal with these is to have your own properties that rank and use available free resources to rank your company like LinkedIn and Google+ – there are many places that you can use.

If your name is displaying false information posted by someone the best way to deal with this is make it drop in the search results by populating the first page with pages you have ownership of. However, reputation management will not eradicate information about companies that have cheated or lied and been caught publicly.

eBook Marketing

Having just published my first eBook, which is selling well, I began to see some other interesting results.

The number of people following me on Twitter and Facebook increased. The rankings of my website increased along with visitor numbers. These are to be expected if the book is good. Ranking increased as people linked to the book page, the about page, and other resource pages on my site.

I have seen a friend who runs a very popular small business blog start to publish a series of “How to” books in the business area. This was initially a way of increasing direct revenue from the sale of the books. It though takes you and your brand/company to a new and larger audience.

You don’t even have to write the book yourself. Feels like cheating perhaps, but many eBooks are outsourced and some are then rewritten to be in the voice of the author – still work but easier.

In addition to now being a published author, opportunities become available to present to groups and use ebook marketing as a way to additionally promote yourself or your company online.

Affiliate Marketing

Setting up your own affiliate marketing program can be difficult, depending on the subject area. I ran the affiliate marketing side of an online betting website, and like everywhere online the competition is intense.

There are plugins available for WordPress to run your own affiliate marketing program and most travel agency booking programs allow affiliate setups.

This can work well for name recognition without upfront payments for advertising.

This introduction to digital marketing will now act as an outline for all my blog posts for the next six months. What are your own thoughts, have I missed something important?  Let me know below.