Anyone working in digital marketing is familiar with—and knows the value of—search engine optimization, or SEO. It’s a cornerstone of online marketing. Marketers use SEO to drive traffic by using quality content and relevant keywords that help consumers find their websites. Even as digital marketing has become more sophisticated with advances in technology and our ability to capture and use data, SEO continues to play an important role in online marketing. In fact, research firm Ascend2 found that 82 percent of marketers predict SEO will become even more effective, with 42 percent predicting the importance will increase significantly.
That’s due in large part to the dominance of Google as a search engine and an everyday tool for consumers. When people want an answer to a question or a solution to a problem, they usually turn to Google. Consumers perform over 63,000 searches per second on any given day using Google. And marketers want to be found when those searches take place, which is why they place so much emphasis on SEO. Yet SEO alone is no longer enough.
When SEO Alone Is Not Enough
Effective SEO is critical to your online marketing success in as far as it drives traffic to your website, but then what? What if a consumer lands at your webpage and then clicks the back button and leaves? Getting potential customers to your website isn’t enough, which is why marketers also focus on websites that convert visitors to buyers, lead generation techniques that capture email addresses, and social media campaigns that build a following.
But if a customer isn’t “sold” on your brand on that first visit, they probably won’t convert, subscribe or follow, so then what? Or what if they don’t click on your website in the first place because yours was not listed on the first page of search results? Then you put advanced digital marketing techniques to work—techniques like paid search, retargeting and programmatic buying.
How and When to Use Paid Search
Unlike SEO, which is quite literally “organic” and therefore free, search engine marketing (SEM) usually refers to paid search: a way for marketers to get in front of searchers using paid methods such as pay-per-click ads. Paid search ads appear on the same search results page as organic results, but are distinguishable because they are labeled as ads. Do a search on Google, and you will see ads at the top and right side of the search results page that appears on your screen.
To use these ads, marketers choose the keywords to target with their paid search. These might be the same keywords you use for SEO, but SEO is extremely competitive. Only a few websites can be at the top of the SEO results, leaving countless others unseen. By using paid search, you can make sure your website shows up even if you don’t have high SEO rankings for a particular keyword.
Retargeting Focuses on Website Visitors Who Clicked Away
What if your SEO did work, and a searcher clicked on your website but didn’t buy? You use retargeting. Retargeting is an advanced digital marketing technique that can help you target a potential customer post SEO. By using the data left behind by someone who visited your website, you can continue to market to that person by retargeting them elsewhere.
Most people don’t visit your website anonymously. They might click the Back button and leave your website, but they are also leaving behind a wealth of data at the same time, data that you can mine to keep marketing to them. By mining the data, you can learn their IP address, the pages they looked at, the links they clicked on, how they got to your website (whether through a search engine or a site like Facebook), and much more.
For an example of how this works, let’s say I need new tires for my car. I search online, looking for the best tires for my type of car and my local driving conditions. I’m also comparing prices and availability as I look through search results and choose a few websites to click through to. Soon I get bored with my tire search and put off the information gathering for another time.
While I’m still online, I decide to go to Facebook to see what my friends there have been up to, and what do I see? Ads for tires, of course! That is the retargeting. The marketers who were able to get me to their websites through SEO were able to collect enough information about me as a site visitor to later target ads to me in another context. As someone who has already been to their website, I am essentially a warm lead at this point and therefore worth targeting.
Programmatic Buying: Real-Time and Relevant Ads
Programmatic buying is a way to do retargeting. Unlike print ads that appear in magazines which can only be targeted in a very broad way, digital ads can be purchased to selectively target consumers. While retargeting is used specifically to market to someone who has been to your website, and programmatic buying might be the method you use for getting that ad placed, this kind of media buying can also be used to target audiences who have not yet found your website via SEO.
You can choose from a multitude of demographics such as age, gender, and geography. In addition, programmatic buying enables you to target specific audiences based on content. For example, if you wanted people interested in technology, you can drill down into relevant categories like gamers, programmers or early adopters.
But that’s not all: you can also choose the day and time you want ads to appear. What makes this advertising so effective is that the ads are served up in real time. It’s automated so that when the conditions are ripe to target the right person with the right message at the right time, your ad can appear without you lifting a finger.
How to Master These Digital Marketing Techniques
These advanced digital marketing techniques are obviously more complicated than I’ve led you to believe here because we are only doing an overview of ways to keep marketing after you’ve done the SEO. But there is a catch: You need to know how to use these techniques. It’s not enough to simply know they are out there. You need to know how they work and when to use them to the fullest effect.
In addition, with a higher percentage of marketing budgets going toward online efforts, employers are going to want to see returns on their investments. According to studies done by Forrester Research and eMarketer, companies are moving more of their marketing budgets online. During 2018, it’s expected that the average business will allocate 41 percent of their marketing budget to online. By 2020, that percentage is expected to grow to 45 percent. The digital marketer who knows how to maximize the use of sophisticated online marketing tools is going to be the one who can make the best use of these expenditures for the benefit of the business.
Whether you’re already working in the field or you want to move laterally into digital marketing as a new career, you can easily get the training required to make use of these types of advanced techniques. You can earn a certificate as a digital marketing specialist in your free time while you master the essential disciplines in digital marketing, including SEO, social media, paid search, retargeting, programmatic buying, conversion optimization, web analytics, content marketing, email and mobile marketing, and more.
Marketing is getting ever more targeted and consumers now expect to get timely, relevant messages from brands. When you learn to use the tools that help you to market after the SEO, you’ll be effective at delivering the right kind of message at the right time. And that means a higher rate of conversion, as consumers are receptive to your message and more likely to act upon it. Which, ultimately, serves not only your employer but your career, as you become the expert who makes the digital marketing magic happen.