A Step-by-Step Guide to Digital Marketing for Small Businesses

Digital marketing refers to all types of integrated marketing tools and services used to engage, attract, and convert customers online. Businesses leverage digital channels such as email, social media, websites, and search engines to connect and expand their customer base.

The reality is that people spend more than twice as much time online as they did 10 years ago, and this number is steadily rising. You’ve probably heard it before, but the way that people shop and buy things really has changed, meaning traditional marketing methods simply aren’t as effective as they used to be.

Good marketing has always been about meeting your audience at the right place and the right time. Today that means connecting with them where they are already spending time: online.

Types of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is an umbrella term that captures all of your online marketing efforts. Everything from your website to your branding assets – online advertising, brochures, email marketing, social media posts, and beyond – fall under the spectrum of digital marketing.

While the best methods and tactics of digital marketing are vast, here are some of the most popular and common digital marketing techniques businesses use today to promote their brand.

Content Marketing

Content is the fuel that drives all of your digital marketing activities; it is a pillar for modern SEO, helps you gain visibility on social media, and gives you something of value to offer customers in paid search ads and emails.

The creation and promotion of clever content assets are not necessarily promotional itself but rather fuels an effort to educate and inspire your audience, while presenting yourself as a valuable source of information.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your site content, technical set-up, and website reach so that your pages appear at the top of search engine results, therefore increasing the amount of organic (natural and free) traffic your site receives.

This can be viewed as a set best practices for your digital marketing presence. SEO practices enforce an easy-to-use, well-constructed website that holds engaging and valuable content. Your website credibility is also rewarded by search engines through mentions and linking of your site through other channels or companies.

Social Media Marketing (SMO)

Social media marketing is the practice of promoting your content and your brand on social media channels in an effort generate leads, drive traffic, and foster community engagement surrounding your brand.

People aren’t just posting selfies and cat videos on their social media accounts these days. In fact, many people rely on social networks to educate, research, and discover a brand before deciding to engage in that organization. Having a social presence gives your audience more content to engage with, and more opportunities for the peer-to-peer sharing of your brand.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Paid search methods, such as pay-per-click, refers to the sponsored result on the top and sides of search engine results pages, also known as SERP. This advertising method is unique because you only pay when your ad sees results (is clicked).

PPC ads are visible, flexible, and effective for all types of organizations. These ads are also contextual, meaning that they can be tailored only to appear to your target audiences or only when specific search terms are entered.

Email Marketing

Email has been around for more than 20 years, and it doesn’t look like it will be disappearing anytime soon. Email is still considered to be the fastest and most direct way to present customers with critical information.

Businesses use email marketing as a way to communicate, promote events, discounts, and content, as well as direct people to their website in a way that is relevant, meaningful, informative, and engaging.

Marketing Automation

Your digital marketing efforts are comprised of many moving pieces. Marketing automation is what ties all of this together. Marketing automation is the integrated platform that automates and streamlines marketing workflows and tasks. Perhaps most importantly, it can measure the ROI and results of your digital campaigns, helping you grow your revenue even faster.

Various automation tools can help you automate repetitive tasks such as social media, email, or other website actions, as well as provide you metrics and insights on what is working and what isn’t, giving you the confidence you need to speak about your digital marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

This list is by no means comprehensive. One of the best things about digital marketing is the vast amount of ways you can reach your audience in the digital realm. Other methods include but are not limited to inbound marketing, native advertising, affiliate marketing, mobile marketing, and online PR.

The Benefits of Digital Marketing

Unlike traditional marketing efforts, digital marketing allows businesses to see accurate, real time results. When you put an ad in offline mediums such as a newspaper, it is difficult to estimate just how many people paused to take a look at your ad, as well as their reaction. There is no tangible way to know if that ad was, in fact, responsible for your sales at all.

Digital marketing, on the other hand, gives you the tools you need to discover how your content is performing along with the ROI of your marketing efforts. This allows you to make more informed decisions about how to attract users to your website. Here are the benefits:

  • Website Traffic – With digital marketing analytics software, you can discover just how many people have been viewing your website’s home or landing pages in real time, in addition to how many pages, how long they spent on each page, and what parts of your site attract the most interest, among other analytics data.
  • Lead Generation and Content Performance – Digital marketing allows you to improve the quality of your leads. This means capturing an audience that turns into conversions. You can find out what types of demographics are viewing your content, how people are engaging with your content, and tailor your marketing efforts to best meet them in their preferred media spaces.
  • Attribution Modeling – Connecting the dots between your marketing efforts and your sales are extremely important. Digital analytics gives you the tools you need to determine what devices your audience is using, what drives customers to your site, and their first digital touch points with your content, such as a Facebook link, search engine PPC ad, or organic traffic. These consumer insights help you streamline and improve your customers’ journey through the buying cycle.

Consumer intelligence helps you identify patterns and trends in your audience’s behavior, allowing you to prioritize your marketing efforts in the channels and demographics that are performing best, ensuring that your money is being spent in the best way possible.

A Buyer’s Journey

The types of content that you create are going to depend directly on your audience’s needs at various stages in the buyer’s journey. This process will be fine-tuned over time as you create digital marketing assets and monitor your performance through analytics. To start, your online content should help your consumers meet goals and overcome identifiable challenges.

Think about when your audience will most likely be ready to consume content in related to what stage they are in during their buyer’s journey. In regards to the format of your content, there are a lot of things you can try out. Here are content recommendations for various stages in the buyer’s journey.


This stage is when your audience first learns about your brand, product, or company. This content typically has strong keyword strategy and SEO is great for organic traffic and easily shareable on social media outlets. Here’s what you can try:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Short videos
  • Contests and giveaways


This stage is great for generating leads. These are your high-value, detailed, comprehensive content pieces. Depending on your industry, you may want to try out:

  • Ebooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Research reports
  • Webinars
  • Informational videos

Decision Stage

This last stage is what motivates your consumers to buy. These are your call-to-action, previous customer insights, or a wow factor that helps to close the deal. Try out:

  • Case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Special offers

How long until you see results?

When it comes to digital marketing, you may feel like you are able to see results instantaneously. This is due to the ease in which you can measure and view performance. However, your true return on investment will ultimately depend on the scale and effectiveness of your designated digital marketing strategy.

If you spend time observing and identifying the needs of your audience and focus on creating quality online content geared to attract and convert them, you are likely to see strong results within the first 6 months.

If you are integrating paid advertising as part of your digital marketing strategy, your results will come even quicker. However, it is strongly recommended that you focus on building your SEO, organic-reach content, and social media in tandem with your paid advertising, in order to experience sustainable long-term success.

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