I would like to define digital marketing as a media format, but first let’s step back and talk about the different types of media and how something is defined as digital vs. analog vs. print. This will give a historical perspective of how digital has become what it is today and relay how marketing has come out of digital media.
First, media, as a loose definition is specifically about mass communication. Therefore, media types are mass communication methods. There can be any number of media types, and as different technological advances are made new formats and categories are often born. We can break these down into categories like broadcast media, digital media, outdoor media, print media, or even event organizing and public speaking. For our purpose now, I would like to break it down even further into categories based on how the data is transmitted or created, allowing us to understand from a creative standpoint what kind of effort and skills are needed in the creation of it and then look at it from a perspective of how these can potentially be marketed. The different transmission methods effect the way marketing takes place for each and provides a few specific insights into how this works online for search engines. The three types we will compare are print, analog, and digital.
Media – (the overarching landscape of mass communication)
- Print media is created with paper and ink and physical objects.
- Digital media can be encoded into machine-readable format.
- Analog media is distributed through sound waves.
There are few things that need pointing out regarding the diagram. Video and audio can be stored on digital storage devices such as CDs or DVDs, but in the past they were stored on analog devices such as cassettes and tapes. Only when audio and video are broken down into mp3s or mp4s or another truly digital format can they be put into this category. If you break it down further, the recording of audio or film is an analog process using a microphone. Currently the recording of your favorite albums is analog and then goes straight into digital programs and shows up in various recording programs as waves, where you can alter each track. This is still a rather new invention as music used to be recorded and distributed raw. There are whole movements behind the true, unaltered format of music.
Let’s relate this to how search engines crawl data on the web. Google, as the inventor of serving customized and targeted information to those of us searching for specific information, uses crawlers to “view” the content on websites through a decision based algorithm, determines what will be fed to the searcher. The technology is continually improving with each algorithm update. As recently as 2014 with the release of ‘Pigeon’ Google added a local component to the algorithm, showing viewers more relevant content in their area. There are regular updates every several months, but that one was a bigger change for the internet and SEO world. As time has gone on, Google has learned how to communicate their algorithm updates in a way that does not cause people to ‘spam’ the system. Early on, people figured out that search results improved with the amount of content that linked to a website regardless of the relevance or value that others gave to the content. People hired content creators overseas to create as much of it as quickly as possible and link it to their site, improving their search rankings for the keywords they used in the content they ‘linked to’. This is referred to as ‘Black hat SEO tactics’ and are steered clear of these days as those methods backfire since Google is constantly trying to keep the con-artists out of the equation.
All this growth in the algorithm shows the capability of search engines and why people are wanting to provide the content that people are searching for. Those formats that were analog at one time but now are digital file formats, like video and audio, can only be crawled as a file and not as a readable format. For example, if you have some great video content, you would need to transcode it to text and provide it for Google to crawl so they understand the content of the video. There is also no algorithm for the quality of works of art unfortunately. The only work of art that Google is able to legitimately track is text and the appropriately tagged content that you provide for them, by way of HTML code, on the page. Sometimes a digital or SEO manager will provide direction for the tagging, but the actual implementation is typically by either a front-end designer, developer, or a templated website (my favorite) through pre-defined HTML tagging that categories different text elements and sections of text on a web page as headings, articles, footer and more. This tells Google how to ascribe value to the different elements on the page.
All this to explain that some digital media formats are more valuable from an online search engine standpoint resulting in the phrase “content is king”. Whether or not that is exactly true, it is certainly proclaiming the fact that relevant content is what Google looks at, aka ‘crawls’, to help people find you easier in search engine results. And THAT is the holy grail of internet marketing these days.