12 minutes

Digital Marketing, the hottest buzzword in business for the past 3 years along with the others like “Content” and “Community”.

And then there are the acronyms. SEM, SEO, CPC, CPA, ROAS, CVR, the list goes on! But WTF does this all mean?

Like many industries, all the jargon and endless acronyms tend to be a way to cover up the fact that there’s far less meat on the bone than you think. 

So for those new to Digital Marketing, whether you are a business owner and would like to implement a digital strategy or you are trying to become an industry professional yourself… :

I present to you the 6 Pillars of Digital Marketing.

This will help clarify what the main building blocks are that make up this industry.

6 pillars of Digital Marketing

1) SEO

Search Engine Optimization…he is the old man that has lived on your street since you were a kid. He is somewhat mysterious, and is often overlooked and ignored by all the other neighbours. Yet, if you were to strike up a conversation with him you would quickly find out he has more valuable insight and more world experience than anyone else. He may be old, but he is made of gold.

This goes to say that SEO is often overlooked today by those who want to build a website for the first time. This is primarily due to the fact that it is harder to measure the results of the effort you have put into SEO versus something like Social Media.

However, SEO is a keystone piece of Digital Marketing. It is what controls how well your website performs in the search results page of Google. Today, the difference between being #1 and #6 on Google can mean the difference between a thriving business and one with no traffic at all. That is why it is crucial to be tending to your website’s SEO and doing it consistently.

SEO is broken up into 3 sections: On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical SEO.

I recommend diving deeper into these sub-categories and how they interconnect with one another. This will make it clear how everything from keyword targeting to backlinking helps your website rank higher in the SERP..

SEO is vital to your strategy – ensuring that your site is optimized for the search engines will also ensure that your website is optimized for those landing on it.

2) Social Media

For the most part this what immediately comes to mind when people think of Digital Marketing – SOCIAL SOCIAL #CONTENT

Social is where you launch yourself and your product or service out to the world. In the past 5 years social has transformed businesses that were willing to invest both heavily and smartly into the media.

Utilizing social channels to promote a business has proven itself to be a powerful thing – BUT IT IS NOT EVERYTHING.

I have spoken with business owners and so many of them time and time again can only think “Social Media” and how things like Instagram Followers translates into a booming business online.

That is far from the reality.

Having half a million followers on Instagram does not equal non-stop conversions if other aspects of your digital strategy are not optimized. In fact, metrics such as followers are known as Vanity Metrics within the Digital Marketing Industry.

They are over valued and they under-deliver. 

The point here is that yes, we all understand that social is important. Especially now in 2018. However, it is not the only solution for growing your business online. That is why this pillar sits along side the other 5 pillars – not above them.

With that being said it is important for your content to be:

  • Relevant
  • Quality before Quantity 
  • Timely 
  • Branded

Below are some useful insights for brand behavior on social media from our friends at Sprout Social.

Social Media user metrics

Another piece of advice with regards to social is to not spread yourself too far and too thin. You do not need to be on everything from Google + (R.I.P) to Pinterest. 

Do what works for you and your brand and build off that. Don’t waste your time and effort on social channels that will not deliver the returns you want.

3) Email Marketing

You guessed it – all of the so-called “spam” you get in your inbox. That is email marketing. 

However, before you skip this section, know that it’s a more effective strategy than you think.

This is the piece of Digital Marketing that helps retain customers. You can use email marketing to push anything from monthly newsletters, to notifying a customer that they have not completed a checkout.

These are just a couple of examples of how EM aids several aspects of your online strategy such as increasing brand awareness or completing conversions. 

Email Marketing involves using platforms such as Mail Chimp that allow you to create, design, and schedule email campaigns. Best of all, you can see insightful metrics such as email opens and link clicks from those who are on your email lists.

Emails have a much higher rate of consumption compared to social media. This is due to the fact that people who are actively using email are guaranteed to see them whether they open them or not – they don’t have to battle an algorithm

Tip : This is why it is crucial to ensure that the copy in your subject line is as clear and concise as possible. You want your subject line to be:

  • Personable
  • Wholesome
  • Representative of what is in the email

Even something as simple as a newsletter every quarter will remind existing customers or potential leads that you are out there…

4) Branding

Out of the 6 pillars, this is one that is most related to its offline (or classical) counterpart. 

How you present yourself online directly relates to who you are trying to sell to.

Everything from colours to typography are subconsciously consumed and interpreted by those who come across your brand.  

That is why it is important to create and consider your Target Persona : The fictional character that you would ideally like to do business with. 

When thinking of your Target Persona, what is more important than what your ideal customer likes, is what your ideal customer is like – big difference

  • Where do they live online?
  • What are some of their day-to-day challenges?
  • What is their background and what are their interests?
  • iPhone or Android?
  • Budweiser or IPA?
Sample Target Persona

These are all questions you should be asking yourself when creating your target persona. The more you ask what? Followed by why? And they again by why, the more you will find out about where it is best to place your business online, and in front of who.

Tip : Don’t be afraid to make multiple target personas

Branding is something that will take time when you are in the grassroots of your business and will evolve the same way you do. 

The most important thing when creating a brand is to create one that is representative of your values. Or for a larger business, the values and culture of the business.

This goes hand in hand with the idea that by trying to appeal to everyone, you will ultimately appeal to no one.

5) Analytics

So you perform all these actions online, now what? Did they work? Who’s seeing what? What is happening?

Queue: Analytics 

Being able to implement a digital strategy is amazing and all but without data it is impossible to tell what is working and what isn’t.

Google Analytics (GA) is the most popular resource for website analytics. It is powerful, customizable, and provides massive insight into what people are doing on your website. From GA you are able to determine aspects such as:

  • If you are driving enough traffic to your site
  • If so, where they are coming from (all the way down to which post drew them there)
  • And once on your site, what are they doing (pageviews, button clicks, session duration)

I recommend utilizing additional tools that work in parallel with GA such as Google Tag Manager and Facebook Pixel. These can expand the amount of data that Google Analytics is able to collect.

Note : This does involve having to embed more code into your website.

For social media channels, each platform has their own version of analytics and some are better than others. Facebook and Instagram’s analytics are both under Facebook Analytics. And in order to use Facebook Analytics you must have a business profile as oppose to personal. The switchover is quick and easy and can be done in your settings. 

Both Twitter and LinkedIn have their own separate analytics programs.

If you do implement analytics into your website it can be overwhelming – especially if your site is already a busy one. That’s why it’s important to take note of what metrics actually  matter. This will save you from over-analyzing data that is not important. Trust me, once your website begins to obtain traffic it is easy to get excited by the data. Time is precious – don’t get lost down the data rabbit hole.

6) Google Ads

If you have made this far, well done – we are on the final pillar of digital marketing.

This is the branch of Digital Marketing that involves budgets.

Yes…cold hard cash.

Although there is real money involved, the return on ad spend (ROAS) can be immense if done properly. 

Google Ads is made up of two main branches:

  1. Google Search Ads (GSA)
  2. Google Display Network (GDN)

Google Search Ads

Search ads (GSA) are the sponsored results you see at the top, bottom, and sidebar of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). They are an effective way to have your website dominate the SERP for people with queries or keywords relating to your brand and/or business. 

Google Search Ads

Unlike SEO, using search ads means you are in full control. The results are guaranteed (for how much you are willing to pay), and you can design the copy that will be in the ad. However, generating traffic with search ads will not help your website’s organic SEO. This is because Google can differentiate between the traffic that is organic versus paid.

To use Search Ads you must build a campaign in Google. Each campaign contains ad groups. Theses are the groups that contain all the possible (and realistic) search queries for a certain category of your business.

For instance a sports store may have the keywords:

“best mens running shoes” and “running shoes for men” in the ad group: MENS RUNNING SHOES.

Or “buy swim goggles” and “speedo swim goggles” in the ad group: SWIM GOGGLES.

The ads are designed to display search ads that contain copy that is relevant to those search queries. It is always better to have too many ad groups than too few. This is because you want the result to be as relevant to the users search as possible. 

Google Display Network

This branch of Google ads is more visual. 

GDN is the ad format that you see on the sidebars or top banners of websites. You see them in the form of images, videos or GIFs that are placed in the unused space of websites.

Google Display Ad

Generally speaking, the cost of running GDN ads will be lower than that of Google Search Ads. This is due to the fact that these ads are shown to people who are browsing website versus searching google with intention.

This makes the Click Through Rate (CTR), meaning percentage of users clicking on the ad, lower than GSA.

Because of this, GDN ads are priced by Cost per Mille (CPM) – the cost per 1000 impressions of the ad. And Google Search Ads are priced by Cost per Click (CPC) – the cost of an individual click.

Targeting for GDN is the same as GSA and is set at the campaign level (Demographics, Location, Timeline etc.). And thanks to the rise of Programmatic Marketing, the ads you see when you are browsing are now becoming more and more relevant to your interests as a consumer…it is getting freaky.


So there you have it! The 6 Pillars of Digital Marketing.

  1. SEO
  2. Social Media
  3. Branding
  4. Email Marketing
  5. Analytics
  6. Google Ads

Now you will be able to understand what the building blocks of Digital Marketing are and where to look when thinking of your own strategy.