What REALLY Moves the Needle in Digital Marketing?

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Posted by Craig Maloney | August 4, 2017 | Filed under: Marketing

What REALLY Moves the Needle in Digital Marketing

There are countless tools, platforms, and channels for growing your brand on and more of them being rolled out every day. Keeping up with the latest trends in social media, reputation management, and SEO is tough even for experts.

To make matters worse, not all of these tools are created equal. Some of them are utterly essential; others are just wastes of time. The question is, how can you tell which digital marketing tools are really necessary? How can you tell which ones move the needle, and result in more sales for your company?

How to Determine What’s Necessary for Your Business to Achieve its Goals

To start with, it’s not going to be any one thing. The days of relying solely on SEO, for instance, are long gone. To build a robust brand, you’ve got to take an integrative and holistic approach, pulling together many—though probably not all—of the tools at your disposal.

It’s also important to note that not every company is going to benefit from every channel. There isn’t a strict one-size-fits-all approach here, but there is a basic checklist we could offer: The elements of a good, holistic marketing strategy that really work.

To be clear, this is our fluff-free, results-oriented digital marketing checklist—and it includes only the strategies we know will yield a significant return on your investment. If you invest in everything on this checklist, your digital marketing will be in a solid place. There’s not much else needed. But if you neglect too many of these, your entire digital marketing enterprise will basically wither on the vine.

Our Checklist: What REALLY Makes a Difference in Digital Marketing

We’ve divided our checklist into three basic categories



Paid Assets

Paid assets also known as paid media are those that you have to invest regular ad dollars into. The days of marketing your brand strictly through “free” platforms like Facebook, without the need for paid ad placements, are over. Fortunately, we can direct you to the paid ad venues that get the best results.

Paid Search Ads

It is necessary to blanket the search engine results page (SERP) with links and brand mentions—helping you to be present at every stage of the consumer journey, to build visibility for your brand, and to take advantage of every square inch of screen space that is available to you. Specifically, an active AdWords campaign is a necessary way to augment—not replace, but augment—your organic SEO actions.

And for many brands, we’d go a step further to say that paid Bing ads are also crucial. No, Bing doesn’t match the reach of Google, but it’s popular enough that it shouldn’t be forgotten—and in many cases, a Bing ad campaign can actually yield greater value than a Google campaign.

Paid Social Media

Paid social media ads are also important, beginning with Facebook. Simply put, you need to complement your organic Facebook posts with paid ads. (Again, it’s not a replacement, but a necessary enhancement.) Facebook’s ad platform allows for such robust and specific targeting, you can choose to display your ads only to the specific people you’re trying to reach (i.e. local customers with an interest in your products). Thus, it’s possible to make every Facebook ad dollar count, without an iota of waste. What’s more, paying for ad placement is a necessary way to bump up your organic content’s reach!

There are other paid social media ads that are useful, if not quite as relevant. Some companies may benefit from promoted tweets, LinkedIn updates, and Instagram—but if you’re just getting started, or can only afford one, Facebook is the social media ad platform we recommend.


The final entry in our paid advertising category, programmatics is a field you may not be familiar with—but you need to be. In many ways, it represents the future of online ad buys. Basically, the term refers to a bidding system in which you vie for the chance to show an ad to a specific customer in a specific context. Programmatic ads can span different platforms, which in many ways makes this a more flexible approach than bidding on, say, an AdWords ad or a Facebook ad: You’re not focused on the platform so much as on the customer, and on reaching them no matter where they happen to be.

Earned Assets

You can’t simply pay money to get any kind of automatic result; rather, you have to invest time and strategy into winning over consumers. What we’re dealing with here is organic reach sometimes referred to as earned. There are several specific earned assets that we recommend.

Traditional SEO

Return to what we said about blanketing as much of the SERP as possible. While AdWords placement, for example, will help you cover part of it, that doesn’t invalidate SEO as an enterprise. Simply put: Consumers are going to use Google and Bing to seek information about businesses, products, and brands, and if yours isn’t there to greet them, you might as well be invisible. Traditional SEO is vital for making this happen.

Local SEO

For most businesses—and especially for brick and mortar stores—a general approach to SEO isn’t sufficient. You want your business to be found, but in particular you want it to be found by local customers—the people who might actually walk into your story and purchase something. After all, if you own a used car dealership in Orange County, it doesn’t do you much good to have high search engine visibility in Burlington, Vermont. You need to be discovered by people who are nearby, turning to search engines to help identify good local businesses.

A local SEO campaign should especially focus on the map pack; if you can earn one of the coveted slots in the local Google map, you’ll immediately establish yours as one of the brands of choice among local buyers.

Online Reputation Management

When we talk about online reputation management, or ORM, we are essentially talking about the ways in which your brand is portrayed on the Web. This means focusing on headlines and search engine listings, ensuring that, when someone Googles for your business, they find positive stuff (your website and social media profiles, for instance), not complaints or negative publicity.

Reviews are also key here—and not just because they determine whether or not consumers choose to trust you with their money. Reviews are also important because they can determine SEO placement—a sign of how integrated and interconnected all of this really is.

Social Media (Organic)

We’ve noted the importance of paid social media ads, but it’s also important to pursue organic reach. These two things can and should work together in tandem. For example, a highly targeted Facebook ad campaign can be used to generate new page likes; from there, organic content updates can help keep those new followers engaged, and cultivate their trust in your brand. It’s not an either/or endeavor. You need paid ads and organic reach for social media to really be beneficial.

Content Marketing

You’ve probably heard the familiar marketing saying, content is king. This is a little glib, perhaps, but there’s some truth to it: Great, engaging content is foundational to everything else you do in marketing. If you’re not able to convey the value of your brand through the written word—plus video, podcasts, images, or whatever else—then you might as well just throw in the towel now.

Content marketing is a catch-all for blogging, press releases, video, and more—which is not to say your brand needs to leverage every one of these content channels. What matters is having a strategic approach to creating and distributing positive, brand-enhancing content.

Owned Assets

Owned assets, those things you do on your back end that are entirely yours, and aren’t subject to things like Google algorithms or consumer interest. Here are three owned essentials.

Mobile Friendly Website

Your website is the central hub of your entire marketing enterprise. You need a website that will prove effective in capturing leads—and that means it has to be accessible to everyone, and across all devices. Can your website be accessed through mobile devices and tablets, without the need for a lot of excessive scrolling or resizing? It should look just as good on a smaller screen as it does on your PC—and if it doesn’t, it’s time for a new website.

Optimizing for Conversion

Additionally, your website should be made not only to provide readers with information, but to convert them into paying customers. There are many components of this, starting with strong calls to action across every page of the site. Lead capturing forms are also recommended. If you have an ecommerce component to your site, of course, that’s a whole other matter.


We’ve saved the single most important element for last. Out of everything on our checklist, data is the most important. Marketing without data is truly like flying blind—you won’t have any sense of where you are going, how much progress you’re making toward your goals, what’s working and what’s not if you don’t track and measure everything. Literally all aspects of your digital marketing plan should be connected to analytics in some way.

The bottom line: If you don’t have careful and well-organized analytics, you’re just guessing—and you can’t expect your marketing to be very effective, much less efficient.

Digital Marketing Requires an Integrated Approach

Marketing is a vehicle to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales efforts. And starting with the end in mind, define exactly what your sales team needs to generate new business, upsell existing consumers, and growing market share in new territories. Then we apply the right mix of these digital strategies to grow your business. Please use this list as a reference as you explore your options. Or Contact our digital marketing experts today to discuss your strategy.


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