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Digital marketing landscape in India-an overview for marketers and businesses

Arpita Arya
13th May 2018
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India is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies on the global landscape. The opportunities for growth of businesses are incredible, especially for digital marketing. It is not just an assumption that in the coming years, digital marketers will be huge in demand, but an analysis that is entirely based on facts.

At present, around 35% of Indian population has access to the internet, and this figure is expected to reach above 55% by the end of 2025, thanks to the rapid development of telecom infrastructure. According to the Mary Meeker annual Internet trends report for 2017, the internet usage in India is expanding rapidly, signifying that in India the Golden Age of digital marketing is yet to come.

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Indian marketers have always been skeptical adapting to digital marketing because of the inadequate reach of digital channels to the prospective audience. However, with the internet becoming a crucial part of people’s common lives, Indian marketers are opening up to digital marketing. In 2016, about 19% of an average Indian marketer’s budget was allocated to digital marketing which grew to around 21% in 2017 and is expected to see a massive surge in 2018.

Why Digital Marketing Makes Sense For New India

A major difference between the traditional media also known as push marketing (television, radio, and print media) and digital marketing also called as the pull channels (blogs, email, mobile, videos, social networks and search engines) is the way they reach their potential customers.

Digital marketing uses online vehicles to market services and products to the potential customers when they look up for a service. This ability to micro-target customers is game-changing for a market as diverse as India. Gradually businesses in India are becoming aware of the importance of online presence and are driving the budget allocated for digital marketing expenditure to a new high.

As per GroupM’s forecast, the advertising expenditure of India will grow by 13% in 2018. Speaking on the prospects of growth of digital marketing, CVL Srinivas, country manager, WPP India and chief executive officer, GroupM South Asia, says, “2018 will be a relatively better year from an ad-spend perspective. But while growth in digital will outstrip other media, India will continue to see traditional media formats also grow.”

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Spending on digital marketing by Indian businesses in 2018 is forecasted to increase by 30% as compared to the previous year. It is more than twice the expenditure growth of TV advertising, which was supposedly the most impactful marketing channel.

It’s all about high returns

Precise measuring tools and targeted reach make digital marketing one of the most effective advertising and promotion methods. No other marketing form allows marketers’ to precisely track their leads and analyze the actions of their customers. With the implementation of analytical tools like Google Analytics, it becomes easier to make smart spending decisions and optimize marketing campaigns that lead to the highest return on investments.

I strongly believe in the progress of digital marketing for one more reason, which is involvement of small businesses. As compared to outbound marketing modules, online marketing as an inbound module is much more affordable and strategic. This is what makes digital marketing appealing to small Indian businesses which are willingly adopting digital methods to target their core audience. These businesses simply can’t afford to make huge advertising investments. Also, there are many options to choose from in digital marketing. For instance, there are SEO packages available for businesses of all sizes. This is why digital marketing is best suited for them as it targets consumers that are relevant to a business rather than advertising their business to the crowd on the internet.

Social Media

I always give preference to Social Media Marketing over all other segments of digital marketing because it is the channel that offers maximum customer engagement. Have a look at the rise in the number of Facebook users in India and their expected growth rate as summarized by Statista.

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All businesses irrespective of their niche are benefited from social media. Facebook stands as the leader when it comes to Indian users on a social platform.

When you need maximum conversions from your marketing campaign, I would recommend starting with Facebook. With over 230 million active users per month from India itself, Facebook gives you access to an audience that is already sorted for you based on their likes, interests, and opinions. Imagine how easy it gets to target such sorted audience with a marketing campaign that is guaranteed to give highest ROI when done correctly.

Biggest Challenges Indian Digital Marketers Have To Face

While the prospects of growth as a digital marketer in Indian are incredible, they are not free of challenges.

Lack of proper training- Digital marketing is nothing like traditional channels for many reasons, but most importantly because of its dynamics. As a digital marketer, you cannot afford to rely on same tactics for long. I have seen many marketers using the depreciated strategies. Educating yourself is of utmost importance to keep up with the trends in the digital arena. Follow known, successful marketers, attend webinars and keep yourself updated about the changes taking place in digital marketing segment.

Convincing clients for experimentation- Lack of experimentation is prevalent among Indian digital marketers. We find ourselves naturally gravitating towards conventional digital channels like Facebook and Google ads. You need to put yourself out of the comfort zone to unravel those segments of digital media that you can exploit for maximum benefits for your clients.

It is not easy to shortlist best resources for SEO and digital marketers specifically relevant to Indian markets. Still, digital marketing as a concept can be learned from Search Engine Journal, MOZ and SEMRush as these are valuable sites to follow. To know the trends in the Indian digital arena especially Social Media Marketing, Social Samosa is a great website to visit.

As for an authority figure to follow when it comes to digital marketing in terms of India, there is no such entity into existence that is above the rest. This indicates an opportunity for any digital marketing agency to get the top spot in India.

Once you overcome these challenges, the next step is to ascertain that you make use of the best SEO and digital marketing practices.

Best SEO and Digital Marketing Practices To Follow

At times even the best digital marketers fall flat on their face because they believe in some myths about SEO techniques. There are hundreds of factors that lead to the success of online content. It is not possible to have control over all these factors but still, there are some search engine marketing standards you have to live by as a digital marketer.

1. Keywords no longer serve the purpose

There was a time when just stuffing your content with keywords and building a few backlinks is all it took to enjoy high rankings. But in post-Penguin and Panda era, Google doesn’t give a thought about keyword density and meta description. It’s not to say that keywords don’t hold any importance for SEO but they definitely have the same contribution to higher ranking as they used to.

With Hummingbird and RankBrain algorithms, Google has started ranking content that offers more human value. Your content should be conversational and it should match with the reader’s intent to rank higher.

Do not spend any time thinking about keyword density anymore and just write your content naturally. It doesn’t matter how many times a keyword occurs in your content as long as you write it naturally.

Tim Soulo of Ahrefs comments that 75% of the pages that find themselves in the Google’s top 10 do not have a single exact match keyword.

LSI or latent semantic indexing keywords make more sense to be used in your content. When you use LSI keywords in your content you are making it easier for users to understand the message at the same time search engines is also able to more finely map your content’s core idea with searchers’ intent.

2. Link building strategy

I always favor consistent and contextual link building. You can build as many links as you want but the only catch is those links should have quality. Just don’t be naïve to think that mass directory or article submission links is going to help your content with ranking higher.

Nobody cares how many links you get from such sources not even search engines. As far as your targeted audience is concerned, they won’t be hanging out on article or directory sites. This is why your focus should be on getting links from relevant sites.

I would strongly recommend, Backlinko’s Brain Dean’s Skyscraper Link Building Technique to get your hands on some quality links that really make a difference to the rankings.

3. Guest posting is a definite yes!

Continuing from the point above, to rank higher you need to get links from high-authority and relevant root domains. Guest posting is the technique that helps you build not only quality links but a long-term association with authority sites.

This works two-fold. To get published on high-quality sites you need to create irresistible content which in turn earns you a high-quality backlink. But there’s another way to get the same benefit without posting content on other sites. If you can create content that is too good to be ignored or not-linked, you make people link to your content naturally, literally forcing search engines to give preference to your content.

Just in case you don’t know, guest posts should be backed with quality user experience at the destination site to be fruitful. While quality content will get you that valuable backlink but to fully utilize its worth you need to work on all on-page issues of the destination.

4. Mobile First Indexing is even more relevant for Indian marketers

Have a good look at this chart by StatsCounter depicting the desktop vs. mobile vs. tablet market share in India.

Of the total internet users in India during April 2017-April2018, 78.98% users accessed internet through mobile phones followed by 20.45% users who used desktops and rest 0.57% made use of tablets to access the internet.

This should be the reason enough to get you started with focusing more on optimizing your online content, marketing campaigns, and websites for mobiles. Indian marketers have adapted well to the Mobile First Indexing update by Google. But I want to put in a word about not confusing mobile first with mobile only. The aim of mobile first approach is to create content that performs seamless across all devices, while mobile only is well only focused on optimizing content for only mobile screens. If you remember the Flipkart-Myntra’s app only experiment that backfired badly. It is an ample example why you should focus on mobile first and not mobile only.

5. Voice search is the next obvious step

Voice search is the future of Google and every other search engine on the planet. Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s Assistant they all answer to user’s queries based on the same model as search engines give results based on text queries.

Voice search is based on long tail search terms as users will hardly use an exact keyword to find answers on search engines. For you, as a digital marketer, it means optimizing your content with different questions on the same topic that users are expected to ask.

Takeaway for Digital Marketers and Businesses in India

Digital marketing is in its nascent stage in India but not for long. All the figures discussed above to strengthen the fact that the golden age of digital marketing is yet to come in India. As a digital marketer, you have to embrace the fact that effective interaction with the potential customers through different channels is everything. Furthermore, relying on reliable sources of information for educating yourself is vital.

For those of you who are referencing this post as a business advisor, you can lead your business irrespective of its size to a success with the help of digital marketing. The digital realm is not affected by your business size and even if you have a small business, you can steal customers from bigger and better-known competitors by indulging in right digital marketing. 

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