Are you a freelance creative looking to promote your business? Learn how to create a successful digital marketing strategy with our digital marketing guide.
Are you a freelance designer keen to build your portfolio, a creative agency looking to grow your client base, or an entrepreneur launching a new business? Digital marketing can significantly improve your ability to establish an effective online presence. This digital marketing guide will look at all the essential elements that make up a successful digital marketing strategy – from developing a consistent visual identity and social media strategy to getting to grips with SEO. By the end of the guide, you’ll be able to create a digital marketing plan, define your brand, assess your competition, set up your channels, and measure results. Let’s go!
- What Is Digital Marketing?
- How Does Digital Marketing Work?
- Benefits of Digital Marketing
- How to Get Started with Digital Marketing
- Define Brand Foundations
- Perform Competitor Analysis
- Determine Business Goals
- Establish a Social Media Presence
- Create a Website
- Get to Grips with SEO
- Utilize Online Advertising
- Generate Customer Reviews & Testimonials
- Track and Measure Results
What Is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing promotes and sells your products or services through digital platforms and online tools. From showcasing new products on Instagram Stories to raising awareness for networking events via a subscriber newsletter, digital marketing spans a variety of channels and formats. Your website, social media channels, display advertising, email program, influencer marketing, content marketing, and SEO combined will help you expand your reach, increase brand awareness and inspire potential customers to take action.
It’s essential for business owners to develop a digital marketing strategy to connect with their audience and convert them into customers.
How Does Digital Marketing Work?
You might have heard talk of customer journeys or – in B2B circles – the concept of moving prospects through the funnel. While this sounds rather technical, marketing is about getting your message in front of the right people at the right time. Unlike traditional advertising – like billboards, newspaper ads, or TV commercials – digital marketing refers to the range of online touchpoints available to advertisers.
The ‘customer journey‘ – or ‘sales funnel‘ – refers to the different steps the customer experiences, from awareness to advocacy. While each business labels these actions differently, it’s vital to identify the online channels where your customers and clients are active and develop appropriate messaging to target them at each stage.
What Are the Benefits of Digital Marketing?
One of the main advantages of digital marketing over traditional marketing is its ability to target a specific audience, engage potential customers and enter into a two-way conversation. Digital marketing is constantly evolving, so it’s essential to adjust your advertising tactics continually. And while developing and executing a successful strategy takes time and effort, it can be an incredibly cost-effective way of marketing your business and creating a personalized approach to reach the ‘right’ people.
Digital marketing has many benefits, including:
- Building awareness for your brand
- Enabling engagement with target audiences before and after a purchase
- Turning potential customers into purchasers and brand advocates
- Growing brands through social media sharing and word-of-mouth
- Closing gaps in the customer journey by presenting your messages at the right time
How to Get Started With Digital Marketing
If you’re keen to take advantage of digital marketing and its benefits, we’re here to help you get started. That means creating content that informs or inspires your audiences, optimizing content so they can easily find it online, posting on social media to engage and entertain followers, and considering advertising options to generate paid traffic.
If this sounds a little overwhelming, don’t worry – we’ve broken the process into nine simple steps to help you to develop a solid digital marketing strategy for your business.
1. Define Your Brand Foundations
Considering how your brand looks and sounds, who it speaks to, and what it stands for will lay the foundation for a successful digital marketing strategy. Because if you don’t understand your business, how can you expect potential customers to?
Your visual identity should inform everything you create, share and distribute. From an instantly recognizable logo – think of Nike’s iconic swoosh logo or Airbnb’s Bélo – to choosing fonts and colors that are eye-catching and recognizable – like McDonald’s unmissable golden arches and red-and-yellow scheme. Maintaining a consistent tone of voice is also essential – playful, professional, or somewhere in between.
Other considerations include identifying your target audience and defining your unique selling point (USP). Your USP should set you apart from the competition and encourage people to choose you over your competitors. Find what makes you stand out and communicate it through your digital marketing strategy. For example, outdoor clothing brand Kathmandu wears its mission statement – a commitment to sustainability – on its sleeve with a dedicated highlights reel on its Instagram page.
2. Perform Competitor Analysis
We’ve already mentioned how important it is to understand what sets you apart from your competition, but you can also learn a lot from other businesses. That’s where competitor analysis can come in handy.
First, create a list of your competitors. It should include:
- Direct competitors: brands offering the same products or services as you.
- Indirect competitors: brands offering different products or services but operating in the same space as you
- Comparators: brands that are similar to yours and target the same audience as you.
Second, start researching by:
- Asking your customers what they like about alternative brands.
- Searching various terms relating to your business and seeing where your competition ranks.
- Reading your competitors’ reviews, visiting their website and social channels, and signing up for their newsletter.
- Use online tools like SE Ranking to determine competitor site rankings and web traffic. It will analyze competitors in organic and paid search, and show the dynamics.
Take inspiration from what works, take note to avoid what doesn’t, and – in noting your similarities and differences – you can start to define a unique approach and identify any potential gaps in the market that your offer can fill. Envato Elements offers plenty of competitor-analysis templates to get you started – such as this Competitor Analysis template by designfetch.
3. Determine Your Business Goals
Chances are, your long-term goal is to run a commercially successful business. Take some time to note what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it. While long-term goals can be a helpful guide, it’s often more beneficial to build your digital marketing strategy around short-term goals. These could be as simple as growing your social media followers or website traffic, increasing monthly sales or revenue, or developing a loyal customer base or online community.
Try to determine which short-term objectives will best benefit your long-term business goals. For example, if you’ve recently launched and want to attract followers, then an awareness-building social media campaign is the way to go.
4. Establish a Social Media Presence
Social media has an unparalleled ability to nurture relationships and interact with customers – often without spending a cent. So it’s no surprise that social media marketing should form a considerable part of your digital marketing strategy.
Before you create an account on every social media channel, find out where your target audience spends most of their time online and explore the platforms where your competition has a presence. In addition, think about the kind of content you plan to post and select a channel accordingly – for example, Instagram and TikTok are great for short, snappy video assets. At the same time, Twitter offers the opportunity to interact in real-time and join a broader conversation. Like content marketing company HDY AGENCY – based in Birmingham, UK – which uses its Twitter account to establish itself as an industry expert while sharing tips and tricks with fellow creators.
Ensure your brand’s visual identity is consistent across every platform, as this will garner familiarity and build trust with your audience. If you’re not particularly familiar with social media or concerned about your creative or technical abilities – not to fear! You can use social media templates that fit the specifications of your chosen platform. Templates are a great way to keep your content looking professional and consistent.
To run a successful social media campaign, use social media creation, planning, and management tools such as Falcon, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Tweetdeck. These programs can save you time by scheduling posts and collating your data analytics – allowing you to focus on other areas of your business.
In addition to your social media platforms, an email newsletter is another great way of establishing meaningful connections and building a community. London-based creative champion It’s Nice That sends subscribers a weekly edit packed with popular stories, design memes, exciting anecdotes, and relevant recommendations.
5. Create a Website
If you build it, they will come! But you can still do several things to optimize your website – all of which can enhance your brand and make your website a place people want to visit.
First, it’s crucial to ensure your site is mobile-friendly – meaning that your website is consistent across all devices, such as desktop computers, tablets, or smartphones. Many website design and builder tools, like Envato’s Template Kits, offer responsive templates.
An optimized mobile site will help your website rank higher in search engine results, as will using keywords across your online content and meta titles, meta descriptions, and image alt tags.
In addition, your website should be easy to navigate, contain links to your social channels and all other necessary information, and be consistent with your branding. It’s also worth familiarizing yourself with the latest web design trends to understand how user expectations change over time and how you can surprise and delight readers. For example, Brooklyn-based branding agency Dark Igloo is shaking up the standard ‘contact us’ page by including a 3D racing game.
6. Get to Grips with SEO
SEO is vital to make your brand or business visible online. However, it can be highly confusing if you’re unfamiliar with SEO best practices. Let’s dig into search engine optimization (SEO) in a little more detail and find out how to make your website – and by extension, your business – more discoverable online.
What Is SEO?
SEO aims to increase the chance of your web pages appearing in search engine results (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) for the terms your customers are looking for online. Because of this, it’s essential to carry out keyword research, find out what your customers are searching for, and optimize your content accordingly. For example, if you are a hairdresser in Venice, California, you want to be the first business locals see when looking for a haircut. Similarly, if you sell pet accessories online, you might want to go after phrases like ‘dog collars,’ ‘cat toys,’ and ‘hamster wheels.’
To get you started with optimizing your website SEO, here’s a basic checklist to follow:
- Perform keyword research and feature relevant terms in your content
Ensure to include relevant keywords throughout your website content —including page names, headlines, site copy, image captions, page descriptions, and URLs. It’s important to integrate keywords naturally – don’t add them simply for the sake of it.
- Create an organized website structure
Your website should be easy to navigate and understand. Add internal links to make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for, educate your visitor, answer a question, or encourage users to engage.
- Feature valuable content
While short-form, punchy content has its place, remember that Google prioritizes content that resolves the search intent. Pages with fewer than 200 words won’t rank highly, so ensure each page solves a problem, answers a question, or moves a visitor through your site.
- Make use of headings and title tags
A title tag or page tag is the “headline” for a page when it appears on search engine results pages (SERP). In combination with the meta description – a blurb that describes what your content provides – title tags can encourage users to click through to your website. It’s also key to use headings (such as H1, H2, and H3) to increase ease-of-navigation, and inform visitors what your content will cover.
- Add image alt text
An alt tag is a text description of an image. As search engines can’t interpret images, alt tags help them identify and rank your content and improve SEO. They also enhance accessibility by letting website visitors know what an image is about if it doesn’t display correctly or load quickly.
- Optimize your site for mobile
Google prioritizes mobile websites, so it’s vital to ensure your website is mobile-friendly and responsive across all devices.
- Prioritize fast load times
Ideally, your pages should load in under two seconds – if they do, it will likely improve your search rankings.
- Build authoritative backlinks
Including valuable external links to your content is another factor that can help your website rank well. If you are going to allocate resources to building backlinks, you need to make sure they’re good ones. Using a backlink API can help you evaluate their overall quality and monitor your competitors’ backlinks.
- Track Performance with Google Analytics
Google Analytics will help you track your site performance and highlight areas where you can improve.
- Ensure your website is secure
HTTPS encryption is essential, as Google will show a security warning in search results if your website is not HTTPS encrypted. Security warnings will significantly hurt your search ranking, so make website security a top priority.
To keep on top of the latest SEO trends and strengthen your approach, Google has a suite of handy tools – such as Analytics, Ads Keyword Planner, and PageSpeed Insights – that can help you analyze website performance and identify where to improve.
7. Utilize Online Advertising
So far, we’ve looked at organic strategies for boosting your business and generating online interest. But, if you have the budget, you might also want to explore some online advertising options to boost your business.
This form of internet marketing is where advertisers pay a fee each time someone clicks their ad – hence the term pay-per-click (PPC) ads. The aim is to launch CPC campaigns and push the advertiser’s website to the top of search engine results. While it’s simple to set a budget and get started with a tool like Google Ads, many dedicated PPC agencies worldwide can devise and execute a strategy for you.
Allowing you to reach consumers through a range of video formats, this form of online advertising commonly refers to promotional content that plays before, during, or after something a viewer is streaming on a platform such as YouTube. However, video ads are also used in display advertising as banners that appear based on a person’s browsing history – meaning you can target specific audience segments.
Display ads don’t have to be videos – they can also consist of text, imagery, audio, or anything that gets your message in front of potential buyers while browsing third-party sites. To help you get started, use an online tool like Google Display Network to build, post, manage, and track your ads.
Sponsored Social Posts
Paying to promote social media posts that appear in the news feeds of your target audience is a good way of growing your audience and raising awareness for your brand.
Some best practices for social posts include:
- Using a social media template to create eye-catching assets in line with the technical specifications of your chosen platform.
- Putting money behind posts that have already performed well organically.
- Targeting different segments of your audience by A/B testing multiple ads aimed at different demographics.
8. Generate Customer Reviews and Testimonials
With 89% of consumers worldwide opting to read reviews before buying products or engaging a service, business owners can’t afford to ignore the importance of testimonials and user feedback when establishing authenticity and building trust with their customer base. And with nearly four in five (79%) consumers saying they trust reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues, they are also a great way of fuelling word-of-mouth marketing.
When collecting feedback and making the most of this free form of advertising, you can invite customers to submit a testimonial via email – which you can then post to your website and share on social media. Alternatively, save time using a website plug-in that allows you to add reviews from different sources.
Tap into the power of peer-to-peer reviews by inviting customers to rate or review your products and services, like freelance graphic designer Casey Frushour who publishes testimonials from satisfied clients on a dedicated page on his website. You can also direct people to leave reviews on sites such as Yelp and Trustpilot or provide them with a survey to gather feedback. Or, to turn browsers into buyers, offer them a discount code or promotion using a pop-up on your landing pages.
9. Track and Measure Results
A digital marketing strategy is only as good as your ability to track its progress, measure your results, and determine what is (and isn’t) working. In other words, turning your learnings, data, and analytics into practical future business actions is crucial.
The metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) you decide to track will depend on your marketing objectives. For example, if you’re hoping to drive people from a blog post to your eCommerce site, you’ll want to measure click-through rates. If you’re unsure whether the video content you’re posting resonates with viewers, consider play rate – the percentage of people who played your video divided by the number of impressions it received – and video completions. And, if you’re hoping to build awareness via your social media channels, look at the likes, interactions, and shares your posts receive. By tracking the performance of these metrics over time, you’ll start to get a benchmark for how your digital marketing is performing and how you can improve your content in the future.
Make sure you have the proper performance tools to measure the success of your digital marketing strategy – including Google Analytics.
Get Started with Digital Marketing
From deciding on your brand’s look and feel to establishing an online presence and monitoring the success of your strategy, there’s plenty to consider when developing a digital marketing strategy.
There are, however, plenty of resources that can help guide the way – such as the Elements Blog, which contains valuable content on everything from social media marketing to email marketing. Meanwhile, Envato Elements has graphics, photos, templates, and website plug-ins that can take your online presence to the next level.
To improve your digital marketing skills, Tuts+ is overflowing with how-to videos and tutorials designed to teach you everything you need to know about digital marketing and content creation. Happy marketing!