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Examples With Pros & Cons

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Examples With Pros & Cons

Marketing channels are tools and platforms that brands use to communicate with their audience.

If we squeezed the idea of marketing channels into a single picture, it’ll look something like this:

How marketing channels work

Businesses use different means (content, messages, ads) to reach their audience in places where they hang out (e.g., social media, Google Search) or reach them directly (e.g., text messages, emails). They may use a selection of channels or all available channels. 

In this post, you will get an overview of the most commonly used channels today: what they are about, how they are used, and what they are best at. 

Organic search refers to the non-paid search results from a search engine. 

Two types of search results

Organic search is one of the pillars of the entire internet. In all, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine (BrightEdge).

The practice of optimizing webpages to increase traffic and visibility in this channel is called search engine optimization (SEO).

Example

At Ahrefs, we create blog posts about topics relevant to our product. At the same time, we try to target topics that offer search traffic potential and are within our capability to rank. 

Sample keywords we target with our content
We use Keywords Explorer to find good topics for our blog. The SEO metrics show us how much traffic we are potentially looking at (TP) and how hard it can be to rank (KD).

This way, when people Google things related to SEO and marketing, we can naturally feature our product. 

Example of high-ranking SEO content

Each piece of content that ends up ranking adds up to your overall organic traffic. So the more high-ranking content you have, the more potential customers visit your website. Plus, evergreen topics can generate traffic for years after publication. 

Chart showing traffic years after publication

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of organic search

Learn more: How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs’ Framework)

Social media platforms are used to engage brand followers and other users through organic reach or by paying to reach a defined audience. 

Social media is not just Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Messaging-only apps like Discord, Slack, and WhatsApp also fall into the same channel category. 

Do social media users “consume” content from brands? Quite surprisingly, 90% of people on Instagram follow a business (Instagram). 

Example 

Social media is complex. It’s a mix of product marketing, PR, and customer support. Trying to summarize it is like trying to summarize all conversations in the world. 

Each brand on social media tends to develop its own voice while publishing a balanced mix of product marketing, conversations, entertainment, and company news. 

And so while some brands will be super serious and “business-oriented,” others will try to win hearts with candor and authenticity. 

Social media profile description

Furthermore, this is an effective use of social media:

Advertising products also works: 

Demonstrating value is something fans want to see from their favorite brands: 

Last but not least, one of the best ways to use social media for businesses… user-generated content: 

Example of user-generated content on social media
Users’ photos made with GoPro published on the company’s Pinterest profile.

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of social media

Learn more: Ahrefs’ Twitter Marketing Strategy: Here’s How We Do It 

This marketing channel allows you to distribute your content and ads in a video format.

Does video marketing work? These stats seem to speak for themselves:

  • 70% of viewers bought from a brand after seeing it on YouTube (Google).
  • 96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service (Wyzowl).

Basically, video marketing is about two things:

  • Using video instead of text and images to engage with the audience – Video can make such a difference compared to other media that focusing on this kind of content has become a distinct type of marketing. 
  • Taking advantage of video-first platforms like YouTube and TikTok – These platforms have such a big audience that it makes sense for many brands to create videos just to be there. 

Example 

The great thing about video is that platforms like YouTube have their own distribution mechanisms, which can bring your content to thousands of people for free (of course, you can boost that with some budget too). 

We use this channel on a regular basis, and we’ve even made a video on how to rank videos #1: 

Moreover, you can repurpose videos and create “packages”—like a full-blown Academy. It also works the other way around: start with a course and share it or parts of it on YouTube. 

YouTube videos repurposed for an entire course

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of video marketing

Learn more: The Simple (But Complete) Guide to Video Marketing 

Advertising is about paying media outlets that have access to your audience to display your message near or instead of regular content. 

Digital advertising is the same idea transplanted to the internet (aka paid traffic or paid media). 

Advertising is not dead. Although content marketing seems to be the perfect alternative, most B2B and B2C marketers use paid content distribution (67% and 78%, respectively). 

Example 

Why pay for ads when there are free traffic channels like search and social media? Especially when ads have such a bad reputation? 

It’s all about the creative you use and the targeting.

Some ads can be simply irresistible because they dominate the space, such as this “Stranger Things” Ad:

"Stranger Things" ad on building
Source: Netflix.

Some are genuinely entertaining, such as the Super Bowl half-time commercials

Some ads are just so well-targeted that it makes you wonder whether they’re still legal. 

And unlike free traffic channels, you can simply outspend the competition instead of building authority, backlinks, or a following. 

Pros and cons 

Pros and cons of advertising

Email marketing lets you reach your prospects’ mailboxes with messages that either prompt direct action or are aimed at creating a long-term relationship with the brand.

You can get a “direct line” to your audience either by building an email list (e.g., with a newsletter) or sponsoring someone else’s newsletter (a mix of advertising and email marketing). 

Be prepared for what success looks like on this channel, though: The highest average industry click rate is 5.01% (hobbies), and the average for all industries is 2.62% (Mailchimp).

Example 

Some brands use this channel only to “seal the deal.” They spend so much on brand awareness and product marketing elsewhere that all they need is a nudge sent directly to an inbox (my inbox, in this example).

Email marketing from Vans
We all have our favorite brands. They just need to email us from time to time to sell us stuff. No need to preach to the converted.

Other brands will need more touch points and do more soft-selling beforehand. 

Hustle introduces HubSpot in an email

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of email marketing

Learn more: 8 Easy (But Effective) Ways to Grow Your Email List

Sponsorship as a marketing channel is about attracting prospects to your business through exposure to your brand in a sponsored material or event.

It’s typically used for two kinds of goals: brand awareness and brand image (i.e., gaining customers’ trust). 

Sponsorship is all about visibility. But it works best if the cause/person you fund is something/someone that your target audience cares about, e.g., an event attended by your audience. 

Is sponsorship a popular way to do marketing? If you look at it globally, the spending from 2007 to 2018 was on a steady rise. 

Most probably, the stats are inflated by big brands sponsoring sports. But small and medium brands can engage in sponsorships too, e.g., niche magazines, industry events, or influential content creators. 

Example 

Sports would probably be just a pastime activity if it weren’t for the sponsors. 

Sports is also a great lesson about sponsorship. Watch an FC Barcelona game, and you’ll see and hear “Spotify” thousands of times. The logo is literally on every player, and its home stadium’s name starts with “Spotify.” 

Sports sponsorship example

Pros and cons 

Pros and cons of sponsorship

7. Conversational marketing 

Conversational marketing refers to engaging in real-time conversations with potential and current customers through live chats, chatbots, messaging apps, and social media. 

This channel is supposed to be the answer to generic experiences typically offered on websites where users have to navigate through a set of pages to get information or service. 

What’s more, it seems to be quite effective: 

  • 79% of companies say that live chat has had positive results for customer loyalty, sales, and revenue (Kayako).
  • 82% of companies that use AI conversational marketing solutions find them to be a valuable asset in their strategy (Drift). 

Example 

The way brands usually use chatbots (aka virtual assistants) is to: 

  • Answer basic and frequent questions.
  • Qualify leads.
  • Schedule a meeting with an agent. 
  • Promote specific content. 

Just like Drift does: 

Chatbot example

Anything beyond that is beyond the capabilities of automation for now. However, solutions like Zowie claim their chatbots are ready to sell things to humans. 

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of conversational marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing (WoMM) is the process of influencing and encouraging natural discussions about a product, service, or company.

In other words, it’s about giving people a reason to talk.

Is word of mouth effective? 

Well, it’s probably one of the most effective marketing channels because people tend to trust other people more than brands. According to a study by BrightLocal, 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Example 

WoM is so powerful it can get a company off the ground and help it grow throughout the years. 

We should know. Ahrefs started over 10 years ago with 0 marketing budget and no marketing personnel. What got us where we are today was largely thanks to WoM: recommendations from users and positive reviews. 

SEO industry poll
One of the industry polls on SEO tools.
Word of mouth example
This person subscribed to Ahrefs because their friends spread the word. Thank you, friends. 🙂

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of word of mouth

Learn more: Word-of-Mouth Marketing: A Simple Tried & Tested Guide 

Podcasting allows brands to reach people interested in a given topic by producing, being featured in, or sponsoring pre-recorded audio. 

Podcasts seem to be a growing channel in terms of audience and ad spend:

  • Podcast ad spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2023, a 27% increase from 2022 (Statista).
  • There are more than 850,000 active podcasts today. 

Example 

Let’s take a quick look at three ways brands use podcasts today. 

The first, and probably the most popular way, is being interviewed on a podcast or co-hosting one. The brand and/or the product gets to be featured in a natural way throughout the conversation. 

Brand in a podcast

The second way, and also a very popular option, is to sponsor a podcast. The audience gets acquainted with the brand through advertisements inside the podcast and/or brand identification near the content (like in the example below).

Brand in a podcast

The last way a brand becomes engaged in podcasts is by creating its own series. Products are rarely featured; the focus is on memorable experiences delivered through carefully targeted content. This way, the brand can earn positive associations, differentiate, and give their audience a reason to come back to the website on a regular basis. 

Brand in a podcast

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of podcasts

Whereas other marketing channels are used to communicate with the audience, events are more about meeting with the audience. 

Event marketing can be done online and offline but also in a hybrid model. However, in-person events allow for evoking stronger emotions and more convenient networking. 

But can you rely on the in-person formula only? Probably not. Half of marketers and advertisers predict all future events will have a virtual dimension (MarketingCharts).

Example 

There are a few different types of events used in marketing. They can differ quite substantially. 

Trade shows. Organized around products and technologies. Usually business-oriented, with the goal of networking and generating leads. 

Formnext, example of event marketing
Formnext, an additive manufacturing trade show. Business, business, business.

Conferences. Organized around ideas or technologies. The focus is on exchanging knowledge, entertainment, and networking. Often have a laid-back atmosphere with a mixed agenda. They are the most “open” of all types. 

Inbound 2022, event marketing example
HubSpot’s Inbound landing page. Learn, meet friends, eat well. Like in life.

Seminars and workshops. Focused on exchanging ideas and experiences. Usually smaller in size and organized for a small number of people. 

SEO workshop at Digisemestr
My colleague, Michal Pecánek, running a workshop on SEO for students of Digisemestr.

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of events

Learn more: A Simple SEO Guide for Successful Event Marketing 

11. Affiliate marketing 

Affiliate marketing is where people promote another company’s product or service in return for a commission on generated sales.

The party promoting the product is called the affiliate, and the brand delivering the product is the merchant. Often, there is also a middleman connecting the parties called the network or program (e.g., ShareASale or GiddyUp).

A commission is typically a percentage of the sale price but can occasionally be a fixed amount. 

All those fractional commissions and percentages add up to a huge business. According to Statista, business spending on affiliate marketing will hit $8.2 billion in the U.S. by 2022.

Example 

This article by Musician on a Mission lists eight studio setup essentials and links to products using affiliate links. 

Example of affiliate link
The highlighted link is an affiliate link.

Products mentioned in this one article alone can get a part of that over 10,000 organic traffic (and other traffic sources too). 

Organic traffic to an article with affiliate links

At its best, affiliate marketing is a win-win for all parties involved, including consumers. Affiliates earn commissions on their work testing products (sometimes) and putting up the content, merchants get exposure to qualified audiences via trusted partners, and consumers don’t need to spend much time researching products on their own. 

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of affiliate marketing

Frequently asked questions about marketing channels. 

Why are channels important in marketing? 

Because every brand needs a way to reach out to its target audience and attract customers. Marketing channels simply connect brands to people who might need their products or services. 

What is the best marketing channel?

It’s very unlikely and definitely not optimal to use one marketing channel. Brands usually try to be present in as many channels as possible, as this increases reach and convenience to customers.

That said, it’s common to focus on one channel or a small set of channels. For example, at Ahrefs, we focus on organic search and video marketing because those channels can serve the entire marketing funnel. This has proven to be an effective way to reach out to our audience. 

How to choose marketing channels? 

Do some market research and identify places where your audience hangs out and what channels your competition is using. Then start using those channels to test out what works for you and what doesn’t, and then iterate on your findings. 

What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing? 

Omnichannel marketing is about using all available channels to attract and serve customers, providing a seamless experience. For example, Ikea allows you to purchase products in stores, online, through an app, by phone, etc. 

Omnichannel marketing in a nutshell

Whereas in multichannel marketing, multiple channels are utilized. However, not all of them are utilized or integrated. For example, I bought a wardrobe online recently, and the shop sent me text messages about the status of the order. But I couldn’t use the same channel to respond (and warn that it was about to send me the same product twice). 

How are marketing channels different in B2B than in B2C?

B2B and B2C brands invest in the same channels (according to HubSpot). However, the way they use the channels may differ. 

B2C brands usually use these channels to offer entertainment and directly impact sales. B2B brands focus more on educating prospects and forming long-lasting relations. 

These types of brands may also find some types of content or platforms more suitable for them. For example, B2C brands typically don’t publish case studies, and B2B brands find LinkedIn more effective. 

What’s the difference between marketing channels and distribution channels?

Distribution channels are the means by which products or services are being made available to a consumer (e.g., directly via a brand’s website or through resellers), whereas marketing channels are the means by which products and services are being communicated to the consumer. 

Final thoughts 

Multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing seem to be the way to go these days. More channels mean more convenience for your customers, more prospects reached, and more ROI for your company.

But to make the best use of your channels, it’s a good idea to keep your brand’s messaging consistent across all media; marketers call it integrated marketing communications

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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