SERP? Lose Your Way in Digital Marketing?
A set of abbreviations and constantly changing definitions can be confusing.
Don’t know your SERPs (search engine results pages) from your PPC (pay per click)? Not sure when you should be favouriting on Instagram or pinning on Pinterest? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.
Digital marketing is an umbrella term that refers to the promotion of products and brands via electronic media. It’s how a brand uses its social profiles, websites and apps to promote itself.
So what are the different types of digital media you might use and what can you get from them? These tools can be split into often interchangeable sectors, including search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing, social media marketing, display ads and email marketing.
You’re probably already familiar with this — it’s those emails you keep getting from brands with quirky titles that are trying to sell you something. And it’s not as simple as throwing email addresses and some offers into an email distribution tool (such as Mailchimp) and hoping for the best. The people who do this well segment their audience to make every email relevant to the group that receives it. They’re experts at data collection (generally getting people to sign up for things). And they know lots about heat maps, which track the percentage of people who have interacted with different parts of a webpage, and open rates, which show what percentage of the people who received your email have opened it.
Display ads are part of the paid branch of digital marketing. They are image and, increasingly, audio-led ads that pop up on web pages and often stay there a while. They can be effective but need to be used carefully — you don’t want to annoy your customers.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing can take two distinct forms: paid and organic. Paid marketing includes Facebook promoted posts and ads. Facebook can be a particularly effective tool as you can be very specific with your targetting, choosing who sees your ads or promoted posts on their Facebook feed based on their age, gender, interests and the type of device they use. Most social media platforms have some form of paid promotion like this.
Organic social promotion is simply posting to your existing social audience. It’s free, but certain social platforms have started to limit your organic reach so that updates don’t go out to all your followers — you have to pay for that. For example, rather than displaying all posts chronologically, Facebook now gives each story a score based on users’ previous interactions, the format of the post and its age. There’s no secret sauce when it comes to improving organic reach, but it is possible to improve your score by publishing content that adds value for the reader and includes an image or a video.
Twitter is also getting in on the act, recently announcing changes to its algorithm that let users choose whether they want to see chronological posts or the “best” — posts with lots of likes and retweets from people they follow. Improving organic reach really comes down to posting content that attracts engagement — posts that entertain, inform or add value.
This can be done using paid media such as display ads, social ads, Google ads, earned media (relationships you build with others who help promote your content) and owned media (your website, app and social media channels). The content can take many forms — text, images, gifs, video — and the form it takes will play a huge part in where you place it.
A florist may use a visual channel such as Instagram or Pinterest to promote their business, or a video to show potential customers how to create the perfect bouquet. A blogpost might work better for a marketing company — it might create detailed guides to content marketing, which are then posted on networks such as Facebook or Twitter.
Search engine optimization
SEO is probably the most misunderstood element of digital marketing. In the past it has always been interchangeable with content marketing (or what was known as link building). This is still the case to an extent, but the two are starting to separate.
SEO is optimising your site to rank as highly as possible in search engines. Google, in determining where your site ranks, takes into account 200 or so factors, including site speed, backlinks (links pointing to your site), social media signals and site usability.
Link building is a key part of SEO but must be carefully used to ensure impact and avoid penalisation by search engines. Link building falls into three types: from companies that naturally link to your content and require no effort — on relevant sites as part of an outreach effort — and non-editorial links on forums, blog comments and user profiles. The latter is considered spammy and should be used with caution. As long as links are relevant and are not being used to cheat the system, link building can be very effective.
The sheer number of factors Google considers for site ranking goes some way to illustrate the complexity of SEO. However, a well-structured, user-friendly website with high quality, regularly updated content will always be beneficial to search engine rankings.