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All about Digital Marketing channels: what they are, how to analyze and how to make the best use of each one of them

Get to know the main Digital Marketing channels and what to do to analyze them and optimize your results

Marketing and sales channels, in general, are the means used by companies to reach their potential customers. This definition is quite general, but it is important to express the essence of understanding and analyzing your marketing channels.

To explain it better, let’s think of some examples.

First, we can think about the division of sales channels that the CEO of a large electronics company does: ecommerce, call center, partners and physical stores.

One level down, we can think that the manager of this company’s physical store channel divides this channel into two others: wholesale and retail.

Also, the wholesale manager of this company subdivides the channel into three main stores, located in different regions of Brazil.

Now, let’s think about a small service company. In it, the CEO divides the business into the following channels: referrals (referrals from former customers, friends, acquaintances), Inbound Marketing, buybacks (new sales to customers who have already purchased) and events (customers acquired at business events).

Blue World City note that the definition of which sales channels are can vary from business to business, but the definition of channel is the same: they are different ways of acquiring new customers.

Another interesting factor to note is that each channel will have specific characteristics: how they are addressed, the investment required, the expected return, the type of customer that is acquired, how “prepared” to purchase the channel’s Leads, and several others. Therefore, it is important to find “standardized” metrics to be able to compare channels with very different characteristics, such as ROI and sales cycle.

The Digital Marketing is a customer acquisition channel that did not exist even before the internet creation. But what we need to understand are precisely the subdivisions of channels within Digital Marketing to consider the specific characteristics of each one of them, find the right metrics to compare them with each other and maximize the return that each one gives to your business.

Knowing the importance of knowing and analyzing the Digital Marketing channels to optimize your results, let’s now understand what these subdivisions are and what to do to be able to analyze them.

What are the main Digital Marketing channels?

Although the definition of channels is broad, in Digital Marketing there are some standards due to the fact that all actions are disclosed by some “means” (or media). Therefore, Google itself created some standard definitions to be used in Google Analytics and that end up being used by many other companies. Even in RD Station Marketing we rely heavily on this standard definition.

In this division, the following main channels are presented:

Social

In social networks, the focus of users is not their business: they are there to connect with other people, both in their personal and professional lives. Therefore, they are not looking to solve a problem, but to strengthen relationships.

Your role, then, is to pique their interest and take them elsewhere – in this case, your website.

What may seem like a daunting task is not necessarily. Social media is a great funnel-top channel; they attract any kind of audience. At the same time, however, they also allow for a much more specific targeting of the people you want to reach.

Linkedin groups, for example, allow you to communicate directly only with people who occupy a certain position in a certain sector: only directors of educational institutions, only marketing managers in the tourism sector…

Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter profiles, Snapchat accounts: they all allow you not only to become a reference in what you sell, but also to get closer to your audience, creating a relationship with them.

People who like or follow you are already predisposed to consume your product or service; if you maintain a relationship with them, responding to comments, posting frequently and making them interact with your channel, you will be retaining your customers and convincing your prospects at very little cost: getting them to your page becomes an easy and natural task.

Email

Email Marketing is perhaps one of the more channels that can bring short-term results – and also one of the cheapest if you look at the amount of people that can be reached through a campaign.

If used correctly, email is still a very effective resource to be used in Lead nutrition, as you can deliver relevant content and, with a good strategy, do it periodically, increasing the Lead’s engagement with your company and causing them to return to the site.

In our eBook The Email Marketing Guide, we talk more about the channel and how it should be used strategically to impact results.

organic search

Whenever the user accesses a website through a search engine (eg Google, Yahoo, etc), this is considered organic traffic. Organic traffic is usually more difficult to reach than other channels, as it is up to the search engine to decide which URL will be at the top of their rankings.

For this reason SEO is so important, which aims to adapt the page to these criteria.

The competition for traffic coming from this channel is very high, as users who access a site through a search engine show a high interest in the topic, which makes them useful at any stage of the shopping funnel.

Reference (referral)

In the same way that these “known” sites (such as Google and Facebook) can bring traffic to your website, any other website on the internet can be a channel to access yours, as long as you are referenced on it.

In practice, this translates to your content being reproduced by many other sites, either in partnerships you establish or simply because your content is good enough for other people to want to share.

Thus, any link to your website that is available on any webpage ends up becoming a possible channel. In addition, having your content well-referenced is a criterion well regarded by search engines, that is, it can be a good influence on your SEO.

To learn how to generate more links on the internet, check out the Link Building? Go from scratch straight to your first link campaign!

Direct traffic

It’s considered direct traffic every time a visitor types your website URL directly into their browser. However, we already commented in the post about things you don’t know about direct traffic that there are some biases in this analysis.

Going by concept, our direct traffic channel is generated by people who already know our brand, or have received a referral, or are returning to the site. If he is returning, it is because he liked what you offer of value, while the referral may have come from a friend, event or offline consultant.

Paid media

Just as it is very important to have a presence in all Digital Marketing channels presented above, the main audience concentrators today build business models by providing the “sale” of this audience.

Even if it’s impossible for you to reach a certain audience on Facebook, or it’s very difficult to appear in the first place on Google for a keyword that is very important to your business, you can use paid media to be able to spread to the right audience.

Most common channels for serving ads:

Google

The best known online advertising channel is Google, with the media buying platform Google Ads, which is basically divided into these 3 fronts:

  • Search:  Ads for sponsored links when the user does a Google search. Generally Google standardizes showing the best results for those who have the best behavior with the user with the search, taking a balance in the purchase of the correct keyword existing on the landing page with the user’s search, and other factors with relevance and time that the ads is running.
  • Display: These are banner ads of graphic pieces or sponsored links that are served on the Google content network, from partner sites and blogs that allow the placement of ads via Google Display, and that you will define the size formats of the ads to target. Remembering that this format is the most common to do Remarketing.
  • Youtube:  Ads on Youtube is a way to impact the user before he watches the video. This format is called pre-roll, but there are also other formats such as survey and banners.

Facebook Ads

One of the great advantages of Facebook Ads is having a large audience, which makes it possible to chat with +90% of the country’s population on the internet. What’s more, have coverage and targeting that no other media channel has. Prices are also cheaper than advertising in another medium.

The main reason to continue investing in Facebook Ads is that it is cheaper to reach a thousand people than other means such as Newspaper, magazines, TV and also Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads. Excellent cost and benefit to generate traffic to your website, lead generation, video views, engagement and so on.

With Facebook ads, you can create amazing targeting like interests and likes for custom audiences (email list, retargeting website or app) and further optimize your campaign with conversion tracking installed on your website.

LinkedIn Ads

One of the great advantages of advertising on LinkedIn is being able to create qualified ads by position and seniority.

For example, you can target only the state of Minas Gerais, position of CEO of IT companies. The only downside is Cost Per Click, which is a little more expensive than other platforms on the market. But as they are for well-qualified users, it’s worth testing.

Other paid media channels:

In addition to the aforementioned sponsored links channels, you can also advertise via Twitter AdsInstagram Ads, Waze Ads, Programatic Media and several other sponsored link platforms.

Want to know more about the channel? Check out the Sponsored Links page: everything you need to know

Use UTMs to track the proper marketing channel

To better analyze your channels, it is VERY important that you understand how the analytics tools classify traffic coming from different places, as this is the only way to configure your campaigns and links correctly so that, in the end, you can have the analysis you need.

Most tools use UTM parameters as the main way to classify channels, and using them today is considered almost mandatory in order to have a reliable tracking of your digital channels.

One consequence of not using UTMs is, for example, the impossibility of separating organic and paid results within social media.

Adapting can often be arduous because of the work of changing the links already available in campaigns, but I guarantee the results are worth it! Only in this way will you be using the full potential of Digital Marketing, which has as one of its great advantages the tracking of actions.

Let’s understand a little better how they work.

You may have noticed that you once shared a link and the address came with some common parameters, written like this: utm_medium, utm_source, utm_campaign, and others.

These parameters are inserted into each URL so that, whenever someone accesses the site through that link, they can find out exactly where the visitor came from. There are 5 standardized variations of parameters:

  • Medium: normally this is the most important of the parameters and represents the media or medium used in the dissemination of the link in question. Normally, in this parameter we want to identify which main channel the visitor is coming from (example: utm_medium=email indicates that the link is being advertised in an email campaign, utm_medium=paidsearch indicates a promotion in the paid search channel)
  • Source: indicates the site/application from which the visit came. Typically, this is the address of the page where the visitor found the link they are clicking on (example: in a Facebook post, the source would be utm_source=facebook )
  • Campaign: this parameter is intended to indicate which campaign the link refers to, regardless of channel or origin. Think of some rich new material that you are spreading via email, Facebook, paid search… All these links can have the same campaign, in different sources and mediums
  • Term: This parameter is generally used to identify keywords purchased in paid search campaigns.
  • Content: The content parameter is usually related to an A/B test, identifying which of the variations of a test is being clicked on. So it is common to see, for example, the parameter contain the text of a button that is clicked or an identifier of the test variation in question (A, B, C…)

How to do a Digital Marketing Channel Analysis in practice

Before getting started, there is still a subtle but very important concept in channel analytics that needs to be understood to have a complete understanding of each channel’s status and payback: the attribution model.

What is an attribution model?

The attribution model concept emerged as the solution to the problem of multiple interactions with the visitor or lead before an important action takes place.

For example, before a visitor becomes a Lead, he may have visited your website three times through three different channels: once in an ad seen on Facebook, another time via organic search and also from a link on the website. a partner of yours.

In this scenario, which of these three channels generated the Lead? Was the first? The last? Does everyone matter? If yes, is the importance of the three the same?

Also imagine that a Qualified Lead opens ten emails, clicks three of them, visits your site twice for a paid search ad, and then makes another visit by typing the URL directly into the browser, right before asking to chat with a sales consultant.

Which of these interactions was most important in getting him interested in your product or service?

Sounds complex, doesn’t it? But that’s when the attribution model comes into play to uncomplicate and structure a standard type of analysis of these channels. Get to know some of these models:

  1. First touch:  in this model, the weight of the action is attributed to the first interaction of the period. In the first example shown above, a first touch analysis would say that the new Lead was generated by the Facebook ad, which was the Lead’s first interaction with the site. This criterion is often used to capture the Lead’s origin, as it represents the channel through which the Lead actually got to know the site, even if it didn’t convert.
  2. Multi-touch (or linear):  in the linear model, the same weight is given to all channels passed by the Lead to the final action. For example, if, in a given period, the same Lead converted to two different channels, the analysis would show a Lead for each channel.
    This case is often used to measure the efficiency of each channel separately, without thinking of a whole, since, if we add up the Leads generated in each channel, we will have a greater number than the total of Leads generated (in the example, we would have one Lead total, but the sum of Leads in the channels would result in two).
  3. Last touch:  the criterion of “last touch” is often used to classify hand raises or changes of the Lead stage in the Sales Funnel . This happens because, as it represents the last interaction of the Lead before this hand-raise, the last touch analysis shows very well in which channels you should invest to generate the right interest in your Leads, or even which channels are most accessed by the best Leads in the their base (since it is through them that they convert to the next stage of interest).

As you can see, each model has specific applications and, depending on the way they are used, they can be more confusing than making your life easier. Therefore, it is very important to know how the models work and under which criteria the analysis is being carried out.

How to Analyze Your Digital Marketing Channels

We already know the importance of Digital Marketing channels and we know all the details necessary to set up campaigns and understand the results.

Now, get to work! Here’s a suggestion on how to analyze your channels and prove each one’s return:

Build a funnel by channels, with the main metrics extracted from each of them. The example below shows the Funnel with the main metrics we use in RD Station Marketing, divided by each marketing channel:

This funnel will be the foundation for virtually any decision-making analysis about your channels as it brings the key business metrics broken down by each of them. The differences will be in the criteria behind these metrics, the conclusion you want to draw from the report, and the way you analyze them.

Note that in the example we are talking about the main channels, associated with the medium, but within each of these channels we can still explore the other parameters with the same metrics.

Possible combinations allow you to have a broad view of the details. An example of execution would be to build the same funnel, with the same criteria, but dividing the reference channel into several sources. Thus, we would have a funnel identical to the one shown above for each of the domains that bring traffic and Leads to your website.

Once that’s done, divide your analysis into 3 : Top, Middle and Bottom of Funnel.

Remember that, in these cases, we will always answer questions seeking to understand the volume, conversion and speed of Leads.

Top of Funnel Analysis

In this analysis, try to understand which channels generate the newest Leads and the quality of these Leads generated in each channel.

To do this, use the first touch attribution model and take a closer look at visitor metrics and new leads, so you’ll understand where they first come to your site. So, using this attribution model, look for the following insights:

  • Which acquisition channel generates the most Leads in total?
  • Which acquisition channel has the highest conversion rate from Visitors to Leads?
  • Which acquisition channel has the highest conversion rate from Leads to Qualified Leads?
  • Which acquisition channel has the shortest sales cycle?
  • [For paid media channels] Which channel has the lowest CPL (cost per lead)?

Funnel Means Analysis

In this report, the aim is to understand which channels you should invest in to have more engagement from your Leads, which increase your Lead qualification and the number of opportunities generated.

For this, the ideal at this moment is to use the central part of the Funnel (mainly the Leads, Qualified Leads and Opportunities metrics) using the Last Touch model. This way, you will know which channel is the most responsible for generating more engagement and interest from your Leads.

To facilitate the assembly of the analysis, answer the following questions:

  • Which channel generates the greatest volume of qualified Lead generation?
  • Which channel has the highest conversion rate from Leads to Qualified Leads?
  • Which channel generates the greatest volume of lead generation?
  • Which channel has the highest conversion rate from Leads to Opportunities
  • Which channel has the lowest lead cycle time for opportunities?

Still as a funnel, another interesting report to generate is to use a funnel of visitors, Leads and Leads qualified by the multi-touch model and analyze the specific efficiency of each channel in the engagement of Leads.

This report answers in which channels the Leads that are in the qualification process most engage with your business, making it responsible to bring many complementary insights to the last touch report that we showed above. This is a very important step, especially when your sales cycle is longer.

Funnel Bottom Analysis

This report is mainly for businesses that make sales online (e-commerces) or that have a good part of the sales process within the site and shorter sales cycles, as it provides a view of which channels work best to convert leads into sales.

The report itself is very similar to the middle funnel report: using the last touch model, we look at the opportunities and sales steps to answer the following questions:

  • Which channel generates the most sales?
  • Which channel has the highest conversion from Leads to Sales?
  • Which channel generates the most revenue?
  • Which channel has the highest average ticket?

In case sales cycles are longer, my recommendation would be to use Leads cohorts (or vintages) reports, in which you can see which of these monthly Leads “crops” convert the most month-to-month. Talking about this report would just be the subject of another full post!