All over the world, businesses are sustaining financial losses due to cyber threats such as denial-of-service (DoS), phishing, malwares, eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle (MitM), SQL injection, and password attacks. These attacks are also compromising millions of individuals’ private information. For example, during the 2017 security breach on the family genealogy site MyHeritage, hackers accessed the email addresses and hashed passwords of over 92 million users. And in the first three quarters of 2018, CipherTrace shared that cybercriminals took $927 million from cryptocurrency exchanges and other platforms.
Given these threats and their implications, marketers and small businesses are looking into different ways to protect their data, and one such solution they use are virtual private networks (VPNs). But beyond cybersecurity reasons, VPNs have features that make them a must-have online marketing tool for digital marketers, agencies, and businesses—pretty much anyone who relies heavily on the internet.
Read more on cyber security threats.
Let’s do a deep dive into VPN’s features and how to incorporate it in your digital research or social media strategy.
What You Need to Know About VPNs
You may have heard of the term but are unsure what is a VPN and its meaning, or how it works. A VPN is a virtual connection built over a current network, such as the internet. It relies on an app developed by VPN service providers to create a “virtual channel or tunnel” linking different devices that are part of that private network.
Access to this “tunnel” is limited among intended users, and data transferred in the network are encrypted too. As such, businesses and workers can feel more secure as they carry out their online strategies, access their data, conduct digital marketing research, and share information. Aside from building private networks, users can also bridge or connect their different VPNs to facilitate collaboration among teams or between agencies and their clients.
What is the role of a VPN in digital marketing
VPNs allows you to use a virtual IP address instead of your real IP address in your geographic location. With a VPN, you can avoid geographic restrictions by changing your location into the country of your home company, client, or target buyers. This way, even if a website is restricted to users in the U.S., you and your team can still access the page from anywhere in the world.
VPNs’ more secure access and the use of virtual IP addresses have several implications on digital marketing, particularly for buyer and competitor research and search engine marketing.
10 Benefits of VPN Use for Marketers
1. Enhanced Security
Whether you’re a digital marketer for a business or an agency running marketing for various clients, you are storing a lot of sensitive data, from passwords, personal details, customer information, company files, competitor research, and online marketing strategies. A VPN software provides you with both privacy and security. Some VPN services even include a malicious website detector to protect you from phishing websites. They enable you to go about your work without worrying that competitors or your internet service provider (ISP) are monitoring your online traffic. You can also be protected from hackers who may try to steal your personal data or trick you into using illegitimate websites, and malicious software that can hijack your device.
2. Organic Ranking
To create a successful SEO strategy, you need to see the organic search results for your target country and the keywords that generate the best results. By doing this, you can also learn more about your target market and create accurate buyer personas. For example, if your priority clients are or include individuals with disabilities worldwide, you can use VPNs to understand what posts and relevant keywords are performing well per region. You can use these insights, as well as top web accessibility resources and tools, to refine your SEO plans, and even your targeting and retargeting strategies (which is discussed further below).
Especially if you’re targeting an international market or one that’s outside your current location, a VPN allows you to get the results your target market sees when they look up terms or services on Google, Bing, or other search engines. If you’ve been optimizing sites for your clients, you will be able to see if your strategies are working or not and adjust them accordingly. Moreover, it won’t matter if you or your team are travelling to another continent while doing SEO research. You can control the accuracy of your SERPs by using your virtual IP address (that puts your location in a specific country) instead of the different IP addresses that you’d be using as you travel.
3. Competitor Matching
Understanding your competition is a crucial part of your digital marketing strategy. You need to know who’s topping the list in your chosen niche and location, analyze what strategies they are employing, and see what posts, graphics, or videos they have produced. This way, you can identify gaps that you can leverage to give your business or client a competitive edge and help you better position your product and ads against your competitors.
But while studying your competition, you’d want to be as discreet as possible. You don’t want your competitors to know you’ve been looking into their site and visiting specific pages. With a VPN, you can use a virtual IP address to change your actual location and maintain anonymity as you study their online materials. Additionally, if your competitors’ sites are limited to specific countries, you can bypass these restrictions and continue studying their websites and ads.
4. Search Engine Marketing
Getting more accurate search engine results for your target country or market helps you do better ad research and craft more effective PPC campaigns. You can even find out what businesses were bidding for top posts and study their ad copies. Additionally, since VPNs give you more accurate SERPs and help you create more accurate buyer personas, you can use these data to create or improve your ad copies.
Knowing all these are critical especially if you’re a small business with a limited ad budget. You want to create more effective campaigns so you can maximize your returns on your ad spend.
5. Faster Link Building
Quality backlinks help websites rank higher in search engine results. When you produce great content and a lot of people are linking to it, Google interprets this as a measure of the value you provide to readers.
However, some websites won’t allow you to create multiple links or block you if several accounts are linked to your same IP address. With VPNs, you can use different locations across your accounts. You can continue creating several links without getting blocked. This capability has made VPN a very handy tool for link-building strategies.
6. More Effective YouTube Advertising
YouTube is another important site for marketers. It’s the second most-visited site and the top 3 Android app in terms of market reach. Moreover, a Google-commissioned study found that YouTube mobile advertising got higher attention (62%) than TV ads (45%).
If you’re trying to reach your target market using YouTube advertising, you need to study the ads being shown in that region. You need to create video or display ads that will appeal to your target market.
To be able to view these ads, you no longer have to be in the region or country you are targeting. You can use your VPN to set your location, and you can start viewing the advertisements your target market is seeing. Then use these inputs to improve your conversion rate by creating a better YouTube advertising strategy, writing better copy, or launching retargeting campaigns.
7. Protect Social Media Accounts
If you’ve put in a lot of work into running social media accounts or creating social media marketing strategies for your business or your clients, you’d want to keep these accounts safe from hackers who may steal the accounts. And while communication apps do encrypt communications, you may want to further secure your social media apps and ensure that no one else can access your messages. By using a VPN wherever you go, you can be sure that your and your clients’ accounts and communications remain safe.
8. Safer Remote Working
Today, many individuals are choosing freelance or home-based jobs, companies are allowing their staff to work from home or from anywhere in the world, and digital marketing agency owners are running businesses while on the road. This flexibility comes with a few concerns. You or your teams may be using public WiFi to send or access important files. Since cyber risks like phishing are higher over these networks, you may be exposing your files, passwords, account access, and client information to hackers and malware.
By using a VPN as you and your team work from anywhere, you can maintain a flexible workplace and schedule, perhaps even lower costs by outsourcing, without compromising security–yours, your teams’, and your clients’. You can even safely share sensitive files with international customers without worrying that these will fall in the wrong hands.
9. Using VPNs in Different Industries
VPNs are particularly useful for businesses and professionals who rely heavily on the internet. These include companies that sell physical products, software, and courses online. VPNs are also indispensable for digital marketing and social media marketing agencies and SEO professionals
VPNs also offer another pleasantly surprising benefit. Some companies vary their pricing depending on an Internet user’s region or how often they view a site. With a VPN, you can explore costs in different locations and perhaps find a better deal.
Despite the higher anonymity and security VPNs offer, they cannot guarantee 100% protection from cyber attacks. When choosing a VPN provider, aim for those that offer higher protection features that match your needs, receive impressive reviews, and do not log your traffic.
At the same time, implement other strategies to keep your accounts secure, from using multifactor authentication, using complex passwords, avoiding using the same passwords for multiple accounts, updating software across all devices, refraining from opening emails or messages from unfamiliar sources, and sticking to sites with HTTPS certification. You may have to do regular audits of your site as well and train your employees how to keep their connections and devices safer from cyberattacks.
Given the vast number of cyber threats our online accounts are exposed to, using VPNs is like providing your business with another blanket of protection. Combined with other good practices when it comes to cybersecurity, you can better shield your business’s reputation and clients’ information from malicious individuals. This helps build trust, as your clients know you’re taking their security seriously.
And while you’re giving protection the top priority, VPNs give you the bonus (yet powerful) opportunity of leveling up your SEO, social media marketing, and PPC strategies. Now, you don’t have to guess what your target clients see when they look up your keywords–you can see what the search engines show them. You can know better how to get to the top of organic searches, or how to best serve ads that connect to your target buyers’ needs and values.