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An Inside Look at Digital Marketing 2017

An Inside Look at Digital Marketing


Cutting through the noise and talking about what actually matters…growth through digital marketing, not shiny things!  An unbiased perspective from San Diego Digital Marketing Agency with over 15 years of experience.


After years of talking to business owners and hearing over and over again how confused they were with digital marketing – I took it upon myself to complete a basic overview of digital marketing as it stands currently.  In an attempt to simplify the process and steer away from industry allegiances and jargon, this guide was compiled to make it possible for business owners to easily reference and make decisions that work for their business not for the marketing companies that are often trying to sell them snake oils.  Take it or leave it – this is the inside look from my own research and what I have learned from the experts that live in this world.   Hope you all find it useful!


  1. Before you Start!  What questions must be addressed?
  2. Digital Marketing 101: Terms and Glossary.  
  3. Where to start?…or shift your focus if already started
  4. Interview questions for outsourcers and agencies.
  5. Keeping up…a guide of resources.
  6. Contact the Author (Nick)

How to use this guide

Obviously, everyone is at different levels and in different industries so how you use this guide may be different based on experience etc.  I would encourage you to go through the entire guide and then mark the areas that are important to what you are trying to accomplish.  

You will hear me say this many more times – but DO NOT try and do everything at once.  Remember the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”?  Well, this holds especially true in the digital marketing world.  There are so many different skillsets that go into successful online ventures and you will be selling yourself short by trying to do it all at once no matter how large your business and budget..  

Good luck and don't stress out – digital marketing is FUN :)!

Section 1:   Before you start!  What 5 questions must be addressed for Digital Marketing strategizing?

We are all guilty of it!  Jumping in head first without knowing what exactly we are doing.  Trust me I have done this more times than I can count, although my wife might have a count :).  Sometimes it honestly has worked, but more often than not, I fell on my face and knew exactly why, because I had no idea what I was really trying to achieve.  

Without knowing what you want to accomplish how could you even know how you are going to get there?  If you said you were going to climb Everest but had no idea where it was,, you would probably need to figure that out, right?  Well no different here.  You need to figure out what your Everest is and the best route to get there before even thinking about packing up your gear and heading out the door.  

Now that I have gotten all my analogies out of the way (not entirely true there are more to come :)…let's discuss what questions MUST be addressed before you start.



digital marketing san diego

1. What are you willing to spend to acquire a new client/customer?

It’s no big secret that every business is different.  Different costs of goods, or maybe no goods at all, different margins, different profit goals and on and on.  This is precisely why this is the most important question to address out of the gate.  Hint:  Many businesses lose money to acquire the customer and then make it up on the back end – you should have this mentality too.  For example; If it takes $100 to acquire a $20 customer many would say that is a problem.  I would disagree wholeheartedly! Often times a customer might spend less than you spent to acquire them but if you are doing things right they will spend many multiples of your acquisition cost over their lifetime – this is the goal – not a quick dollar.  This is the mentality you MUST have with digital marketing.

2. What is your budget for digital marketing service and PPC advertising?

Once you figure out the first question this one should be a bit easier.  What is your budget?  Pick one – stick to it for a while – and the increase as sales are starting to be produced by your efforts…easy stuff here!

digital marketing in san diego
san diego digital marketing

3. What is your competition doing?

Seems simple right?  Well yes and no.  What your competition is doing may look very different on the surface than what actually exists beneath.  Digital marketing strategies have many different layers, only few of which can actually be seen from the outside.  If you don’t have the ability to do a full analysis yourself,  I assure you it is worth paying someone with the tools and knowhow to reverse engineer what your most successful competitors are doing.  It is time and money well spent and will save you a ton of headaches.  Just take what they have already figured out and do it better.  

Also – if you think you don’t have competition you are wrong.  I have been doing this for a while now and have heard that line many times.  Every single time it was false.  Also keep in mind if there is literally 0 competition…there may not be a market for the product or service you are offering.  

4. What do the numbers tell me?

This seems like a simple concept but many do not look hard at their P&L to decide how to move forward.  Questions like – what are my top selling products and services?  Are there any other services or products that I could offer as an upsell or a downsell?  Most important of all – what does it cost me to acquire a customer right now?  Most SMBs do not know that answer and it should be one of the biggest driving factors in determining what products to push and where to put your focus.

digital marketing san diego

5. What are my benchmarks for calling it a success?

If you are in a competition there would be obvious start and finish indicators and normally at the end a winner.  How will you judge whether your campaign is a winner?  How will you know where to put more focus and what to walk away from?  

Let me tell you something I know to be 100% true, your gut is a very powerful thing, but when it comes to marketing the numbers are much more powerful.  Keep in mind that many of the big players (Facebook and Google most notably) are giving people false data…yes false data.  I am a little worried Zuckerberg might be reading this and send the Facebook army after me, but it is the truth and has been proven over and over again – just google it.

With all this in mind – all hope is not lost.  There are a ton of 3rd party resources out there to track campaign performance that the big dogs have been using for years.  You should be using them too and no they don’t cost an arm and a leg.   I’ll cover this a bit later.

Section 2:  Digital Marketing 101: A Glossary for the newcomer

While some of this is elementary it is important that we are on the same page when using these terms which is why I included this section.  Many terms are misused or misunderstood and there are many more than i have listed that are important – but this is a good start for the novice or person wanting to learn.


  • SEOsearch engine optimization – the strategy to get your chosen webpage to rank high in Search Engine queries.  Often used as a general term for digital marketing but is only one small piece.
    • Organic SEO – the listing just below the maps in a Google Search
    • Local SEO – a hyper local approach to gain both maps and organic listings in a local market
    • National SEO – normally a combination of Organic and Local SEO in chosen nation markets
  • PPCPay Per Click – Advertising on channels that charge you each time someone clicks on your ad
  • CPCcost per click – what each click costs you in a PPC campaign
  • Landing page – typically a single page on a website or on its own with a specific purpose in mind to either capture email addresses (squeeze page) or sell something (sales page)
  • Retargeting – A very effective technique to bring visitors back to your website.  As an example if you have ever shopped online and then served an ad for the product you viewed thats retargeting and it is VERY effective!
  • SMMSocial Media Marketing – not to be confused with social marketing advertising AKA PPC – this is the campaign that is meant normally for branding and communication only.  Social postings at its most basic form.
  • Opt-In – anytime you get someone to sign up for your offer – normally meant to collect email addresses
  • Conversion – this varies from each campaign but for the sake of example in e commerce this would be a sale whereas in brick and mortar business it might be a phone call.  Basically the result of your marketing efforts leading to someone taking the action you wanted them to take.
  • Tracking Link – a link used to track individual ad performance and to pin down your ROI and conversion rates.
  • E-mail marketing – duh 🙂 – but seriously this is one of the most effective forms of digital marketing and most people are missing out by sending out boring non value added monthly newsletter – please stop
  • Autoresponder – an automatic e-mail send out after a conversion or an optin
  • Integration – one platform talking to another for some specific reason.  You might hear people ask it program x integrates with program y.  This is important for planning what tools you will use.
  • Lead Magnet – normally a low cost or free offer to help build your e-mail list and get people to your core offer.
  • Reputation Management – normally a campaign surrounding improving online reviews and other PR based activities.  
  • Optimization – an overused term in digital marketing that I will try and steer away from….basically just making things better 🙂  whatever that means.
  • Digital Sales Funnel – a connection of any of the aforementioned elements that connects email marketing, PPC advertising, landing pages, retargeting, and a tons of other stuff to generate sales leads or just simply sales for your business depending on the business type.  

Section 3:  Where to start or shift your focus.

1. SEO – is it right for my business, what should I spend?

In short yes – but how much focus should you put into it is the real question.  This is a tougher game than it used to be and if you are dealing with someone that only does SEO buyer beware – it may not be the best option for you.  So what's the dish then?

There are a variety of different factors but to keep it simple ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself.

  1. How competitive is my business? If the answer is very and you have a budget of less than 5-10K/mth you might steer away from a big SEO focus.
  2. Am I local or going after larger market segments?  Arguably local SEO is important for every business but if you are going after regional markets it could be tough on a tighter budget.  If you are a brick and mortar business do it!  If you are a business that serves a lot of different areas – do your research and be ready to pay top dollar.  

Lastly, the most important part – what should you pay?  Again there are a variety of different options and variables – but I would say as a general rule to work with agencies and local people if at all possible.  They won’t be the cheapest but your likelihood of success and your customer service experience will be much better, which is very important because a lot can go wrong.  Many agencies bill from $100-400/hr for the work they do and the hours needed vary based on each project.  More work = more money, but also will likely lead to higher returns.  If it seems too good to be true it probably is.  

Long story short – SEO is great for a lot of businesses but make sure you are using a reputable firm and that you do not count solely on SEO or any other single lead source for that matter.  Just with many things in business, diversification is key and SEO should be part of that diversification but depending on business type you may allocate more or less resources to that particular channel.  

Computer with Magnifying Glass - SEO
Google AdWords Logo

2. PPC – is paid advertising good for me?  What should I budget?

I should quote someone on this, but I have no idea who to quote – I will use Ezra Firestone because he is the last one I heard say this and it is absolutely true.  “If you can’t convert paid traffic into business, you don’t have a business.”  With this

in mind – I would tell almost everyone to start with PPC but also realize that it is much more complex than Facebook and Google let on.  Some certification courses for this type of advertising are more than 100 hours with annual recertifications.  So yes, it is easy to get started, but if it is in the cards this might be the most important thing to outsource.  Those that do this for a living will have insights that will end up saving you money in the long run.  You may have to feel the pain in the early stages, but the professional will help you to maximize ROI and let’s be honest do you really want that on your plate?

3. On which channel(s) should I advertise?

This brings us back to the competitive research piece I talked about earlier.  Don’t use your gut alone.  It is worth doing your homework and if you don’t know how – pay someone.  Normally it is best to start with one channel and build out from there.  They major question is, where do your customers hang out?  Here are some insights.

  • Google – is your product or service search based?  Is it something people seek out or something that they may not know about?   If it is something they seek out and often this might be the place for you and a great supplement is SEO.  The CPC (cost per click) is higher on google than on almost any other channel but you are getting in front of people that are looking specifically for your product or service.  Thats called a hot lead and those are great!
  • Facebook – is your demographic 35+ – if so Facebook is the channel for you.  I would however say that if you were going to start anywhere to learn this is the place to do it.   Remember it is easy to get started but hard to get good – so beware of wasting money here.
  • Instagram – is your demo 21-35?  This is is and now Facebook makes it super easy to run ads there and on Insta at the same time – might as well try both 🙂
  • Twitter – I wouldn't bother
  • LinkedIN – great for B2B – but expensive – many clicks can be more than $2
  • Snapchat – great for the 25 and under demo

That's the basics of PPC – remember this is a very generic view and there are tons of variables but this should at least get you started.  If you are trying to budget I would argue to do a similar budget as you did for SEO but remember the idea is to get that money back.  Expect to pay $1-5K or more to start per month to get someone reputable.  Again there are low cost options but buyer beware – many times you might as well light your cash on fire in the parking lot.

Facebook Like Icon
Social Media Marketing

4. SMM – Social Media Marketing – how do we do this?

First off remember to reference the channels I listed above the same concepts apply to social media marketing.  This is the part of the equation I usually push SMBs to handle themselves.  There is a lot of live posting these days and no one will represent your business like you do.  There are plenty of automation tools like Hootsuite to set you up for success.  I would say this is a very important thing that can be done in house if the resources are there.  Just remember to track what you are doing and also – set up some social listening tools as these social media channels have also become customer service channels and you don’t get to so no to that unfortunately.  

5. Reputation Management – do I need it?

The easiest way to answer this question is google your business name.  Does nothing show up or a bunch of bad reviews or even worse scandalous articles?  If that is the case – yes you absolutely need it.  If your online reputation is a disaster none of the other things I have talked about will matter, because no one will want to do business with you.  Pour all your resources into this and get it fixed and get it fixed now.  

If you just need reviews – I would recommend setting up one of the simple tools out there that allow you to solicit reviews and build your reputation yourself.  Many of these you can set up for under $100/mth to put in a basic effort.

On the other hand if you have a major problem on your hands expect to pay a fair amount to get it taken care of.  If there are news articles floating around hurting your business or blog articles it is not unheard of to pa $10K/mth+ to address the problem, but that is a small amount if it is going to cost you the business you have built.  

Yelp Logo

Section 4:  Questions to ask your Digital Marketing Agency

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. Tell me your success stories?
  3. How will we communicate (customer services)
  4. IS  the work internally or outsourced?
  5. Are you a White Label provider? Meaning someone that is reselling someone else’s services.
  6. Who do you have on staff?  Are you a one man band?  What types of outsourcers will be used (if applicable) This is very important – it takes a ton of different skillsets to bring things together – one person absolutely can not do it all, but if it is only one thing you need they may be the perfect fit.  Just don’t let anyone tell you they do it all.
  7. How will we track ROI?
  8. How will we set benchmarks for successful campaigns?
  9. How will the project be managed?
  10. Do you have any industry connections that you might refer me to?
  11. Am I a good client for you?? Too big too small etc…If not who would you refer me to
  12. How do you bill? Hourly/flat rate…If flat rate – what do I get for that.
  13. Will you be sending a detailed proposal?
  14. Is your work custom or package based?
  15. Is there a contract – if so how long?
  16. References References References – do not trust online reviews for this!
  17. And anything else you think is relevant – but these are VERY important industry questions to ask to make sure you are getting the best person for you.

Keep in mind often times white label services are the cheaper ones – they are not all bad but make sure to ask the right questions and that the person that is selling the service to you knows how to properly support your need.  If not move on – remember you get what you pay for there is a reason that McDonald's and fancy steakhouses are worlds apart on price.  

Section 5:  Keeping up…a guide of resources

So I like to think this document would be useful 1 year from now – but it may not be.  We spend hours each week reading just to keep up with the industry and if you are taking this on yourself you will need to the same.  Things change and FAST in this world.  I have supplied my “secret” list of RSS feeds I follow and e-mail lists that I belong to – I would encourage you to use the ones that are right for what you are trying to accomplish.  I didn’t include too many so as to not overwhelm you, but these are the ones I think are the best out there.

A Few notable sites in a world of many – these are some of my most visited and much of what I talked about in this document I learned from following these resources.  Make learning your top priority!

Ezra Firestone – an ecom and paid traffic genius

Russel Brunson – – high energy great with paid traffic, e-mail marketing and effective copy.

Michael Sletzner – – great for all thing social media marketing related

Moz – – great for al things SEO – very cumbersome but if you are taking on this task or paying someone to do it – keep in the loop with this one.

Contact the author (Nick) …and we use the term author loosely 🙂

If you have questions about this material or would like to look into an assessment of your business give Nick a call or send him an e-mail.  You can call/text M-F 8-5 (PST) at 858.924.2344 or email anytime at  Hope you found this useful and can put it to work to grow your business! If you need digital marketing in San Diego or other cities in the USA or UK feel free to call us.

Nick and Ashley Bennett

Nick Bennett

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