digital marketing Tag Archives - General Assembly Blog

Digital Marketing: An Easy to Understand Guide


When people hear the term “digital marketing”, they often think only of social media platforms. While these marketing channels are definitely in the digital marketing mix, they’re not the only ones. 

Let’s first define digital marketing. According to the American Marketing Association,

“digital marketing refers to any marketing methods conducted through electronic devices. This includes online marketing efforts conducted on the internet. In the process of conducting digital marketing, a business might leverage websites, search engines, blogs, social media, video, email and similar channels to reach customers.” This definition includes what I like to call the  digital marketing ecosystem. 

What’s in the digital marketing ecosystem?

These are the core types of digital marketing around which to plan a digital marketing strategy: 

  • Website / landing pages
    • Search engine optimization (SEO)
    • Search engine marketing (SEM)
    • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Content marketing
    • Blogs
    • Video content
    • Downloadable resources
    • Photos and visuals
  • Social media marketing
    • Social ads
  • Email marketing
  • Online advertising
    • Digital ads 
    • Pay-per-click (PPC)

What is the role of digital marketing? 

The digital marketing process starts with determining goals. Are the marketing efforts focused on building brand awareness? Generating and nurturing leads? Increasing conversions? Increasing sales? Increasing website traffic? Be sure the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely — SMART goals.

For B2B companies, goals tend to be centered around lead generation and lead nurturing. Prospective clients are drawn in via content or inbound marketing and the sales cycle is typically longer. Marketing efforts lead prospects to eventually have a conversation with a member of the sales team. In B2C companies, digital marketing goals are focused on leading the customer through the buyer’s journey as quickly as possible resulting in a purchase. Marketing efforts lead buyers from website visit to sale via CTAs (calls-to-action) and drip email campaigns

After goals have been determined, an overall digital marketing strategy or plan is mapped out. Digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks by which the overall marketing plan is achieved. 

How does the digital marketing process start? 

In the customer journey, awareness of your brand is the first step. When consumers begin research to make purchases, where do they typically start? By doing a search online via Google or another search engine. The results serve up websites or other online properties which match their search terms or keywords. This starting point is where you can take proactive steps to help consumers become aware of your brand. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method of improving your ranking among search results. The higher you rank, the more visible you are to a consumer. SEO best practices include optimizing for keywords and search terms. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is paid advertising to rank higher in search results. SEM may be used together with SEO to increase visibility in search results and drive traffic to a company’s website. If you’ve taken all the appropriate steps to optimize your site, your brand can rank high among the organic results. It’s not a guarantee which is why many brands take advantage of a mix of SEO and SEM efforts. 

Content marketing is another avenue which contributes to SEO efforts and by which a brand may be found. What is content marketing? The use of content to educate, inform, and draw in potential clients or buyers. This includes blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, social media posts, webinars, downloadable resources, etc. Using content can lead prospective customers to take a desired action, such as exchanging their email address for a resource or to receive a product discount. To develop the right content marketing strategy, draw upon the SMART goals which were established. 

What role does social media play in content marketing? Social media posts can distribute and share content. Social media posts can direct prospects to where you want them to go online. Deciding the channels on which to have a presence depends on who the company wants to reach and connect with. Social media channels, such as Facebook, enable people to build a relationship with a brand. In the buyer’s journey, social media brings awareness of a brand as well as nurture consideration. Further in the journey, social media is a useful tool for brand advocacy.

A company is able to run ads on social media networks for not only brand awareness but also for targeting specific audiences. Most companies will have the Facebook pixel installed on their site. When a prospective customer visits the website and leaves, the pixel enables retargeting via ads in their social feed. Websites typically have cookies installed so that the companies can benefit from targeted online advertising. Their ads are served to potential customers as they move around on the internet visiting other websites.

While visiting a website, an offer for a discount may be made to the potential customer in exchange for their email address. The site visitor gives the company their email address and chooses to opt in to receive messages. The potential customer then receives a series of emails designed to lead them through the buyer’s journey and get to the end goal of a purchase. Or in the B2B space, a piece of content or other resource is offered in exchange for contact information. This begins the lead nurturing process with the end goal of a closed sale. 

Each piece of the digital marketing puzzle fits together to make a whole digital marketing strategy which meets a company’s marketing and sales objectives. It’s a digital marketer’s responsibility to determine the right mix which will achieve campaign and overall marketing goals. Along the way, the mix may have to be revised or course-corrected after reviewing metrics and data. This is the beauty of digital marketing — data and metrics are readily available to guide decisions and planning. “Old-school” offline marketing couldn’t offer this. Not only can ROI be determined more accurately, missteps are less costly because the strategy can be revised mid-campaign rather than waiting for results after it’s all said and done. Digital marketing can be effective for any business in any vertical. 

Digital Marketing Example

Ansley needs a new vacuum cleaner that cleans not only her carpeting but also works well for her hardwood floors. She searches on Google by typing, “vacuum cleaner for carpet and hardwood floors” and “best vacuum cleaner for carpet and hardwood floor.” ABC Vacuum Cleaner Company is served up at the top of her search results due to their SEO. Ansley clicks on the link which directs her to their website. She looks at a couple of their products and decides she needs to do further research. 

Part of her research is asking for recommendations from friends and family on her social media. Ansley goes to Facebook to post that she needs recommendations. While scrolling through her Facebook feed, she sees ads for the specific products she had viewed on ABC’s website. In fact, the ads have an offer of a 10% discount. She clicks on the ad and is led to a landing page which asks for her email address to send her the discount code. Ansley shares her email address. She receives the 10% discount code as promised. She also begins receiving carefully timed email messages in a sequence, crafted to lead her through the buying process. 

After doing additional research and visiting other vacuum cleaner companies’ sites, Ansley feels confident that she has enough information to make a purchase. She buys from ABC because they’ve educated her about all the product features (through the email marketing drip campaign) and offered free shipping. ABC’s goal was met by converting a prospective buyer.

3 Reasons Why Every Digital Marketer Should Learn to Code


should digital marketers learn to code image

Why should marketers learn code? The definition of “marketing” hasn’t changed in 100 years or more. However, the methods, tactics, and tools of marketing have changed rapidly in the last 10 years. Today, if you want to lay claim to the title “digital marketer,” you’d be wise to learn the basics of web development. From search engine optimization (SEO), email, and landing pages to web analytics and data analysis, every facet of digital marketing is powered by code. Understanding what’s going on behind the scenes will give you the insight necessary to make informed and strategic marketing decisions. Ultimately, a programming language is a great marketing tool to learn. Here are just a few reasons digital marketers should learn how to code.

Continue reading

How to Write the Best Problem Statement for Your Startup



The Lean Startup Methodology changed the way we go about starting businesses. Instead of creating a business plan worthy of a Harvard Business School case study, we go out into the market space that we know and find a real problem. Then, we validate the pain point and see how the market is dealing with, compensating for, or otherwise working around that specific problem. Next, we determine if the market participants are willing to pay for a solution to the problem. If they see value, then we solve the problem.

Of course, it’s never that simple, but that’s the basic process in a nutshell. Atlanta entrepreneur David Cummings recently wrote that this process, from discovering the problem to getting to product market fit, generally takes about two years. Finding a problem is usually fairly clear. Validating the problem takes longer. Finding customers who are willing to pay takes a little longer, and building a product that fits the market takes a long time and usually includes several pivots or small deviations from the original product idea.

At the core of everything involved in creating a startup is the customer pain point. But many times, the best product for solving that problem doesn’t win. Why? Because the makers of that solution are really good at solving said problem, but not good at all at explaining what exactly the problem is or what its root cause consists of. In other words, the entrepreneur who can communicate better usually wins. That is why it is so vitally important to be able to explain the problem you are solving to anyone so that they understand it completely. But how do you do that?

Continue reading

The Top 5 Highest-Paying Careers in Tech


Careers in tech

It’s no secret. Tech talent is in high demand across industries, but finding people with the skill sets to fill these roles has been challenging, causing competition amongst businesses for talent in tech — in software engineering, UX design, data science, and digital marketing. As a result, jobs in data analytics, computer science, cloud computing, software engineering, digital marketing, and others pay well.   

So what does “pay well” really mean? Using data from PayScale,, and Burning Glass’s most recent Hybrid Jobs report, we’ve put together the numbers for the most common entry level tech jobs. (Note: salary levels quoted below are for the U.S. and can vary from country to country.)
Continue reading

Digital Marketing 101: How Paid Social Increases Brand Engagement and Optimizes Your Ads


The advent of the internet introduced new mediums through which people could communicate — and new ways for marketers to reach potential customers. In the internet’s early days, online advertising was focused on banner ads and emails targeted to audiences based on traditional methods built on demographics. But with the near-ubiquitous adoption of social media, marketers can now refine their targeting thanks to information users willingly provide in the form of a profile. Couple that with advancements from social media companies in the ways brands can communicate, and you have the creation of one of the fastest growing forms of digital marketing.

From 2014 to 2016, the amount of money spent on social media advertising in the U.S. doubled, and nearly every one of the top 100 global brands have used some form of social advertising in the past year. It’s no longer just Facebook, either. YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have all gotten into the marketing business and brought with them intelligent engineers who have helped shape the next generation of paid advertising by offering a host of new features, like targeting, testing, and engagement.

There are plenty facets of paid social that make it a unique and constantly growing way to gain clients and increase revenue. The following are some of the most essential aspects of the practice.

Laser-Focused Targeting Tactics

Social advertising has transformed the way advertisers can target ads, reducing the wasted spend that comes with traditional media such as television or radio. Traditional ads are purchased based on impressions and target demographics, meaning marketers are forced to pay for every impression, even if, for example, only 80% of a program’s audience fits the marketer’s target audience. With social, we can eliminate this waste.

Thanks to all the personal information people willingly share on social media, marketers no longer have to rely on assumptions when trying to reach potential customers. We can target based on age, gender, geographic location (both in real time and your listed residence), interests shown from your comments, social interactions, pages you like, your friends’ social interactions, relationship status, trending topics, people interacting with events and live television shows, and on and on.

With new features like Facebook’s Pixel service, marketers can now even retarget — or show ads to people who have been to your website previously or are part of your customer database — next time they log in to Facebook. To take it a step further, we can utilize “look-alike” audiences to increase our reach to potential customers by allowing social platforms to analyze your customers and place ads to those that share similar characteristics.

Unparalleled Reach

It’s hard to argue with the reach of social platforms. In mid 2017, Facebook surpassed 2 billion monthly users and one in five pageviews happens on Facebook. Roughly 71% of all online American adults use Facebook and with new people signing up every day, there are very few entities that allow you the same reach that social platforms can offer. Add in frequency capping and you have the benefits of reach without having your ad shown to uninterested viewers.

Low Barrier to Entry

With traditional media like broadcast (TV and radio) or print (newspapers or magazines), marketers pay for the advertising space up front. Digital platforms blew that model up years ago with the introduction of cost per click, or interaction, as social channels have come to define it. What does that mean for digital marketers? We no longer have to worry about spending for lost impressions, and instead we now only pay for results. Couple that with the ability to bid in real time and with no minimums, and you have a platform that’s advantageous for any size business.

Ability to A/B Test and Optimize Ads

Not sure if you’re using the right image or if the copy you chose is driving people to action? Thanks to the ability to stop, pause, or edit campaigns in real time, we can analyze and optimize data from our campaigns as they happen and make immediate changes.

A skilled marketer will no longer have to guess when it comes to determining whether and why a campaign was successful. We can run variations of ads simultaneously and see which are producing better results. Really, we can A/B test every aspect of the campaign, including targeting, bidding, images, copy, and even placements to determine the best course of action. And if nothing is working — or worse, something went wrong — we can turn it off immediately.

Increased Engagement

Social advertising has evolved from only sending a user who clicked on your ad to your website. Now, marketers test the power of social media channels through engagement — direct interaction between a potential customer and the business. For example, an ad may now encourage a user to share a video with their friends or comment on a question, all of which can help increase a brand’s social equity.

Engagement can also help spread the brand’s message to a user’s network, furthering organic reach and creating a form of third-party validation. Because people can see others’ responses, oftentimes a positive comment can increase the likelihood of your message being believed. Thanks to YouTube and the proliferation of streaming video, advertisers can create rich media ads that keep users engaged and increase the likelihood of users remembering them. Social sites like Facebook are even taking it one step further, allowing users to autofill lead-generation forms. After all, your personal information is already packaged up and ready for shipment.

Social advertising has quickly become a requirement of any respectable marketing strategy. Thanks to social advertising’s ability to better target, unmatched power to reach potential customers, and low cost of entry, if you’re not taking advantage of everything social advertising offers, you may well be behind the times.

Social Advertising at General Assembly

In General Assembly’s part-time Digital Marketing course, both on campus and online, we walk our students through the process of setting up social campaigns. As we move through the back end of these platforms, we highlight the features that allow you to become proficient as a marketer and make this channel so essential to the new age of marketing.

Through hands-on experience, our students become knowledgeable in all aspects of social advertising, including utilizing the latest techniques in targeting, data analysis, and optimization, adapted from our real-world examples. By highlighting integration techniques, we move our students from the idea of single-campaign tactics on separate platforms to fully cohesive campaigns that build off of one another. The cohesive campaigns can then be tracked through platforms like Google Analytics to measure desired outcomes and return on investment (ROI), and compare them against all other forms of advertising.

Will Hayes is a marketer, entrepreneur, and Digital Marketing instructor at GA’s San Francisco campus. A former media buyer, account manager, and public relations specialist, Will currently owns and operates The Grill House restaurant while consulting for clients on the side. He graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a B.A. in journalism and strategic communication.

“The rapid growth of the digital marketing industry has created a large shortage of skilled practitioners. GA’s Digital Marketing course prepares students for an exciting career in a fast-growing field.”

–Will Hayes, Digital Marketing Instructor, GA San Francisco

Digital Marketing 101: How the Loyalty Loop is Replacing the Marketing Funnel


marketing funnel image

During the past few decades, the marketing funnel served as the primary model for how people learn about a product, decide to buy, and (hopefully) become loyal customers, helping spread the word to others.

Continue reading

Digital Marketing 101: Creating Your Digital Marketing Calendar



This post is part of our Digital Marketing 101 series. Sign up to get the full series!

Everything we’ve discussed so far in this Digital Marketing 101 series has focused on what to do and a bit about how to do it. But in marketing, timing is everything, and the two parts of timing in marketing are frequency and consistency. So here we’re going to move past what and how and look into when. The most valuable tool in your digital marketing arsenal will help you know when to do something, help you maintain your frequency, and, more importantly, your consistency. That tool is your digital marketing calendar.

Continue reading

Digital Marketing 101: Measuring Your Digital Marketing Efforts



This post is part of our Digital Marketing 101 series. Sign up to get the full series!

“You can manage only what you measure.” There are many different versions of that mantra, and all of them hold true. Just as in fitness and weight loss, if you don’t start with a baseline, take regular measurements, and see what’s working, you can’t make data-driven decisions.

In this second post of six in the series “Digital Marketing 101,” we’re offering up highly practical tasks for you to determine how best to grow your digital presence using data backed by marketing analytics.

Continue reading

How to Cultivate Top Tech Talent: What Every Exec Needs to Know


Hiring Strategy Digital Skills Training

Our recommendation is simple: Companies need to invest in learning.

The following is an excerpt from 6 People Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation, an exclusive white paper from General Assembly. Download the full paper here.

The digital landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and it’s essential for companies to harness wide-ranging technical expertise in order to stay ahead. Today’s marketers must be able to analyze massive amounts of data, IT workers must be able to design compelling mobile app experiences, and a “product” is no longer only a physical object but could be a website, a piece of content, or even a training curriculum.

General Assembly’s recommendation for keeping up is simple: Companies need to invest in learning. The Economist magazine recently issued a special report that highlighted the importance of “lifelong learning” as a habit that both skilled and unskilled workers must incorporate to keep pace with a rapidly developing economy. They profiled GA’s approach to tech education — including upskilling promising individuals and reskilling those with outdated competencies in data, web development, and design — as an effective way to ensure employees’ skills were kept up to date.

Continue reading

What Does It Mean to Be a Good Digital Marketer? Defining Digital Marketing Competencies and Landscape

By and

In this digital age, employee roles and responsibilities are changing as quickly as industries are evolving. Most jobs available today don’t have higher education programs, standardized exams, or textbooks that definitively tell people which skills they need in order to land them. Without this industry standardization, employers also struggle; they don’t have clear boxes to tick when evaluating job seeker’s qualifications. How can companies get a better sense of which skills job candidates and employees need? How can job seekers become more savvy about developing and communicating their qualifications?

At General Assembly, we work every day to answer these two questions. We provide job seekers with the competencies they need to be successful in today’s workforce. We also help employers understand how to evolve with their industry and connect with skills and talent that will enable them to grow. But in order to provide guidance to employers and job seekers most effectively, we must have a clear definition of each field ourselves. As the job landscape changes and General Assembly grows, we constantly refine our offerings and frameworks to better unite our product and message.

Let’s look at the field of digital marketing, which has seen exponential change in the last few years.

Continue reading