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What is Digital Marketing?

Digital Marketing: Marketing, Evolved.

Digital marketing is the modern way to market. We’ll take a look at the methods used in traditional marketing and see how digital marketing compares (spoiler alert: the latter is better!)

What is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing is the modern way to market.

These days, the words “digital marketing” are nearly interchangeable with the word “marketing”. If you’re not doing digital, you’re not connecting with the most important and ready-to-buy eyeballs available.

To best illustrate, it’s useful to look at the methods used in traditional marketing and see how digital marketing compares.

Traditional Media Marketing

The old-school “Big Three” marketing channels are print, radio and TV. You can put the commercials people see before movies at the theater in that list as well.

Through most of the previous century, these channels were the only ways to advertise your products or services.

The Big Three are all examples of outbound, broadcast marketing.

It is a one-way “broadcast” to (hopefully) your prospects.

There is no way to tell exactly who is absorbing your advertising message.

As if that weren’t bad enough, these entrenched broadcasting channels are the most expensive by far of all the marketing methods.

A recent client prospect told me that he currently pays $750 per month to appear in a glossy local magazine for a neighborhood with less than 10,000 residents here in Northern California.

So far in two months of ads, he has received just one lead.

He has not yet closed that lead.

Unfortunately for his business, this gentleman signed a deal with the publisher for 36 months(!) If current stats hold true, he will have paid $27,000 for 18 leads, a cost of $1500 per lead!

During our conversation, he confided in me that this publisher was a great salesman.

You’d have to be, to make this model make sense in this day and age.

Traditional marketing channels all carry the weight of large payrolls and dwindling but nonetheless expensive employees.

Print Media: Then & Now

I worked for a trade publication in the 1980s while I was in college. Fire Protection Contractor magazine was created for folks in the fire sprinkler industry.

We would literally beg people, typically the business owners, to write for us. Their submitted article would essentially be free advertising, we would tell them.

We needed the written content to place our ads in a way that made it appear that our magazine was first and foremost about delivering valuable content to our readers. Of course, paid advertising is the very lifeblood of print media.

However, very few businesses took us up on our offer to publish their articles for free. It was (and still is!) a lot of trouble to stare at a blank page and write a lengthy article.

Recently, I offered to provide free valuable business-oriented content to a Pleasanton weekly newspaper.

They sent me back a media kit and a price sheet to submit an article.

The price to do the work, and write the article was $500! Yes, they wanted me to pay them to do the work to create the content which they would surround with other paid advertising.

But I have my own publishing machine: and Google.

The Dawn of Digital Marketing

Social Media Management

Email was really the first digital marketing channel, and boy, was it ever effective.

In 1978, when a salesman with Digital Computer Corporation sent out an “email blast” announcing the new VAX computer, marketers realized that a targeted list of people they knew to be prospects was a super cost-effective and efficient way to get their message out.

Email marketing was so effective, that spam became a big problem in the 1990s and remains so to this day, with an estimated 85% of all emails sent being unsolicited advertisements.

But let’s not be too hasty to consign email marketing to a bygone era.

Big email systems like Google’s Gmail are extremely effective at weeding out spam, and email is actually quite useful again, if you’re on Gmail.

I’m on Gmail and I love it! Living life nearly 100% spam-free has made my email useful again.

Web Marketing

Web Marketing took off in earnest in the 1990s.

As the internet grew, a few bright people realized that it was difficult to find what you were looking for. These visionaries created large data-driven websites called search engines.

Websites with old-tymey names like AltaVista, Excite, “Ask Jeeves” and InfoSeek became sensations, and searchers found it easy to navigate the increasingly large data set known as “the web”.

Then Google was born in 1998. Slowly but surely, Google became the world’s top search engine, finally surpassing the use of AOL and Yahoo in 2004.

I recall the moment working at a web startup in Pleasanton when a light bulb went off in my head: “Instead of memorizing technical trivialities, I can just look it up in real-time on Google!”

Now anyone could find what they were looking for, and websites that were best “optimized” (search engines could read the site easily and understand what it was) were rewarded with the highest visibility, or rankings, on Google.

Hello, search engine optimization.

A lower-numbered “ranking” means you rank higher in the search results. Like in the record biz, a #1 is ranked higher than a #64, #2 is higher than #5, etc.

A Google page that shows the information for a search performed is called the Search Result Page, or SERP.

Users began exploring the web in earnest. Mostly what users found was useful information surrounded by banner ads.

Banner ads were often junky-looking image-based advertisements placed within or around the content of a popular web page. And popularity meant a lot of eyeballs ended up on the web page.

Often those eyeballs would drift over to the advertiser’s ad.


Ideally, a user would click on the ads, which led to a page on the advertiser’s website, which encouraged the user to buy, or convert.

Early on, marketers learned that if you took a prospect to a page with a lot of extra baggage such as menus, headlines, articles or other distractions, the user would often become distracted by all the other shiny objects and never buy the product or service.

Thus landing pages or squeeze pages were born.

The job of a landing page is singular: drive the prospect to buy. A good landing page contains zero distractions, and usually offers only a single action that they can take: BUY the product or service.

Landing pages are still a hot and useful component of any good website that offers a product or service for sale.

What is Digital Marketing

Google: Organic Search Results & Other Results

A particular website’s ranking in Google determined which websites would show up highest in the organic (unpaid) search results for a given search term or “keyword” (a misnomer when it’s more than one word, but no one seems to say “key phrase”, so we’ll go with it). In ranking, as in golf or a hit record, a lower number is better. To illustrate how rank works, it’s helpful to give a few examples:

Aside from the organic results, there are lots of other search bells and whistles present in 2020:

Paid Search: Google Ads

In October of 2000, Google realized that advertisers who didn’t have the best websites still wanted to be seen.  And boy, could that generate some revenue.

Thus, paid search engine marketing (SEM) and Google Adwords was born.

Adwords surfaced the advertiser’s website listing in a variety of places on the Google SERPs to encourage the searcher to click on the ad. 

Google gets paid when a searcher clicks on an advertiser’s ad.

Google has experimented from the beginning to optimize their SERPs to weave in Adwords advertisements among the “organic” (unpaid) search results.

As of this writing, for a search with results that include paid and organic listings, the paid listings appear in the first few slots above everything else. Some searches show no advertisers (meaning, no one is advertising using the term you searched for), some show as many as 3 or 4 advertisers who have bid on the keyword you searched for.

Shown next, is the Google map pack, click the link to learn about what that is.

The first organic results are found below the map pack. Organic results aren’t as valuable to Google as ads, obviously. Nonetheless, organic results must be shown as users would stop using Google if everything it surfaced was an advertisement.

Google does a delicate and ever-changing dance to give searchers the most relevant and useful information. Even the paid ads must be seen by Google as valuable and “relevant” to the user.

Having an ad with a high relevancy score will allow the advertiser to pay less per click.

And “How much does Google charge per click”? 

AdWords is an auction, and what your competition pays (as well as ad relevancy) primarily determines what you’ll pay. 

If a competitor with a high relevancy score pays $10/click, and you bid $9/click for your ad with a similar relevancy score, the advertiser who pays more will generally rank higher.

Google does a delicate and ever-changing dance to give searchers the most relevant and useful information. Even the paid ads must be seen by Google as valuable and “relevant” to the user.

 Having an ad with a high relevancy score will allow the advertiser to pay less per click.

And “How much does Google charge per click”? 

AdWords is an auction, and what your competition pays (as well as ad relevancy) primarily determines what you’ll pay. 

If a competitor with a high relevancy score pays $10/click, and you bid $9/click for your ad with a similar relevancy score, the advertiser who pays more will generally rank higher.

In 2018, over 85% of Google’s revenues came from paid advertising services.

Modern Digital Marketing

Modern Digital Marketing Channels

With the explosion of devices beyond desktop, such as smartphones and tablets, modern digital marketing has truly come into its own.

In addition to the online marketing systems discussed above, digital marketing now includes:

Each of these marketing modalities gets (and deserves) plenty of “virtual ink”.

I will be writing more on each of these topics on this website in the near future (I hope I remember to update this sentence when I do!)

If you want to learn more now, a search for any of these topics on Google sends you down a rabbit hole of more shiny marketing objects. My own explorations have taught me that I can easily lose an entire afternoon on any one of the above-listed sub-topics.

You have been warned.

The Best Parts of Digital Marketing

What is Digital Marketing

Because digital marketing is such an involved and ever-changing topic, I almost left out the absolute best part: targeting and reporting.


Is your product a great fit for millennials living in Livermore with a median income between $50K – $100K? Find them all day on Facebook and Instagram.

Advertising a local microbrewery to bearded hipsters? Use Facebook Audience Insights to find the perfect match for your tasty IPA.

Do you sell a B2B service for folks in the biotechnology industry working in Chapel Hill, NC? Build helpful and great content, and let your ideal prospects find you with organic search engine optimization (hint: this is absolutely the best way to market: “inbound”.)

By now, you get my point: targeting allows you to reach out to your ideal prospects, at exactly the moment you want, eliminating the massive waste of time and marketing “real-estate” incurred when doing shotgun-style traditional media advertising.


What good would targeting be if we couldn’t see the people that we’d reached and the actions that they’d taken?

Using systems such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, as well as a variety of other reporting tools, we can see who has visited our web properties and what they’ve done when they got there.

By using UTM parameters in your advertising campaign, you can easily track where users came from and report on it in a meaningful and colorful way in Google Analytics.

With Analytics and Search Console, you can answer questions like these:

So what is the most effective way to spend your marketing dollar?

There are so many ways to look at your data in Analytics and Search Console, it’s dizzying. These reports give you extremely powerful tools that are simply not available to you when doing print, radio or TV advertising.

Digital Marketing for Your Product or Service

Honestly, I have no idea how anyone thinks they can run their business and do a good job of digital marketing. There’s so much to know, and it changes all the time

If you’re trying to figure out your digital marketing priorities, let’s talk. The only thing about Boomcycle that’s old-fashioned is our customer service. I believe there’s no substitute for a personal relationship and accountability. The only way we’ll keep your business is by delivering outstanding results and value.

If you’re confused about which type of digital marketing is right for your business, I would be happy to speak with you.

Please contact Boomcycle for a complimentary consultation to see if we’re a good fit for each other

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