This blog has been co-authored by Barry Buckman and Fran Jakubowicz
An interesting back story.
In a recent LinkedIn post, I asked marketing colleagues the following:
“What will be your big digital marketing investment this year? Slow but Steady SEO? Quick & high converting PPC? The power of social media?”
Participants were given three options to choose from; SEO, PPC, or SMM – and they could only choose one answer. The very question, was near impossible to respond to because a good digital marketing campaign almost invariably includes an omnichannel approach, right? And what about the plethora of marketing strategies I omitted like email marketing, influencer marketing, and beyond? Still, my goal was to get a visceral response from my peers to ascertain how they were most likely prioritizing marketing in-house. Here are the results of the poll:
As the poll above showed, while SEO was the winner, PPC and SMM weren’t far behind. It’s confusing, even for veteran marketers, to decide where best to invest their digital marketing efforts. To make a judicious decision, marketers need to consider a number of variables including:
Let’s start to explore these 3 core digital marketing pillars (with some useful resources listed after each section).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a system to gain visibility in Google and other search engines by ranking in queries (for non-branded keywords or keyphrases) that will showcase your website’s pages in search results, ultimately generating more and targeted website traffic. The more high-quality traffic you have from organic traffic, the higher likelihood that you will achieve your online goals.
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Sometimes known as paid search marketing or search engine advertising, Pay Per Click (PPC) is an advertising model used to drive targeted traffic to a website (or app). In simple terms, an advertiser (website owner) will pay a publisher (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to place an ad on their network and pay the publisher for that exposure . In its most classical form, Google (and Bing) search ads allow advertisers to bid on relevant keywords in an ads auction that will help them reach targeted potential customers, and pay Google every time their ad is clicked
The nature and mindset of PPC is very different from that of SEO. Your focus will not be on rankings or even traffic. Instead, you will need to be hyperfocused on metrics such as conversion rates, cost per aquisition, and the return on investment that your campaigns provide for you.
A paid social media campaign (sometimes referred to as social advertising) also falls under the umbrella of PPC. Serving up ads to a targeted audience based on interest and demographic targeting as opposed to keywords, these ads are designed to achieve a number of digital goals (sales, leads, app downloads, etc.) video views, and many other KPIs.
According to Wikipedia, social media (think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) “are interactive digital channels that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks”. There are two types of Social Media Marketing (SMM) approaches, organic and paid:
An organic (non-paid) social marketing campaign will be built around published curated content on one or more popular social media platforms to build a brand’s consumer fan base. Content may include posts, memes, videos, photos, stories, and more. To target audiences, marketers need to rely on hashtags, the use of audience-specific groups based on interest or industry, and a/b testing of content to manually see who is engaging with your content with the hopes that they are relevant.
Social Media Marketing Resouces
To keep things simple we’ve broken down goals into 3 main categories: Lead Generation, eCommerce product sales and brand awareness. Which will be the right channels to achieve these goals? Read on.
Digital lead generation is the process of identifying, attracting, and transforming online users into a prospect or “lead”. The lifeblood of any business, a lead is identified when a user shows interest in a company’s products or services by taking an action. Depending upon campaign goals i.e. engaging with users at the top of the funnel vs. the Bottom of the funnel, a sales team may identify these users by type:
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): A user who has downloaded a whitepaper or filled out a quiz in exchange for an email address but isn’t ready to be contacted by phone. They are in the warmup stage and will likely be added to an email drip campaign or remarketing campaign for further warm-up.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): A user who has filled out a contact form or clicked to call the company directly. In other words, they are showing clear interest in becoming a customer.
Recommended Channel: PPC
PPC will be the most successful source of qualified leads (and service-based sales) for a lead generation campaign. There are a variety of paid channels to consider with Google Search being only one. Consider if you are targeting a B2C (business to customer) or B2B (business to business) audience.
eCommerce refers to transactional sales (buying and selling of goods and services) that occur online, and these can be both B2B or B2C and even C to C (consumer to consumer, think eBay) and C2B (Consumer to Business, think Upwork or Fiverr).
Classically when we think of eCommerce, we think of product sales. This also has a variety of models like private labeling, dropshipping subscription, Freemium, and beyond. Furthermore, an eCommerce website may be brand-focused or may resell multiple brands, it may be a marketplace (think Amazon). Regardless of the model, when it comes to eCommerce there is a clear winner.
Recommended Channel: PPC
Service sales work very similarly lead generation with one difference. When a user is driven to a website or landing page, rather than filling out a form, they will be prompted into a funnel to purchase a service directly. Product Sales on the other hand may rely on Google Shopping ads. Shopping ads are possibly the most engaged ad type in Google’s ad network. According to Shopify, “Shopping ads account for over 60% of their paid clicks..and consistently deliver some of the highest return on ad spend of any paid channel.” Shopping ads, also referred to as Product Listing Ads (PLAs), are the ads that appear in Google Search results when a user enters a product-related Google search. They appear in main search results, on the shopping tab in Google, on price comparison engines, and beyond.
Brand awareness is a marketing term that describes the ability of prospective and current customers to remember or recognize a consumer brand ( as compared to the competition) and to share their brand story and brand values. It’s one of the first steps in the marketing funnel of a new product or service. In certain verticals, this can serve as an importantThis is a “warm-up” stage to encourage brand trust so that users will go through the funnel and take action.
Recommended channel: Social Media
According to Statista “as of 2022, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 147 minutes per day, up from 145 minutes in the previous year”. With this much usage, combined with excellent targeting capabilities social media has become one of the first places brands invest. Social media channels allow brands to build relationships because the brand can engage directly with users and users can engage directly with the brand in real-time. Furthermore, it’s one of the least expensive ways to strengthen a relationship and personalize customer experiences, manage customer feedback, answer product or service questions, or just say thank you with a coupon or give-away. It makes the engagement authentic and human.
Social Media is also the only channel that will help you tell your brand story. Social media provides a myriad of ways to share strong, visual content that will help to tell your story in an impactful and hopefully unforgettable way (think stories, reels, posts, etc.). This is a brand’s opportunity to share why the company was created, how their product or service benefits humanity, showcase the members of their team as well as testimonials from happy customers.
This is where I’m a little sneaky.
SEO can’t be relied on as a sure-fire methodology to meet your online goals. That said, it should be unswervingly invested in, despite the fact that it requires an enormous amount of attention, both on site and off as it will drive qualified traffic to your website.
If we harken back to the poll results shared at the beginning of the article, SEO was the winner, no surprises there – but there are no “quick fixes” with SEO. It can only be relied on as a long-term strategy. Rely on the recommended channels above to get the most out of your strategic efforts.