While “niching down” is key for mastering one area, you still need a solid understanding of these digital marketing fundamentals to lead in marketing.
Marketing budgets as a percentage of company revenue fell from 11% to 6.4% in 2021, the lowest proportion allocated to marketing in the history of Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey.
For SEO professionals and marketing organization leaders trying to fund growth and recovery by doing more with less, revisiting your budget and available resources ahead of 2022 is essential.
It’s always good practice to allocate a portion of the budget to innovating and testing new ideas. But that part of the budget may shrink as marketers look for tried and proven digital marketing strategies and tactics to maximize performance this year.
In this column, we’ll explore 10 fundamental areas of digital marketing knowledge and opportunities you may want to tap into (as you plan for the months and years ahead).
1. Understanding Your Digital Presence – All Of It
Sure, you have a good handle on your owned media. After all, these are the pieces of content, listings and profiles, websites, and other assets you created yourself.
And you had better know where and when your brand is appearing online in paid placements.
But earned media can be tricky. If you aren’t actively monitoring for brand mentions, relevant social content, online reviews, and inbound links, do you really have a clear picture of your web presence as a whole?
“Earned” isn’t only what you actively sought out to build. Social listening, search insights, and reputation monitoring help you inventory and monitor your web presence as a whole.
2. The Fundamentals Of How Search Engines Work
SEO has evolved from a single digital marketing channel into the business intelligence nerve center of the organization.
Having a firm grasp of how search engines work will help you and your team not only optimize content for discovery but also deepen your understanding of how people search, learn, and consume content, as well.
Developing an appreciation for the intricacies of search engine crawling and indexing will guide you in structuring websites and pages for maximum visibility.
Knowing how search algorithms rank content – and what the algorithm cannot do – can help you better optimize content and more quickly diagnose issues when your analytics point to them.
Don’t forget that Google isn’t the only search engine game in town, too.
3. Digital User Experience And Customer Journeys
“Build it and they will come” may have worked in Field of Dreams but it just doesn’t fly in digital marketing.
Succeeding in attracting an audience requires that you have a deep, meaningful understanding of who those people are and what problems you solve for them.
Google knows it, too – its algorithm updates are increasingly focused on improving the experiences people are having online and removing friction in each customer’s journey.
Today’s consumer understands that the sacrifice of privacy inherent to online tracking is a value exchange. They expect personalized experiences in return.
Across devices, sessions, and platforms, customers expect seamless interactions and experiences from start to finish.
This holistic view across the customer lifecycle will be table stakes going forward.
4. The Fundamentals Of Competitor Analysis
The art and science of competitor analysis are evolving; in the online space, competitors may not be who you think.
Yes, you’re competing for “airtime” with other businesses that sell products and services like yours.
But today, companies are competing against media publications, social networks and forums, map pack business listings, video and photo assets, and more in increasingly rich and diverse search results.
There are an increasing number of potential touchpoints for competitors, as well – podcast and video ads, push notifications from geofencing, influencer marketing, and augmented reality in physical spaces among them.
It’s essential that you have a clear view of who is getting in front of your customers and how. Not so you can replicate their efforts – that’s no way to stand out.
Competitor analysis will inform budget allocation to the content types, ad networks, and campaigns that will keep your brand top of mind and positioned ahead of the pack in every possible channel.
Content is so integral to marketing’s success that we’re now seeing marketing agencies and brands acquire their own content studios.
Two recent examples of this trend are MSQ’s acquisition of creative production studio Brave Spark and Made Thought’s being scooped up by WPP.
You may not be in a position to build or buy an entire in-house studio. The size of your organization and the scope of your content needs will guide the best production strategy.
For some, this means bringing writers, editors, videographers, photographers, and other creatives in-house.
Others choose to augment in-house marketing teams with an agency or freelance creatives – or even to turn production over entirely to external contractors.
What matters most is not how it comes together but that your brand has the people, processes, and tools in place to create and promote optimized content at the scale your audience’s demand requires.
5. Content And Digital Marketing
Hard-won, long-lasting organic search results are valuable but most digital marketing strategies have an element of paid promotion, too.
There’s no shortage of options on the paid side, from display and SEM to native ads, social media advertising, out-of-home (OOH) and digital out-of-home (DOOH), and beyond.
Expanding your knowledge of online advertising fundamentals means understanding:
- Paid media pricing models such as CPM or CPC.
- The advertising platforms and tactics available in your space.
- Different types of ad creative including text, video, and imagery.
- Advances in ad technologies, such as Smart Bidding.
- Privacy issues and their impact on the quantity and quality of data available to you.
- Changing consumer behaviors and the impact this has on what resonates in the ad copy.
Staying current on what’s happening in the ever-evolving paid media landscape is essential for all digital marketers – not only those directly responsible for campaign management.
For SEO pros, email marketers, content marketers, and the CMOs who drive strategy, developing a deeper understanding of paid media can help you make better use of it for complementing and augmenting all types of campaigns.
7. Social Media
Social media is still a great channel for getting found and engaging potential customers.
Business features vary by platform but at the very least, your brand should claim all available profiles and listings. If you are less active on some, use the description or attributes to point prospects to connect on your more active channels.
Some forget that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other networks each have search functions of their own that consumers can use to find relevant businesses, too.
On social, consumers are looking for brands to be authentic and responsive. They may be reading reviews on Facebook or niche social networks before converting, so monitoring for and responding to new reviews is key.
Have workflows and permissions in place to ensure front-line social marketers are empowered to engage but there are brand protections in place. Have clearly defined customer service and issue escalation processes available to ensure each interaction is as positive and useful as possible.
8. The Fundamentals Of Analytics
The Coronavirus pandemic taught many a marketing team about the risks of relying solely on historic data to guide future performance.
Having access to real-time (or as near real-time as possible) analytics is essential in a world where technological innovations, financial and socioeconomic factors, and more can change the business landscape in the blink of an eye.
Again, this is an area where you may not be entirely proficient – and that’s okay. You do not need to achieve mastery in Google Analytics 4 to put it to work for your organization.
Rather, you should have a base understanding of what analytics platforms are available, which types of data deliver the most valuable insights, and what types of professionals can best drive your analytical processes.
This awareness will help you build a team and select the tools you’ll use to fuel the next fundamental area of digital marketing on our list: business intelligence.
9. Activating Data As Business Intelligence
As consumer touchpoints increase in volume and frequency, marketing leaders are finding that disconnected point solutions just don’t cut it anymore.
Having access to descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analysis inside a single, user-friendly dashboard drives the types of insights and optimizations that truly move the needle.
Organizations must be able to look beyond themselves in order to identify new opportunities and money being left on the table. Customer behavior, competitive analysis, real-time search insights, and macroeconomic trends all fuel business decision-making.
And in the current environment, it’s next to impossible to analyze that data at any sort of scale (let alone activating it via analysis) at any sort of scale.
Which brings us to our final point: intelligent automation.
10. Programmatic, Machine Learning, And Automation
Automated media buying is not new but growing rapidly, and programmatic ad spend is expected to top $100 billion in 2022.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are making organic media more exciting, as well, as we move beyond predictive analytics and recommended optimizations to actually having technology assist in personalizing content in real-time.
AR/VR is creating deeper connections between customers and brands and delivering more seamless, immersive experiences.
In fact, we’re on the cusp of wide stream adoption of the metaverse, that untapped virtual universe in which we’ll be able to bring elements of our physical world. The implications for marketing are not yet known, and the anticipation is palpable.
Whether your business is using intelligent automation in your business processes, improving ad targeting and ROI with programmatic, or looking to create an entirely new virtual world for customers, staying current on emerging digital marketing technologies will serve you well.
SEO As The Leader In Digital Transformation in 2022
As the bridge between IT, marketing, and sales and the arbiters of all things data, SEO professionals are well-positioned to lead their organizations through digital transformation in 2022.
Whether your focus is technical SEO, content optimizations, link building, or local – or whatever size organization you work with, be it small business to enterprise – having a holistic understanding of all digital marketing channels and tactics positions you to lead going forward.