What is a digital marketing agency?

So what is a digital marketing agency? What do they sell? Who to? and what are the benefits? We take a look at the kind of things to consider if you are looking for a new website or digital marketing campaign.

What we will cover

What is a digital marketing agency then?

There are many different definitions you might come across for digital marketing – some more helpful than others. We prefer to explain it in as simple terms as possible.

In old school marketing, businesses promoted their goods and services through the Yellow Pages, news ads, the classifieds, radio, TV or word of mouth. Digital marketing uses new technology like PCs, smartphones and tablets, and new channels, like the internet, social media networks and mobile apps to achieve the same aims.

Digital marketing is not just about using new media in the same old way. It is about getting to grips with a whole new paradigm of communication. One that is interactive rather than spoon-fed; multi-channel rather than single source and, done properly, one that frankly blows traditional marketing out of the water.

This article demystifies some of the components of digital marketing, helping you to understand how everything fits together.

Isn’t it just about having a website?

If you build it they will come, right?

Well no, unfortunately, at the time of writing there are 1.7 billion websites, and half a million are added every day.

The old approach of getting online meant instant visibility and therefore instant enquiries, nowadays the web is so cluttered and so highly competed that you can launch a website and be entirely invisible.

This has lead to businesses using their website as the conversion point, i.e. the point where you convince someone to get in touch to become a potential customer (a lead) and using other tools to promote  visibility.

But someone has to be top of google of course, and that can be very valuable depending on what search term you are top for. So let’s start there…

Starting With That SEO Thing?

A big element in most digital marketing campaigns is Search Engine Optimisation – or SEO. This is a fancy term for setting up your website, blog and other online content so that enough of the right type of people are sent your way when they search for things on Google.

Why don’t we call it Google Optimisation? Good question; it’s the same as the difference between Hoovering and vacuum cleaning. Google Search is just one brand of search engine and there are plenty of others (Bing, Yahoo! Search, etc.) It’s just that Google is by far the most often used and the one whose secret algorithm (set of instructions) is of most interest to digital marketers. Some niche industries may actually be served better by alternative search engines so it’s worth knowing they exist.

SEO can be thought of as trying to bake a cake. You know most of the ingredients but not the quantities; there are also ingredients you may not be aware of. Bad SEO is just grabbing loads of ingredients, chucking them into a bowl and hoping for the best. Good SEO is finding out as many clues about the recipe as you can, looking at what other great cakes there are out there and using all that knowledge to bake the best cake possible.

Some of the ingredients in SEO are part of the hidden structure of your website – like the egg that binds things together – whereas others are in the content and this needs to be built up over time (after all, you can’t bake a cake in a microwave).

If you did nothing else when you start out with your website, then write out a list of your product and services, and create an individual page for each. In order to help those pages perform for a search term, you need to research what people are searching and then add that term to various parts of the page.

This recipe is well known to digital agencies and will save you an extraordinary amount of time. But just doing this doesn’t mean you will fly to the top of google for a broad search term, you will need to earn googles trust over time by creating educational, sharable content.

Therein lies the value of a blog, with regular content focusing on longer keywords or customer questions, you can establish your reputation as an industry expert.

But what if you need some instant attention? Is there a way of boosting your visibility in the short-term?

Oh yes there is…

Pay per click (PPC or Google AdWords)

Now there are a lot of free services provided by Google: search engine, maps, social media platform (Google+), communications hub (Hangouts), analytics, YouTube and more. But they have to make their money somehow and the vast bulk of that is through advertising.

Google AdWords is where you can pay Google to prioritise your products and services on the Google Search engine results pages (SERPs) and/or on the wider Google Display Network which serves ads to third-party sites. On the whole, these ads play alongside relevant content – well mostly, hey Google 😉

AdWords works on a bidding system whereby you get to design a text or display ad and choose (or let Google choose) an amount you’re willing to pay whenever someone clicks it. This is what is known as ‘Pay-per-Click’ or PPC advertising and, at its simplest, you can literally just set a daily budget and let your campaign auto-run.

On the other hand, it is possible to micro-manage your ad campaigns to the nth degree and that can really work wonders for conversion. A digital marketing agency will focus time on picking and grouping keywords based on buyer intent and years of expertise, adding negative keywords, reviewing engagement and bidding times and lots more.

The flexible and affordable nature of PPC makes it very attractive to businesses looking to attract immediate attention to their website or sales pages. However, unlike the so-called ‘organic’ SEO mentioned earlier, PPC is a short-term strategy fuelled by cash. As soon as you stop putting the money in, the web visits will drop.

A mixture of organic SEO and PPC can be ideal depending on your business goals and Vu Online can go through this with you when looking at your digital marketing strategy.

Reaching Out Through Email Marketing

Some people say email is dead. Great; that’s a bit less competition for you. The truth is that email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing tools out there.

Email marketing is powered by ‘the list,’ – all of the email addresses you have solicited and stored through your other digital marketing activity (note the word ‘solicited’ – sending bulk emails to everyone you’ve ever met is not only inefficient, it will get you blocked and maybe even shut down!)

Email addresses can be obtained through free giveaways related to your industry. Simply offer something of value – a piece of content, an online app, a promotional product – and ask for an email address in exchange. Since the visitor has already expressed an interest in your knowledge or service and has agreed to engaging in conversation you now have a qualified lead.

To do email marketing properly, every follow-up email you send needs to be personal and conversational rather than simply promotional. However, each email should be designed to encourage readers to click through to a relevant service page. This is termed a ‘call to action’ – or CTA. If you are running a blog, that content can be ideal material for your emails.

Get setup properly through a third party system like Mailchimp and use their prebuilt templates to start getting back in touch with customers who may have forgotten you’re there. A digital marketing agency can help by doing this for you, helping you create the content or designing new templates.

Going Social – Sharing is In!

Once upon a time someone had the bright idea that our social drives are so strong that most of us could be easily encouraged to divulge all of our personal details to a network of like-minded people.

That little network grew to the size of a large country and set off a social revolution as it became clear that most of us are happy to share just about anything with anyone as long as it’s free.

It’s quite ironic that advertisers had been trying for decades to prize open the lids to our inner worlds and then Facebook came along and made privacy pretty much obsolete.

For digital marketers, social media advertising has made it possible to slice up a market into the finest detail. Now we can not only target by age, gender, occupation, interests and location etc. We can even select people who have updated their milestone life events.

So, take a wedding photographer looking for business, being able to put that service in front of women in Devon who have recently changed their life status to engaged makes for a pretty niche and qualified advert.

This is the art of the marketer, a digital marketing agency can help you identify these strategies by understanding the tools and options you have available to you, as well as having inside knowledge of how well something may perform based on past experience.

If nothing else, using social media to communicate with customers is a nice way to stay in touch, but requires a change in tone from the usual corporate approach. Content has to be chatty, light and engaging and encourage people to share, comment and, of course, plaster with emojis.

Getting Down to Business

Of course, once you’ve wowed people with your industry wisdom, charmed them with your social graces and excited them with your promises you still have to ‘close the deal’ – when the time is right.

Landing or product pages (which are often designed to be hidden from your main menu and accessed only via online ads or CTAs) need to be designed solely to convert visits to sales.

It needs to incorporate – or lead to – a secure payment gateway. We recommend Stripe for card payments since it only asks for three pieces of information and is therefore less likely to lead to your shopping cart being abandoned.

So, what is a digital marketing agency then?

All or some of this may sound like news to you, but is a daily occurrence for the digital marketing agency.

Ultimately your business will require marketing input to help it generate consistent leads and sales at some point and partnering up with someone you trust as early as possible can open doors you didn’t realise were there.

SEO, PPC, Email marketing, social media, landing pages, payment gateways – as you can see, there’s a lot going on with this digital marketing malarkey.

However, the real art is pulling it all together to create a digital marketing campaign that works for your specific business.

Pulling it all Together

Every industry is different and every business within that is unique. This is why Vu Online choose to work with companies who understand that building an online presence is a process not a one-time project or just a website.

If you just want a website then our services are probably not for you – at this time.

However, if you are ready to embrace the challenge of becoming a competitive force in an increasingly digital world then we would love to be part of that journey. Hopefully, this has helped showcase what is a digital marketing agency, if you think you need that support, embed us into your business with a Tribe package, or look at our range of services. If your looking for more tips then check out the digital marketing category – now you know! 

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