5 Smart Ways to Sharpen Your Digital Marketing Skills

In its most basic form, digital marketing means any marketing you do online to reach and attract customers to your small business. This probably means your company is certainly using some means of digital marketing already.

But like any marketing strategy aimed at building your brand, the options for digital marketing can seem endless and often challenging for smaller companies and budgets.

To help you figure out whether that means honing or adding to your efforts, here are 5 basic ways to step up your digital marketing.

Keep Trying New Approaches  

Entrepreneur and marketing expert Neil Patel reminds small businesses that the digital strategies used for small and large companies are very similar. 

The primary difference, he says, is the amount of money larger companies spend on digital marketing, mainly because they're trying to go after a bigger market. But the goals are the same.

"No matter what size business you are, you have to keep trying new approaches to reach people," says Patel, co-founder and CMO of NP Digital, a marketing agency that serves start-ups, small businesses and publicly traded companies to help them drive more traffic, sales and leads.

"There is no one solution that fits any business," he told Kathy Caprino in an interview posted on Forbes. "Testing and experimentation is the best way to figure out what works for your business."

Focus on Building Your Brand 

The main goal of small businesses using digital marketing is expanding their brand awareness, according to a recent survey of 1,000 businesses by Top Design Firms, an international directory of design, marketing, and development companies.

And that makes sense. Building your brand should remain front and center of any digital marketing strategy.

"Search engines prefer to rank brands, "Patel says in recent interviews. "Brands have trust."

That trust makes people want to click on what you're posting on social media or other digital marketing channels.

"User experience will win -- If you want to rank at the top you have to figure out how to give users what they want as quickly as possible," he says.

Successful brand building starts with providing a good product or service and listening to customers so you can continually adapt. The same goes for digital marketing strategy, which depends on customer interactions and feedback, which can help guide your marketing efforts.

According to oft-cited research, brand building starts to happen when a person sees or interacts with your brand seven separate occasions. Patel says businesses need to continually market and advises using an omnichannel approach.

"To achieve this, you will have to use multiple marketing channels, such as email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, ads, content marketing and even channels like text messaging and push notifications," he says in the Forbes interview.

Invest in SEO

SEO - the process of optimizing your website for Google and other search engines - is among the most popular digital marketing tools for any business because it holds power to improve your site's ranking in search results and attract more visitors.

But Patel cautions small businesses to be consistent in their SEO efforts.

"You can't just do a bit and expect to do well in the long run," he says in the Forbes post. "You have to do it for a long time and leverage all of the main factors for both on and off page SEO."

Include PPC in Your Strategy

Marketing experts also point to Pay-Per-Click, known as PPC, as another vital digital marketing tool for small businesses to attract more qualified traffic to their websites.

"You can target your advertisements to show up for specific keywords. But no matter how many times people see it, you only pay if someone clicks on it," says a post by the American Marketing Association.

"You get more qualified leads with this type of strategy because you know that when someone clicks on your ad, something in it encouraged them to learn more about your business.

A PPC strategy that works efficiently will operate in tandem with your SEO strategy to gain more traffic and revenue, says the AMA blog

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