Digital Marketing for Dummies: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started


What is Digital Marketing?

You’ve probably heard of digital/online/internet marketing before. But since you’re reading this, you’re not exactly an expert. And that’s alright, we all start somewhere.

The bad news is, digital marketing is extremely complex – the good news is, digital marketing doesn’t have to be complicated.

People send their entire lives mastering just one aspect of digital marketing, and its always changing – but you can learn it without your head spinning if you know where to start and stay focused (hint: you’re in the right place).

Let’s start with a simple definition: Digital marketing, aka online marketing or internet marketing, is any activity carried out with the intention of bringing more of your ideal customer to your business using the internet.

Essentially, whether you’re simply getting someone’s attention or asking them to buy from you it’s digital marketing (if done over the internet).

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Marketing for Dummies: The Primary Marketing Channels

A good internet marketing for dummies article wouldn’t be complete without a proper list of the main methods (we call them marketing channels) you can utilize to bring more people to your business:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Pay-per-click Advertising
  • Email Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing

Each of these marketing channels goes deep – and it can be difficult to personally master more than one. We recommend you learn a bit about each, and then find digital marketing specialists in each discipline to help your journey.

Once we go through these primary channels, you should have a clearer picture of what a comprehensive digital marketing strategy looks like. Let’s go.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the art of improving your websites visibility in Google.

No doubt you have spent a lot of time, energy & money becoming a trusted and informed and authoritative leader in your industry in the real world, SEO is how you do that all over again but for Google.

Whats the point? Well, when you are seen as the expert, and people are aware that you exist, you get alot of business. This is true in real life & in Google.

One of the primary goals of SEO should be to bring new people to your business who have a specific problem or need that your business solves. Specifically, these would be people looking for a solution you provide, but they don’t know about you – yet.

For example, let’s say you provide marketing services in Los Angeles, CA and you want to acquire more clients. A good SEO campaign would help your business show up in front of people who know they need marketing services, they live in Los Angeles, and they want to choose a provider.

Are they going to search for your business by name? No. Because they don’t know you exist yet. They are going to search using the words they know: For example, they might search for “internet marketing company los angeles”. This is called a Keyword.

Using some nifty SEO Tools, we can see that this “keyword” has a “search volume” of 300 – that means this phrase is typed into Google 300 times a month – that’s alot of people needing marketing!

If you want those 300 searchers a month to consider your business as a potential provider of the solution to their problems – then you need to have good SEO.

How does SEO work? It is broken down into 4 main categories:

  1. On-Page SEO
  2. Off-Page SEO
  3. Technical SEO
  4. Content SEO

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website pages for maximum SEO impact – things like ensuring you have proper HTML markup on your content (if gives you more rankings push) keyword optimized titles, multimedia, schema etc.

Off-page SEO consists primarily of creating backlinks. In simple terms, these are links that live another website but send the person who clicks on them from where they are to where you are. You can think of this like other websites on the internet giving you a “referral” or a “vote” or “vouching” for you – they are effectively telling Google and the general public “we recommend you go over here and check out this website

Technical SEO has to do with optimizing things on your website so that Google can best understand, interpret & display information from your site. This can get very technical even to explain but it comprises things like site structure, page speed, code optimization, robots.txt, keyword cannibalization, etc.

Content SEO is about optimizing individual pieces of content on your website, and the structure of how they all relate to each other, to give your website the best chance of being seen by Google as an authority on the topics you cover.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Consider this SEO’s cousin, because this marketing channel also gets you results on the SERP (search engine result pages). Only, this cousin charges money to show your website.

The primary way SEM works is through a method called Pay Per Click advertising (PPC)

Pay per click means that you literally pay every time someone clicks on your link. Where do you show up? Well, whatever platform you want to show up on.

You start by heading to one of the big boys where everyone hangs out (Google, Facebook, Bing, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Then, you pay them to prominently display your website or offer whenever someone searches for one of the products/services you sell (or really anything you want to pay for) – BUT you only pay them when a person clicks on your result.

The amount you have to spend to accomplish this varies on competition. You can see the results of SEM on the search engine result page with the “Ad” or “Ads” icon next to it.

Paid advertising is typically more expensive than other types of digital marketing – but it gets results FAST. If you need new sales ASAP, paid ads is the way to go.

Social Media Marketing

By now everyone knows about social media – and using it to grow your business is really what social media marketing is.

We’re talking about being active on the social channels where your ideal customers are – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, Pinterest, Quora, etc.

There’s no denying that social media helps boost brand awareness and sales – pretty much everyone is spending a large portion of their day (and their entire time standing in lines) on social media.

One key takeaway for a successful social media marketing campaign is to provide the right type of content for the platform – for instance, people typically don’t like long form content on Facebook, but will consume long videos on YouTube.

Winning at social media marketing means:

  • Consistently creating relevant content for each platform
  • Respond to your audience
  • Provide value
  • Be patient

Content Marketing

Content marketing is all about providing valuable information to your audience in the form of consumable content.

Consider the purpose of the content on your product/service pages, the posts you publish on your blog, and even the articles you publish on other websites that help position you as an expert in your industry/niche.

These are all examples of content marketing (and optimization).

For example, let’s say you are a tax consultancy and don’t have the budget for a huge brand presence.

A smart content marketing move can be publishing an article titled “10 Common Tax Mistakes that Can Cost You Dearly.”

A blog post like this can drive a significant amount of people (potential clients) to your website without having to pay for ads.

Creating content that is valuable to your audience is an amazing way to get started in digital marketing.

Pay-per-click (PPC) aka Paid Advertising

As obvious from the name, Pay Per Click means you will pay for every click you get on your ad.

Yes, it is similar to search engine marketing.

But remember that PPC is just one of the many types of SEM (aka advertising).

Facebook and Google Ads are by far the biggest platforms for Paid advertising. These platforms allow you to target your ideal buyer and show them ads.

Facebook’s advertising lets you get REALLY specific with targeting. I’m sure you’ve heard of this before from Brexit, Cambridge Analytica, the Trump Campaign, etc.

For example, you can show your ads to “men in Los Angeles aged 24 to 34 who like Quentin Tarantino.”

Your marketing simply cannot be this focused in the “physical world”.

Any advertising for dummies book, course or article you read will show you the power of ads. And in the online world, ads are extremely precise and very powerful.

Email Marketing

Email came long before all other channels and platforms you’ve read in this online marketing for dummies post thus far – but it’s still here – and it’s hugely important.

Many entrepreneurs and marketers consider their email list to be their most valuable business asset.

Email marketing is all about communicating directly with your target audience. It helps you retain long-term relationships, not just conduct transactional communications.

For example, you can what’s called a “drip campaign”. These are automated email campaigns that follow up with users automatically. Write them once, and they keep working for years to come.

There are plenty of email marketing tools to help you out with your campaigns and monetize your email list.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is basically getting paid by a company for referring people to their product. You see it all the time.

Many big box retailers have affiliate programs – they pay you for helping them make sales.

When a referral from you buys a product from the company you are an “affiliate” of, you get paid.

Amazon is the perfect example. After signing up for their affiliate program you get a link for all their product pages, and will get paid 3-10% on things that they buy.

You can put affiliate links in your blog posts, emails, on your social media, or send them directly to friends you think might be interested. If they click on the link and buy the product, the company you are an affiliate of pays you a nice little commission.

Many people have made this their main business and are earning an insane amount of money through this. It’s a great way to get started making money online if you don’t have your own business.

What’s Next?

Now you have a basic understanding of online marketing. Of course, there’s a lot more to be said about the various marketing channels discussed here. But for now, you’ve built a solid base.

So, which one of the channels you learned in this online marketing for dummies article will you use?

There’s no one right answer, and you’ll probably want to use several of these in tandem to personalize your marketing campaign to suit your brand’s needs.

This article by Devin Schumacher first appeared on SERP Co.