Digital Nonsense: Five Strategies To Understanding A World Of Digital Marketing Noise And Confusion

There's a lot of digital marketing hype out there, and if it's your job to stay on top of it all, it can be hard to know what is nonsense and what is mission critical. So, here's a quick list of five things you really need to know in order to build a strong digital marketing strategy for your brand.

(1) How Online Search and Display Ads Work Together

One does the heavy lifting in terms of driving traffic (that's the Search part). The other one is critical as a brand builder (that's the Display part). Don't think "either/or" because both are important to the success of your online marketing program. Also, don't measure them the same way or you'll be looking at negative ROI and you may even make a bad business decision and throw one out in favor of the other. Search should be a consistent monthly program with increased spending during key seasons/events. Spend on Display advertising to drive increased awareness just before and during those key promotional periods.

(2) Social Networking 101

Just do it. Get on Facebook. Get on MySpace. Get on Linked-In and use them. There's no better way to get up to speed and understand how powerful these tools can be for your brand. It's not just teenagers out there anymore. Don't put up pictures from your 20-year class reunion or tell the world about your Star Trek obsession...but do sign up and start to understand the power of this channel from both a targeting and a research perspective. A great example of how to do this comes from H&R Block--its Facebook page is robust, relevant and completely engaging.

(3) The Power of Microsites

They're fast, they're nimble and they help you deliver a powerful marketing message that supports--not interrupts--the rest of the stuff your core site needs to do. It's not about navigation as much as it's about impact--either as a target-specific selling machine or as an interactive playground that's intended to engage users indefinitely. I've heard the naysayers, but frankly, I think the pros far outweigh the cons on this one. HBO is a master at this--check out its microsite for the new John Adams miniseries.

(4) There's a Reason They Call it "Home"

The only place a brand lived before the Internet was at point of purchase--a store, a shelf, a 1-800 number, or maybe, if it was lucky or big enough, in the consumer's mind. Brands were more "virtual" before the Internet than after, and "Brand Positioning" was just a fancy word for convincing the store manager to give you the best positioning on the shelf. Now, consumers know where to find you. Your home page is your brand's true home in every sense of the word. Make sure you're using it wisely and investing in design, content and functionality that invite your consumers to open your door on a regular basis and step into your world. Here are two brand home pages on either end of the budget spectrum that I think do a good job- and

(5) Commerce Mapping

What does your Brand Neighborhood look like? What I mean is, what sites or brands are your customers coming from and going to before and after they shop your Web site? One specialty food client found out that its online customers were coming mainly from--ready for this?

Electronics superstores. The client's customers were women, searching for holiday gifts for their fathers, their husbands and their sons. Knowing whom your brand rubs elbows with can help you figure out everything from your search marketing keyword strategy to online media selection and messaging. Check out for more information on how to track this.

Is there more out there to know, to learn and to integrate into your digital marketing plan? Probably, most definitely, the answer is yes. But if you can get a handle on these 5 concepts you'll be ahead of the rest as they struggle to make sense of what is critical and what is just a load of digital nonsense.

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