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By Molly May
I’m kind of embarrassed to say it, but I wasn’t a very good digital marketing specialist when I started. In fairness to me, I didn’t know it at the time. I learned everything my supervisor asked of me - but because I was new, I didn’t realize how much more there was to know about digital marketing. It wasn’t until I started working with Flex 360 that I realized how complicated digital marketing can be and how easy it is to waste time and money on it.
A little background on me - last year I started working for Flex360. Before that, I worked for a newspaper (I won’t say which one in the spirit of professionalism). I started at this newspaper right out of college and worked my way up to Marketing Director & Client Services Manager. My responsibilities included running all the digital marketing for our clients.
My Learning Curve
The newspaper gave me a great start in the digital world, but upon interviewing and accepting the position of Digital Marketing Specialist at Flex, I quickly found my digital education wasn’t quite up to par. The trickiest part of digital marketing is that because it’s so new, not everyone has decided on a standardized vocabulary. A large portion of my first week or two at Flex was spent translating. Once I had that down, the Flex staff helped me dig deeper into the “guts” of digital marketing. I learned about ad networks and how ads actually get placed on websites, and I learned the behind the scenes of how a digital marketing campaign is set up and executed (In my previous job at the newspaper, I simply forwarded the order to our corporate office in another state).
Where I felt I was most behind was Google Analytics. I knew it existed and had a very broad understanding of why it was useful, but I didn’t know how to read reports or really interpret them. Let me tell you, it’s not something you can learn in a day. I spent weeks, maybe months really dissecting the potential and possibilities of Google Analytics. They offer so much insight into not only digital marketing but also any other form of marketing efforts a business is running. If you or the marketing company you are working with aren’t looking at your analytics on a regular basis - there’s a good chance your advertising isn’t doing as well as it could.
Beware of Bad Traffic
Utilizing Google Analytics is rarely done in traditional media companies or within most advertising agencies. That’s unfortunate. Most digital companies focus on measurements taken from digital ads they place, like impression numbers and click through rate, but those metrics can only get you so far. You have to look at what those ads did to traffic on the website. Did visitors go up or down? Did the average time on your site decrease or increase? Are your site visitors coming from the right locations? If you aren’t looking deeply into a websites viewership through analytics, you’re throwing advertising darts and not knowing if they are landing on the target or not.
For example, I have seen a lot of digital marketing that promotes “bad traffic”. Bad traffic is web traffic from bots as well as people who are paid to click on ads. It’s traffic that does your business no good at all but still costs you money.
At the newspaper, we sold programmatic display ads for a very low price. We could charge so little because we bought our display ads from companies who dealt with a lot of bad traffic (I didn’t know this at the time). In simplest terms - low-quality traffic is really cheap. So while it may appear that you are getting more for your money, you may not be getting much at all. There isn’t a way to safeguard against this completely, but it is possible to analyze the traffic coming to a site (through Analytics) in order to determine if the clicks on an ad were “real” or not. No client should ever pay for bad website traffic. It’s just throwing money away. Make sure someone is taking a hard look at analytics to verify that you aren’t getting “bad traffic.”
Optimization is key
In my experience, many companies who sell digital marketing, have a “set it and forget it” approach. For instance, at the newspaper, I worked at, once I set up a campaign there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t touch it again until the contract was finished. While I did run monthly reports for the customer, they were fairly superficial - merely reporting that we delivered the advertising we promised. Looking back with experience, I don’t think the customer or I could really have told you if their digital marketing was effective or not.
At Flex360, I believe the amount of time we spend optimizing, tweaking, and analyzing each digital campaign for our clients really sets us apart from our competitors. Aly, our dedicated fulfillment specialist, keeps up with campaigns daily to make sure they’re performing as optimally as they should be. We also have our entire team go over campaigns every two weeks in order to get some fresh perspectives - often changing our strategy as a result. Our goal is to be able to show our clients exactly how well their digital marketing dollars are working for them. The digital marketing company you are working with should have the same goal.
Digital marketing can bring a great return on investment. But purchased from the wrong person or company, it can be a huge waste of money. Watch out for the red flags listed above before you commit to a contract!