*Updated 3/2/2023

DIY-ing digital marketing is one of those things that seems like an easy solution, especially when you are tight on funds. It’s also one of those things you will quickly realize is not a one-person project.

Have you ever started a home project (for instance, suddenly deciding to finish your basement single-handedly) telling yourself that yes, it will take longer and be a lot of work to do yourself, but it is definitely doable and worth the savings?

Then almost a year in, you can’t believe how much time it is taking and can’t imagine how saving any amount of money is worth this kind of aggravation? At last, you swallow your pride, calling in the experts to clean up your mess and get the project over the finish line.

Think of DIY digital marketing like that.

Sure, you can pull off a few tasks and save some money doing them yourself. But when it comes to project management, complicated installations, quality of work, and huge time savings (not to mention sanity), calling in the pros is more than worth it.

Still, thinking about it? That’s fine, but it’s important to set realistic expectations before taking on DIY digital marketing, so Big Leap is about to answer some key questions to help you out:

  • What projects can you and your in-house marketing team realistically take on?
  • When do you need to bring in a digital marketing expert?
  • What are the dangers of DIY digital marketing gone wrong?
  • How do you find high-quality digital marketing help?

This article might also be of some help, particularly for those considering hiring freelance assistance: In-House vs. Outsourced Digital Marketing: Pros and Cons.


DIY Digital Marketing Essentials Any Marketing Team Can Handle

Good news: you don’t need to outsource everything. There are plenty of digital marketing tasks you can handle on your own to save marketing budget.

Here’s our list of digital marketing essentials just about any marketing team can handle:

1. Set up digital marketing analytics and accounts.

  • Create social media accounts wherever your target audience resides.
  • Sign up for Google Analytics to measure your advertising ROI and track your social networking sites and applications.
  • Sign up for Google Search Console to measure your site’s search traffic and performance, fix issues, and increase your SERP ranking.

2. Devise your overall marketing strategy.

  • Build buyer personas that reflect your ideal customer.
  • Identify your marketing goals and point them back to your business goals.
  • Evaluate your existing digital channels (website, blog content, imagery, social shares, Google Ads, etc.).
  • Audit and plan your owned media campaigns (product descriptions, ebooks, podcasts, About Us site, etc.).
  • Audit and plan your earned media campaigns (where your traffic and leads are coming from, etc.).
  • Audit and plan your paid media campaigns (Facebook ads, Google Ads, etc.).
  • Use an SEO roadmap template to track your progress and help plan future work.
  • Bring together all the pieces and solidify a coherent, doable, budget-friendly strategy. HINT: You can always use an outside expert, like Big Leap, to execute and refine your strategy if you want a second opinion.

3. Get your brand listed and mentioned on major review sites.

4. Analyze your competition.

  • Determine your competitors and the products they offer.
  • Research your competitors’ pricing, sales tactics, and results.
  • Learn your competition’s marketing/content strategy and the tools they use.
  • Perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.

5. Choose your digital marketing tools.

For free, affordable, and expert recommendations, refer to Big Leap’s free Digital Marketing Tool Kit.

  • Your preferred keyword research tool
  • Your website analytics source
  • A content management system (CMS)
  • An email marketing tool
  • A social media manager with scheduling and analytics
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software

When DIY Digital Marketing Doesn’t Cut It

Does seeing even just the DIY-able digital marketing tasks give you a reality check? Well, here’s another one: it only gets harder from here.

If you choose to keep doing it yourself, these roadblocks lie directly ahead:

  • An intense learning curve as you familiarize yourself with the digital marketing landscape
  • A big monetary investment as you invest in the must-have tools for gathering data and building effective strategies
  • A huge pile of work as you execute numerous paid and organic marketing campaigns to connect with your audience repeatedly
  • Unpredictable algorithm updates and shifts in best practices that require you to pivot fast

And one more factor to consider: time. While you experiment with techniques and try to find the ideal strategy for selling your products to your audience, (at least) one of your competitors is using digital marketing experts to get ahead.


What to Expect When You Move Beyond DIY Digital Marketing

When you add digital marketing experts to your team, they’re ready to build a winning strategy from day one. They’ve developed their skills, they have the necessary tools, they keep up with the industry, and they devote their time to your success.

That said, you will need a team of digital marketers to get the best results. As we dive into the details of what it takes to succeed on each channel, you’ll see that the intricacies and effort involved go beyond the scope of a DIYer and require the skills and experience of specialists. In most cases, this is where it’s just too costly to DIY.

1. SEO

The blanket term search engine optimization encompasses hundreds of tactics that help websites rank highly in Google, Bing, and other search engines. With so much to keep track of, it’s no wonder that it’s become an industry unto itself since its emergence around 1997.

To illustrate what SEO companies do and how technical it can get, consider Big Leap’s SEO audit. We evaluate 180 checklist items across 20 categories. Some of the things our audit covers include:

  • Canonicalization
  • Content and topic gaps
  • Crawl rate
  • HTTPS migrations
  • Images
  • Index bloat
  • Internal and external links
  • Keyword rankings
  • Metadata
  • Mobile optimizations
  • Robots.TXT
  • Semantic markup
  • Structured data/Schema
  • Site architecture
  • Sitemap
  • User experience issues

It takes hours (if not days) for one of our experienced specialists to complete an SEO audit. And that’s just finding out what needs to happen—not actually doing any of the work.

But the sheer volume of work required isn’t the only obstacle.

SEO is not a static set of rules for keeping a website ranking on page one. In 2021 alone, Google rolled out at least 12 major updates, each one changing the rules for ranking and redefining what serves searchers best. And with 175 new websites arriving every minute, there’s always more competition for the keywords you’re targeting.

Keeping track of how these updates and competitors affect your site is a full-time job—and often a job for more than one person. Dedicated SEO specialists can:

  • Stay in touch with best practices and recommend the most up-to-the-moment strategies for your site
  • Monitor your site daily for rankings volatility so problems can be identified, diagnosed, and corrected quickly
  • Identify new opportunities to bring traffic to your site, such as optimizing existing pages or adding new pages
  • Ensure that your site delivers a user experience that meets standards for speed and navigation

And that’s just a sample. If you don’t want to add all those tasks to your already demanding job description, say goodbye to DIY SEO.

2. Content Marketing

Content marketing is an essential online marketing tactic, but it’s no longer as simple as posting to your website’s blog once or twice a week. (Really, was it ever that easy?)

Remember all those new websites popping up on the world wide web every minute? Well, they’re joined every 60 seconds by:

  • 500 new hours of YouTube video
  • 150,000 Facebook messages
  • 347,222 Instagram stories

So competition is fierce and only getting fiercer. The incredible thing is that it’s still possible for you to compete, even with all this content flooding the web.

Beware, though. A first-rate content marketing strategy isn’t something you stumble upon. Rather, you have to carefully plan how you will target each stage of your buyer’s journey to create trust, establish expertise, build authority, and drive revenue. Content marketing will take time and attention to detail to execute correctly and successfully.

As you plan your content strategy, you’ll need solid, data-backed answers to questions like:

  • What do I want to achieve with my content marketing efforts?
  • What content do I already have that’s helping me achieve those goals?
  • Who is in my target audience?
  • Where does my target audience hang out online?
  • What problems are my target audience members hoping to solve via online searches or social media browsing?
  • How aware is my target audience of my brand?
  • What strategies are my main competitors using?
  • Which platforms will yield the best results for engagement, site traffic, and conversions?

Even when you have answers to those questions, you aren’t home-free. Once you know what content you will create, you need to understand the nuances of what makes that type of content work and get seen.

For example, let’s examine video content. What makes a great YouTube video is only vaguely related to what makes a great TikTok video. While YouTube videos can be lengthy and packed with information, TikToks are short and should showcase quick and insightful observations, memorable reactions, or fun moments from popular platform personalities.

We could go on and on, but the bottom line is that content marketing requires a huge front-end investment of time and effort before the results come. You (or the experts you bring in to assist) must invest the time to understand your customers’ pain points, needs, and interests so you can deliver more than just words on a page, but the holistic content approach your customers deserve.

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing seems easy—just post once a day to your chosen channels, right?—but it’s actually very difficult to get right. Customers communicating with you through social networks expect quick, satisfactory replies, so that has to be a priority. And, you may be lured into vanity metrics (e.g. unique users, sessions, direct traffic hit) and miss the meaningful ones (e.g. engagement, referrals, conversions).

There’s a huge gulf between posting to your social media accounts and actually building up a social following. And there’s an even larger gulf between having a following and interacting with your customers in a truly genuine way. 57% of customers will increase their amount spent and 76% will choose a brand over its competitor when they feel connected to certain brands, according to research done by Social Sprout.

Social media experts know how to do this with ease. Enlisting the help of an agency can help you generate brand awareness, leads, sales, and revenue across all social channels. Here’s an idea of how a team might build a solid strategy for you.

  • Research and Analysis: Conducting a social media audit will assess growth, identify areas of opportunity, and pinpoint places where there’s room for improvement. An audit can provide a thorough analysis of your current social media state. Plus, it’s helpful to have outside eyes involved in this stage of the process because they can be more objective about what is and isn’t working.
  • Social Strategy and Optimization: Is your branding cohesive across your social media platform profiles and your website? Do you have a non-generic content strategy suited for each platform? Social media experts understand how to pull together video content, impactful graphics, copy, and brand voice for a cohesive experience for their followers. Experts understand which channels to focus on based on your industry and audience—and which platforms to not waste their time with.
  • Manage Communications: Responding to direct messages, inquiries, answering questions, and providing consistent attention to followers across platforms is a massive undertaking in itself. 79% of consumers expect brands to respond to messages within 24 hours of reaching out, and 40% typically expect a response within an hour.
  • Promotion: The development of a detailed social media calendar is vital. Planning ahead keeps social media organized across platforms. It’s important to use the 80/20 rule when it comes to content. Keep social ads to 80% helpful content and 20% promotional. We also can’t forget to mention the power of influencer collaborations. Using a manager to assist with influencer contracts, pitching to brands, and accurate reporting can help lighten the huge load.

When done correctly, a social media strategy contributes to community building and strengthens the brand. Social media experts know how to do proper testing and boosting of organic and paid posts, make on-the-spot judgment calls, and provide consistent attention to their followers across platforms. Beyond price and quality, transparency is one of the most attractive qualities a brand can have.

Your social media needs to provide consistency and value. Your followers deserve phenomenal customer service. 78% of consumers who have interacted with a company are willing to buy from them after having a positive experience on social media. Having a team with the right amount of bandwidth to back you up makes all the difference.

4. Marketing Automation

“Automation” does not mean “auto-pilot.” As nice as that would be, marketing automation isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. What it does do is efficiently prioritize and execute certain marketing and sales tasks to streamline your lead-nurturing process.

You need to be creative and strategic to stand out in inboxes and SMS. If you overlook key capabilities, you run the risk of rushing past the lead nurture stage and into the sales phase too quickly. This makes customers feel like a number, not a valued part of the team.

But with all that you’re juggling, why should marketing automation be part of it? Here’s why: for every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect a $38 return.

Returns like that make it imperative that you do it and you do it right. So what’s the secret to success?

With marketing automation, there are endless possibilities. But you have to set it up correctly, gather the data, and be consistent. Here’s a look at a few of our favorite parts of marketing automation:

  • List Building: What effort have you put into growing your list? Are you promoting it on social? Do you have CTAs set up throughout your site to capture your audience? Do you have a pop-up promoting a newsletter or a 15% coupon? If not, you should. Growing that customer base so you can stay in touch is vital.
  • Lead Scoring: When you capture a new customer, are you tracking behavior? Do you know where they click or what they’ve purchased? Are you taking measures to keep track of their activity so you can message them appropriately? Implementing lead scoring enables you to customize messages to fit different levels of engagement. For those that have already purchased, consider a 2nd purchase series. For those that have added a few items to the cart but haven’t braved the “complete purchase” button, consider sending them an abandoned cart email. With lead scoring and automation, you can set up triggers that send these types of emails out without having to manually track each customer and send each email.
  • List Segmentation: Along the lines of lead scoring, are you segmenting your list according to demographics, purchases, activity, and more? Segmented email campaigns hold a 14.31% higher open rate than non-segmented campaigns. Bucketing like customers together and giving them a more personalized experience goes a long way. In fact, it’s proven time and time again to be more effective than a blanket email to all your customers.
  • Sales Sequences: Workflows, sequences, and templates are some of our favorite parts of marketing automation. Combined, they make nurturing new leads and customers so much easier to manage, especially as you scale. With this type of automation, you can rest assured that no one falls through the cracks. Welcome emails, form responses, nurture series, winback campaigns, and more can all be created and automated to help your customer have the best experience possible with your brand. And as you use the tools above (lead scoring and segmentation), you can make that experience even more powerful as it becomes personal and unique.

As if we haven’t geeked out enough about marketing automation, get this:

So while it might seem a bit daunting with all the data and segmentation and sequence talk, marketing automation really is a game-changer.

Here at Big Leap, we’ve seen an increase in lead captures, conversion rates, and closed deals on our own accounts because of the automation we have set up. We’re huge advocates of a great strategy supported by tactical automation. It’s not an easy feat and it can take a lot of time to get it set up correctly—but it definitely pays off.

5. Conversion Rate Optimization

Does your onsite experience boost conversions and compel visitors to take action? If not, it’s time for conversion rate optimization (CRO). CRO is a holistic approach to online success that takes your results to the next level. CRO helps convert visitors into leads and then to customers by testing and refining your website’s design, voice, and other elements that create a good user experience.

Think of CRO as the science experiment of digital marketing. It involves observing your digital marketing landscape, coming up with a hypothesis about how you could get better results, putting your hypothesis to the test, and seeing what the outcome is.

Sounds simple enough, but knowing what to test and how to interpret the results requires a very specific skill set. As the scientists of the digital marketing world, CRO specialists are very comfortable interpreting data and finding the key takeaways hidden in the numbers.

CRO specialists also have a unique bag of tricks. The tests they might recommend for your website include:

  • A/B testing: Comparing how well two or more versions of the same page lead to conversions
  • Heat mapping: Recording what parts of a page users interact with, such as which buttons or links they click on
  • Landing page optimizations: Revising pages that get lots of traffic to decrease bounce rate, increase time on site, and offer the best user experience
  • CTA audits: Testing variations of CTA text in buttons, forms, checkout pages, and other conversion-focused areas to help nudge customers through the entire conversion process

For someone without the skills of a CRO expert, the potential pitfalls of CRO are numerous. Having an expert on your side helps you to avoid:

  • Testing too many changes at once
  • Running a test at the wrong time (e.g., if you sell seasonal products)
  • Tracking page interactions incorrectly
  • Not knowing the CRO best practices for your industry and audience
  • Judging your CRO efforts too early or with too small of a sample size

But when CRO is done well, the results speak for themselves. Check out these stats our team has achieved for our clients:

  • 12X more leads
  • 74% increase in sales
  • 223% increase in ROI
  • 300% higher conversion rates

If those numbers look appealing (and why shouldn’t they?), CRO should definitely be on your digital marketing radar.

6. Reputation Management

At this point, your business’s online reputation is its reputation. As many as 88% of people will trust the opinions of an online reviewer as much as they trust personal recommendations from people they know. Word of mouth no longer spreads from person to person, but from reviewer to review reader, meaning the best and worst reviews of what you sell can have a huge reach and impact your sales for good or for ill.

Reputation management is a set of tactics for keeping your online reputation in check. It borrows techniques from the SEO and content marketing playbooks to help you own your online reputation and ensure you aren’t being unfairly maligned.

Companies that try to DIY their own reputation management sometimes wrongly assume that you only need it when your online reputation starts to take a dive. Not so. Whether your current reputation is positive, negative, or even neutral, you should still be proactively protecting your online reputation.

Here’s a peek at what a preventative approach to reputation management looks like (aka what an expert will do to help you get the reputation you deserve):

  • First, conduct a brand health analysis, which is an audit of what has already been said about your brand online and how prominent those statements are.
  • Second, create a prioritized action plan that lists where your online reputation needs some help and what will be done to fix it.
  • Third, regularly monitor and report on how your online reputation is shifting as a result of these efforts.

Another struggle with reputation management is time. You can’t change your public image overnight. This reality often leaves DIYers frustrated, but experienced reputation managers have the necessary persistence and detachment to run an effective campaign.

7. Paid Search Advertising

Advertising methods like paid search and pay-per-click have the potential to bring you healthy rates of ROAS (return on ad spend) and ROI (return on investment). That is, if you avoid making some common costly mistakes.

What costly mistakes are we talking about?

  • Increasing your budget too quickly
  • Neglecting your landing pages
  • Letting location targeting slip
  • Forgetting ad extensions
  • Testing the wrong metrics
  • Not continually collecting data, analyzing performance, and tracking success

On the other hand, when PPC is done right it has the potential to skyrocket your results.

  • PPC can boost brand awareness by 80%.
  • With a remarketing display ads campaign, you are 70% more likely to convert site visitors.
  • Plus, 65% of all high-intent searches bring in a PPC ad click.

There’s a lot to be said about why PPC is important but our fave: the average ROI on Google ads is 200%. Just another reason why doing it right is a must.

So what exactly is the right approach to PPC?

  1. Know your target audience. Know where to find them and understand their behavior. Figure out what they’re searching for and how. Are they using exact keywords or broad phrases? Determining this is mandatory. In addition, what are they not searching for? What phrases do you need to exclude from your campaign? These negative keywords can be just as important. You don’t want your ad budget going to an audience that has a completely different intent than what you’re hoping for.
  2. Understand and be familiar with the different ad platforms and how to best optimize each of them. We’re talking Google, Microsoft/Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and more.
  3. Combine multiple tactics with a full-funnel strategy to get the highest return on your ad spend. Running a combination of search ads, display ads, social ads, and remarketing can elevate your paid campaigns and help you achieve the results you’re after.
  4. Set up your campaigns correctly. Take into consideration budget, ad groups, and audiences. You’ll want to segment them correctly to create the best experience. In addition, don’t forget the tracking codes. You can’t run a remarketing campaign without them.
  5. Track, test, measure, and tweak in order to get the most out of every dollar spent. Know your CPC like the back of your hand. Calculate your cost per lead and cost for acquiring a new customer. Balance that against your average order value and the lifetime value of your customer. Understanding these metrics will help you know what’s working and what needs some fine-tuning.
  6. On top of the logistics of where and how to connect, what about the content creation? The messaging behind the ads can either make or break your campaign. Be sure to take the time to come up with the best creatives and then test.

There’s a lot to cover in the paid space. When done right, the payoff is phenomenal. However, if done wrong, it’s practically like pouring money down the drain. Be sure to team up with experts to get it right. This is one area where you really can’t afford to make mistakes. It’s entirely too costly, too fast.

Your Next Steps

What should you do now that you know why you need a digital marketing agency?

First, decide which tasks to prioritize—you don’t necessarily have to do everything at once. Second, reconsider how you’re dividing your digital marketing workload and pick the top areas you need to outsource. Third, contact the experts for the elements you feel least comfortable DIY-ing.