Current trends and updates in the digital marketing industry.

develop customer personas

Understanding Your Target Audiences With Customer Personas

As a business owner, nobody understands your target audience better than you. You can probably pinpoint what it is they are looking for or interested in based on characteristics such as age, location, job industry, job role, budget, etc. Selling at that point is simple for you, but the challenge seems to remain how to get your leads in the door in the first place. This is where digital marketing plays an impactful role by working alongside your existing team to spread the word about your product or service through a digital platform.

This is why working closely with a digital partner can greatly help you grow your visible reach. With two teams working together (you knowing your business best, and an agency understanding the strategies of digital marketing best) your efforts online can be multiplied versus with traditional small business marketing strategies alone.

How to Develop a Customer Persona

Whether you think you fully understand your customers or not, one of the most helpful ways of marketing for your business is to segment different personas of your buying audience. This doesn’t have to be a limited number, but there are probably at least three or four general types of customers that you run across consistently in your sales. These buyer personas are fictional profiles, but are used to represent a generalization of a type of customer you sell to. These personas can then be used to make targeted approaches to any sort of marketing plan, whether online or otherwise.

How do you develop your target customer personas? Simply put, you break them down based on personal characteristics and then use that data to market to a specific audience, rather than a more generalized sales pitch to all customers as a whole.

Step 1: Bio

Start with easy to spot demographics about the persona. What typical age range is this category? What size company do they work for? What is their role there? What are their hobbies or interests? The more specific you can be the better so try to hone in as best as possible for each persona. The bio of the buyer persona can be filled with anything related to their background, and focusing on the qualities that are most directly related to your product or service will be helpful (e.g. if you’re selling computer software to entire businesses or organizations then knowing what your buyers role and company size is may be more beneficial than knowing if they have outdoor hobbies).

Step 2: Goals

The next section to build in your buyer’s persona is a list of that customer’s goals. What are they trying to accomplish as it relates to your service or product? Fisherman Frank may have a goal of spending as much time out on the water as possible so he can enjoy a full day of his weekend perfecting his hobby. Working with that knowledge, you can cater to Frank’s goal by touching on how your sunglasses are polarized and are guaranteed to handle the action of being on the water.

Step 3: Frustrations

Another step would be to dig into the mind of your customers by really understanding what their frustrations are. Maybe their time is so valuable that they don’t see the ability to complete a task themselves. Or perhaps they belong to a company that has grown so quickly they are now in a role that demands superior expertise to remain successful. Problems are great things when you can offer solutions to them!

Step 4: Reservations

Even if your product or service is the most amazing to be offered on the market, your customers will almost always come with reservations about making a purchase. Being able to foresee what those reservations are will help you and your sales and marketing team be able to combat those concerns in a strategic way. Maybe College Grad Courtney is looking for a used car but is concerned about her overall budget. As a car dealership, having resources available to her with financing options, trade-in deals, promotional specials, or even creating an online price filter through your website will help direct her search rather than turning her away to other solutions.

Use the Segments to Your Benefit

Once you’ve created a solid outline for your business’s buyer personas, don’t just let them go unused. Continually use your outlines of customer segments to curate the most effective content possible for marketing. Use these segments to create strategies that will bring more leads through the door and through your sales funnel. Find out where your target audience spends their time online and meet them there. Are they on social media? Which platforms? What words might they use to search for information related to your product or service? Get into the mind of your consumer and tailor your marketing to showcase what they are interested in.

Strategizing how to do this best can be overwhelming for business owners and even those in marketing. The landscape of digital is changing so rapidly that it can help to have a partner who can guide your business in the right direction. Contact SWELL if you’d like to have a consultation in what type of strategy may be best suited for you. (No, we don’t charge for that.)

Dinosaur Digital Presence

It’s a Digital World, and We’re All Just Living In It

As I stare at my computer screen trying to convey the importance of having a strong digital presence, my mind drifts to what’s in store for those organizations or industries who are currently behind in the digital playing field. What would a fish be without water? What was the fate of the dinosaurs after the meteor hit? What eventually happened to your crops when you realized Farmville was consuming your life? I think you’re starting to understand the picture. Is it a little harsh? Yeah, maybe. Am I completely wrong? Not in the slightest.

Many organizations have shied away from investing in SEO, Adwords, and even a properly functioning site. Why? It could be because the business they currently obtain are returning customers and referrals. Therefore, they probably haven’t seen a drastic change in business (yet), and a need to heavily hit the digital world is not completely necessary. However, let’s take a look at demographics. The millennial generation is starting to enter the sweet spot of large purchases such as cars, homes, and so on. Millennials are the largest generation to date, that’s right, even bigger than Generation X and the boomers. And finally, millennials, also known as the digital natives, grew simultaneously with technology change. So, time to connect the dots. Your target markets are evolving, and it is essential that you evolve your prospecting and marketing methods to match.

From new applications to new data tracking softwares, the status quo of the digital world is only rising. To put this in perspective, Google has over 100 billion searches in just one single month. While not every search is solely focused on a product or service, a very large percentage of that is. Ecommerce, or online purchasing, is at its peak popularity and I don’t see any evidence that the percentage of those who buy online will decrease.

So how do you cater to the new era of digital craze? First, have a website that is user-friendly, responsive, and filled with content that accurately describes what you do and why you do it. Google, and more importantly the users of, are laying down the law. The Google gods are basically sprinting the digital marketing marathon, and you betcha, we have to keep up. Your site lacks responsiveness? Well, you just earned yourself a slap on the wrist from Google and a move back two search pages card. Does your content lack vital keywords? I’m, guessing you won’t like the number of visitors to your website.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an extremely important tool that continually generates leads. While SEO costs a pretty penny, when done correctly, you get a shiny dime in return. SEO allows you to better position yourself on the web through content improvements, blogging, continual data tracking, keyword research and more. A better overall digital presence will allow your site to be better recognized by Google, therefore better recognized by the average user.

If you’re already sitting pretty on the first page of a Google search after typing in related keywords, good for you. According to Hubspot, 75% of users never scroll onto the second page of a search. Not on the first? Don’t worry there are ways to get there, it may take some time, but you can make it happen with some investing.

Paid Search Results, or Google Adwords, is another survival tool when it comes to the vast internet. Do you ever see the little “Ad” icon next to the top results when searching? Bingo, that’s AdWords. For example, if you owned Bob’s Pizza in Boston, then you could pay Google to be a top result for “pizza places”.

I have one more tidbit of helpful information that can make your presence online skyrocket. You’ve probably been waiting for it, social media. I cannot stress enough how prominent social media is in a majority of companies, organizations, and individuals lives. With over 2.3 billion users, every generation has some sort of social media presence. Whether Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or even Snapchat, it is very wise to make yourself exist in the fast-paced media universe.  Through consistent product pictures, company videos, or even fun facts you’re guaranteed to get a follower base.

So, if you feel like you’re behind in the times of digital marketing then continue researching and check out competitors. Feel free to contact us with any questions, and we will not hesitate to help. It’s a digital world, and we’re all just living in it.

Social Media Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth for Social Media Marketing

Word of mouth is a concept that’s been around for quite some time now. Essentially, it’s the passing of information from one person to another via oral communication. The world is going increasingly digital, and with that, social media has allowed an entirely new means of these exchanges. If you haven’t realized it yet, that has some BIG implications for your business.

According to HubSpot’s latest marketing statistics, nearly one-third of the world uses social media regularly. To complement this, 83% of marketers actively pursue social media marketing initiatives. Even in a B2B industry, 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. Social media is a huge new market that should not be taken lightly by marketers or business owners.

Finding that Voice

One way to incorporate word of mouth in your digital marketing strategy is to do your research. Figure out what social medium your industry and intended audience are most likely to use, and figure out the best ways to interact with them! A few details to take into consideration, for example, may include: what voice to use in your social media postings and responses, how much humor is acceptable with that audience or industry, what time of day your followers are most active (thus more likely to engage), etc.

At the end of the day, your followers are wanting to engage and connect with a person, not a stiff-sounding business robot. Find that balance of personal and professional, and then use that voice to your advantage! By having such a positive presence on your audience’s social media, they’ll feel more comfortable engaging with your material.

Interact and Engage

That being said, this is also where the word of mouth starts to come into play. It’s VERY important that when your audience reaches out to you through social media, you are there to acknowledge it and respond. This is why the time of day that your audience is most active can be very important—because you should be active at that time too. When a customer or potential customer has a question, answer it. If it’s a concern, address it to the best of your ability. If it’s a compliment or commendation, say thank you!

These interactions are how you build loyal customers, and it’s how you take customers through the buying cycle to that final stage of retention and advocacy. Give your followers something positive to share with their followers, and so on and so forth. Before you know it, you’ve built trust with your audience! Now they’re out promoting your business and bringing your exceptional service to the attention of other leads through their social media interactions.

Maintain Your Presence

A last important detail to remember as you move forward with your social media marketing strategy is to maintain your presence. Your audience won’t be offering up a lot of word of mouth if you aren’t there to regularly receive it or respond to it. Part of building those social media connections is about establishing a community! Be there, and be there often. Your followers will appreciate it more than you’ll ever know. Your social media audience will be as likely to engage with you as you are with them, so don’t underestimate the dedication that is required to maintain a strong social media presence.

When done just right, combining a word of mouth strategy with your social media marketing strategy can almost act as a catalyst for the buying cycle. According to Brad Fay and Ed Keller of The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, many brand-related conversations take place over social media every day. Of those, more than two-thirds of those conversations involve a recommendation to buy, consider, or avoid the brand. Your current customers’ loyalty on social media is what will bring awareness of your brand to other leads in the social media world. Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth in an increasingly digital world!

A lot of this may seem tough to figure out, but going about this in a trial-and-error sort of way will probably be the most beneficial to your social media marketing strategy in the long run. If you need some assistance putting together a strategy or increasing your positive word of mouth through social media, give us a call today! We’d be happy to help!

Video Shoot

Why Your Small Business Should Use Video

We’re in the midst of a marketing revolution, and video is leading the charge. Videos are the medium of the future. If that’s true then it looks like we’re already in the “future” because one-third of all online activity is spent watching videos, according to Hubspot Marketing. Numbers are expected to increase as marketers everywhere realize the value and impact video has on campaigns. Sites such as Google and Facebook are using algorithms and ranking methods that favor video content compared to images and text alone. Let’s take a look at the upside of adding video to your marketing strategy and what it can do for your company overall!

Google Loves Video

Google runs the show, plain and simple. Google is the largest search engine in the world followed by Youtube, which happens to be a subsidiary of Google, surprise!  Incorporating videos on your homepage and blog posts with relevant keywords is one way Google ranks for search engine results. With the right combination of SEO, content creation, and video marketing you’ll soon see your company climbing up the SEO ladder.

Video Boosts Conversion and Sales

The internet is a very competitive landscape, especially for small to medium sized businesses. Customizing your marketing plan that will appeal to both Google and your customers is crucial when it comes to maximizing ROI. By creating videos you can increase the ability to build relationships with customers and prospects while also pleasing Google’s algorithms at the same time. Having videos on your site will entice visitors to stay on your page longer and will help them gain more trust by learning about your product in a visual way. This marketing approach is what will result in a high conversion ratio for you and your team.

Investing in video marketing can be expensive, but the benefits that come with adding video will pay dividends. The more shots you take the better chance you have to score, and by adding videos you’re giving yourself the opportunity to take more shots!

Video Builds Trust

A key component to attaining and retaining customers is trust. You can’t always hold your customer’s hand through the buying process and often times the only reason they will reach out to you is when they have a problem that your product or service may be able to solve. Creating videos that are engaging and helpful to your customers allows them to understand who they’re buying from, which will help build a relationship and establish trust! Creating videos that describe product information and product demonstrations will help your clients understand how something works!

  Social media is another tool your business can use to build trust, and incorporating videos on social is a great way for customers to engage with your content. According to Hubspot, 92% of mobile users are likely to share videos on social media. The more likes and shares you get the more exposure your company receives through back links and clicks to your site. Oh yeah, can’t forget to mention this will also help improve your Google ranking as well!

Video can explain anything, whether you distribute steel or build fences, being able to convey your story through video will help your customers get a better understanding of what you do and how you do it on an everyday basis.

If you’re not convinced video marketing will improve your overall digital presence, then let’s hope your competitors aren’t convinced either. Otherwise, you may start to see some of your numbers fall. Not all companies have the time and resources to invest in video, but if you and your team are trying to step ahead of the competition, reach out to our team at Swell!

advertising and content marketing

New Age Lead Generation with Advertising and Content Marketing

As an agency marketer, it’s our job to bring in more leads for our clients. Business owners understand the concept of marketing, but they may not fully understand how to navigate the waters of the “digital ocean”. To them, marketing may mean a billboard or magazine ad. While that is absolutely true, there are different ways to go about marketing now, especially online.

Let’s walk through two common ways of marketing with digital content and digital advertising to explain how lead generation has shifted course throughout the years.


Marketing is about getting in front of people and making an impression for your brand. It’s about spreading the word about your product or service by exposing potential customers to the brand where they already are. One way of doing that is by advertising. With advertising, placement is key. Sure, people driving down the highway have a great chance of seeing your billboard, but it’s difficult to measure how many people are actually seeing it, let alone whether you’re reaching your core demographic or not.. Measuring traditional advertising methods such as billboards and television commercials is almost always estimated. You can never really know how many people saw your ad and then either ignored or acted on that impression. 

This is where advertising with digital really shines. By advertising digitally, through both display and native methods, you can track who actually viewed the ad and what their next action was after seeing it. Did they click on the ad and browse? Did they buy something? Or did they bounce away from the page entirely? Digital ads have an advantage over traditional ads because they aren’t a wasted spend – at the very least you’re gaining valuable insights about your customer base. In fact, targeted display advertising has grown to a point that it will comprise 59 percent of all digital advertising this year and is expected to grow to 70% by 2019. But digital ads are highly targeted ads that are only displayed if the viewer reaches the criteria you have set for the ad to appear on their internet pageview – which means your demographic sees the ads that are most relevant to them at exactly the right times.

There are several different types of digital ads you can run. (Some are considered more effective than others.) But they still are much easier to understand what sort of reach they achieved versus traditional methods.

Content Marketing

There’s been a huge change in how marketing is carried out since the rise of the internet. While traditional marketing methods are not dead, it would be crazy to say that it shouldn’t at least be supplemented with digital content marketing as well. Why? Because digital content is inexpensive to create, it’s proven to be effective, and it’s 100% trackable from source to sale!

Many business owners don’t fully understand the value of content marketing, let alone know what it is. Content marketing is any sort of information offered to customers and potential customers in either written, audio, or video format. This content is almost always free, but some content of higher quality may require their contact information in exchange for download.

The idea of giving away free information related to a company’s product or service makes sense, right? Of course you would want to inform your leads of all of the benefits you have to offer them! But what business owners may not realize is that content can even be supplied to leads that don’t directly relate to their product or service… but why would you ever want to do that?!

It’s seems like a strange concept, but it makes sense when you think about the [buyer’s journey]. If you are selling software that helps car dealerships keep track of their inventory, but your blog features posts on the hottest cars being revealed in the new year, anyone can realize that it’s not necessary for a potential customer to know that information before purchasing the inventory software. So why waste your time supplying this information?

Here’s the breakdown… your key customer is most likely a dealership owner or controller, or some sort of purchasing manager. But right now, they may not be in the market for a new inventory software, but maybe they are interested in what the hottest cars are to invest in next year. So content isn’t about always selling your product or service – it’s about providing value to your target market, outside the sale. When your leads are searching for relevant information and land on your blog, they will find the free information helpful to them, which builds rapport between you and your potential customers.  And once they’ve already arrived,   the likelihood that they decide to shop around or learn more about your product/service is significantly increased. Even if your lead isn’t ready to buy from you then, they will have you in mind for when they are ready. They just need to find you first!

Both advertising and content marketing is important, and both can be complicated to carry out in their own ways. If you need an expert to walk you through each and every process with digital marketing, you can always ask us for help!

How to Prioritize Your Digital Marketing Budget.

If you’ve been following our series on digital marketing budgets, you’ve probably read the previous posts. If not, you may want to back up a bit…

In this post, we’ll be discussing how best to prioritize your digital marketing budget. First, let’s focus on where to get the most bang for your buck.

Which Marketing Strategies are getting the best results?

In a few surveys by leading digital marketing research firms a couple years ago, companies reported on what marketing activities had generated the best results.

The charts below shed some light on this question:


As you can see from the results; Email Marketing, SEO, and Content Marketing are the dominant channels for ROI – all yielding over 45% “Good” rating respectively. The fact is, this has been true for the better part of a decade (if not longer) and with advancements in marketing technologies and automation being able to bring together, analyze, optimize, and capitalize on your digital marketing tactics, this dominance is not expected to go away.

My digital marketing budget is going to be limited. How do I prioritize it?

For this post, I’m going to assume you have some sort of web presence already. If you’re just getting started, the following guide will apply to you as well, but before you dig too deep into expanding your digital presence, you’ll want to first focus on establishing one. Nevertheless, these steps should help anyone put the pieces together for an effective digital marketing budget.  

Let’s get started:

You have to know where you are, to get where you want to go!

If you haven’t taken advantage of our free website analysis, you should do so right away. There are many free website “auditors” out there and while I’m rather partial to ours because it gives you the ability to compare yourself to a competitor (and some other really cool features), all of them measure pretty much the same stuff.

A report like this will tell you where the problem areas are on your website. Specifically problems that might be keeping you from ranking for keywords on search engines and gaining valuable web presence. Even if you don’t understand everything on a report like this, most of them will give you a general “grade” that can give you a sense of where you stand.

Not only is a website audit valuable for surfacing problem areas on your site, it also serves as a benchmark by which to measure your digital marketing tactics moving forward. And because so many of these reporting systems are free, it doesn’t hurt to check often.

Check Your Website Here, Now!


Please note that while many audits are free, they have basic info and will only point you in the direction of the issue. I.E. “25 of your images still need alt tags”. They will not get into specifics about which images, or their locations are without alt tags. If you are looking for a more in-depth analysis, hire a digital marketing agency to put together an in-depth analysis. At Swell, we consider the number of pages that you’d like analyzed and WHAT you’d like analyzed. Our audits start at about $275 for a few pages and go up to about $5000 for 600 Pages.

Analyze your website for User Experience (UX).

Try to get into the head of your potential customer and travel every page of your website starting with the home page. How do you feel when you first arrive? Is the message about who you are and what you do, being communicated clearly? Is the content digestible and well thought out? Is it easy to navigate?  Is it obvious what action you want your users to take (call, request a quote, come into your location)? Again, pay attention to how you feel while traveling through it. Would you want to work with or buy from your company based on the website alone?

Visit your competitor’s websites. Look at your contemporaries. What are they doing better or worse?

If your answers aren’t positive to most of these questions, then it may be time to design a new website.

While there are many DIY platforms and other inexpensive methods to build a functional website that might even save you a bit of money at first; they may end up costing you more money in the long run. Having a well-designed, well-coded website is crucial to rising in search engines quickly. It’s also one of the key factors in how Google auctions ad space. So don’t skimp.

I’m not saying you can’t do great things on a shoestring budget, I’m just saying, if you’re going to save costs anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the foundation of your entire digital presence in a digitally dominant marketplace.

Very basic, relatively “cookie-cutter”, but effective websites can be accomplished for a couple thousand dollars. However, depending on your goals – most local and small businesses should plan on investing at least $5000 in their website. Larger small businesses, e-commerce platforms, or those with more complicated functionality often invest no less than $10,000+.  

Invest in SEO.

No matter what.

If you’re going to start anywhere, start with search engine optimization (SEO). A well-optimized website is the center of your digital footprint. If you’re just starting to learn, SEO is a series of tactics that earn a website more authority with search engines like Google. Put simply, we’re translating your website in the language that Google understands and then expanding your overall digital footprint by acquiring links back to your website from other related websites.

There are some pretty basic, but essential SEO tasks that you can do yourself with limited knowledge, but beware that best practices SEO is a technical process. Hire a consultant at the very least, and depending on your needs, it would be wise to hire a full-service agency. Even the best SEO can take time to see drastic differences in rankings and authority, so many business owners and marketing departments end up getting overwhelmed on the amount of work and time it takes. But search traffic is the most dominant source of high-quality users you can earn. And since you are truly earning rankings, SEO is a pure investment in the equity of your website.

When we budget SEO strategy at SWELL, we take into account five primary things:

  • your goals
  • your keywords
  • your geography
  • where your website optimization currently stands
  • & your competitive atmosphere.

We take all these factors into account and discuss the amount of work it’s going to take to accomplish your goals. Consultancy often starts at a few hundred bucks a month and full-service SEO packages start at around $600/month for a small local campaign and up to $4500+/month for highly aggressive commercial SEO. Beware of companies with large up-front costs, contracts, “too low to be good” monthly rates or “too good to be true” promises or guarantees. Be sure to get an exact list of deliverables from your SEO provider, and if they have trouble explaining any one of the items, that’s probably a red flag.

Ok, I’ve built a great website and my SEO is underway. What now?

Consider your budget.

Make a decision on how much your business can afford to budget on digital marketing. Again, there is no cookie-cutter budget for every company, but most companies with an established marketing budget spend about 30% of their TOTAL budget on digital channels. If you’re just starting out or if you have a limited budget, we would recommend that most businesses invest in digital first – it’s relatively inexpensive, ridiculously trackable and almost always yields an ROI.

We’ve broken down some sample monthly digital marketing budgets below. Obviously these are only examples. Every industry, size of company, and internal resources will have different budgetary considerations. We’ve left the categories broad to simplify things but this should give you a great start:


Marketing budgets are changing and companies are putting more into digital channels every year. If you don’t already have a website that will engage your users, start there. After that, prioritize your technical SEO investment. Only then should you start to consider more advanced tactics. Consider your budget and use the above sample budgets to break it down into priority areas.

We love helping companies of all sizes figure out their marketing priorities. Swell offers a free consultation and investment recommendations to help you figure out exactly how you need to prioritize your budget for your audience and market.

budget for digital marketing

What Percentage of My Revenue Should I Allocate to My Digital Marketing Budget?

Welcome! If you’ve been following our series on building a digital marketing budget, you’ve probably read the previous posts. If not, you may want to back up a bit…

  1. Build a Digital Marketing Budget for Any Small Business

In this post, we’ll be discussing how much your business should be spending on your digital marketing budget. In addition to my experience planning and optimizing digital marketing budgets daily, the insights in this blog come from reliable sources including: a yearly survey of Chief Marketing Officers from many industries and company sizes, a leading research report about digtal marketing trends and online predictions, and other top research firms focusing solely on digital marketing.

General Changes In Total Marketing Budgets

There is no doubt that the ways consumers are engaging with brands and the ways companies are engaging with each other is changing, significantly. In 2017, even as a small or local business, your buying audience expects you to be available and involved on the platforms they are. Which means, if your website isn’t responsive for mobile devices, and if you’re not engaging with your audience online, you’re missing out on valuable market share.

We’ve talked in other posts about the ROI potential of digital marketing. If you’re doing things right, traction often happens swiftly, and conversion naturally follows – even with relatively small budgets. Digital marketing is also ridiculously trackable – meaning you can know exactly what channels are driving traffic and yielding results. Which makes digital marketing a perfect investment for any business.  

You may think this means companies are able to spend less and get more ROI. But in fact, companies have been spending more on marketing because of the explosive potential of digital marketing channels. Check out the graph below:

For the last five years, agencies have been asked by how their clients’ marketing spend was expected to change in the upcoming year.

There’s nothing to suggest this trend will change, and 2017 marketing budgets are expected to remain consistent with 2016 levels or increase.

You can download the full report here.

How Should I Allocate My Budget Across Marketing Channels?

The next question to answer is how to allocate marketing budgets across channels – offline and online – and how to spread the online investment across the various online/digital channels.

Another report from Forrester Research shows the estimated allocation of marketing funds offline vs. online as well as across the digital channels.

Here are some relevant conclusions:

  • In 2016, the average company was expected to allocate 30% of their marketing budget to online channels. And this is expected to grow to 35% by 2019
  • Search engine marketing (SEO and paid search – PPC – advertising) will carry the largest share of online spend with online display ads such as banner ads, online video ads, etc. taking the second largest share.
  • Social media related investments will continue to grow, but will only represent about 15% of the total online spend.
  • Mobile marketing has grown to a point that it is a presumed vital and standard across all channels. Because of this, it is no longer tracked.

For Comparison, here are some conclusions from the 2014 report:

  • 29% of marketing budgets were put into digital channels
  • Search engine marketing (SEO & SEM) captured the largest share of online spend at 47% or about 14% of the company’s total marketing budget on average.
  • Online display advertising (banner ads, remarketing & retargeting) captured the next biggest share of the online spend at about 34% of total online spend, or about 10% of the total marketing budget.
  • Social media investments were estimated at 6% of total online spend and less than 2% of the total marketing budget.
  • Mobile specific marketing garnered about 10% of the total digital marketing budget and slightly less than 3% of the total marketing budget.

The chart below shows significant increases in digital marketing investments. There were five primary digital tactics in the report, and each expected to see at least a 42% increase in investment – which is huge!

Conversely, traditional marketing channels are experiencing significant decreases. While these are only averages, and shouldn’t be taken as standard in every market or industry: Print, radio, and television were expected to see a net decrease in total investment.

How you ultimately decide to allocate your marketing budget should be driven by the nature of the business, the competitive atmosphere and how your buying audience behaves through their buying journey.

What Percent of My Revenue Should I Allocate to My Digital Marketing Budget?

The age-old wisdom here is 8-10% into marketing in general. And depending on your resources, competitive atmosphere, and geographic scope, I might agree. But I realize to some, this simply isn’t realistic. But the truth is, I’ve seen well prioritized and hard working 2-5% out-perform a lazy and poorly implemented 8-10% time and time again.

Here are some things to consider when determining whether you need to be in that 8-10% range, or if you could be effective with less:

Will you be Advertising online?

Advertising your business on networks like Google Adwords, Facebook for Business, and others is great. It fosters brand awareness and generates leads. When done right, it almost always provides a return-on-investment that is 100% trackable. There’s just one problem – it can also get pricey.

If you’re a B2B organization, you can be dangerous with smaller advertising budgets (2-5%), because you have a sales team to generate leads.  

On the flip side, If you’re a B2C business, you should consider focusing more priority on consumer ads to generate potential customers.

Are you Maintaining Your Brand or Building One?

Talk to any branding, marketing, or PR expert and they’ll tell you the same thing. Maintaining a brand is less expensive than building one.

If you have an established brand already, a corporate identity you’re proud of, a website that is easy for your customers to use, marketing collateral, and tools in place such as analytics; it will be much easier to put a marketing plan together and thus, choose to invest less in your digital marketing budget. If you still have to create (or recreate) any of the basics, you’ll probably want to allocate a bit more.

Think about How Much Growth You Want to Have.

This is one of the most common struggles for any small business. Why wouldn’t I want to grow a ton? But the fact is, each time you grow, your business needs new resources to manage the growth. This leaves many businesses not ready for growth, adopting resources (employees, equipment, tools….marketing) to react to it. But when that sudden growth take a break, these businesses are left with resources they can’t sustain. Because of that, the pace you grow should be strategic and intentional.

Ask yourself how much you’re looking to grow. If you’re in maintenance or moderate growth mode, you might be able to get away with a 2% marketing budget. On the other side, if you’re projecting a record year, you should plan on investing in marketing to make that happen.

Overall Marketing Budget vs Online Marketing Budget

First of all, the use of “vs” makes it seem as though these two things are different and even at odds. But a good marketing mix should include multiple marketing mediums, including print, media, and yes – digital. Being a digital marketer, I’m understandably biased toward digital. But I have my reasons.

Digital marketing is 100% trackable. From when that customer first sees your ad on Facebook to when they purchase something on your website, we have tools to track each step on their buyer’s journey. Something like a media buy (billboard, magazine ad, radio) can offer you volumes of people who may or may not have seen it, but they can’t tell you how many people went to your website. Or how many of those chose to become a customer.

The trackability of digital marketing can provide you with powerful insights that can help you make intelligent business decisions. For this reason, it also tends to be easier to see ROI. Also, for this reason, if you’re one of those businesses who isn’t sure where to start, we would recommend you start with digital.


You may be saying: this is all well and good, but how do I figure out what areas to focus on? Digital marketing is pretty technical – can I do any of this myself? What should I hire professionals for? Well, in the next article in our series on digital marketing budgets, we’ll be exploring the answers to these questions and more. It will be our most in-depth guide yet and I promise, it will help you get specific about your goals and digital marketing tactics to achieve them.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Is reading a guide not your thing? We completely get it. If you’re ready to move forward with your digital marketing budget, but having trouble taking the first step, let’s chat. We can walk you through the process together, and even make custom recommendations for your business – no obligation whatsoever.


digital marketing budget

Build a Digital Marketing Budget for Any Small Business

If you’re like most small businesses we talk to, you understand that you should be building a digital marketing budget into your current marketing mix. But because you wear a ton of hats, it’s been difficult to keep up with all of what digital marketing has become, let alone build a budget for it (nevermind implement it strategically). And now, your competition is growing and you recognize the need to modernize how you reach your customers. So, what to do?

Just hang with us. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be digging into how to build a realistic but effective digital marketing budget for any business, by asking yourself the most important questions. We’ve put together some questions we’re often asked by business owners and marketing managers. Here’s how we’ll guide you through the answers:

Week 1: (This Article) How do I start building a digital marketing budget and plan?

Week 2: What percent of my budget should I plan for digital marketing? What about Advertising?

Week 3: My digital marketing budget is going to be limited. How do I prioritize it?

Week 4: How do I know if it’s working? How do I measure the ROI?

Let’s dig right in…

How do I START building my digital marketing budget?

Here’s where we recommend you start: create a calendar. Seriously. Though it should be something you can access and edit easily, a simple calendar/spreadsheet can work wonders. Across the top, list all the months of the year. In the first column write all of the things going on at your business that year. Don’t fill out the months; these items should be on far left, each on its own line. Think of anything that might pull from an overall marketing budget and write it in. We’ll worry about specifically the digital marketing budget later. For inspiration, ask yourself:

  • Do you have New Products/Services rolling out?
  • Are you having any sales or promotions?
  • Charity or volunteer events?
  • Conferences/Trade shows your team is attending?
  • Do you have a busy season?
  • Anything newsworthy happening?
  • Anything important happening in your industry?


Don’t worry about getting EVERYTHING in on the first go. You can always add to this later (which is why the document should be easily accessible and editable).

Start thinking of how to categorize this list in a way that makes sense for your business. While the following isn’t intended to include all possibilities nor should you feel as though you need to be engaged in all those on this list; we have found these categories to fit most small businesses’ needs:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Print, Collateral, and marketing tools
  • Website/Online Presence
  • Social Media
  • Paid Online Advertising
  • Media Buy (Radio ad, billboard, sponsorships, etc)
  • Public Relations
  • Email/Nurture Marketing
  • Sales Systems & Resources
  • Special Projects

Again, pick out categories that make sense for your business. If you know you aren’t going to be buying radio ads or billboards anytime soon, just leave “Media Buy” off your calendar. If one event/item is going to be marketed across multiple channels, simply duplicate that item on another line in each channel.

After you’ve categorized your list, it’s time to track. Each month, pay close attention to what resources were invested, and put a dollar amount for all items on the list that pulled from the budget that month. Save receipts for raw materials and invoices for contractors, estimate labor for internal teams on each project, etc. After a year of this kind of tracking, you’ll be able to intelligently build a marketing budget for the following year.

You might say, well what about right now? How much should I spend to begin with? Where do I prioritize? How do I know I’m not wasting money? These questions are exactly what this 4 week series will answer, and hopefully more.

Spreadsheets and calendars not your thing? Does all this seem ridiculously overwhelming?  No sweat. If you’re having trouble knowing where to start, let’s talk. We’ll walk you through the possibilities and can even make recommendations, no obligation whatsoever.

See you next week!

blogging and seo

How is Blogging Related to My SEO?

“I’m paying for SEO, isn’t blog content separate from that?”

We hear it all the time, “If I’m paying for SEO shouldn’t that be back-end web fixes and link-building?… why is blog writing a part of the package?”blogging for seo

Sure, optimization of your website’s code and increasing backlinks (etc., etc.) certainly all has to do with SEO. I would also agree that it’s the real focus of search engine optimization, but as Google continues to advance, so does its requirements for increase in rank. That’s why there has been a shift in digital strategy over the years to move towards an inbound method of ranking and gaining more customers through web.

First off if you are reading this, hopefully you understand that when we are talking about increasing in rank for Google search results we are speaking specifically to whichever keyword is entered into the search bar. This is why there is an emphasis on targeted keywords that your company would like to rank for with potential customer searches. With that in mind, let’s say you are a fencing company that wants to come up as an option for “best weatherproof fencing material”. Maybe you have a full page dedicated to all types of options for weatherproof fencing, or maybe you have only a full product page with basic product information under each one. If this potential customer is looking for some in-depth information about comparing the best fencing materials for weatherproofing, your website probably isn’t going to be the answer that has that.

Now consider that this remains the case, but you do have a blog for a year back on which materials are listed as the best for weatherproof fencing and have a comparison of each. That one blog post has a much better chance of ranking in Google for that search result, even though it isn’t one of your main webpages. With a couple of internal links added within that blog for more information on where to purchase these “weatherproofed fencing materials”, your audience now has a place to go and make a serious purchasing decision on your website.

seo analytics

That’s the basic inbound methodology behind the importance of blogging for any business website. As far as SEO is concerned, blogging is a puzzle piece within the whole sitewide equation because Google will always favor the more relevant and informative content related to a particular keyword. Hence the importance of adding well worded, in-depth content that is useful to your target audience. Blogging isn’t the only way to help ranking within search engines, there are so many other forms of providing information to customers that may be more user friendly to them like:

  • Infographics
  • White papers
  • Case Studies
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • eBooks

But blogging is usually regarded as a quick way to professionally add information to a site on a regular basis. This is key because by adding fresh and updated pages to your site, it essentially sends a message to Google saying (in Jason’s words) “the lights are on”. Meaning this website is actively being updated with new content as often as possible. Blogging also provides an opportunity to include external links as well from highly-ranked pages increasing your site’s authority. Companies that do keep up with a regular blogging schedule average about 55% more website visitors monthly than companies who don’t blog at all.

When it comes down to it, search engine optimization is all about increasing your ranking in Google and other web browsers in order to increase traffic to your site. This is all complete in the client’s interest and desire to gain more qualified leads with minimal advertising spending and minimal work on their part. So while blog writing is created content, it is directly involved in the search engine ranking process. Any coding expert or SEO consultant can fix your sites basic problems and discover roadblocks – and that’s a necessary step to get accomplish, but finding the right marketing partner who understands your business and your customer is a long-term relationship that brings long-term benefits.


Googled analytics on your phone

4 Reasons Your Website’s Organic Traffic is Dropping.

So, you’ve been keeping an eye on your organic traffic in Google Analytics or some other software, and your traffic or rankings have been dropping lately. If they’re dropping enough, you may feel like the world is ending. I get why you might be feeling that way. It’s perfectly natural for any business owner’s or marketing manager’s heart to drop along with sinking organic traffic. When your rankings for keywords you’ve worked hard to optimize and rank for are no longer producing fruitful traffic – that’s serious. But I assure you, if you take certain steps, you’ll be back on track in no time – and could even get better results than ever before.  

Here’s the deal: your rankings and traffic have dropped due to changes in something Google is doing. Surprise, surprise. And a lot has changed lately with what Google is doing.  But this is good news, because this means you can fix it – by adjusting what you’re doing to meet the focus of Google (and by proxy, your users). SO, let’s first find out WHY your traffic and rankings have dropped. Then, you can take action to correct those issues and get back on track.

Here are 5 major reasons your organic traffic or rankings are dropping.

1. Changes to Search Engine Algorithms

Google’s search algorithms are always changing. Algorithms are sets of signals to determine how trustworthy, reputable, relevant or authoritative a website is. When Algorithms change, it’s Google’s response to the way users search and travel web. The algorithm uses bots to crawl and read millions of web pages every day. When the method those bots use to crawl changes, the factors they look for as they crawl changes, and THAT changes what results they offer to searchers as results to all their questions.

But that doesn’t mean that things are out of your hands. The key thing you should focus on with the above paragraph is “…Google’s response to the way user search…”. Point is: Don’t make Google out to be some enemy of your rankings. They’re only attempting to do what you should be doing anyways: creating the best possible experience for users. If pages on your site have dipped in traffic and rankings, it may be worth refreshing the content and keyword targets to make sure that you’re emphasizing the sorts of things people are actually searching for. After all, things do shift over time.

2. Your Technical SEO isn’t tight

For years, the old adage for anything digital marketing has been: “Content is King”. And that is a fair assessment based upon analysis of the companies that are doing the best vs those that aren’t doing so well. But the truth is, many marketers and business owners can get caught up in producing content and overlook technical aspects of SEO. Depending on your website – whether it’s e-commerce, service, products, or content based – there are multiple factors that will contribute to keeping your technical SEO “tight”.

Here are a few technical SEO questions to ask about ANY website:

  • What pages is your robots.txt file blocking and allowing to be crawled by search engine bots?
  • As you update content or add pages, did any of your pages accidentally get left with a NoIndex/NoFollow tag on them?
  • Are there any pages on your site covering the same topics, targeting the same keywords, or with the same overall theme? This goes beyond duplicate content (which is also a big deal). But for instance, with e-commerce, this could be a ton of products in one product category (the bots can’t tell which page is primary). Make sure these pages are using canonical tags correctly to refer the page that you want Google to prioritize.
  • Is your website mobile responsive? This is a key ranking factor now since early in 2016. If it isn’t, it should be, like, yesterday.
  • Page Speed – are your pages loading too slow? Are your images being cached? Are your images optimized for web? You can check your site’s speed with this free tool from Google.

To help get you started, here is a Technical SEO Checklist from MOZ .

3. Manual and Algorithmic Penalties

Okay, so it’s not just a “dip” in traffic? It’s a “plummet”, you say? If your site has experienced a significant drop in organic traffic, you may have been hit by a manual or algorithmic penalty. A manual penalty is issued when your site has been flagged for not complying with Google’s Webmaster quality guidelines. If these issues go unresolved for an extended period of time, your rankings will drop as a result.  Nevertheless, these issues are easy to find if you have Webmaster Tools in the Manual Actions area as highlighted below.


While penalties will be visible in your Google Search Console account – algorithmic penalties won’t. Algorithmic penalties are far more common and occur relatively naturally when Google has an update to their search algorithms.

It can be difficult to tell if you’ve been hit by an algorithmic penalty, because Google won’t tell you like they do with manual penalties. But things like toxic backlinks or duplicate, thin, and poorly written content can all be contributing factors.

Crawl tools such as Screaming Frog uncover any pages on your site with low word counts, and Ahrefs will identify any recently obtained external links that are spammy or irrelevant to your content.

4. Organic Click Through Rates

What do your organic click through rates look like? It’s been debated whether organic click through rates have a direct impact on search rankings, but even from a user experience standpoint, it’s important to address any pages on your site that may be ranking well but are not commanding clicks.  Bottom line: Google wants to deliver relevant information to a searcher. If you are ranking for a search but it’s not getting clicked on, Google will think it made a mistake and try to figure out why it’s not getting clicked on. To improve this – improve your meta descriptions and page titles by including compelling copy and calls to action.


The only foolproof strategy to SEO is to treat it as a long-term investment. The more you put into the investment account – with quality content, technical SEO, and good user experience – the more your website and rankings “interest” will compound – thereby growing the value of your account. Then, IF something does happen with Google’s algorithms, or even if something drastic changes in your market, your rankings and traffic will be insulated from the tumultuous outside world.  


Of course, if you have questions about any of this stuff, or would like us to take a look at your site and make some recommendations, let us know.