What Is an Online Marketing Strategy?

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re already somewhat familiar with the term “online marketing strategy.” The strategy is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to taking the online world by storm with your product or service. Too many times, businesses get so absorbed in the minutiae of day-to-day operations that they forget to develop an overall game plan for conquering the internet and making the most of their marketing efforts.

What is an online marketing strategy?

It’s the general directive you give to your marketing department (if you have one) regarding online marketing tactics, strategies, and approaches. Essentially, an online marketing strategy is the blueprint your marketing team follows to gain exposure and drive sales for your brand or company.

Why create an online marketing strategy?

Developing an online marketing strategy gives you a comprehensive, clear-eyed view of your marketing activities, goals, and the metrics you use to measure your progress. It’s akin to having a corporate vision and mission statement combined into one document.

Your strategy should include the following:

  • Your overall marketing goals
  • A review of the tactics you’re already using (e.g., SEO, PPC, etc.)
  • An analysis of the performance of these tactics (how effective are they? Which ones are working and which ones aren’t?)
  • A plan for continually improving your overall marketing effectiveness (e.g., monthly SEO audits, continuous PPC analysis, etc.)
  • The key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to track your progress and determine if the strategy is successful (e.g., numbers of website visitors, sales, etc.)
  • The competitors’ strategies (what are they doing and what are their goals? Who are their key players? How do they dominate their industries? What tools do they use to gain traction?),
  • The economic environment in which your business operates (will people have money to spend on your product or service? What’s the current economic climate like? Is there a recession? How does economic growth or decline affect your business?
  • The demographics (i.e., the groups of people) you intend to target (i.e., your buyer personas)
  • The social media platforms you intend to use (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
  • Your PR strategy
  • The channels through which you’ll distribute your product (e.g., retail stores, web stores, etc.)
  • Your pricing strategy
  • The type of customers you intend to attract (i.e., your target audience)
  • The type of content you intend to create (e.g., videos, blogs, etc.)
  • Your marketing metrics (i.e., which metrics will you use to measure your progress? How will you track its effectiveness? What’s the goal? For example, you may want to track the number of leads generated by your marketing effort)

The strategy isn’t all about the minutiae of tactics, though. You also need to review the following:

  • The competitive analysis (i.e., who are your competitors? What are their strategies and tactics? Why do you think they’re successful and your product isn’t? What makes you different?))
  • The marketing technologies you’ll use (e.g., social media, CRM, email marketing software, etc.)
  • The analytics software you’ll use (i.e., to track the performance of your marketing efforts and plan for continual improvement)

Developing a Marketing Plan

Now that you have a general idea of what an online marketing strategy is, you can proceed with developing a formal marketing plan. This is the part of the process where you break down the entire marketing campaign into individual tasks and set a date by which you’ll complete each task.

Here’s an example of a simple marketing plan:

  • Brand awareness: Generating interest in your brand or product among the general population
  • Product awareness: Having an understanding of your products and what they do
  • Market research: Uncovering customer needs and wants
  • Decision-making: Extracting the key information from the research to make a well-informed decision
  • Planning: Putting all the information together into a manageable and measurable form
  • Execution: Implementing the plan and measuring its effectiveness

You need to create a marketing plan that answers the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What does your product or service offer that the target audience needs?
  • Why should they choose your product or service?
  • What sets you apart from your competitors?
  • How will you gain credibility and trust with your audience?
  • How will you motivate your target audience to choose your product?
  • What problems will you solve for your audience?
  • How will you promote your product?
  • When will you launch your product?
  • How will you measure the success of your marketing campaign?

As you can see, these questions form the basis of the marketing plan. You should answer these questions in detail and develop benchmarks for the plan (i.e., numbers you’ll use to determine if you’re meeting the goal of the plan).

Setting Goals and Measuring Progress

Having a clear-eyed view of your marketing efforts and being able to measure your progress towards your goals are two critical factors in this process. This is why you set goals at the beginning of your plan and then track them throughout its development.

As you work on developing your strategy, you’ll set goals for various aspects of the campaign. Some of these may be directly tied to a specific task you’re about to undertake, while others may be long-term goals that you’ll have to measure periodically (e.g., getting a specified number of website visitors or getting acquired by a certain corporation).

When you set these goals, you should break them down into more specific metrics. For example, instead of saying you want to get 1000 website visitors by the end of the month, you might say you want to increase the number of people who visit your site by 10% by the end of the month. This makes the metrics you use to measure your progress much easier to follow and gives you a clear picture of how you’re doing (e.g., is your SEO tactic working or not?).

You should review these goals periodically and determine if they’re still valid. You might, for example, decide that after a few months of consistent effort, your SEO campaign is no longer effective and re-evaluate your strategy.

Marketing On the Web

Traditional marketing methods (i.e., billboards, magazine spreads, radio interviews, etc.) simply don’t work as well in the digital age. That’s why you need to develop new ways of marketing online.

The first and most critical step is gathering as much information as possible about your target audience. Without clear, actionable data, you can’t determine what kind of content to produce, where to promote your content, or how to measure the success of your efforts.

The Role of SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO)is the process of improving your ranking in relevant search results on major search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.).

There are several ranking factors that determine the position of your content in the search results:

  • The number of visits to your website
  • The number of times your website’s been listed on other websites
  • The domains (i.e., the websites) your website links to (i.e., the backlinks)
  • The amount of social media attention your product/service gets (i.e., the social media shares)
  • Whether or not you have an active social media presence (i.e., the amount of engagement on your social media accounts)

The higher your website’s rank on the search engine results page (i.e., the more favorable your website’s SEO score), the more visible your content will be on major search engines when relevant search terms are entered.

There are generally three steps to optimizing your site for search engines: