Simply Put: What Works and What Doesn’t in Digital Marketing

One of the comforting things about traditional marketing is that it really hasn’t changed all that much over the years. Billboard advertising, for example, has pretty much had the same strategy for the last century. So too has print advertising and radio. But digital marketing—marketing carried out through online media—is sometimes tough to get a handle on. Just when you think you’ve figured out how to use the latest technology, something new comes along and the old methods just don’t work anymore.

Remember flashing banner ads? They were popular ten years ago. Today we think they’re the most annoying things on the web, but guess what: they worked. A decade ago empirical studies proved that banner advertisements, blinking at the top, bottom and sides of a site, would drive people to the intended target. Only five years later, though, studies demonstrated they were no longer effective, and the results of the research even coined a new term: banner-blindness—when internet users ignore banners, their text, images and message.

Semantic or targeted online ads—those type of ads you see on Google when you conduct a search—were also seen as extremely effective—if not groundbreaking—only five years ago. But again, their effectiveness has worn off, and while still driving traffic and converting sales, they fall far short of the results of only a few years ago.

So how is a small business to know where to focus its time and money? To help you out I’ve created a list of the top online marketing initiatives you should focus on. I’m not going to say forget the rest, but they might not be worth your energy.

Brand/Business Website: This is still the most important component of a business’ marketing strategy, online or off. Without an eye-catching and effective website, your business persona is simply not as professional. Not to mention the fact that since 2005 more people have been using the internet to find businesses over traditional sources of information, like for example the phone book.

Search Indexes and Directories: After your website is made, you need to get it listed in every online search index available—Google, Yahoo!, and Bing at least. Yes, you have to do this yourself to make sure the site is found. You should also make sure to list your website and your business in each online directory, such as, and others. Most types of businesses can also find niche directories to list in.

Social Media: Social media strategies aren’t just for teenagers trying to connect on Facebook. They’re deliberate, patient and dedicated, and they are probably the most effective form of marketing available to businesses and brands today. In 2010 Pepsi decided to forgo a 20 million dollar investment in a Super Bowl ad and instead put that money into social media marketing. You absolutely need to learn to harness and use social media—blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, and others—for your business.

Email Newsletters and Announcements: While email use as the primary source of online communication has dropped among 13-25 year olds (replaced by social media), it has risen amongst users over 50, and remained static for users between 25-50. The message? Email is still the most inexpensive and effective ways to communicate with customers and potential customers. Invest in a well-designed email template, and send out regular—not occasional—newsletters, coupons and updates to drive traffic to your website and to your business.

Contextual Affiliate Advertising: Okay, at the beginning of this article I said online ads aren’t as effective as they used to be. That’s true, but really only for the generic ads that suggest something we might be interested in. Instead, though, businesses are finding success with very targeted affiliate advertising on websites they know they’re users are frequenting. Own a bike store? Then provide online ads on the outdoor section of the local online paper. Own a small loan company? Then place ads on local car dealership websites. This type of targeted strategy is much better than the shotgun approach.

Digital marketing is difficult, but if you do it right, you’ll find that it pays much more than traditional advertising methods. What’s more important is that with a little patience and knowledge, even the smallest brand and business can have a huge presence on the web.


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clint @
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Las Cruces, NM 88005