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Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 18 , 2021

Stay on top of your marketing game by mastering these must-know industry terms.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Definitions for common digital marketing terms
  • Explainers for popular acronyms
  • Examples for using these terms in a sentence
  • The benefits of knowing these digital marketing terms

Quick! What’s the ROAS of that last SEM campaign? Did you A/B test it? What was the CTR?

Digital marketing is chock full of jargon and acronyms. Plus, rapid changes in technology cause new terms to show up on the regular. As a result, it can be hard to keep up with the latest marketing terms, even if you’re immersed in the industry.

We get it! That’s why we compiled this alphabetical list of terminology every digital marketing pro should know.

HawkSEM: 26 Must-Know Digital Marketing Terms

Generally, a high conversion rate is one of the top goals of an advertising campaign. (Image via Unsplash)

1. A/B testing

In marketing terms, A/B testing is when you run two ads that are the same except for one element, such as a photo or headline. You run them in tandem to see which one gives you the best results. (Think about when the eye doctor switches in different lenses to work out what prescription you need.)

With A/B tests, you should only be changing one part of the ad at a time. That way, you know the test is isolated and accurate. 

Example: “I’ve been A/B testing this ad for the last month. The version with the photo of the family is performing better than the photo of the house.”

2. Backlink

A backlink is any link to your site that originates on another website. These are also called inbound links. Having plenty of quality backlinks (which means the site linking to you isn’t spammy) can boost your search engine ranking and encourage people to check out your site. 

You should avoid having a lot of low-quality backlinks, as this can lower your ranking and Quality Score (more on that term below). 

Example: “Let’s reach out to see if that popular industry blog will give us a backlink to our latest market research report.”

3. Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the rate at which visitors leave your website after finding their way there. A high bounce rate indicates that a page on your website isn’t as described, isn’t enticing visitors to stick around, or doesn’t lead them to continue to other pages.

Example: “We could add an ROI calculator to improve the bounce rate on our pricing page.”

4. CPC

CPC is the acronym for cost per click. With this bidding model, you pay a certain amount for each user who actually clicks on your ad. 

Which model is cheaper (CPC vs. CPM) will depend on your goals.

Example: “The average CPC on Amazon generally ranges from $0.02 to $3.”

5. CPM

CPM stands for cost per thousand. Yes, in this case, M stands for “thousand.” That’s because the M stands for mille, which is Latin for 1,000. You can also think of it as the Roman numeral M.

This is an advertising model in which you pay a certain amount for every 1,000 impressions.

Example: “We managed to reduce our Facebook ad CPM by changing the bid type and broadening our audience.”

6. CTA

CTA stands for call to action. Everything from your landing page to your ads should have a clear call to action. This could look like a page headline or an eye-catching button with a short snippet of text on it like “Subscribe now” or “learn more.”

A CTA provides a short instruction telling viewers what next action you want them to take.

Example: “Let’s A/B test our CTAs for this LinkedIn ad — one button should say ‘RSVP here’ and the other should say ‘Sign up now.’”

7. CTR

Your clickthrough rate (CTR) is the percentage of people who see your ad and click on it.

A low clickthrough rate may be an indication that your ad needs to be reworked. You can calculate CTR by dividing the number of people who click your ad by the number of people who viewed it.

Example: “We were able to increase the clickthrough rate (CTR) to 30% by switching the ad copy from a statement to a question.”

8. Conversion rate

Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who see your ad, then take the action you consider a “conversion.” (This could be classified as something like purchasing a product, filling out a form, or requesting a consultation.) 

Generally, a high conversion rate is one of the top goals of an advertising campaign. If you have a low conversion rate, it may mean your copy or image needs work.

Example: “We’ve got a great CTR but our conversion rate is lousy, so I tweaked the product description.”

9. Direct traffic

Direct traffic refers to people who went to your website without being referred by a different site (which would be considered indirect traffic). Meaning, they typed in your URL directly or clicked on a saved bookmark.

An increase in direct traffic may indicate that an offline advertising project, such as a podcast commercial for your business, has been a success. For most websites, the majority of traffic is not direct.

Example: “Our direct traffic went up this month, so it looks like our giveaways at the conference were a success.”

10. Engagement

Engagement is how your customers interact with you. On social media, this includes actions such as comments, likes, reposts, and shares. More generally, anytime a customer clicks on an ad or gives your company proven attention in some way, they’re engaging with you. 

High organic engagement is most often achieved by posting interesting, quality content that your users can easily share.

Example: “Our latest team photo got a ton of engagement on Instagram. Maybe we should post more social content highlighting our employees.”

11. Hashtag

Most social media platforms use hashtags to hyperlink a certain word or phrase so you can easily click on it to find other posts related to that term. They’re the words or phrases that start with “#” symbol in a social media post. They tend to be most popular on Twitter and Instagram, but can be used on Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn as well. 

In digital marketing terms, you can use hashtags to attract your target audience, especially during a promotion, or to add your thoughts to a topic discussion. Some even use them for industry-specific chats. 

Example: “Feel free to tweet your questions with the #Hawk2021 conference hashtag and our panelists may answer them live!”

12. Impressions

An “impression” is a quantifiable view that you receive on something like an ad. In digital marketing, this could be the number of people who see a particular tweet from your brand’s account or the number of times a user loads a page with your ad on it.

As Investopedia points out, impressions are also sometimes referred to as an “ad view” and are important if you’re paying for an ad on a per-impression basis.

Example: “It looks like our tweet promoting the upcoming webinar got the most impressions last month.”

HawkSEM: 26 Must-Know Digital Marketing Terms

Lifetime value or LTV is your best estimate of how much money you can expect to make from an average customer. (Image via Unsplash)

13. Keywords

In digital marketing, keywords are the words and phrases your audience uses when searching online for something relevant to your business. These could be related to your products, services, or your brand name itself.

Conduct keyword research to see which terms your audience uses most often. Leveraging keywords helps you create content that attracts leads, ads that get seen by the right people, and campaigns that get clicks. 

Example: “Not only are we ranking on page 1 for that keyword, but our content appears in the featured snippet, too.”

14. KPIs

KPI stands for key performance indicator. A KPI is a way to track your journey to a marketing goal through a “measurable value tied to specific objectives of a marketing campaign,” as Alexa explains.

KPIs are often used to show how a certain campaign or initiative is performing or progressing.

Example: “Let’s make cost per lead one of our KPIs for this new campaign.”

15. Lifetime value

Also called customer lifetime value, CLV, or LTV, lifetime value is your best estimate of how much money you can expect to make from an average customer. 

Calculating lifetime value helps illustrate the overall impact that one sale can have on your business throughout the entire customer relationship, rather than only focusing on the value of the sale itself.

Example: “This client’s LTV went up after they signed on for another year and referred two people who also became clients.”

16. Off-page SEO

Off-page search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the measures you take to get organic traffic to your website that are not on the website itself. 

Tactics that fall under the category of off-page SEO include link building, sending out a newsletter, or posting regularly in an industry-specific Facebook group.

Example: “Let’s change all of our social media handles to just our company name to better align our off-page SEO.”

17. On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the measures you take on your actual website to improve your position on the search engine results page (SERP). 

This includes leveraging keywords, adding descriptions to images and videos, and correctly using meta tags.

Example: “You need to add alt text to that image to improve that blog’s on-page SEO.”

18. Organic traffic

Visitors who arrive at your website through online search queries and the like are considered organic traffic

In marketing terms, this refers to any traffic that is not direct, but which you don’t pay for. (Meaning, the traffic doesn’t come from paid ads.)

Example: “Our organic traffic went way up after we were retweeted by that well-known speaker with a huge following.”

19. Page view

When a specific page on your website is viewed, that’s considered a page view. This counts refreshes on the same page — your home page, product page, and “About” page are all counted separately. 

Measuring page view helps you determine what parts of your website are attracting the most traffic.

Example: “This blog has a lot of page views but hasn’t been revamped — let’s make a plan to update it.”

20. Quality score

Quality Score is Google’s standard of measurement to estimate the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. As the search engine explains, “higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.”

Your landing page experience, expected CTR, and relevance of your ads all factor into your brand’s Quality Score.

Example: “Let’s disavow the backlink from that shady website — we don’t want it to negatively affect our Quality Score.”

21. ROAS

Return on ad spend (or ROAS) is the way your return on investment is calculated for your paid marketing efforts. For example, if you have a PPC account, you subtract the PPC cost from PPC revenue, then divide it by PPC cost to get your ROAS. 

Obviously, the higher your ROAS is, the better.

Example: “We have $1,000 in sales from our last PPC campaign, and because we paid $500 against the PPC click costs, our ROAS is 100%.”

22. Search engine

A search engine is a type of software system that allows people to more easily search online. It takes a user’s query and, in milliseconds, scans through the seemingly infinite reaches of the internet to serve the searcher the most relevant and helpful search results in the form of organic results and relevant ads. 

Example: “While Yahoo was the top search engine decades back, Google has been firmly at the #1 spot for years now.”

23. SEO

The marketing term SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It refers to the consistent practice of ensuring your website and overall online presence are poised to rank as high as possible on the organic listings of the search engine results page.

SEO is often broken out into three segments: on-page and off-page (as mentioned above), along with technical SEO, which refers to elements like your site’s navigation and structured data.

Example: “Good SEO takes time to cultivate, but the results are worth it.”

24. SERP

Ah, the SERP. As an acronym for “search engine results page,” it’s where you go to see info like where you’re ranking (through paid and organic efforts) in places like Google and Bing. 

This is also where you can see what sites and companies are ranking above and below you, and what ads and snippets are showing up for various keywords.

Example: “Our SERP ranking for ‘event management software’ improved after we published that infographic in Q2.”

25. Staging site

When you’re making updates to your website or completing a full redesign, it’s recommended that you use a staging site. This is basically a clone of your existing website, which you can use to test out any new features or additions before pushing them live onto your actual website.

Using a staging site lets you test, troubleshoot, and fix any issues that arise before they hit your actual website, so you don’t risk having a site visitor see a wonky web page or broken links. 

Example: “Let’s test the new ROI calculator on the staging site, then push it live next week if we don’t run into any issues.”

26. Target audience

Whether you’re brainstorming blog posts, building new campaigns, or refreshing your ad copy, your target audience (also referred to as your ideal client persona) should always be in mind. This is the group of people who could benefit from what your company offers.

You always want to be speaking to your target audience through your paid and organic efforts to increase sales and grow your reach.

Example: “I think a how-to video showing all the ways to use our newest product would really resonate with our target audience.”

The takeaway

Of course, these aren’t all of the marketing terms that encompass the world of digital marketing. 

But, even as more phrases and acronyms crop up, feeling confident about using these terms can help you hold your own the next time you get pinged about a campaign’s CTR or want to talk best practices with other marketing pros. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jan 21 , 2021

Here’s how digital marketers can leverage psychology tactics to improve campaigns, conversions, and more.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How psychology plays into marketing
  • Ways to use psychology to create better campaigns
  • Tips for objection handling through psychology
  • How marketing psychology can help foster brand trust

Marketing is all about human behavior. As marketers, we’re always trying to get inside our target audience’s heads. What do they want, what are their concerns, and what will inspire them to act?

Encouraging people to think or act in a certain way involves a good deal of the science behind the mind and human behavior, known as psychology. It makes sense that having a strong understanding of this subject could help improve the way we approach marketing.

For example, plenty has been written about what constitutes a successful website user experience. Easy navigation, appealing design, a secure online transaction process, and crisp content all make a difference. But if you really want to beat your competition? Having a strong understanding of user motivations and behaviors can go a long way. 

Below, we break down nine marketing psychology tips that can help turn window shoppers into converted customers.

HawkSEM Psychology Tips to Improve Your Digital Marketing

Tailoring to someone’s interests can make them feel more valued, which in turn gives them a more positive impression of your brand or offering. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Address pain points

The human mind looks for reasons and patterns. When giving people a reason to choose your product or service, highlight how it will minimize the issues they’re facing. 

For this to work, though, it’s crucial to understand your customers’ pain points and motivations. Creating ideal client personas through research and surveys can help you do just that.

2. Focus on the positive

Once you’ve addressed pain points, focus on the positive outcome your target audience is seeking, whether that’s saving money, streamlining a process, or making their lives better in some other way.

While Psychology Today reports that our brains are more sensitive to negativity, it’s the small positive acts that matters most — in a ratio of about five to one. They add that “it takes frequent small positive experiences to tip the scales toward happiness.”

This is where remarketing comes in. Leveraging repeated messaging through remarketing can create a pattern that may inspire someone to finally “add to cart” or request a consultation. 

3. Personalize to make your point

HubSpot highlights a University of Texas study that claims “we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors: desire for control and information overload.” Adopting the marketing psychology tactic of tailoring your message to someone’s interests can make them feel more valued. This, in turn, can give them a more positive impression of your brand.

“Customer-centric marketing” is a phrase repeated ad nauseam. But the fact remains that, these days, customers want to know you created your business or offerings with them in mind. 

Building custom landing pages and ads that are specific to certain audience segments is one of the most effective ways to do this. When creating these campaigns, make sure that:

  • The message is clear
  • The design is consistent
  • There’s a strong call to action (CTA)
  • Everything is optimized for mobile

4. Save customers time

While we have tools that save us time and help us get more done, our lifestyles and business challenges have many of us still wishing we had more time. That’s why the promise of time savings often has more impact than the assurance of cost savings. 

As the New York Times reports, “In our pursuit of happiness, we are constantly faced with decisions both big and small that force us to pit time against money.” Part of this reason, according to experts, is because most people have far less free time than previous generations.

If it makes sense for your business, emphasize the time you can save customers. Back it up with testimonials. You could also provide a curated list of your product options or service add-ons to customers to drive the point home.

5. Be honest and transparent

We’ve mentioned before how today’s customers favor the brands they consider authentic. A study from Label Insight showed that, “if your brand isn’t transparent, consumers will hunt for information elsewhere,” according to Inc

Your ad copy should not only get to the heart of customers’ problems while illustrating empathy and kindness (without coming off as condescending or insincere). That means no sensationalist language or over-to-top claims that stretch the truth. Sticking to the facts is always best.

HawkSEM - Marketing Psychology

Colors can trigger specific feelings, particularly when purchase intent is high. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Leverage color psychology

There’s a reason why a certain popular fast-food chain uses a lot of red in their restaurant interior and packaging design. The same goes for why hospital rooms are often painted calm, soothing colors like light blue. 

Research shows that colors can influence how marketing messages are interpreted. This is especially true when it comes to persuasion and your brand’s impression. In fact, they can even trigger specific feelings, particularly when purchase intent is high. 

You can use the principles of color psychology to:

  • Run better-informed A/B tests
  • Create recallable and impactful brand logos
  • When planning a website redesign 
  • Create engaging social media and content posts

7. Understand the fear of missing out (FOMO)

While the psychology behind FOMO is a newly studied phenomenon, it’s known to affect a variety of age groups, according to experts. 

The simple fact is that fear can prompt actions. This means it’s worth exploring as part of your conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy. This is particularly true during times of blowout sales, discounts, and when you’re trying to maximize leads or purchases over a short time period. 

Pro tip: Studies show that limited-time offers entice shoppers to buy. Knowing that a good offer will only be available for the next 24 hours or so is likely to have the most impact on customers. 

8. Include testimonials and social proof

Speaking of authenticity, it’s human nature to question things. In fact, skepticism can be a key part of critical thinking. While skeptics aren’t always cynics, acknowledging that all of your marketing claims need to be backed up and credible can help strengthen your campaigns.

For example, you could attach a name, face, and job industry or title to each testimonial on your ad or site. This provides context that helps the reader trust what’s being said. Videos showing how your service has made a difference to customers can also win you loyalty and encourage people to explore your company further.

9. Prepare to overcome objections

To appear as an authentic brand, it’s important to showcase the merits of your offerings without overlooking contrarian ideas. That means that, psychologically, it’s possible to raise credibility by pointing out your product’s shortcomings, as Fast Company explains.

Seasoned marketers know that paying attention to common objections from prospects and customers is crucial. It’s not only beneficial for overall brand feedback, but it can help inform how your company projects itself through avenues like ads and content. 

Sure, a similar business may offer a few more bells and whistles, or come at a lower price. Objections like that are the perfect opportunity to highlight the value that comes with opting for your brand. That could mean fostering a true partnership with your client, a CX team that goes above and beyond, a core value of giving back, or something more.

The takeaway

Whether you look at the side of the marketer or the audience being marketed to, humans are at the core of both. 

The more you expand your knowledge of marketing psychology, the better positioned you’ll be to drive up your conversion rate and attract a loyal customer base. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 27 , 2020

When it comes to action-oriented campaigns, direct response marketing fits the bill.

Here you’ll learn:

  • What direct response marketing is
  • The benefits of this marketing type
  • The components of direct response marketing ads
  • Ways to improve your direct response marketing campaign

Building brand awareness is key to growing your business, attracting new prospects, and continuing to scale. But once you’ve got an awareness strategy in place, the work isn’t done. To turn that awareness into results, consider complementing these efforts with direct response marketing.

After all, doesn’t a marketing method with an immediate ROI seem appealing? That’s what direct response is all about. You create an appealing ad to inspire action and reap instant benefits. Let’s get down to business. 

hawksem: direct response marketing blog

In short, direct response marketing is all about creating an irresistible offer to generate leads and guide prospects down the marketing funnel. (Image via Unsplash)

What is direct response marketing?

In short, any marketing effort with a clear call to action (CTA) is direct response marketing. The direct response approach targets a specific audience and asks that audience to take action right then and there.

A few examples of direct response marketing include CTAs to:

  • Download a free e-book in exchange for contact details via form
  • Share your email address to learn more about a product, brand, or service
  • Visit a website to find a solution to a problem

This technique has to provoke a response from the potential client, from clicking to learn more to sharing contact details.

Unlike brand awareness tactics, this marketing type doesn’t aim simply to keep your company top of mind with your audience. Rather, it educates leads about possible benefits, highlights value, and encourages them to take that next step.

In short, direct response marketing is all about creating an irresistible offer to generate leads and guide prospects down the marketing funnel. This offer can be part of an ad, a blog post, social media post, or an email.

What are the benefits of direct response marketing?

Direct response marketing can be an integral component of a well-rounded digital marketing campaign. It comes with such benefits as:

  • Immediate ROI – these marketing efforts evoke a quick reaction and help companies get more immediate revenue and return on their investment
  • Trackable activity – when a client takes the required action, you know exactly which ad or copy generated the response, which makes the campaign easy to track
  • Measurability – since you know which ads generate responses and how much revenue each one produces, you can evaluate campaign performance, make adjustments, and come up with new tactics
  • Segmentation – marketers have an opportunity to develop effective segmentation strategies to target the right audiences
  • Automation – instead of monitoring clients’ responses manually, you’re essentially turning your ads into sales reps — this goes a long way towards optimizing your campaign costs
hawksem blog: direct response marketing

No matter the offer, it should be concise, clear, and value-packed. (Image via Unsplash)

What are the key components of direct response marketing ads?

The goal of direct response marketing ads is to drive the immediate sale or lead the client down the sales funnel. It doesn’t always have to be sales-forward, but it should always make it easy for the viewer to take that next action. 

Here are some ways to do just that.

1. A clear offer

Your prospect should understand which exact problem your offer solves. This means you need to describe the product or service itself, along with its benefits, guarantees, trial periods, and any other relevant, valuable information.

In many cases, the offer doesn’t sell something but simply leads the client to take the next action, like downloading a free template or signing up for a newsletter. No matter the offer, it should be concise, clear, and value-packed.

2. A strong CTA

The CTA is arguably the most important part of the ad or content you’re offering. Some typical examples of a strong CTA include:

  • “Click the link below”
  • “Use this coupon at checkout”
  • “Subscribe to our weekly newsletter”
  • “Buy now and get a discount on the next purchase”
  • “Download a free trial”
  • “Contact us now”

3. Eye-catching copy

Your direct response marketing ads need to feature a compelling message that sparks a strong interest in your prospects. Attention-grabbing headlines coupled with concise yet valuable copy allows the ad to bring in more clients.  

The most effective copy speaks directly to your target audience using language and terms they understand. 

4. Narrow target audiences

For your direct response ad to bring the highest ROI, you’ve got to be specific about what audience segment or segments you’re speaking to. Generic ad copy just won’t cut it.

To acquire the highest value for your money, invest time in segmenting your prospects into various audience groups, then creating unique ads that target each group. It’ll take more time, but the more targeted your ads, the better your chances are of converting. 

5. A thought-out buyer’s journey

When your user follows the initial CTA, don’t risk the conversation ending there. Rather, you need to have your next step teed up to keep them moving down the funnel and tracking along the path you’ve laid out for them. 

Your direct response marketing campaign can consist of several ads aimed at clients at different stages of the sales funnel. You can even employ remarketing to help those who dropped off for one reason or another easily pick up where they left off. 

direct response marketing: hawksem

Direct response marketing is fueled by high-quality, compelling copy. But because space is limited, you’ve got to pack maximum impact into just a few lines or sentences. (Image via Unsplash)

Need more help improving your direct response marketing? You’ve come to the right place.

How can you improve your direct response marketing?

We’re glad you asked! These expert tips can help take your direct response marketing to the next level. 

1. Make it easy to act

To get the desired response to your ad, you must make it as simple as possible for someone to successfully complete the action. Your form should only ask for the most necessary information, and the CTAs should be attention-grabbing and easy to spot. 

If someone arrives on your landing page and doesn’t see what you promised them immediately, they’re likely to bounce (and, can you blame them?). Make sure you deliver on your promise, provide context, and give users multiple ways to connect with you further.

2. Use time limits

Research shows that people respond to the sense of urgency created by limited-time offers. Think: A pop-up with a countdown clock for how much longer a sale will last, or an email with a coupon code that’s valid for only 48 hours.

You can also ethically capitalize on your clients’ fear of missing out (or FOMO) by letting them know how much of a certain item is in stock or offering a free gift for the first 50 people who make a purchase.

3. Offer free products or discounts

Speaking of a free gift: Freebies are always in style. And they’re one of the easiest ways to get a response from a client. 

Don’t hesitate to offer free trials, e-books, exclusive access, and more. This is also a solid campaign strategy for enterprise-level warm leads you want to convert into hot leads. Who doesn’t love a sweetened deal?

4. Tweak your copy

Direct response marketing is fueled by high-quality, compelling copy. But because space is limited, you’ve got to pack maximum impact into just a few lines or sentences.

So… get to the point! Spend time crafting impactful, concise copy that addresses your audience’s pain points, shows empathy, and offers a clear solution.

Pro tip: The most effective direct response copy focuses on a product or service’s benefits rather than its features. This can be especially game-changing when your competitors’ features are similar to yours.

The takeaway

Direct response marketing is an action-oriented tactic that focuses on the audience’s problems and offers valuable information to provide them with an immediate solution.

This approach is cost-efficient, easily measurable, and highly productive. Follow the advice above to begin creating direct response marketing ads that are set up to convert. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jun 15 , 2020

To survive in the competitive startup world, establishing a strong online presence through digital marketing is key.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why digital marketing for startups is so important
  • How to create a digital marketing plan for your startup
  • A variety of digital marketing tactics to explore
  • Actionable search engine marketing (SEM) tactics

Launching a startup is like bungee jumping — both thrilling and terrifying at once! But seeing your business idea come to life is a feeling that’s hard to beat.

Once you’ve got your startup going, digital marketing is the essential tool you’ll need to get the word out. While you can start implementing digital marketing at any stage of your business development, the earlier you do it, the faster you’re likely to see results.

Many facets of digital marketing are ongoing processes that build up value over time. The earlier you get your ducks in a row when it comes to your marketing plan, the better off you’ll be — even when adjustments need to be made.

Below, we lay out how to build a strong foundation when it comes to digital marketing for startups.

hawksem: digital marketing for startups

You can find free tools to do everything from keyword search and content improvement to competition monitoring. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Explore free tools

Paid search marketing (also referred to as pay-per-click or PPC) is one of the most effective digital marketing methods around. It makes sense: people typing queries related to your offering in search engines will — ideally — see your ads on the search engine results page (SERP) and click through to learn more about you. 

Luckily, you don’t need a huge budget to include paid search in your marketing program. Particularly when it comes to crafting your ads and targeting your audience, you can find free tools to do everything from keyword search and content improvement to competition monitoring.

The majority of such tools come with a free version or a free trial. While free options don’t offer the same functionality as full versions, they can be a great place to start when it comes to familiarizing yourself with the platform. 

These tools include:

2. Be thoughtful about your social media

Depending on your target audience, odds are they’re spending at least some time on social media platforms. About 97% of U.S. adults under 65 are using social media. More than half of the world’s population is there as well.

It may be tempting to take full advantage of this platform for organic and affordable paid efforts. But social media marketing takes time and serious involvement, potentially leaving you with fewer resources for other tactics, depending on your team size.

Instead of randomly posting on all of the major platforms without a cohesive plan, startups can begin by picking one platform to start focusing efforts on. The majority of startups choose Facebook since it shows the highest global reach rate.

You should opt for whichever one the majority of your audience uses most. Depending on the products or services you’re selling, you may want to start with Instagram. This platform is a good choice for beauty, fashion, and other visual-centric industries. 

Pro tip: Even if you don’t start posting on all social channels immediately, it’s a good idea to go ahead and claim your company’s name as your username across the major platforms, so you’ll be aligned and easy to locate once you do expand your posting.

3. Hack your knowledge base

Most startups eventually create a knowledge base for their clients to access. Be it technical documentation or how-to guides, you can take full advantage of these materials for your company’s own SEO purposes.

Creating quality content is time-consuming but crucial for a fruitful digital marketing campaign. Optimizing and repurposing content you already have or are in the process of creating is a way to work smarter vs. harder. Some ways to do this include:

  • Add keywords to your knowledge base materials and post the fulls texts on your website 
  • Use the existing content in blogs and on social media to establish yourself as an industry expert
  • Add links to this content on your website for internal linking purposes (when it makes sense)
  • When you create new knowledge base content, keep SEO best practices in mind

4. Start building your email lists

Like paid search, email marketing is another component of a strong digital marketing strategy. Not only that, but email marketing has come quite a long way since it was created decades ago.

These days, you can take advantage of automation and other tools to create personalized email campaigns that target the right people at the right stage of the buyer’s journey. 

Once you’ve picked out a solid email platform to use, you can work on building your list through tactics including:

  • A limited-time offer or special discount
  • Offering exclusive content
  • Putting an email signup form on your website
  • Creating a contest that involves opting in to enter
hawksem: digital marketing for startups blog

You can actually use your competition to your advantage by studying what works for them. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Leverage user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful marketing tool that costs you close to nothing. It allows your customers to become brand ambassadors, while making your job easier so you focus on other marketing strategies.

According to Social Media Week, 78% of millennials would rather see photos of real customers using products than more polished brand-generated images.

Simple ways to gather UGC marketing for startups include:

  • Creating customer surveys
  • Interviewing experts in your field
  • Running contests
  • Asking customers to leave reviews
  • Posting customers’ content on your website and social media (with permission)
  • Offering incentives to loyal customers who refer new customers

6. Keep an eye on the competition

Chances are, your startup company has some competition. Not only is this to be expected, but it can even benefit you! You can actually use your competition to your advantage by studying what works for them — and how you could potentially make it work for you.

While you don’t want to simply mimic, rip off, or copycat another brand, you can make note of successful tactics and brainstorm how your team can use them in your own ways. Ask yourself questions like: Are they ranking for a topic you could write a better, more recent content piece about? Are there high-volume keywords they’re not targeting? 

7. Focus on PPC campaign quality vs. quantity

PPC advertising is an excellent way to generate leads. That’s why many new brands sometimes dive deep into PPC ads, spending more money than they should.

In reality, when it comes to marketing for startups, it’s better to focus on quality instead of quantity when it comes to your paid search campaigns.

Once you launch your first campaign, you’ll quickly learn how much attention it requires, from regular monitoring to A/B testing. As soon as you build one successful campaign, you can consider creating more, then optimizing the existing ones so they continue performing well.

Pro tip: If you’re working with an experienced SEM agency and they suggest a different tactic, go with that — they know what they’re talking about!

The takeaway

With digital marketing as a priority for your startup, you’ll be poised to see impressive success, growth, and development. 

It can feel overwhelming with all that goes into keeping a nascent company powering through, especially in time like these. Create an action plan that’s thorough yet doable, and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Know that you’ve got the 411 on digital marketing for startups, find out how we can help you maximize your resources and crush your competition.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 8 , 2020

Expand the reach of your business with the latest and most effective digital marketing trends of 2020.

Here, you’ll find:

  • A breakdown of 5 digital marketing trends of 2020
  • How you can implement these trends into your current strategy
  • Data showing which trends are on the rise
  • How staying in the loop can give you an edge over competitors

Rarely does a month go by without a search engine or social media platform (or both!) announcing a major change or update for advertisers. The effects can be slight or sweeping, and they often come without much of a heads up. 

The pros know change is the name of the game when it comes to today’s digital marketing landscape. Trends come and go, but more and more they’re leaning towards things like personalized ads and content written with an authentic, natural voice.

Keywords and audience targeting remain at the core of many search and social ads. But businesses can now make use of new visual marketing tactics to stand out from the competition.

hawksem: digi marketing 2020

Marketing teams and agencies must account for the ever-changing ways customers access information, communicate, and shop. (Image via Unsplash)

Digital marketing trends and the latest technology

Most online marketing agencies already use insights gathered from analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning to precisely target ads and deliver personalized promotions. Experts recommend combining these strategies with conventional search engine optimization (SEO) methods for best results.

An innovative digital marketing plan might unite a paid search campaign with pay-per-view Facebook video advertising or cross-platform social ads. Especially in today’s precarious business climate, marketing teams and agencies must account for the ever-changing ways customers access information, communicate, and shop. Here are five trends we’ve got our eyes on.

1. Create content beyond blogs

As we’ve said before, it’s natural to think “blogs” when you think about content. But while publishing high-quality articles should be a key component of your content and SEO strategies, content can be many things outside of just blogs.

Creating longer content such as guides, e-books, and infographics, for example, can be more than just educational content for your audience. You can repurpose this content into multiple blog posts, a webinar, or a gated download to capture leads. 

Lately, more brands are experimenting with interactive content like quizzes and social media polls as well. As Forbes reports, this is a great way to bolster your email list for future campaigns and helps your audience remember your brand.

HawkSEM: Digital marketing trends 2020

While micro-influencers don’t have the follower counts of more big-time influencers, there are plenty of perks when it comes to working with them. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Look into micro-influencers

You’ve probably heard the term “micro-influencer,” since influencers have remained one of the biggest digital marketing trends of the last few years. If not, here’s the 411.

Micro-influencers are social media influencers with 10,000 or fewer followers (though some consider accounts of up to 30,000 as micro-influencers). They can generally be found on Instagram. Brands can partner with influencers for sponsored posts, where the influencer somehow features your product or service in a post (that’s marked as an ad) in exchange for payment, a free product, et cetera. 

While micro-influencers don’t have the follower counts of more big-time influencers, there are plenty of perks when it comes to working with them. They’re often more affordable than those with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. And they often have more engaged audiences, too. They also tend to focus on more niche industries than broad lifestyle influencers. 

A Social Media Today survey found that 60% of consumers (and 70% of millennials) said social content from friends and family impact their purchasing decisions. Moreover, 54% of people on social media use it to research product purchases, according to Global Web Index. Depending on your industry, micro-influencers could be key to getting your brand added exposure and a bigger reach without breaking the bank.

3. Take note of the m-commerce rise

Speaking of phone apps and Instagram, let’s talk about m-commerce. As you can probably guess, m-commerce stands for mobile commerce (AKA shopping on your smartphone), and it’s a growing trend. So much so that Business Insider predicts it’ll reach $284 billion, or 45% of the total U.S. e-commerce market, this year.

Some brands are jumping on the bandwagon through shoppable social media posts. A new Instagram integration with platforms like Shopify allows e-commerce stores to publish posts with links connected to the items shown in the image. Viewers can simply tap the image and be led straight to a product page to purchase right from their phones.

BigCommerce highlights just some of the benefits m-commerce offers, including:

  • an omni-channel experience
  • huge growth potential
  • better customer experience
  • a variety of payment options

However, they add that there are also common pitfalls to avoid, such as a wide range of regulations, price competition, and a constant need for optimization. 

Pro tip: Instagram Checkout, launched in 2019, allows users to purchase from Instagram without even leaving the app, making the transaction more seamless than ever. 

HawkSEM: digital marketing trends 2020

YouTube’s bumper machine generates brief ads from videos shorter than 90 seconds. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Explore video ads

Video marketing has become one of the most effective ways to reach customers and achieve brand recognition. But those that want to use video ads should be aware of the possibilities and limitations of various platforms, from Google and YouTube to Facebook and other social networks.

YouTube bumper ads are timed at six seconds and air before video content. These ads are particularly popular and effective for clients with limited video ad production budgets. Depending on available editing resources, you may want to consider using YouTube’s bumper machine. This tool generates brief ads from videos shorter than 90 seconds and has a few simple editing features.

Pay-per-view is available to video advertisers on Facebook. These placements resemble pay-per-click search advertisements. Advertisers don’t pay for views of sponsored results or other search ads that don’t get clicked. A fee is only charged when a viewer watches more than 10 seconds of a video promotion.

This digital marketing tactic encourages brands to craft content that prospective customers consider more compelling, engaging and interactive. 

5. Consider chatbots

As a digital marketing trend, chatbots have come a long way — particularly when it comes to AI and personalization. Not only can chatbots provide 24-hour customer support, but they can help answer common customer Qs, freeing up your human employees for other tasks.

As Digital Marketing Institute reports, chatbots have carved out a regular role on Facebook, by the tens of thousands, for different tasks in the last few years. And, with advancing AI technology, chatbots can become “smarter” as they gather more data. 

Depending on the chatbot software you go with, you can create a variety of scenarios that may help prospects and clients find what they’re looking for, from contact information to knowledge-base articles.

The takeaway

Much like Google beta releases, some digital marketing trends fall by the wayside while others prove to have staying power.

By staying in the loop and testing out the latest marketing trends (which they make sense for your business, industry, and budget), you can show your audience that you’re paying attention to what’s on the horizon.  

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2019.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Jane Serra on Dec 30 , 2019

How to make conversion rate optimization (CRO) work hand in hand with your digital marketing efforts for strategies that lead to success

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to calculate conversion rate
  • The benefits of CRO for digital marketing
  • Ways to create better user experiences
  • The importance of landing page and PPC ad optimization

When it comes to opportunities from digital marketing, your business can’t afford to fall behind. Doing so could mean your loss is a more digitally-savvy competitor’s gain.

Whether you think your sales numbers can be better, your customer engagement scores can be higher, or something in between, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a tool to activate the digital marketing results you want.

HawkSEM: The Benefits of CRO for Digital Marketing: A Primer

Conversion rate optimization is a tool to activate the digital marketing results you want. (Image via Unsplash)

By setting a conversion goal and optimizing towards that goal through CRO tactics, you could see results like:

  • An increase in purchases on your website
  • A jump in the number of people using the calculator or survey on your site
  • An increase in app downloads
  • A boost in free trial signups
  • An increase in the number of newsletter signups over the past quarter

Ready to master your digital marketing program’s CRO efforts? Let’s dig in.

What exactly can you optimize?

If you’re looking for where to begin, landing pages with poor conversion rates, paid search ads, and engagement on your mobile website are just a few things you can optimize.

Generally, conversion rate optimization efforts focus on converting visitors arriving to your site into qualified leads or paying customers. Conversion rate experts can plan actions aimed at optimizing specific digital marketing and sales results.

How to calculate conversion rate

The math is pretty straightforward. Simply divide the number of conversions over a defined time period by the total number of visitors over the same period, and multiply by 100.

For example, let’s say your website had 1,000 visitors and 200 conversions last week.

Conversion rate = (200/1000) x 100 = 20%

If 500 people signed up for a free trial of your software and, after using it for a month and in conjunction with your email drip campaign, 100 of them upgraded to a paid plan, your free trial to paying customer conversion rate will be 20%.

These are simple calculations. Analytics platforms such as Google Analytics can do the calculation for you and show your goal conversion rate as well.

Goal conversion rate = (Total goal completions / # of sessions) x 100

E-commerce conversion rate = (Total transactions / # of sessions) x 100

Benefits of digital marketing CRO

Let’s recap. So far, we’ve discussed the impact of CRO from a sales perspective. Optimization tactics can also be valuable for your digital marketing.

You can gain audience insights

The customer journey map illustrates all the touchpoints your customers engage with online or offline. A website is an online touchpoint — perhaps the most critical one along the customer journey.

CRO tools offer insight into how customers interact with your website.

  • How do they navigate your site?
  • Which pages interest them most?
  • How do they engage with the various elements on your website, such as your form, call-to-action (CTA) buttons, or virtual assistant?

Understanding visitor behavior

An understanding of visitor behavior on your website allows you to improve on-page and website design elements. These improvements can have a positive impact on conversions. They also expand your knowledge of user behaviors.

A CRO expert may use heat maps to find out which links are most often used. Say most visitors click on the link that takes them to your pricing page, resources, or case studies section of your site. This insight can help you better understand the needs and wants of your audience.

You can validate or learn that your B2C or B2B customers are most interested in the one, two, or three things about your company that can help them make a decision to purchase or move forward to closing a deal. In response, you could create more compelling whitepapers or e-books around these specific topics, or make the more popular links/ pages more prominent.

Perhaps your price list loads slowly or it isn’t formatted clearly, causing prospects to drop off after showing initial interest in your product. CRO tools can uncover these types of issues so they can be corrected, thus improving conversions.

You can also use dynamic heat maps that visualize users’ mouse and finger movements as they navigate your website. This way, you’ll know if visitors are scrolling down your homepage or using the drop down menus to visit key pages of your website.

Your landing page or homepage sets the initial impression of quality for visitors. If they like what they see, they’re likely to feel encouraged to stay on your website longer.

HawkSEM: The Benefits of CRO for Digital Marketing: A Primer

A/B testing is a popular CRO tool to determine the right layout, colors and copy that can motivate visitors to make a purchase, fill out your form, or call you directly. (Image via Unsplash)

You can create better user experiences based on data

It may seem obvious that a strong website is essential to running a successful digital marketing campaign. But when it comes to CRO benefits for digital marketing, improving your website design can help create the right perceptions about your brand in visitors’ minds.

Apply the insights gained from CRO tools to iterate and enhance the specific website elements that need fixing. In a nutshell, you can make data-driven decisions on improving the user experience.

A/B testing is a popular CRO tool to determine the right layout, colors and copy that can motivate visitors to make a purchase, fill out your form, or call you directly.

For instance, if you’ve created multiple landing pages for your latest marketing campaign, a split test can be performed to further drive conversions on high-traffic pages. This supports your marketing campaign and keeps you striding towards targeted business results.

Landing page and PPC ad optimization

PPC ads can also benefit from CRO. Clickable, punchy PPC ads that are highly relevant to your audience’s search query can drive more quality leads to your website.

You also have the opportunity to target high-intent, long-tail keywords, helping you be found by people in the later stages of the buying cycle.

Prioritizing CRO can ensure relevance between your digital marketing ads and landing pages, taking prospects on a seamless, consistent journey that does justice to your marketing efforts while hitting your sales targets.

Pro tip: If your landing pages don’t fulfill the promise of your ad, your PPC investment will struggle to deliver the expected results.

The takeaway

Even incremental lifts matter. A 5% increase in the conversion rate can translate to significant additional revenue over a period of time. This is why it’s a good idea to align CRO strategies with your ongoing or most important digital marketing goals.

As you take data-backed actions, all of your CRO efforts will have meaning, purpose, and if successfully executed, deliver the value amplification you seek.

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Dec 17 , 2019

Digital marketing can get you in front of potential customers, while the right strategy can get them to convert.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How search results affect customer acquisition
  • The organic efforts that can help acquire new leads
  • Effective paid marketing strategies for your business
  • How to ensure your site is set up for optimal acquisition

Marketing pros who aren’t new to the game likely know all about the customer journey. It’s comprised of the stages we base our content, campaigns, and gameplans on: awareness, consideration, and decision. (With delight as the bonus step.) And the customer journey is a crucial element when it comes to acquisition.

Customer acquisition is the process of going from a generated lead to a converted customer — it’s basically the whole funnel (or journey) combined. At the end of the day, marketing is about attracting new customers, and keeping customer acquisition top of mind is how marketers can make that happen.

While there’s no one way to pinpoint and acquire qualified leads that are sure to become customers, there are a handful of digital marketing strategies you can implement with customer acquisition in mind. Here, we’ve mapped out six of our favorites.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

Companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Paid search

Also known as pay per click (PPC), paid search is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies when it comes to customer acquisition. That’s because it allows companies to target their specific audience with the right keywords at the right time.

Paid search ads appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) on sites like Google and Bing. If someone’s searching for “women’s black cycling shoes,” for example, and you’re an e-commerce brand selling cycling products (including women’s black cycling shoes), you want your targeted ad to be the one they see. The same goes for brands selling services and other products.

The companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad, though. Rather, it’s crucial to pair eye-catching, appealing ad copy with an optimized landing page that boasts consistent verbiage, clean design, and a clear call to action (CTA).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Along with a paid search strategy, having a solid SEO strategy helps your website be more easily recognized by search engines. This helps improve your rankings and, ideally, grow your reach for better customer acquisition.

Proper SEO on your site means having elements including:

  • Unique title tags on your pages
  • High-quality content marketing
  • Internal links and external links (to authoritative sites)
  • A site map
  • Meta descriptions
  • Images with alt tags

Ensuring your site is optimized for search engines won’t automatically get you in the first position (or even the first page) on the SERPs. The search algorithm that determines the best content for each search query is constantly changing, and the details about how search engines determine the best content to show searchers isn’t always clear.

However, by keeping your site up to date, easy to navigate, and educational for prospects and clients, you can position your brand as a thought leader and your site as a valuable resource of information.

3. Social media

When it comes to social media, you’ve got the option to leverage both organic and paid avenues. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that each path can be leveraged in the same way or achieve the same results.

Let’s start with organic social media. The practice of regularly creating social media posts can spread the word about new business offerings or updates, increase your exposure, and even help you go viral (in the good way, ideally).

While organic social posts likely won’t directly result in customer acquisition, they can aid in brand awareness, content sharing, and allow you to highlight the fun side of your brand.

Paid social, on the other hand, can be a powerful tool if wielded properly. When choosing which platforms to advertise on, you should first consider your target audience and the platforms they use most.

From there, you should take advantage of the audience targeting tools most of these platforms have in place, so you can get your content delivered straight to those who need to see it most. Paid social is a great way to meet people where they are in a way that’s nearly seamless.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

When done right, remarketing is one of the best ways to get past visitors back to your site. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Remarketing

As we’ve touched on before, remarketing can benefit your business in numerous ways. Not only does it keep you top of mind when someone visits your site without making a purchase or requesting a consultation or demo, but it allows you to hyper-focus your ads and ups your chances of turning a lead into a conversion.

Remarketing (also called retargeting) works by leveraging display ads to connect your business with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. The most successful remarketing campaigns aren’t one size fits all, of course — a brand-new site visitor shouldn’t be remarketed the same way as a returning visitor. When done right, it’s one of the best ways to get past visitors back to your site. Bonus: it’s one of the most cost-effective ad strategies around.

5. Content marketing

When people hear “content marketing,” they may automatically think of blogs. And while blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, it can encompass much more. Content can be:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Guides and e-books
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Downloadable templates
  • Product descriptions
  • Case studies

No matter the content you create, you want to make sure it’s accurate, helpful, and targeted. The more content you create, the more industry topics you can cover, and the more likely you are to be found on SERPs by those in search of what you have to offer.

You can even take things a step further by partnering with another brand on a piece of content, such as an infographic, webinar, or guest blog. This expands your reach, helps you build a professional network, and boosts your credibility as a reliable source.

6. Email newsletters

As Digital Marketing Institute reports, you’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. Newsletters can be a powerful acquisition channel if you follow a few key strategies. The most successful newsletters:

  • Include only one main CTA
  • Offer a tactical takeaway (like a pro tip, discount, or statistic)
  • Feature an attention-grabbing subject line
  • Have an easy-to-read template
  • Are optimized for mobile

When you’re looking to build your non-client subscriber list, get creative! You can add exit-intent pop-ups to your site, or include a subscription box in your site’s footer. Offline, you can give people the option to sign up if your brand is posted up in a booth at an industry conference or networking event — a particularly effective strategy if you’re doing a giveaway or contest.

Pro tip: Let your readers help you spread the word! Include social share links as well as forwarding options in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

You’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. (Image via Unsplash)

The takeaway

Customers are the bread and butter of any business, and digital marketing is one of the most direct ways to connect with your desired prospects.

By knowing your audience, meeting them where they are, and analyzing the data behind your campaigns, you’ll have the tools you need to not only attract more customers, but keep them loyal and happy as well.

We know a thing or two about successful digital marketing here at HawkSEM. Wondering how we can take your ROI to the next level? Let’s talk.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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