Five Digital/Online Marketing Tools

By now, I’m sure that you understand, and are probably an advocate for, the importance of the World Wide Web when it comes to marketing. Staying ahead of the competition has become much harder, which means that companies need to have smarter marketing ideas and strategies.



Whether you are considering starting a new website or are already set up and now need to make the right decisions regarding how you are going to best market your website, you need to become familiar with the tools and methods available to you. For legitimate and effective ways to get targeted traffic to your website, see the list of tactics below. However, to keep website visitors coming back to your website, make sure to read this book to the end.



For now, the top five digital marketing tools and tactics with which you need to concern yourself are:

  1. 1.      Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

    2.      Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

    3.      Pay Per Click (PPC)

    4.      Email marketing

    5.      Social media 


1.   Search Engine Optimisation


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the art of using keywords and keyword phrases in your website content and other website areas. These keywords and keyword phrases are what prospective website visitors will most likely type into search engines when searching for solutions to their problems and related products and services.



An example of keywords for a bakery might be ‘birthday cakes’, ‘cheap croissants’, or even ‘fresh daily bread in Johannesburg CBD’. The idea is to know what keywords and keyword phrases your target market would typically type, in Google, when searching for your type of product, service or business. Then, you must use those keywords and keyword phrases in your website content, to optimise the chances of your website coming up first on Google search results, in the hope that the person searching will find your ‘bakery’ listing and end up on your website.



SEO should be the staple of any digital marketing campaign. It is crucial for any business, be it a multinational corporation or a sole trader, to place themselves on the first  page of related search results. SEO is also extremely cost–effective in increasing the visibility of your brand, business and offering, to attract targeted and potentially high–quality customers. With more than 63 000 searches happening every second, not using SEO would mean missing out on a massive marketing opportunity.



Take a look at these great benefits of SEO:

  • ·        Targeted traffic: SEO maximises your company’s visibility to browsers who are actively searching for your type of product or service.

    ·       High ROI: Rand for rand, dollar for dollar, SEO delivers a high Return On Investment (ROI). It may take some time, but it is one of the most cost–effective ways of raising public visibility for your company.

    ·       Long–term positioning: A well–designed and search engine–optimised website stays in the rankings for a long time. This is especially important when compared to other forms of marketing (advertising or event promotions), where costs are significant, but the visibility achieved only happens over a specific timeframe.

    ·       Promotion that doesn’t sleep: SEO works 24/7, 365 days every year.


No matter what your business sells or offers as a service, there will be other companies doing the same thing. You need to stand out from the crowd. SEO can help you to do this.


On–page vs off–page SEO

On–page SEO is the practice of optimising individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On–page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimised, as opposed to off–page SEO, which refers to links and other external signals.[1]

[1] Source: On-page SEO –

Creating a digital marketing strategy is a daunting exercise that involves more than a logo, static website and ‘contact us’ forms. It must include a SMART strategy, flexible tactics, great content and effective tools to help you to attract and convert your targeted prospects into repeat–buying customers and raving fans.


The graphic below is a simple visualisation of how the five main digital marketing tools work in conjunction with your overall digital marketing strategy and brand corporate identity to achieve marketing success. This book will demonstrate how these primary digital marketing pieces fit together and how you can use them to achieve marketing success.

With SEO, you don’t pay for your keywords search result listings, in which case it will only cost you the time it takes to implement it yourself. However, you may have to pay someone to implement SEO for you if you’re unable to do it yourself.

Undoubtedly, some of your business competitors have already implemented SEO services, which means that you are already a few steps behind. But, don’t worry; if done properly, SEO provides a great way to increase your search ranking and traffic to your website.


2.   Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM), not to be confused with SEO, also uses search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, to list your business and offering, based on the keywords and keyword phrases you use in your SEM campaign. With SEO, you rank organically because it’s not a paid–for service. However, with SEM, you pay to have your keywords and keyword phrases listed in the search results. SEM is highly effective in driving loads of traffic to your website because it is prioritised over the SEO organic search result listings.

Google Ads is an example of an SEM platform. The SEO and SEM search result listings look almost identical, except for the ‘Ad’ label that appears next to SEM search result listings and is therefore prioritised over the organic SEO listings. For example:

If implemented correctly, SEM is very efficient in attracting targeted traffic to your site. Its flexible targeting options let you personalise the campaign to suit your requirements.


With SEM and Google Ads, as with most PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising approaches, you decide the keywords that you want to advertise when a prospect performs a search. For example, if you are a car rental provider, you will probably want to advertise using keywords such as ‘car hire’, ‘car rentals’, and ‘affordable vehicle rentals’. You can also modify your choice whenever you wish.


How much do SEM ads cost?

Google Ads, for example, can cost between $1 (R15) and $2 (R30) each time a visitor clicks on your advertised keywords. This cost is also called Cost Per Click or CPC.


How much should you budget for SEM or Google AdWords?

Depending on your industry, the locations of your target markets, goals and resources that you have available, I recommend that you start with a budget of at least $100 (R1 500) to test the strategy. This will provide you with a starting point. Next, double this budget and run it twice to help you establish a benchmark from which you can build and optimise your Google Ads campaigns.

When running SEM campaigns, you also decide on a maximum bid for a click and the maximum amount you are willing to pay per overall campaign. This gives you control and ensures that you never pay more than you want to. You can also define the reach of your campaign as widely or as narrowly as you like. This means that you can choose to target a city, a country or only the neighbourhood where your business operates.


Where you appear in the order of paid–for listings is affected by how much you’ve spent for that keyword or keyword phrase, as opposed to your competitors, who may be competing and paying for the same keyword or keyword phrase as you. This is precisely why you must spend adequate time ensuring that you select the ideal and commonly searched–for combinations of keywords that your competitors may not be advertising for, so that you get higher listings and more traffic, at a lower cost of advertising.


SEM and Google Ads advertising are tactics that can be adopted in isolation, but it is advisable to consider them as part of a multi–channel and integrated digital marketing strategy that includes the other tactics covered in this book. This will help you to cover greater marketing ground and help you to gain maximum ROI from your marketing efforts.


3.   Pay Per Click


Pay Per Click (PPC) is a digital marketing model where you, as an advertiser, drive traffic to your websites, app or another landing page by placing adverts on other websites. For this, you pay a fee to the publisher of your advert, every time someone clicks on your advert.


The main difference between SEO/SEM and PPC is that PPC uses, what we call, display advertising, as opposed to just text. Here are some examples of display adverts:

PPC ads usually have no upfront costs. This is because you pay every time someone clicks on your ad, not when you set it up, hence the name Pay Per Click. You only accumulate costs when the customer clicks on your ad and is redirected to your website, app or landing page. If nobody clicks on your advert, then you pay minimal, or no, costs. This is why PPC is especially attractive to businesses with small marketing budgets.


Even though PPC is commonly associated with search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, also provide marketers with an ability to display adverts using the PPC model. Here are examples of PPC display ads on Facebook:

The kind of targeting functionality that a company, such as Facebook, offers to marketers to place ads in front of their ideal customers helps to reduce wasteful marketing expenditure. Because it’s sometimes difficult to know for sure how many people will click on your ad, you can limit your PPC advertising budget and the length of the campaign. When either has been reached, your ad will automatically stop displaying.


How much does PPC cost?

The average cost per click is typically $1–$2 (R15–R30). However, this will largely depend on how competitive the keywords associated with your advert are, as determined by your industry, and whether it is peak or off–peak season. Health, banking, software and insurance industries tend to have extreme competition for the same keywords per industry. This results in much higher costs per clicks, which could easily run as high as $50 (R750) or more, per click.

4.   Email marketing


It is not unusual to have strong rankings on search engines and still experience low sales conversion rates. Often, another company that falls lower on Google’s search results will be converting visitors into sales at a much higher rate than one with higher search results. Why does this happen?


Let’s assume that all other things are equal. Both players have good sales copy and web design and quality products. In this case, it is highly probable that the business with higher website traffic–to–lead and to–customer conversions has an effective email marketing campaign in place.

Email marketing is the practice of sending both sales and non–sales messages to a list of email subscribers. Email marketing helps you to get your marketing messages in front of a highly targeted audience, quickly, in a consistent and personalised manner. Businesses that succeed at digital marketing are often great at email marketing.


Not many website visitors will buy your service or product on their initial visit to your website. Some may, indeed, purchase immediately, but the majority won’t. In fact, many will never return to your website, unless they actually need to return. Website visitors are considered warm to hot leads. But once they leave your website, you have no way to reconnect with them. This results in losing a substantial number of potential customers.


The consequence of not using email marketing means that you are not capitalising on the simplicity and speed that it offers in building new customer relationships. Email–friendly businesses attract and convert more leads into customers. Businesses that are not email–friendly miss a marketing opportunity to produce higher ROI.


Sales statistics show that most customers need to be exposed to an offer seven times or more before they purchase from a business. Email marketing can be the silver bullet that you need to maintain vital contact, with your leads and prospects, until they are ready to make that purchase.


It is equally important to consider existing paying customers. Email marketing campaigns can go a long way to ensuring that existing customers turn into lifelong relationships. Using email marketing, in combination with landing pages that provide free offers to website visitors, affords your business a very effective follow–up approach to touch base with leads, existing customers, business partners and others, at almost no cost.


Email marketing will help your business to:

  • stay in touch with new leads and existing customers;
  • customise messages for different customer segments;
  • follow up, and build trust and credibility through continued contact;
  • advertise and communicate new products and services to your database; and
  • generate a higher marketing ROI due to email cost–effectiveness.

Look at these examples of how Sage uses software trials, and how Vespa uses free lessons, to opt website visitors into their email marketing campaigns:

5.   Social media


How do local customers find you? As I’ve mentioned, many people look for vital contact information and conveniently located service providers by going straight to a search engine such as Google. Having a website that ranks well on Google is vital. However, with search engines, you’re essentially waiting until your customer is ready to find you. What happens when you want to take the initiative and find the customer yourself?


Enter social media.


It should be obvious that to find customers, locally, you must go where they are. Many of them are online, hanging out on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Social media is a combination of terms: ‘social’ means interactive and personal, while ‘media’ means communications. Social media sites differ from regular websites in that, while they offer you information, they also allow you to communicate and interact with them and their audience. Whether it’s to leave a comment or sharing a common interest, social media performs are a two–way street of communication; they allow you to receive information while also giving you the chance to respond.


Social media networking websites ( e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube) can help you to establish a strong brand and digital presence, while working from the comfort of your office or home.


If used effectively, social media is a great tool for:

  • networking and creating new connections;
  • generating new leads and sales;
  • building and nurturing relationships;
  • running promotions and advertising campaigns; and
  • broadcasting news to the public and sharing internal communications.


In the following chapters, I will give you detailed guidance on how to get started and better plan and execute your social media strategy.

Go to previous chapter: Effective Website Development

Go to next chapter: Understanding The Social Media Landscape