The digital marketing tide is still rising, and quickly. The amount of time spent on Internet and mobile devices combined is now just behind the time spent watching television every day in America.

People in America now spend almost as much time on the Internet and mobile devices as they do watching TV.

People in America now spend almost as much time on the Internet and mobile devices as they do watching TV.

Internet users are often deeply engaged in their interests, actively researching the full range of consumer and business products and services, and making purchases big and small when they are online. Mobile Internet adds another dimension, as users may get turn-by-turn directions to your business, or contact you with a simple “click-to-call” tap of a touchscreen.

Internet advertising spending also soared over the past year – but it sill accounts for less than 20 percent of overall ad buying in the U.S. That’s good news – if you are making a well-executed foray into online promotion and advertising.

As your team learns about digital marketing, and as your business expands its reach and influence in digital media, here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Understand your business’s online ecosystem.

Knowing where your business is positioned in the online environment – and how you compare with competitors and industry benchmarks – is key to creating an effective online strategy. Unfortunately, this is one of the more challenging pieces of the puzzle. For example, most of our new clients don’t know where their business ranks in organic (non-paid) search, other than by “just clicking around” – which even has its own acronym: JCA.

JCA leads to unproductive misunderstandings that can cause you to chase the wrong objectives. For example, ranking on the first page of a search engine for a brand term or a little-searched specialty term is positive and it feels good, but it can also mislead you into believing your search engine optimization (SEO) work is done, while search phrases that are really driving qualified visitors, conversions, and sales are neglected. At Altitude, we use best-in-class third-party search-rank-checking tools, and Google’s keyword tools to identify the most important keywords and search phrases – that is, the most searched and most relevant to the client’s goals – before developing a paid and organic search strategy.

2. Find the optimal digital mix for your business – and then follow it.

Options for digital marketing are plentiful, but there’s no need to be confused about them, or to start a campaign without complete confidence that you have a well-defined path to your objectives.

Every business is as unique as a fingerprint – and its digital marketing mix should be, too.

Strategies can be developed for everything from national branding campaigns to paid-search-only product direct marketing. In social media, some businesses are well-suited to LinkedIn, or Twitter, while others may thrive in Facebook. In some cases, it’s all of the above.

After you have set your plan, keep an eye on trends, but don’t get sidetracked by them. Being a leader doesn’t mean chasing every hot little check-in service that gets launched, or spending time on calls from the latest gotta-have-it digital marketing service. Doing the research and strategy work up front means you don’t need to question yourself every step of the way. Keep moving according to plan and reassess your strategy every six months.

3. Set goals that advance your business – then measure and manage to them.

Digital media marketing is measurable in so many ways. That’s both a strength and a pitfall. One of the most important jobs you and your team will tackle is setting goals that really matter – and then creating a plan for measuring them and communicating them.

The bottom line items, of course, are sales, qualified leads, newsletter signups and more. But there is plenty to measure before, during, and after these key events, and they are interrelated. A manager complaining that he or she is “swimming in data” from online traffic and marketing activities hasn’t been provided with reporting that fits the plan and aids decision-making.

4. Mobile is not the web.

Any digital marketing strategy must include a well-thought-out mobile plan. This may range from simply making sure your website is still reasonably accessible and scalable on smartphone browsers, to a full-on iPhone and Android app connected to your product sales and/or your most critical services.

In addition, mobile devices can actually provide a better experience for your customers than your website. With capabilities like camera/scanner, geo-location, click-to-call, and more, you can offer services on a mobile device that you can’t on a website.

Finally, advertising – in terms of messaging, images, and calls to action – needs to be specialized for mobile platforms. Attention to mobile is often richly rewarded with improved customer relations and sales.

Contact Altitude Marketing if you are interested in exploring how these topics relate to your business specifically, or if you would like to receive more information or case studies.

5. The impact of social media is real.

We’ve met executives who range from having a 50-times-a-day Twitter addiction to those who write off social media as a time-wasting toy. Unfortunately, it’s been mostly the latter.

Neither extreme will advance your business. Using social media effectively means going to where your audience is already engaged and making yourself relevant there. It may also be about finding the right social media outlet(s) for your brand, and then building a willing following from scratch. And here we come full circle: A strong social media connection helps your website/brand by increasing your search engine rankings, too.