Marketing budgets as a percentage of company revenue decreased from 11% to 6.4% in 2021, the lowest allocated to marketing ratio in Gartner’s history Annual CMO Spending Survey.
For SEO professionals and marketing organization leaders trying to fund growth and recovery by doing more with less, rethinking your budget and available resources before 2022 is essential.
It is always a good practice to set aside a portion of the budget to come up with and test new ideas. But that part of the budget may shrink as marketers look for tried and proven digital marketing strategies and methods to maximize performance this year.
In this column, we’ll explore 10 key areas to know about and opportunities in digital marketing that you might want to take advantage of (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 own media. After all, these are the pieces of content, lists, profiles, websites, and other assets that you created yourself.
And you had better know where and when your brand appears online in paid placements.
But earned media can be tricky. If you don’t actively monitor brand mentions, relevant social content, online reviews, and incoming links, do you really have a clear picture of your web presence as a whole?
“Earned” isn’t just what you’re striving to build. Social listening, search stats, and reputation monitoring help you inventory and monitor your web presence as a whole.
2. The basics of how search engines work
SEO has evolved from a single digital marketing channel to the nerve center of enterprise business intelligence.
Having a solid understanding of how search engines work will help you and your team not only improve your content for discovery but also deepen your understanding of how people search, learn and consume content as well.
Developing an appreciation of 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 an algorithm can’t do — can help you optimize content better and diagnose problems more quickly when your analytics flag them.
Don’t forget, Google isn’t the only search engine game in town, either.
3. Digital user experience and customer journeys
“Build it and they will come” may work in dreams but it doesn’t fly in digital marketing.
Successful audience engagement requires you to have a deep and meaningful understanding of who these people are and what problems you solve for them.
Google knows this, too — updates to its algorithms are increasingly focused on improving the experiences people have online and removing friction in every customer’s journey.
Today’s consumer understands that the privacy sacrifice inherent in online tracking is an exchange of value. They expect personal experiences in return.
Across devices, sessions, and platforms, customers expect seamless interactions and experiences from start to finish.
This comprehensive view across the customer life cycle will be the stakes of the table going forward.
4. The basics of competitor analysis
The art and science of competitor analysis is evolving; In the online space, competitors may not be who you think.
Yes, you are competing for “airtime” with other companies selling products and services like yours.
But today, companies compete against media publications, social networks and forums, map package business listings, video and photo assets, and more in increasingly rich and diverse search results.
There are a growing number of potential touchpoints for competitors, as well — podcast and video ads, push notifications from geofences, influencer marketing, and augmented reality in physical spaces in between.
It is essential to have a clear view of who stands in front of your customers and how. Not so that you can replicate their efforts – that’s no way to stand out.
Competitor analysis will provide information on allocating budget to the types of content, ad networks and campaigns that will keep your brand top of mind in every possible channel.
5. Content and digital marketing
Content is so integral to marketing success that we are now seeing marketing agencies and brands taking over their own content studios.
Two recent examples of this trend are MSQ’s acquisition of creative production studio Brave Spark and Made Thought by WPP.
You may not be in a position to build or purchase an entirely 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 inside the company.
Others choose to augment their in-house marketing teams with an independent creative agency or designs—or even shift production entirely to outside contractors.
What matters most is not how it fits together but that your brand has the people, processes, and tools in place to create and promote optimized content at the scale your audience demand requires.
6. Online advertising
Hard-won, long-lasting organic search results are valuable but most digital marketing strategies have an element of paid promotion as well.
There’s no shortage of options on the paid side, from display and SEM to native advertising, social media advertising, out-of-home (OOH) and digital out-of-home (DOOH), and beyond.
Expanding your knowledge of the basics of online advertising means understanding:
- Paid media pricing models such as CPM or CPC.
- The advertising platforms and tactics available in your space.
- Different types of ad creatives including text, video and images.
- Advances in advertising technologies, such as Smart Bidding.
- Privacy issues and their impact on the amount and quality of data available to you.
- Changing consumer behavior and its impact on what resonates in the ad text.
Staying on top of what’s happening in the ever-evolving paid media landscape is essential for all digital marketers – not just those directly responsible for campaign management.
For SEO professionals, email marketers, content marketers, and senior executives driving strategy, developing a deeper understanding of paid media can help you better leverage it to complement and grow all types of campaigns.
7. Social media
Social media is still a great channel for finding and engaging potential clients.
Business features vary by platform but at the very least, your brand should claim all available profiles and listings. If you are less active with some, use the description or attributes to direct potential customers to connect with your more active channels.
Some forget that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other networks all have their own search functions that consumers can use to find relevant businesses, too.
On a social level, consumers are looking for brands to be authentic and responsive. They may read reviews on Facebook or niche social networks before converting, so monitoring and responding to new comments is key.
Put workflows and permissions in place to ensure that frontline social marketers can engage but have brand protection. Have clearly defined customer service and issue escalation processes available to ensure every interaction is as positive and helpful as possible.
8. Basics of Analytics
The coronavirus pandemic has taught many marketing teams about the dangers of relying solely on historical data to guide future performance.
Access to analytics in real time (or as close as possible) is essential in a world where technological innovations, financial, social and economic factors and more can change the landscape of business in the blink of an eye.
Again, this is an area in which you may not be completely skilled – and that’s okay. You don’t need to be proficient in Google Analytics 4 to run it for your organization.
Instead, you should have a basic understanding of the analytics platforms available, the types of data that provide the most valuable insights, and the types of professionals that can best drive your analytics operations.
This awareness will help you build a team and identify the tools you will use to fuel the next essential area of digital marketing on our list: business intelligence.
9. Activate data as business intelligence
As touchpoints with consumers increase in size and frequency, marketing leaders are finding that disconnected point solutions just can’t solve the problem anymore.
Access to descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analysis within one easy-to-use dashboard drives the kinds of insights and improvements that really move the needle.
Organizations must be able to look beyond themselves in order to identify new opportunities and the money left on the table. Customer behavior, competitive analysis, real-time research insights, and macroeconomic trends all enhance business decision-making.
And in the current environment, it’s almost impossible to analyze that data with any kind of metric (let alone operationalize it via analysis) at any scale.
Which brings us to the final point: intelligent automation.
10. Machine learning, machine learning, and automation
Automated media buying is not new but it is growing rapidly, and automated ad spending is expected to exceed $100 billion in 2022.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence make organic media more exciting, too, as we go beyond predictive analytics and recommended optimizations to real-time technology assistance with real-time content personalization.
AR/VR creates deeper connections between customers and brands and delivers smoother, more immersive experiences.
Indeed, we are on the cusp of widespread adoption of the Metaverse, that unexploited virtual universe in which we will be able to bring in elements from our physical world. The implications for marketing are still unknown, and the prediction is clear.
Whether your business is using intelligent automation in your business processes, improving ad targeting and ROI through programming, or looking to create a whole new virtual world for customers, keeping up with emerging digital marketing technologies will serve you well.
SEO as the leader in digital transformation in 2022
As the bridge connecting IT, marketing, sales, and the rulers 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’re working with, small business to enterprise – a comprehensive understanding of all digital marketing channels and tactics keeps you driving forward.
If you are still looking for opportunities to expand your knowledge, check out these digital marketing courses and list of digital marketing degree programs to get you started.
- 5 Best Digital Marketing Courses in 2021
- 10 Best Digital Marketing Certificate Programs To Enroll In
- Social Media Marketing: A Complete Strategy Guide
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