As a small business owner, there are dozens of different digital marketing channels to choose from, to promote your business online. But only a handful will be effective and end up driving real measurable results.
You might even be asking what are digital channels? Still at the very beginning stages of your online journey.
In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at the 7 best digital marketing channels you should be focusing on, along with what actions to take, so you can start generating results across these digital channels.
7 Best Digital Marketing Channels
These are the most effective online marketing channels to focus on this year.
- Organic SEO
- Paid Social Media Traffic
- Paid Search Traffic (SEM)
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social Proof Marketing
1. Organic SEO
Organic traffic is a term that describes visitors who come to your site from the organic search results. This kind of traffic can be very valuable for your business.
Once your website is ranking on search engines, you’re essentially getting “free” traffic since you don’t have to pay for your website to stay visible. Compare this to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which you’ll learn about below, where you have to continuously pay for your website to show up.
Search engine optimization is the process of making your website and the content you produce to rank higher in search engines. The higher you rank in the search results, the more likely people are to click over to your website.
But, ranking for any kind of keyword isn’t important, your goal should be to rank for the right keywords.
These are the search terms your potential customers are typing into Google to learn more about your brand and business.
Like a lot of other online digital channels, the “rules” of the game change regularly. What worked in SEO even a few years ago will no longer work today and can end up hurting your site.
However, there are a few key fundamentals that stay pretty consistent over the years:
- Site structure. How is your site structure organized? Is it easy for search engines to crawl?
- Keywords. What’s your website about? What keywords are the main focus?
- Backlinks. Are there high-quality relevant backlinks pointed toward your site? Is your site a trusted source of information?
As you dive into organic SEO here are a few important elements to keep in mind:
Optimize your content. Keywords are one of the most important aspects of SEO. You’ll need to know how to research the best keywords for your site and optimize your site around those keywords.
Create fresh, high-quality content. The content you create needs to be of high quality and relevant to your visitors. You also need to publish content frequently/update older content so it’s always providing value to your visitors.
Go mobile-first. Mobile optimization ensures your site and content are optimized for the mobile web, which is where more and more users are spending their time. Plus, Google predominantly indexes the mobile version of your site first.
Resources to Learn More About SEO
- Best SEO Certifications (Courses and Cost) – a list of the best courses to follow and learn the secrets of SEO.
- The Complete SEO Course – a complete course that will teach you everything you’ll ever need to know about SEO
- How to become an SEO Expert – A step-by-step guide on how to go from novice to expert in SEO.
2. Paid Social Media Traffic
Social media advertising gives you a way to run paid ads on social media. You can achieve a variety of goals including growing your social media accounts, selling more products, and of course sending more traffic back to your website.
One big reason to include social media paid advertising into your overall digital marketing strategy is that organic reach (number of people that see your social media posts without paying for ads), has fallen dramatically in the last few years. It’s near impossible to get the same reach you would from a paid campaign. It’s pay to play.
For example, if you’re trying to get a larger audience for your blog posts, you can use Facebook ads and narrow down your exact audience. Plus, this type of advertising is pay-per-click and the costs can still be pretty low.
When it comes to social media advertising Facebook is king. It not only boasts a massive user base, but you’ll find very advanced targeting tools, along with a variety of ad types to suit your goals.
There are a few different types of ads you can run depending on what you want to achieve:
- Link Click Ads. These ads send people to your external website, either to a specific landing page or blog post. These can feature images or videos.
- Boosted Page Post. This offers you the ability to boost a post you posted on your Facebook page to improve its reach.
- Multi-Product Ads. These ads allow you to carousel up to 10 images that feature different products.
- Lead Ads. This type of ad lets you deliver downloadable content, or opt into your email list without ever leaving Facebook.
There are a handful of other ad types as well, but those will be the most useful if your goal is to send traffic to your website, sell products, or capture email subscribers.
Here’s a brief overview of how to run Facebook ads:
- Create a Facebook business account
- Define your target audience, you can also create lookalike, and custom audiences
- Pick the right ad type for your campaign
- Create your ad creative materials
- Launch, test, and track your campaigns
3. Paid Search Traffic (SEM)
Paid search traffic is the process of getting traffic from search engines by running paid ads. You’ll also hear this referred to as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or paid search.
With paid search ads the advertiser (you) will pay every time someone clicks on your search ad and visits your site or landing page.
You’ll notice the paid search results on top of the standard organic search results. Instead of trying to rank high in the search engines, you buy top placement.
Here are a few advantages to paid search traffic over other models:
- Cheaper than traditional advertising. Old-school advertising spots can range into thousands of dollars for both media and non media communication channels. With PPC ads, you only pay when someone clicks your ad.
- Can target your audience very in-depth. You can target your audience down to your ideal customer. For example, you can narrow it down by age, location, demographics, gender, income level, job, interests, and more.
- Advanced metrics to test and improve your ads. Whenever you run an ad campaign you’ll have access to all sorts of data to sort through. With this, you’ll be able to see what’s working and create more popular ads over time.
If you want to start getting into paid search traffic there are two big networks where you’ll focus all of your efforts:
Google Ads is owned by Google and lets you display ads in the Google search results, on YouTube, or across the network of sites that participate in Google AdSense.
Here’s a quick overview of how Google Ads works:
- You create a Google Ads account
- You create an advertising campaign comprised of ad groups, keywords, and ads
- You narrow down your target audience for who you’ll run your ads for
- You start the campaign and will pay whenever someone clicks your ad
- You analyze the data, make changes, and steadily improve your ad campaigns
Bing Ads is the ad network operated by the search engine, Bing. It doesn’t have as wide a reach as Google, but it still makes up 7 percent of the global search engine market.
The process for running Bing ads will be very similar to the process of creating Google ads above.
The good news about Bing is it’s not as competitive, so you’ll end up paying less for clicks overall. If you’re wary about wasting your budget on paid ads, this could be a good place to start.
Paid search can be tough, especially if you’re a beginner, so spend extensive time on these two areas:
Find Less Competitive, Relevant Keywords
The keywords you choose are incredibly important. These keywords should be relevant to your business and the products and services you offer. You’ll need to use keyword research tools to find long-tail keywords that are relevant to your business, while not being too competitive.
Go Deep With Audience Targeting
The second way to ensure you’re getting the most value from the ad dollars you spend is to get very deep with your targeting. If you’re operating in a local area you can start there, but make sure you go deep with your exact customer.
4. Content Marketing
How many blog posts have you read today? How about this week?
Content is the driving force of the internet, and you can harness it for your small business. All businesses have buyers at different levels of the customer awareness journey.
Content marketing does address buyers at every level, but a big focus is on the initial awareness phase. At this point, potential customers are aware they have a problem or need you can fulfill but aren’t quite ready to pull the trigger on a solution.
Content marketing does a great job of educating potential prospects and helping them solve problems, which naturally leads them to the natural solution your products and services provide.
When you do content marketing the right way it also makes your visitors more receptive to the sale. Instead of overwhelming them with constant selling, you’re educating and helping until they’re ready.
The website content you create can take many forms, including:
- Blog posts
- White papers
However, three forms of content are more effective than most:
Pillar content seeks to be the absolute best piece of content across the entire internet, for your chosen topic. It provides your visitors with everything they need to know about that topic.
Your pillar content can either be a single page (like a long in-depth blog post) or be a cluster of topics almost like a massive category page.
Whatever route you choose you’ll need to satisfy the following:
- They are typically much longer than traditional blog posts
- The content is focused on a single topic
- The content is easy to navigate and broken into multiple sections
- Each of these sections will cover a sub-topic of the larger topic
Pillar pages are important because they provide both users and search engines with what they’re looking for. It makes users happy since it contains all the information they need in one place and this makes the search engines happy because it creates a great experience for their users.
One great way to create content that deserves to get shared and linked to is to uncover original research. That way when people are writing about a topic and need a source, they’ll end up linking to you–the original source.
For example, Nielsen continuously releases original reports and data. They bring in consumer surveys across a wide range of verticals. Couple this with compelling graphics and you have an article people can’t help but reference.
Here are a few methods to create original research, even if your audience is small:
- Create a Facebook poll to your friends and followers
- Create a simple survey and send it out to your email list
- Create a compelling resource, run ads to it, and require a simple survey to download the report
Case studies are valuable pieces of content. They’re used to demonstrate social proof to your audience that what you offer generates results. With case studies, you’ll find titles like, “How John S. Gained 10,000 Email Subscribers in 1 Week Following Our Methods”.
Case studies are very powerful sales tools. They help your visitors put themselves in the shoes of your success story. There’s a reason that Shopify has an entire section of its website dedicated to customer success stories.
Here are some tips for creating a great case study:
Write About a Relatable Past Customer – The focus of your case study should be on a past customer so that your readers can deeply relate to it.
If a reader comes across a very specific case study about someone who’s experiencing the same problem or wants to achieve the same result, you can bet they’re going to devour every word.
Tell the Entire Story – The more details you can include about where your customer began, and where they ended up, the better. A great case study will tell a story from point A to point B, your reader should be able to visualize the entire journey.
- Who is your customer and what did they want to achieve?
- How did you help your customer meet those needs?
- What was the end result?
Include Real Numbers – Whenever you can try to include data or specific numbers. This helps your readers better visualize the path your customer took from working with you. This is why before/after pictures are so popular in the fitness space–they work.
Make the End Result Specific (Tie it to Your Products and Services) – Make sure you get very specific with the result you were able to deliver for your client. This is where you can tie it into your products and services.
Make sure to spell out the exact products and services they used to achieve the desired result.
No matter what type of content you choose to create, content marketing can help you achieve a variety of different goals:
- Improve your organic search engine rankings
- Help you generate leads, subscribers, and customers
- Retain existing customers
- Establish yourself as an authority in your niche
- Support your audience before and after you’ve made a sale
Resources to Learn More About Content Marketing
5. Email Marketing
Every year it seems that across the internet, people are claiming, “email marketing is dead”. Maybe you’ve even seen these articles yourself.
Even though this seems to arise nearly every year, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Email is not dead, it’s thriving more than ever. In fact, with email marketing, you can expect to earn $42 for every dollar you spend.
A lot of people won’t have a Facebook, or Instagram account, but nearly everyone in the world has an email address. This widespread usage is part of the reason email remains one of the most effective digital channels.
The main goal of email marketing is to develop deep relationships with your existing and potential customers.
Some of the most common reasons to send emails to your subscribers include:
- Building your brand
- Promoting your products and services
- Offering subscriber-only coupons
- Promoting blog posts or other content you’ve published
- Sending educational value-add content
Overall, your goal is to build rapport and stay at the front of your customer’s or potential customers’ minds.
Best of all, getting started with email marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s a simple process you can follow:
- Choose an email marketing software provider
- Create a welcome sequence that will automatically send when someone subscribes
- Encourage our website visitors to sign up via subscriber forms on your website
- Write persuasive emails that have a single link and a specific goal
- Write an engaging subject line that entices your visitors to open
- Send your email and measure the results of your campaign
- Automatically add users that open your email to a CRM system and follow up with personalized emails.
Resources to Learn More About Email Marketing
- Email Marketing Tips – 25 email marketing tips for small business owners that actually work.
6. Social Proof Marketing
Did you know that 92% of online consumers look at a product review before they make a purchase? Before consumers or even visitors decide to trust you, they’ll look towards what other people are saying.
People want proof from unbiased 3rd parties, past customers, and their peers, not the person who’s selling the product or service.
Here are some of the best ways you can implement social proof, build your brand, and increase your trustworthiness.
Online Reviews – One of the most important aspects of social proof for small business owners is online reviews. Before people will decide to visit your website or come by your business they’ll see what past customers have had to say.
One great way you can display reviews is by featuring customer testimonials. Just look at how Amazon highlights and places such a big focus on past customer reviews. Reviews drive sales.
You can display customer testimonials in a wide range of different formats. You can integrate them into your product and service sales pages, have a separate testimonials page on your site, or even feature them on your sidebar, so they’re always present to your visitors.
Of course, if you have a local business make sure you optimize both your Yelp and Google My Business profiles and encourage your customers to leave reviews.
Social Media Following – An entire industry has been built on the back of influencer marketing. And just how did these people become influencers? From having big social media followers.
Now, the number of followers isn’t the most important metric, you also want engagement, but having a large social media following can say a lot about your authority and influence in your space.
If you’re already active on social media and have a large following, then showcase this wherever you can.
You can even highlight this on your website. For example, on your about page, you could have a phrase like, “With over 1.2 million Instagram followers, 25,000 email subscribers…”
A lot of people may visit your website, and never return, unless you have a way to bring them back.
This is where retargeting comes into play. When you run a retargeting campaign you’re reminding past website visitors to come back to your website to complete a purchase.
Once visitors visit a specific page on your website or don’t complete a purchase, you can show them ads on different platforms, encouraging them to come back.
But, it’s not just encouraging users to come back and complete a purchase, there are a lot of other uses as well.
Here are a few great times to run a retargeting campaign:
- Showcase your best-selling products. If you have products that are continually selling well, you can boost sales even further by promoting your most-loved items to new customers.
- Selling slow-moving items. If you have items you’re having a hard-time selling you can use retargeting ads to showcase these items to people who have visited your shop before.
- Growing brand awareness. Even if your customers aren’t ready to buy now, you can use retargeting ads to stay at the top of their minds for when they are.
Here are some of the most popular advertising networks for running retargeting ads:
Facebook Ads – With Facebook retargeting ads your ads are going to be shown across Facebook. It follows a similar concept.
A person visits a certain page, or takes a certain action on your site, they’re tagged with a pixel (a piece of code), then when they’re browsing through Facebook, they’ll see your ads in their news feed.
You can set up retargeting on Facebook in the following ways:
- Customer list. Matches emails and phone numbers with users on Facebook.
- Website traffic. Creates a list of people based on who’s visited your site, or specific pages.
- App activity. Creates a list based on people who have taken an action in your app or game.
Google Discovery – Google Discovery ads are a relatively new type of advertising from Google. These ads let advertisers showcase their products within the new Google Discovery feed, along with ads across Gmail and YouTube.
These ads are different because they’re not targeted by keywords. There are a few different targeting methods you can employ, but the most important for now is retargeting.
These ads will display for customers who have visited your website or are past customers. You can further segment your market here as well, like those who abandoned a shopping cart, recently bought products from you, or visited an important page on your website.
Google Display Ads – Google Display ads allow you to tap into the entire Google Display Network, which comprises nearly 2 million different websites.
Once a visitor browses a site on the network, which includes written content, listening to music, or even browsing online stores, they’ll see your ads displayed.
As a small business owner, there are different kinds of digital marketing channels you can utilize.
A lot of the digital marketing channels highlighted above overlap. For example, your content marketing strategy will fuel your SEO efforts. The higher you rank in the search engines, the more visitors will come to your website and the more people you can convert into email subscribers.
As you experiment with paid channels like social media and search, you’ll better understand your audience, which leads to improved content and marketing success all around.
Finally, you can align your paid marketing with your existing content and products, by bringing back visitors again and again through remarketing.
Plus, the more active you are with the strategies above the higher your social proof will rise, and marketing will become even easier.