by Juan Robin II
If you want to bring your business to the next level, then you need to promote it online on digital marketing channels.
However, if you’re new to digital marketing, then you might get confused with the different channels available and how each of them works.
More importantly, you would probably get lost working your way on how to market your brand on these platforms and maximize your results.
Thankfully, in this post, I will show you everything you need to know about digital marketing channels. By the end, you should know the major marketing channels and how to choose the right channels where to promote your business.
Looking for information on a specific channel? Jump to that section:
What is a digital marketing channel?
A digital marketing channel refers to a platform where a brand delivers a product or service to its consumers. It is also a means to communicate one’s message to its target audience.
The purpose of the channel is to lay the foundation where your business and audience can interact. Once you achieve the goal, the channel leads people back where they become leads or customers of your business, whether it’s on your website or another online property.
Reaching out to your audience using digital marketing channels is more important now than ever, considering that the rate of people using the internet has been increasing since 2005.
The real challenge now for business owners is finding ways to use the channel and successfully hit their goals, whether it’s to convert people into customers or engage them in different ways.
What the statistics show above is the opportunity of people whom you can reach out to with your business.
However, getting them to learn more about your brand and buy from it is another thing.
I mention this because not all businesses can benefit from the same channel. There are industries in which certain channels work the best while others don’t.
Later on, I’ll discuss how to pick out the digital marketing channels for your business that will generate the higher success rate.
What are the major digital marketing channels and why?
Among the different digital marketing channels to choose from, below are the channels that deliver the best ROI for one’s business:
Most people are using the internet because of social media. Out of 7.7 billion people all over the world in 2019, 2.82 billion have at least a social media account. That’s almost half of the total world population!
Among the top social media platforms out there according to the We Are Social and Hootsuite study, Facebook and Youtube remain two of the top ones with over 2 million active users a month.
The next platforms, Whatsapp, FB Messenger, and Wechat, are messenger apps that the majority of people use to send messages and make video calls.
What makes social media popular is how it gives people the ability to connect with people from across the globe. They can talk to each other without fail and regardless of distance as long as there’s internet connection.
As a result, social media transformed how we live our lives. Instead of holding meetings at the office, they can hold a video conference at the comfort of their homes. This is especially true nowadays especially with threats like COVID-19 disrupting one’s livelihood. Using these channels allow you to work your way around obstacles so you can still carry out your business.
This reason is what makes social media appealing to marketers and businesses alike. They can reach out to their target audiences more effectively with less friction.
Marketing on social media requires you to publish text and images that their followers can see which could lead to higher engagement and conversions.
As simple it sounds, however, you can’t just publish posts and expect conversions from the get-go. To find success in social media marketing, you need to develop a plan that will lay down the foundation of your strategy.
It all starts with your target audience. You must break down your target audience into demographics, i.e. age, gender, income bracket, interests, etc.
Creating a buyer persona gives you a better understanding of whom you want to approach on social media with your business. As a result, it allows you to create content to publish on social media that best resonates with them.
Social media marketing and advertising
Now, there are two types of promotions under social media: marketing and advertising.
The former is a 6-12 month campaign that focuses on growing a fanbase to promote brand awareness. Due to the length of the campaign, businesses need to develop a strategy that allows them to publish compelling social media posts on a consistent basis. That means filling out the calendar in advance with content to be posted.
In this case, scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer help you set up the posts to go live on your chosen dates and times. They also gather data pertaining to how many people viewed, liked, and/or commented on the post to help you tweak your other messages on the fly.
LYFE Marketing developed and implemented such a social media marketing campaign to great effect. The agency managed a natural beauty products brand for 11 months much to the satisfaction of the brand:
The key to its success is the strategic approach to content brainstorming.
The agency created posts to publish on the brand’s social channels by analyzing its competitors and reviewing the type of posts that generated the most engagement. From here, LYFE Marketing shaped their buyer persona that also laid the foundations of the goals and objectives for the brand’s social media campaign.
Now, if you don’t have time for a full-blown social media marketing campaign, you may want to try our social media advertising.
This method delivers results much faster due to the length of the campaign (3-6 months on average). Basically, you filter out the group of people who will see the ad on your chosen social channel. However, as a direct-response marketing tactic, you need to spend money to launch the campaign depending on your campaign goals.
An example of a social media ad campaign that yielded results was from School Year Abroad. It helps high school juniors and seniors study in different countries.
The goal of the organization was to increase brand awareness and signups to the website.
To do this, the school allotted a monthly budget of $350 from December 2017 to August 2018.
Using Facebook and Instagram, School Year Abroad was able to grow its social media referral to more than 500% after.
Best of all, the school was able to increase signups from 2,500 last to a whopping 25,000 last year – a 900% increase!
If images and text are not getting the job done, then you should consider going with video for your social media campaigns. In fact, you should start with video marketing since it grows your revenue 49% faster compared to non-video campaigns.
The reason for the effectiveness of videos is simple:
People absorb information better on videos than on text. For instance, our brains process information from visual content 60,000x faster. By investing in videos to promote your brand, you can expedite the process of generating lots of traffic to and conversions from your site!
As mentioned earlier, Youtube is the second most popular social media site in the world. Therefore, it makes perfect sense creating video content in this platform to make the most out of your visibility.
As it goes with marketing, you need to plan and strategize your approach on how to create the content. This includes observing the best practices to maximize the engagement of people with your videos.
In the case of Home Tech, a Youtube channel that reviews the latest gadgets and tech, it’s a matter of creating videos about a trending topic to accumulate more views.
The brand struck gold with a topic from the smartphone category; in particular, the Samsung Galaxy Tab s5e. Home Tech got their hands on the product weeks before it was released for sale.
Before this, the channel created a preview video of the Android tablet which got a lukewarm number of views. The video might have prompted Samsung to send Home Tech the actual product for them to review, which it did. After creating the unboxing video for the tablet, the channel raked in 20x more total views from that video alone.
But it didn’t stop there. Home Tech created even more videos about the Samsung Galaxy Tab s5e, which became the channel’s most viewed videos.
If you check the videos, you will see ads appearing in them, which is perhaps the channel’s main source of income. Therefore, by publishing content about a topic that has a growing interest from the public, it can generate more views to its channels, thus increasing the impressions and clicks on the ads.
The example above illustrates that video marketing, as appealing as it is to viewers, requires research and implementation to achieve the desired results. Depending on the kind of business you have, Youtube allows you to leverage the views and subscribers you receive based on the goals you have for the channel.
Among the digital marketing channels listed here, email historically has some of the best ROI. In a Campaign Monitor annual report in 2016, email marketing has a 4400% ROI. That means that, for every $1 spent on emails, they get back $44 in return.
Its ROI may have dropped to 4200% according to the Marketer email track 2019 guide released by DMA. Still, email marketing makes an extremely strong case as one of the marketing channels you should use, if not the channel.
There are multiple factors that play into the success of emails as a marketing channel. One, more people open their emails from their mobile devices (46%) compared to webmail (35%) and desktop (18%) in 2018.
The reason is not stated, although it is possible that mobile devices are much more accessible than a desktop or laptop. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that there have been more mobile visits on websites than desktop visits for years.
Another factor that puts email marketing in a positive light is that it’s permission-based. Unlike other marketing channels, brands can only engage with you via email if you consciously signed up to their mailing list.
If they sent you a marketing email but you didn’t sign up to their list, then their email is spam. You can flag it as one and never receive from them again.
The point is that there must be consent on the side of consumers to receive marketing emails. As a business owner, you must earn the trust of their audience for them to sign up to your list. You can implement list building strategies to help grow your email list faster. Ultimately, you have to give them a reason why they should join your newsletter list.
And the fact that people went through all that trouble to sign up means that they’re interested in what you have to say. Since you have their permission to send them emails, it follows that they are receptive to your message and are much easier to convert as new buyers or repeat customers.
Affiliate digital marketing channels case study
Yaro Starak created an email campaign containing multiple emails sent one at a time. The goal was to sell Eben Pagan’s GURU MasterClass program that teaches people how to sell info products online.
The mini-class launch funnel campaign followed the Product Launch Formula approach developed and perfected by Jeff Walker. It contains the pre-launch or thank you message and followed by a series of videos to further pique the interests of subscribers.
Now, the beauty of email marketing is on full display in this approach. He sent the emails to people that meet the condition that he set in this email tool.
Initially, Yaro sent an email to his newsletter subscribers informing them about the program. Those who opened the email and clicked on its link will receive the campaign since they showed interest. Those who didn’t open didn’t receive the second email.
However, the latter received the third email in an attempt to convince them one more time to join the program.
From here, Yaro set up additional emails with triggers and conditions that will be sent to his subscribers that satisfy them. The point here is that he wanted people who want to learn more about the program, i.e. those who opened the emails and clicked on the links, to receive the emails.
Segmenting the subscribers who want to receive the promotional emails is a smart way to keep them engaged while respecting the boundaries of those who didn’t want to receive them.
By setting up this system to help filter out which among his 80,000 subscribers want to join the program, Yaro was able to make $40,000 off this campaign alone!
While this case study was from 2006, it doesn’t dilute the power of email marketing one bit. If anything, people replicate this exact process when selling affiliate products to their subscribers.
Whenever you need to know an answer to something, people usually hop on to Google and type the question there. The search engine will then return hundreds and thousands of pages containing the answers.
This search query is just one of 5.4 billion Google searches made in a day. That’s over 2 trillion searches a year!
With the immense volume of searches conducted every day, it would be foolish of you to not leverage the search engine as a marketing channel.
This reason is why search engine optimization (SEO) exists. It refers to the process of ranking websites on top of search engine result pages (SERPs) for your target keyword. For example, if you have a site about outdoor grills, then it should appear whenever people search for keywords related to grills, i.e. best outdoor grills, how to use outdoor grills, etc.
Getting the top position on organic search is the goal of SEO. The higher you rank, the more clicks and visitors you get to your site.
According to Advanced Web Ranking’s Organic CTR Study, the top three positions on Google SERPs will get you over 60% of user clicks.
Assuming that your site has a page ranking at the second position for a keyword that gets 2,000 monthly searches. That means the page has an estimated monthly organic search visitors of 320. You can compute for the visitors by multiplying the percentage of users clicking on which position in SERPs (second place gets approximately 16% of clicks) and the number of monthly searches.
To understand how Google crawls and indexes site pages, you must know the ranking factors that the search engine values. It will never disclose what these factors are – it’s like giving marketers a silver bullet to shoot at Google.
Nonetheless, Backlinko published a comprehensive list of ranking factors that Google looks for in a site. Following them gives you the best chance to get the highest position possible.
Also, you need to read up on Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. It’s currently a 166-page PDF file containing things that search evaluators look for in a page.
The document puts heavy emphasis on E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authority, and trust. Basically, Google puts a premium on site pages with an established authority in their respective niches built over time.
These intangibles go to show that, while Google is an algorithm, it put systems in place to help evaluate content on a more human level.
Ecommerce digital marketing channels case study
The Search Initiative, Matt Diggity’s agency, used this marketing channel to drive more traffic to its ecommerce site. After a year of diligently working on the site, his agency was able to boost its organic traffic by 418%.
His team followed the best SEO practices to a tee, which are to:
- Improve user experience
- Perform internal linking and help the flow of PageRank across the site’s pages
- Build a content strategy
- Perform on-page optimization
- Acquire links from authoritative and relevant websites
Ultimately, all these tasks should lead to the growth of a site’s E-A-T. By slowly but surely chipping down the ranking factors, any site – be it ecommerce or not – can rank for its target keywords.
On the other side of SEO is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, also known as search engine marketing (SEM).
Similar to social media advertising, marketers will pay for every click that they get from search results. The cost will depend on the keyword they bid for which is dictated by the industry. And one of the most popular platforms under this channel is Google Ads.
Running an ad campaign shouldn’t take long compared to an SEO campaign. You don’t have to wait for your page to appear in the first position by optimizing your site pages. In fact, winning a PPC ad on Google lets you show your page on top without breaking a sweat!
The biggest advantage of SEM over SEO is that it’s algorithm-proof. If Google tweaks its algorithm (which it often does), some websites fall off search results without rhythm or reason. The same can’t be said for you ads. As long as you keep up with your campaign, you will stay on top during its duration.
But as mentioned, you have to pay every time someone from Google search clicks on your ad. Thus, you must make sure that visitors of the page you’re running an ad for will perform your desired goal, whether it’s to sign up to your site and become a lead or customer.
Google provided a conservative estimate of 800% ROI from Google Ads. It is lower than email marketing’s ROI but that’s not to say that PPC advertising is the lesser between the two. It all depends on the objectives you have in using the channel.
In the case of Google Ads, it performs best when helping businesses generate leads and sales. Currently, it has an average conversion rate of 4.40% on search networks across different industries.
Exposure Ninja was able to help a dental clinic in London generate leads via PPC. The agency inherited a business that was spending £44 per conversion and was gathering 20 leads a month. Its goal now is to acquire even more leads and lower its ad spend.
It did this by creating new campaign ads to freshen up the stale ads the clinic has been running since. Also, using the historical data from its past campaigns, Exposure Ninja was able to implement advanced strategies to further optimize the performances of the ads.
The result was a resounding 400% increase in leads after 50 days into the campaign.
The biggest tweak the agency did for the campaign was to target Polish speakers in London since the dentist is Polish. By identifying its USP, the dental clinic was able to fill a hole in the market which led to an increase in conversions.
Using PPC just like in the example above, businesses can find a market gap and take advantage of it quickly. They don’t have to wait and grow their authority and expertise which could take months and years.
If your business is selling a product or service, then you may want to consider affiliate marketing as one of your methods for promoting it.
Keep in mind, however, that affiliate marketing is not a channel per se.
For starters, you get the word out about your brand by signing up on affiliate marketplaces and putting your product up for display. If publishers like your product, then they will promote it on their preferred channels.
Therefore, is it up to the publisher as to which channels to use (and how many) for marketing your product.
Arguably the best thing about affiliate marketing is you connect with influencers and professional marketers with followers who will buy whatever it is they’re selling.
The aforementioned Yaro Starak and Pat Flynn, who built his Smart Passive Income empire from affiliate commissions, are examples of popular affiliate marketers.
This way, they’re doing the heavy-lifting of promoting your product as you reap the benefits of their hard work.
However, launching an affiliate program is a two-way street. Whenever they complete a transaction of your product with customers, they earn a commission from the total sales they referred. This is your way of compensating them.
The best advocates of your brand are your customers. They bought your product or use your service because they benefit from it. Therefore, the fact that they remain your clients means that they believe in your brand.
You can use this to your advantage by setting up a referral program for your business. This channel is powered by word of mouth from regular people.
From the get-go, referral marketing is different from affiliate marketing. Granted, they are similar because they incentivize people who encourage their friends or family to try out your business. However, that’s where the similarities end.
Affiliates know how to sell any service they set their mind to as long as they know how to sell it. They have the tools and resources to make their marketing campaign work.
The same can’t be said of people in referral marketing. Since they are composed of your customers or fans who are simply passionate about your business, they are not marketing your product or service in a traditional sense.
Instead, they let their experience working with your brand do the talk for them.
And for the most part, it works like a charm! In fact, referrals convert 30% better than any other channel, among other incredible referral marketing statistics.
Arguably the perfect marketing channel for businesses is one that allows for the creation of automated messages but are delivered to visitors with a human touch.
This way, they can save up to 30% customer service costs instead of hiring an agent to stay online and wait for questions from people.
At the same time, they perform functions automatically which help keep visitors engaged on your website. All you need to do is set up conditions as performed by visitors to complete these functions.
These are things that chatbots can do for you.
They are widgets that appear on the lower corner of the screen. If you click or tap on them, they will normally show you answers to questions you have about the website.
However, you can engineer chatbots to do more than just provide answers to simple questions.
In the case of ecommerce websites, you can use chatbots for cart abandonment. So, whenever customers fail to check out their carts, the chatbot will remind them to complete the transaction.
In fact, using this chatbot function and Facebook Messenger together yield a 7-25% increase in sales!
Another clear benefit of chatbots is presence. They are available on your site 24/7 to help visitors navigate your website. This is in contrast with a customer rep that can’t be available to customers at all times.
And while it may not completely replace a real human to do its job, chatbots serve as a viable alternative to keep communication lines between your brand and customers open regardless of timezones
Take FastCashStrips as an example. Its goal is to buy excess glucose strips from diabetes patients in exchange for cash. The fact that they are willing to pay people for the strips should be the kicker.
Unfortunately, the site was having problems convincing visitors to sell their strips. The main issue is that visitors want answers to their questions before they sell to the site.
While FastCashStrips has an FAQ page, this would take users additional time to click and wait for the page to load before they go back to the previous page to complete the transaction. In the age of instant gratification, businesses need to deliver information in the speed of light, whether they like it or not.
The solution that FastCashStrips came up ws fast enough for visitors to double its conversion rate.
This is the human touch that chatbots bring to the table. You’d think that, since the messages are automated, they would sound and feel robotic to people.
On the contrary, the chatbot turned a FAQ section which is usually a pretty mundane page in the site into a conversation. The widget gave a feeling that people are talking to someone on the other end that is giving them the information they’re looking for. And based on the results, its visitors seem to like it.
How to choose digital marketing channels
The type of channels that will work best for your brand depends on a lot of factors. Not all businesses are the same, which means that some channels will produce results on certain industries and won’t on the rest.
And this is a great thing. You don’t want to cover all bases by simply choosing all the available channels. Instead, you need to pick which ones are right for your business and double-down on those channels.
To do this, you need to put thought into the channels in relation to your business. I have already touched upon some of the ways to choose which digital marketing channels to use for your brand. But to make things much clearer, below are the factors you must consider:
Choose channels depending on your goals and objectives
From the examples and case studies above, you can determine which ones you feel will bring the best results to your business. However, you can only do this if you have SMART goals that you want to achieve with your chosen digital marketing channels.
For example, if you have a time-sensitive offer that you want to capitalize on for your business like an affiliate course, then you can follow the path Yaro Starak took by promoting it to your email list. However, email marketing is only effective if you have a massive pool of subscribers you can tap into at a moment’s notice.
If you don’t have subscribers, the next best thing to do is launch a paid advertising campaign on Google and social media. The purpose of PPC advertising is to deliver the product straight to your target audience. It may prove costly compared to other channels, but it’s the only logical option for you to take.
If your goal is to build brand visibility over time, then you should use SEO and social media marketing as your channels. They take a while before you can see the effect they produce, but they nonetheless help build your business brick by brick.
Both channels require consistency on your end. When posting content on social media, for instance, you need to plan them months in advance to ensure that the message on all your posts will be reflective of your branding.
Same goes for SEO – by publishing SEO-friendly content on a regular basis, you attract and retain readers in the process. And, because Google rewards websites that deliver fresh content consistently, you can rank much higher on your target keywords.
Determine your audience
A business with a clear buyer person or customer avatar in mind will have a better rate of success to meet its goals. All they need to do is build a marketing strategy around their buyer persona.
As a business owner, you can see demographics that your business needs to appeal to so you can maximize your conversions. From here, you know which digital marketing channel to use and reach out to them.
Regarding the different social media sites to use as your digital marketing channels, Facebook and Youtube remain the most popular across different age groups from 18-65 years old.
That makes both sites the de-facto channels for your social media efforts.
But if you want to appear to specific age brackets, then you want to use channels that cater specifically to those age groups.
Snapchat and Instagram have a high usage rate among people with 18-24 years of age in the US. So, if your audience is composed of teenagers and college students, then it’s best to appeal to their sensibilities by marketing on these platforms.
Since popular social media platforms leverage on the power of visual content, you ought to consider using videos and images as part of your overall content strategy.
In a survey run by Venngage, 40% of respondents believe that this visual content type helped them meet their marketing goals. 24% attribute their success to publishing videos and presentations.
While creating unique visual content is not easy despite the availability of online image editors, there are ways around leveraging this content type. For example, compiling a list of images for your roundup post on your blog can attract over 100,000 shares on average.
Another content type that’s taken the world by storm are podcasts. The beauty of podcasts is you can listen to them in the background while you’re taking a ride home or doing a repetitive task. This way, people can still absorb the information they hear even without their full attention.
According to the latest podcast stats, 32% of people in the US listen to a podcast episode at least once a month while 22% listen to an episode every week. The largest demographic of listeners for podcasts are 25-34 year olds at 28% followed by 18-24 year olds at 18%.
As a digital marketing channel, you can use podcasts in your industry with thousands and millions of listeners to advertise your business. The platform has an ad revenue of $514 million in 2019 and a projected earnings of $659 in 2020.
However, conversion rates from podcasts vary across industries. Podcasts about business have a 14% increase in intent to purchase the promoted product, which is the highest rate among all niches. The second highest are news and politics podcasts at 12.8%.
This is just an example of an emerging digital marketing channel with characteristics that lend itself well to certain industries. And it’s just a matter of breaking the channel down to its specifics and see whether or not you can use it to promote your brand.
Know your budget
Ultimately, the allocated budget to promote your business dictates which among the channels you will choose.
For instance, even if you want to promote a time-sensitive product, you can’t market it via PPC if you don’t have the money for it.
However, this is not to say that other digital marketing channels are free of charge. You will need to pony up for a specialist to help you develop and implement the campaign for your chosen channel. Not to mention, you must use tools to help you automate boring tasks to get more things done and generate results faster.
To give you an idea on how much you need to spend for each channel, below are figures that I found pertaining to each.
According to Search Engine Journal’s SEO Cost Calculator, the cost for a local SEO expert can go as low as $500 a month. However, international campaigns hover between $2,500-3,000 a month.
For email marketing, working with an agency that will launch your campaigns and manage your subscribers costs $300-500 a month. Now, if you want to manage your email strategy, you can sign up for a free account for tools like MailChimp and the like. However, you will eventually have to pay starting at $9 to access its advanced features or if you exceed a certain number of subscribers.
In contrast, PPC marketers will have their hands full with a $8,000-9,000 monthly budget for ad spend with small businesses. So, if you’re serious about using paid advertising as a marketing channel, make sure you have that much budget for running ads.
Of course, it’s possible that you can spend much lower than the budget indicated above. But keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
So, if you want to cut costs by hiring someone on Fiverr without doing your research, then you’d most likely lose more money than you earned. Or if you want to manage your SEO campaign, then expect the bulk of your time spent on performing tasks to optimize your site, leaving you with no time to focus on other important things.
The point here is you need to allot a budget not only for the campaigns for your digital marketing channels but also for someone with the chops to manage them.
So, which among the digital marketing channels in 2020 will you choose?
As you can see, there’s more than meets the eye regarding the different digital marketing channels. Each channel has a life of its own, with characteristics and features that resonate with a certain demographic.
Therefore, choosing a random channel to promote your business – no matter how many users it has or how high its conversion rates are – is like flushing money down the toilet.
For your business to succeed, you must know what each channel is all about and how people engage with it. With this knowledge, you can pick which ones will produce the highest ROI so you can rake in the profits.
Hopefully, this guide illustrates what the digital marketing channels are all about and how you can possibly use them to market your brand.