Cillian Bracken Conway
10th Jan, 2018

In a highly competitive and constantly shifting online space, a solid, agile digital marketing strategy is key to staying ahead of the pack. But having the latest insights and content management tools is no longer enough. To enjoy ongoing success, you need the expertise to maintain a long-term, ever-evolving strategy – with inbound marketing at its core.

Here’s what you need to know for online success in 2018.

Common struggles for online businesses

Talk to any digital marketing manager or business owner in the online space and they will describe one of two common struggles:

  1. Difficulty measuring return on investment (ROI) online.
  2. Struggles with growing traffic, sales and/or engagement (TSE).

If a business is unable to measure its digital ROI or, worse, isn’t seeing the traffic and sales it needs to survive, there’s something very wrong with its digital marketing strategy. This is why throwing money at various online analytics tools or paid advertising channels is counterproductive without expert knowledge. From the outset you must define what you need for success. Once you understand your goals, you can implement a long-term digital marketing strategy that will yield measurable rewards.

Digital marketing is always evolving

It’s easy enough to build a digital strategy and then never touch it again – letting it stagnate for months or even years. But after a short time, your website visits will start to decline, the ramp-up in sales will plateau, and your return won’t align with your expectations. Why? Because digital marketing is an evolving, long-term strategy. And the tools available are constantly changing and redefining the way you measure ROI.

Take video, for example. Just five years ago, investment in video as a marketing tool was low. It was expensive to create and took much longer to produce than a top-tips blog or expert interview. But as we move into 2018, 79% of marketers plan to increase their focus and overall spend on video marketing.

Artificial intelligence is another technology that until only recently was relegated to scientific and hard-tech research. Today, however, AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) are revolutionising the customer experience. So much so that 80% of marketing executives predict AI will revolutionise marketing by 2020. If you aren’t already planning for AI adoption in your business, your competitors are likely out in front.

If a big-picture – and potentially expensive – digital restructure doesn’t align with your short-term goals, start small by recognising what’s hot at the moment. Voice search, used in tandem with popular Google Home and Amazon Echo products, was a huge deal in 2017, and that trend will continue into 2018. In the last year alone, 60% of people used voice search to conduct research online. Businesses would be wise to optimise their online content and mobile sites for voice search in order to take advantage of the latest (affordable) tech trend.

But what about local reach, you ask? For small to mid-sized companies, being top of mind in the local community is key to new and repeat business. That’s why search engine optimisation (SEO) remains such a vital piece in the digital marketing puzzle. The stats speak for themselves:

  • 72% of consumers who conduct an online local search visit a store within 8km.
  • 78% of mobile searches for local businesses lead to offline purchases.
  • Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit a specific store within a day.

The common thread here is that local searches are key to keeping small businesses thriving. If SEO isn’t a core pillar of your digital strategy, it’s time to rethink it.

Inbound marketing is key

Speaking of digital strategy pillars, achieving digital growth requires all four pillars of the inbound marketing ‘hub’. The term inbound marketing may sound like a generic descriptor for web marketing, but it’s wise to understand its four pillars and how they contribute to digital marketing success:

  1. SEO: Search engine optimisation must be at the core of all you do online. With research showing that more than 71% of searches result in page one organic clicks – not paid – it’s clear that Google rewards businesses that invest in solid SEO practices.
  2. Content marketing: If you consider SEO as the foundation, then content marketing is the bricks and mortar. Google and other search engines trawl your content in order to determine relevance and uniqueness to a reader, so creating insightful words on your website will directly impact sales figures.
  3. CRO: Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is a lesser-known term, but it is central to hitting your business objectives. CRO involves identifying your macro and micro conversions, using tools like Google Analytics to track and tweak them, and A/B testing variations for the greatest outcomes.
  4. Web design: Customers have a surface-level expectation that your website will be easy on the eyes, but solid web design will be more important in 2018 than ever. With 38% of people bouncing off a website if the content or layout is unattractive, visual appeal is essential. However, boosting security (such as changing your site from http to https in the wake of 2017’s multiple hacking disasters) and technical elements (Google loves a site that loads smoothly and has useful metadata) should be on your 2018 to-do list.

The long-term benefits far outweigh the costs

For those still on the fence about making a solid investment in digital marketing, the best way to think about it is like your superannuation. Nobody invests in their super for six months thinking they will get rich quick. It’s a long-term investment that you tend to like a garden, and over time that investment returns dividends before blossoming into a hefty nest egg by the time you retire.

A digital marketing strategy won’t take 50 years to come to fruition, but it’s wise to view the journey as a long-term plan. By staying vigilant and adjusting your strategy as the market evolves – i.e. investing your digital marketing ‘super’ – you can overcome the common struggles of poor ROI and low TSE and become a market leader in your sector.

Vine Digital understands the intricacies of digital marketing for businesses of all sizes. We offer a comprehensive approach that involves understanding your business objectives, and planning for ongoing success with a detailed custom strategy and data insights. Our services range from SEO & Web Development to a complete Digital Strategy with the main focus always being our client’s business growth.