5 Main Digital Marketing Channels: A Comprehensive Guide

All digital marketing channels play a role in the solution for a business and are harmoniously combined with each other. Marketers are likely to only focus on 4 or 5 of these activities at most. For startups, you may need to rely more on paid advertising than email marketing in the initial phase of your business. For established companies with a history of digital marketing, improved SEO and social media advertising may be the best opportunity for growth.

Before you can decide which channels make the most sense, let's take a look at your marketing plan and strategy. Before you know where you are going, you need to make a map of where you have been and how you should get there. When creating an online marketing plan, the conversation usually starts with: “So what activity should we focus on? The idea here is that an “all or nothing” approach should be adopted. It's very easy to get one-, two- or three-week data from a digital marketing channel and ignore its benefits in the campaign as a whole. Like the commute, the goal of a multi-channel marketing plan should be to move from current sales (point A) to future sales (point B).

How to get from A to B shouldn't matter as much as the final result. So, if you need to spend 20% of your budget on a branded display campaign to generate enough brand awareness, that cost will be absorbed by your overall campaign results. A good place to start examining opportunities should start with industry data. A Vocus digital marketing survey asked more than 400 small business owners to identify the most effective digital marketing channels for their business. Some interesting ideas emerged from this study.

What Vocus discovered was that most small businesses continue to drive sales through their website through email marketing, search engine optimization, and social media. We know that many small businesses use social media (78%), email (70%) and SEO (58%), but which one is more effective? The study found that most business owners consider their website, email marketing and search engine optimization to be the most effective tools for attracting leads or sales to their website. Social media ranks fourth with nearly 79% of small businesses using social media. Your website is the main gateway to your brand. Many companies start with an attractive website as the first step in marketing their products or businesses.

It doesn't look like websites are going to disappear anytime soon. Websites are still the most effective marketing channel or tool. However, many business owners attribute the success of a sale to their website rather than the marketing effort that led people there in the first place (SEO, social media, etc.). This is a common problem that is only solved through education and analysis. A website alone will not generate activity unless there is an active program or advertising to attract visitors to that website. An attractive website is a good start, but very few websites can get results without many months of social media, search marketing, or advertising.

Email marketing is still one of the best dogs in digital marketing and with good reason. Email marketing is a very cost-effective tool for reaching current customers and maintaining a relationship with those customers. While some may argue that social media is starting to steal some of the success of email, email is still an effective way to reach customers if done right. Unfortunately, many companies have abused email marketing in the past by repeatedly sending promotions to an old list or, even worse, by using email as the primary way to drive traffic to a website. Never use your email list as a substitute for a bad or confusing website.

Is SEO still working? The answer is yes. It's no wonder that search engine optimization, or SEO for short, remains one of the best-performing digital marketing channels for increasing leads or sales. What is most surprising about the Inc study is how low SEO ranks usage (57%) relative to its perceived effectiveness. The idea may be that social networks are free, where SEO is expensive and requires someone with experience in search marketing.

There's a truth that good search marketing isn't cheap or free. Social Media Seems to Be Gaining Strength Among Small Business Owners. Why not? It's free to use and set up a business page on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and more. While most companies are active on social media, it's hard to say which companies use social media to its full potential.

It is unclear how companies track or generate sales from social activity. They may well use these tools for customer service or simply to raise brand awareness. What is also interesting about the study is how much budget is spent on digital marketing for small businesses. Of the companies surveyed, almost 75-90% of the marketing budget goes to digital.

With limited resources in many cases, small businesses spend most of their marketing spending on the main channels mentioned above. Digital is clearly a big driver of business, and the percentage of spending is a reflection of the importance that online marketing has acquired. There are several reasons why it's as difficult to evict email as a channel that offers medium to high ROI for your business, but the one thing you can't take away from email is its versatility. While email may not be the latest technology available, it allows you to apply the latest trends in content marketing, such as personalization and automation, without hurting your marketing budget.

Uber Email's Halloween marketing email also has the ability to support other marketing goals, so it's not surprising that 73% and 63% of B2B marketers say that email is their main tool for generating leads and driving revenue, respectively. Social media marketing is on this list for some very valuable reasons, but it's not just about social media users hitting the 4.48 billion mark. From being a channel that people use to establish relationships with brands they love and trust; it has become an essential part of any digital marketer’s toolkit.

Heidi Sor
Heidi Sor

Hardcore coffee lover. Hipster-friendly web scholar. Subtly charming travel scholar. Avid music expert. Beer expert.