Digital Advantage: Learning to capture Internet marketing

It may seem odd to have a digital marketing column in a medium-sized community newspaper like the Victoria Advocate. After all, there's no shortage of information when it comes to Internet marketing. In fact, that's the problem for most local business owners and marketers - information overload.

Adding to the problem is that most of what you read related to the subject of digital marketing online is designed to help large, national businesses sell products directly to consumers all over the country - or the globe. However, if you're a local marketer or business owner trying to win on the local scene, including the digital space, your goal is very different. You want to sell local products and services to local consumers and grow your local customer base. This type of digital marketing advice and focus is harder to find, and thus, the reason for this column.

The team I work with at Advocate Digital Media talks to dozens of local and regional companies every week about their digital marketing efforts. From conducting those meetings and working with local businesses, we learn about what's working in digital marketing and what's not. I'll relay some of the winning strategies in this space.

We'll cover topics and questions like:

• "What do I need to do to show up better on Google and other search engine results?"

• "What's the difference between mobile and responsive web design?"

• "I've noticed that my national competitors ads 'follow me' all over the Internet. How do they do that?"

• "Social marketing dos and don'ts."

• "What analytics for my site are important?"

• "How do I drive mobile traffic to my website?"

• "How can digital marketing work with traditional advertising?"

• "How can small businesses budget for digital? Should they?"

The budget question is usually the most complicated. When buying traditional or broadly targeted advertising, it's easy to know what you're up against in terms of competition.

For instance, if you're a local, independent insurance agent, I don't need to tell you that your competition on the traditional advertising front is fierce. Flo, the Gecko and the Caveman are omnipresent. You see it, and so does everybody else.

But so much of digital advertising is based on intent. "Likely insurance shoppers" are reached through targeted digital display advertising, search engine marketing, direct email, referrals and social marketing products. In other words, if you're not in the market and ready to buy, you may never see the campaign.

This summer, at the DMX Expo here in Victoria, we got a glimpse into the financial side of the local digital marketing space. There, the keynote speaker, Gordon Borrell of Borrell Associates, shocked many with a projection of 12 million digital marketing dollars being spent locally in 2013. Some of that advertising is placed by regional and national companies trying to reach into the local market and reach consumers here.

So as a local business, how do you compete and where do you put your resources? Again, those are some of the questions I'll try to help you answer. Thanks for reading.

Jason Holmes is the general manager of Advocate Digital Media, a sister company to The Victoria Advocate that focuses on digital marketing.