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What the optometrist should know about digital marketing

 – Chris Faul


Few people that I know in business, fully understand all the ramifications and potential of digital marketing. For many, a web site is about pretty pictures. Meanwhile, there is this massive potential passing us by, like a ship in the night. The technical intricacies of digital marketing are immense and the challenge remains to progress from; I don’t know what I don’t know, to at least, I know what I don’t know.

Digital marketing is the fastest growing and most exciting branch of marketing today. 

In 2010, this was the first year where online advertising spend overtook the amount of money spent on newspaper advertising in the USA. It was that same year that online readership overtook traditional newspaper readership, which illustrates just how large an impact the internet has had on the marketing and advertising industry in modern times. 

It took Face Book 50 months to reach 100 million users.

South African internet usage has grown significantly over the last few years, and the South African online audience is around 30 million active users at the end of 2017, according to the Internet World Stats website (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2018). This includes mobile, tablet, and desktop traffic, according to PriceWaterhouseCooper’s 2017-2021 South African Entertainment and Media outlook report. It also revealed that South African mobile internet subscribers are forecast to grow to 44 million in 2021. According to a 2018 report by We Are Social, South Africans spend on average eight and a half hours a day on the internet using a desktop computer or tablet. 

Advantages of digital marketing

Social media marketing involves using peer recommendations, sharing, building and brand personality, and offers an opportunity for a brand to connect with the relevant target market. Virtually all online advertising is targeted to reach specific readers. The main advantage of digital marketing is that a targeted audience can be reached in a cost-effective and measurable way. Other digital marketing advantages include increasing brand loyalty and driving online sales.

Measurable results

There is no effective way to measure how many people looked at your billboard or how many people looked at your flyer instead of recycling it. With digital marketing, you are provided with solid, reliable reports that show you the exact results of how many people opened your email or clicked a specific link, for example.


Consumers today are looking for a more custom and personalised customer journey that simply is not possible with traditional marketing, which is generic by nature. Digital marketing allows you to use an individual’s interests and preferences to tailor the marketing message they receive. Personalisation may just be the biggest asset of digital and online marketing.

Low barrier to entry 

Traditional marketing activities come with a large price tag. Billboards, TV ads, and radio commercials are certainly not cheap. Digital marketing products come in scalable sizes so that small, medium, and large businesses can all utilise these products to reach their audiences.

Reach larger audiences

Since digital marketing takes place online, it is accessible to a larger, global audience. Whereas with traditional marketing, you’re typically limited to a geographic area, digital marketing allows you to reach international audiences through effective means.

Easy to optimise

Since digital marketing comes with reporting, if you see something that is not performing as well as you’d like, it’s easy to pinpoint it and change it. You can even try several different things, measure which one worked best, and select that option as the main tactic moving forward.

Improved conversion rates

Converting a customer online is just a few clicks away. Instead of a customer having to pick up the phone or get in their car and drive down to a shop, they can click from your email to your website and make a purchase or learn more about your organization from the comfort of their home. Twenty years ago, it would have been deemed far-fetched to think we will be able to send video and music “through the air.” Let alone, doing your banking from your arm chair. AI has created a platform for the exponential explosion of what IT will be able to bring. Best be online!

Where to start?

So where does one start? The answer is, by asking, what is my differential advantage. What is it that you will show and say on your website that will make customers choose you? What will your call to action be? Do you want to push your brand or do you want to offer a deal? Whatever it may be, it must be an unambiguous message. So, what are some of the tools of differential advantage we can work with?

Differential advantage

  • Highly skilled optometrist
  • Optometry specialty
  • Family practice with front door parking
  • The best selection
  • Best price in every category
  • Product and service that suits every pocket
  • Long history of service to the community

One must be able to answer the answer the question: “ What do I want to achieve with my web site?”

  • Create awareness that my practice exists
  • Build the practice brand
  • Get more appointments
  • Convey new facts about my practice
  • Announce a new partner
  • Present the product range

Once you have a clearly defined goal or goals in place, the next step is to find the right person to design your web site and an agent to handle your digital marketing platform.

Choosing help

Managing your digital portfolio across all the platforms is time consuming and requires expert skills. Anybody who is not familiar with the technicalities of the digital world will be at a disadvantage when contracting expert help. You will have to at least be familiar with concepts such as:

  • Organic growth
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Pay per click (PPC)
  • Meta key words
  • Bounce rate
  • Call to action
  • Crawling
  • Google analytics
  • Content
  • Paid adverts
  • Web analytics

There are many technical issues that need to be taken care of to push your web site higher up in the order for Google Search to give it preference. There are many online courses that will familiarise one with the basics. Be it as it may, it will for most, be the best course of action to employ and agency to handle your digital marketing. This option will still be far cheaper than any conventional format of marketing.

A typical quotation will be something like this:


  • Facebook Page (3 updates per week) Creation/Improvements
  • Twitter (5 tweets per week) Creation/Improvements
  • Instagram (3 updates per week) Creation/Improvements


  • Suggested starting Budget per month Management of Ads


SEO Diagnosis (before and after)

  • Meta Keywords
  • Meta Description
  • H1 Tags
  • Image Tags
  • Site Map submit

Web design

There are many agents out there that can design a web site at low cost. Unless they have an in-depth knowledge of the digital world, it will be a waste of time. Your web site is the home base of your business and must be connected to all your social media platforms. Face Book, Instagram and Twitter all need to feed visitors to your web site. The design of your web site needs to meet all the technical requirements essential to efficient performance in the digital domain. If this connection is not made, the web page will be pretty useless and be ignored by the search engines.

Practical considerations: 

When reviewing your website, consider the following important factors:

  • Is the text too small or too big?
  • Does the font and background colour combination make the words hard to read?
  • Do you have enough white space (clear area)
  • Is your heading too big or indistinguishable from the main text?
  • Do your images load properly, or do they take a long time to appear?
  • Do you have to scroll sideways to view the whole page?
  • Are there any unnecessary elements cluttering your view?
  • Are related topics and items grouped together, or is there no discernible order?
  • Are the Meta Key words in place?
  • Is it registered with Google?

A detailed examination of your page will reveal issues like these. Remember that a website isn’t about its individual elements at the end of the day, but about what it looks like as a whole – so assess your website as a whole once you are happy with the elements.

Responsive web design

The term responsive web design was coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010 and refers to the process of designing websites that will respond to the device they’re viewed on in order to provide users with a seamless, optimal user experience. Most South Africans access the internet with their mobile phones.

At its core, responsive web design follows the three main principles: fluid grids, responsive media, and media queries. In some cases, responsive web design also makes use of the media viewport meta tag when a device can’t determine the initial width or scale of a website, which causes media queries to not trigger.

Here are the basic responsive web design principles explained:

Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimising Web usage.

The focus of web analytics is to understand the users of a site, their behaviour, and activities.

The study of online user behaviour and activities generate valuable marketing intelligence and provides −

  • Performance measures of the website against targets.
  • Insight on user behaviours and needs, and how the site meets those needs.
  • Optimisation ability to make modifications to improve the website based on the results.

Advantages of digital marketing

Digital marketing benefits businesses of all sizes by giving access to the mass market at an affordable price. Unlike TV or print advertising, it allows truly personalised marketing. Digital marketing also comes with a number of challenges you should be aware of, such as: 

  • Global reach– a website allows you to find new markets and trade globally for only a small investment.
  • Lower cost- a properly planned and well targeted digital marketing campaign can reach the right customers at a much lower cost than traditional marketing methods.
  • Trackable, measurable results- measuring your online marketing with web analytics and other online metric tools makes it easier to establish how effective your campaign has been. You can obtain detailed information about how customers use your website or respond to your advertising.
  • Personalisation- if your customer database is linked to your website, then whenever someone visits the site, you can greet them with targeted offers. The more they buy from you, the more you can refine your customer profile and market effectively to them.
  • Openness- by getting involved with social media and managing it carefully, you can build customer loyalty and create a reputation for being easy to engage with.
  • Social currency- digital marketing lets you create engaging campaigns using content marketing This content (images, videos, articles) can gain social currency – being passed from user to user and becoming viral.
  • Improved conversion rates- if you have a website, then your customers are only ever a few clicks away from making a purchase. Unlike other media which require people to get up and make a phone call, or go to a shop, digital marketing can be seamless and immediate.

Together, all of these aspects of digital marketing have the potential to add up to more sales.

Disadvantages of digital marketing

Some of the downsides and challenges of digital marketing you should be aware of include:

  • Skills and training– You will need to ensure that your staff have the right knowledge and expertise to carry out digital marketing with success. Tools, platforms and trends change rapidly and it’s vital that you keep up-to-date. 
  • Time consuming– tasks such as optimising online advertising campaigns and creating marketing content can take up a lot of time. It’s important to measure your results to ensure a return-on-investment. 
  • High competition– while you can reach a global audience with digital marketing, you are also up against global competition. It can be a challenge to stand out against competitors and to grab attention among the many messages aimed at consumers online. 
  • Complaints and feedback– any negative feedback or criticism of your brand is can be visible to your audience through social media and review websites. Carrying out effective customer service online can be challenging. Negative comments or failure to respond effectively can damage your brand reputation.   
  • Security and privacy issues– there are a number of legal considerations around collecting and using customer data for digital marketing purposes. Take care to comply with the rules regarding privacy and data protection. 

Measuring Content

Critical to developing relevant and effective web analysis is creating objectives and calls-to-action from your organisational and site visitors goals, and identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success or failures for those objectives and calls-to-action. 

Final word

To create awareness for a business used to be a very expensive exercise, when the only option was the conventional above-the-line advertising. These were the tangible modalities such as newspaper and magazine adverts, TV, billboards, etc.. Apart from being expensive, it was always difficult to measure the return on investment. Digital marketing has changed all of that. It is very affordable and measurable. Moreover, it is flexible in that the results can be analysed to make adjustments to your call for action, for a better response.