Modern Digital Marketing FAQ And Answers

This is not meant to be comprehensive. Just some questions that come up a bit, about some less-clear aspects of digital marketing. 

Q: How has digital marketing changed since the birth of the Internet?

A: Matching capability (product to demographic) has gotten smarter. Basically, there’s an ‘arms race’ between webmasters and copywriters, and the engineers who develop the search engine algorithms – with one group wanting more visibility than they deserve, and the other correcting for their manipulations. Search is such a powerful modality for visibility because people are engaged and actively looking for your solution or product – even if they don’t want to see ads.

The ability for big data and artificial intelligence to ‘understand’ what your intent is, where you are in the buyer journey has never been greater. Tracking cookies are commonly used to gather information about aggregate buyer activities, and – when viewed by powerful computers and at scale – provide almost predictive capability for the bigger ad placement companies (Google, Facebook, etc.). Google has information from search/history, often from your phone and location (Android or iPhone), from your email (Gmail), from your browser (Android), and can compare this data with other users to help target ads.

Machines largely perfect the Google search algorithm at this point, again, based on training data learned from human behaviors and outcomes. Because the cost to compete has grown with PPC, many companies are moving to content marketing, and so Google is now tasked with discerning high quality content from everything else. As they say, “Google only loves you after everybody else already loves you.”

Personalization capability on sites like Amazon has grown a lot. They are often able to predict what you’ll purchase, from known signal capture that becomes more reliable with bigger and bigger data sets.

Signal Interpretation Has Improved. Ad placement companies like Google have a much greater ability to ‘make sense’ of buyer behaviors.

Cross-Platform Signal Capture Has Grown. 

Granular (Down To The User) Engagement And Domain Analytics For Authenticated Users. Individual companies can look at your web activity and history, if you go to their site, and, if you’ve got an account with them, they can tell when you’re ‘on’ their site, when you’ve opened emails, when you’ve downloaded something. The have this through your ‘authenticated’ email address, but it does expire.

Q: How have popular technical trends impacted digital marketing in the last 20 years or so? 

Ecommerce wasn’t immediately available when the Internet as we know it launched, sometime around 1994. It took a couple years, but by the year 2000, Amazon was slaying Barnes & Noble bookstores, and Yahoo! and its directory-based ‘front page of the Internet’ was being replaced by a simple search box, courtesy of Google. Google’s AdWords was game-changing for ecommerce. 

While many durable products – both large and small – could be shipped before ecommerce, they had to appear in a catalog. These are expensive to print, and simply not practical when inventory (e.g. books, or all the products at Wal-Mart) is expansive. Amazon and Ebay really changed things. 

While Ebay’s initial model (online auctions) permitted third-party vendors, Amazon eventually allowed z-shops; in this model, Amazon would only be the sales platform, not the vendor. This dramatically increased inventory without requiring more space to house items, and presaged Web 2.0, or the user-generated revolution. 

That change, circa 2010, impacted ecommerce and therefore marketing, in a variety of ways.

  1. Social media with dynamic feeds (Twitter, Facebook) appeared for the first time, or replaced Friendster and Myspace, permitting virality. 
  2. User-generated content, and social networks as ad delivery platforms appear. 
  3. Smart phones appear, providing almost non-stop ad service platforms. 
  4. The creation and consumption of content begins to be the leading edge of digital marketing that’s not ‘interruptive’ (paid, uninvited). 

Paid advertising continues to compete with organic or content, and click-through rates continue to fall. At present, there is a larger demand for content than ever, and more content being produced – but content must be ‘best in class’ and differentiated, a) to be visible in search, and b) to garner clicks and shares. 

Q: What is the difference between ‘marketing’ and ‘advertising’?

Put simply, advertising is a promotional message (something that serves the objective of enabling or encouraging commerce), and marketing is how you’re going to get that message before the right segment, in the right way, at the right time. Since a plan or approach to deliver a message to a market requires the message itself, advertising is considered a part of marketing. As marketing tools and ad placement platforms become more accessible to more people, marketers as well as business owners are creating their own ads and ad copy.

Q: How many types of marketing are there?

There are easily more than 100 types of marketing. You can find a list here.

Q: What are some basic categories of marketing? What is an easy way to organize marketing types?

A: Unearned (Paid), Earned, and Owned Media. Unearned is media or attention you pay for; earned is media is gathered through word-of-mouth.

Seller-Centric vs. Buyer-Centric. These are terms FlashPointLabs uses to differentiate between biased or sales copy that boasts about a vendor, and agnostic, helpful, content that your demographic discovers in search, that helps them – whether they purchase from you or not. A lot of companies don’t realize that to truly be buyer-centric, content cannot be invested in turning those who view it into customers.

Paid vs. Organic. ‘Paid’ is a modality where you spend money to get traffic. ‘Organic’ means you’re not spending money for each visitor – even if you are spending money on copy and content.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing. This is newer terminology for ‘paid’ vs. ‘organic’. ‘Inbound’ means leads and traffic are coming to you; ‘outbound’ means you’re reaching out with paid placements. It’s a bit confusing, though, because you can pay for an ad placement that drives traffic to you.

Search vs. Display. Google is the most salient example. Search ads appear after you search, above your search results. Display are embedded display ads you see on websites across the internet.

Q: What are some popular types of marketing?

Pay-Per-Click. This includes any type of advertising where the vendor is charged as a function of clicks. This can be through search (AdWords, Bing), display (GDN or Google Display Network), programmatic/demand side platforms (TheTradeDesk, TubeMogul, MediaMath), affiliate (ShareASale), remarketing (AdRoll), or other.

Display Advertising. Both programmatic and GDN (Google Display Network) bill either by click or by thousands of impressions. This modality can work well with offers. Because people are harried and busy, ‘brand advertising’, or advertising that doesn’t promote a ‘direct response’ can be cost-ineffective. It’s hard to raise brand awareness in online space, and many marketers are happy just to motivate someone to engage, right then and there.

Search Engine Marketing. You bid on keywords and pay when people click your ad. One of the most popular and – for Google – profitable types of marketing.

Content Marketing. You create content people find in search, or content offers your promote with ads or in social media, to drive engagement with your site.

Social Media. Ads found on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media websites.

Video. Video ads found on websites like YouTube.

 Affiliate. This is really a multi-part sale. One website – say a popular blog on trucks – has an embedded product or link which, if you click it and end up making a purchase, they get some commission. Popular affiliate sites include Amazon, CJ Affiliate, Rakuten, ClickBank, and ShareASale.

Organic or SEO. This is what it sounds like: it’s gathering traffic through web search. This modality works best with agnostic content, or content that’s not seller-centric or self-serving. Helpful, relevant, high-quality content is a powerful kind of marketing.

How does Google decide when to show my ad?

There are aspects of your campaigns – budget, bids, audiences – that you control, and aspects – like the matching algorithm – that you don’t. The exact formula that pulls up an ad and displays it to a given user, say on Facebook, is a tightly-guarded secret. Suffice it to say, companies like Facebook and Google earn more money when they properly match an ad to a lead or user, and you are incentivized to keep using them when your ads drive traffic, leads, or sales.

What are the types of tools used in digital marketing?

There are several categories of tools used in marketing.

Ad Placement Platforms. These include individual websites and channel partners, search (Google, Bing), display (Google, Demand-Side Platforms), social media (Facebook, LinkedIn), affiliate partners.

Integration Tools. iPaaS or ‘integration platform as a service’ is a growing category of marketing tool. These allow you to take agnostic or raw data and push it different platforms, effectively making better use of the same data. More and more, monitoring and analytics platforms have turnkey integrations with many advertising and CRM platforms.

CRM or Client Relationship Management Tools. These are basically client databases, like Microsoft Outlook, except they allow better note keeping, engagement timelines, domain analytics, lead scoring, and activity tracking. Hubspot, for example, has embedded tracking codes that tell them whether and how often people have opened an email. CRMs typically have bulk emailing capability, but not always. Salesforce is a CRM tool that does not have native emailing capability. You can use Google or Microsoft cloud mail exchange (MX) services to send emails, using Salesforce to manage leads.

Analytics Tools. Google is a common type of embedded analytic tool, allowing aggregate views – signals and metrics across a variety of dimension, aspects, sources and media. Hubspot is a common type of domain analytics tools, that can look at individual engagement from authenticated or ‘cookied’ users. Qlik, Tableau, and Google Data Studio are analytics ‘dashboards’ or ‘hubs’ that can have data streams fed into them (spokes), and custom views.

SEO Tools. Moz, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Ubersuggest are common types. These often monitor where you rank in search for keywords you’re tracking, and can help you optimize and select new keywords.

AdWords/Bidding Tools. Marin Software, Optmyzer, WordStream are common types. These help you maintain visibility of performing keywords, select effective keywords for your search engine marketing strategy, and effectively bid.

At its core, marketing is simply putting a product or service to market, in the interest of commerce. 

Q: How is a Programmatic (Demand-Side Platform or DSP) different from Google AdWords?

A: Both are based on auctions; but programmatic is using a computer to submit real-time bids. A demand-side platform has its version of ‘AdSense’ embedded in thousands of websites, amounting to a network. The difference is the bids are fixed in advance, so programmatic can often offer a savings. Programmatic doesn’t work for search engine marketing, because Google doesn’t allow that, and they dominate search. It’s used largely for display and other types of marketing. 

Q: What is marketing automation?

A: Marketing automation is setting conditions (like an email sign-up, or email signup + two visits in a week to a certain page) that trigger automatic actions, like another email, offer, or a sales call. Common automation tools include Pardot, Marketo, and Eloqua, but most bulk mailers have some automation features.

Q: What are effective content marketing types?

A: Anything that is useful to a consumer trying to educate him- or herself on the options out there, comparing those options, and successfully finding a solution to their pain-point is a valuable content marketing type. It’s material that helps them, not that sells them. We recommend mixing it up, including short form and long form, visual and textual, beginner and advanced content types. There are as many content types as there are questions a person conceivably in your demographic might have.

Marcus Sheridan describes your role as a content marketer well: They Ask, You Answer. People have questions. Content marketing is aimed at helping people answer questions and get information. If the realization of that goal means they buy from you, great. If it doesn’t, you should still do it, because the right people will buy from you, if you are properly differentiated and own your niche.

For a list of content marketing types, visit this page.