Sara Young: Online Marketing Mentor, Speaker, and Author

Sara Young is the author of the Amazon best-selling textbook, Principles of Online Marketing, and an online marketing and social media specialist. A serial entrepreneur, she is the founder and CEO of a digital marketing agency, Future Inc, and the manager of an online marketing conference, Digital Marketing Hangout.

She’s a member of the MarketingCharts Hall of Fame, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) and the Direct Marketing Federation (DMF).

Since 2010, Young has run regular online marketing workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions for aspiring and existing marketers.

She also coaches Fortune 500 companies on social media strategy and marketing execution. In 2017, she launched a Social Media Summit, which brings together business leaders and thought leaders across industries to discuss the most engaging, meaningful, and profitable ways to harness the power of social media.

The History Of Online Marketing

The world of digital marketing has evolved quite a bit since the emergence of the internet. Back in the day, SEO (“search engine optimization”) was considered the primary strategy in online marketing. With very little knowledge of email marketing, the field of digital marketing focused on attracting visitors through compelling content and garnering clicks on paid advertisements.

However, as the saying goes, “what worked for SEO 10 years ago may not work today”.

Today, SEO is just one small piece of the digital marketing puzzle. While the term “search engine optimization” persists, the strategy has changed. SEO is now considered a subset of digital marketing and focuses less on attracting organic (i.e. unpaid) visitors to a site and more on the performance of paid ads. In other words, SEO is all about getting people to engage with your content.

The history of digital marketing is full of innovations that changed the industry. One of the biggest was SEO’s “answer key”.

Back in the day, SEOs would write very long, very detailed descriptions for websites’ content. In order to attract potential customers, SEOs would come up with a list of keywords and phrases that they believed their target audiences would use to find the content. When a user typed a query onto a search engine, the matching keywords and phrases would pop up in bold text above the search results. This was considered a great advantage, because it meant that a relevant match was practically guaranteed. In some cases, multiple matches would appear, leaving the user with little guesswork as to which result to choose. Essentially, the answer key system made SEO much easier to accomplish – and much more reliable as a result.

This method of answering search engine queries with a list of keywords is no longer considered an effective search optimization strategy. Due to the abundance of keywords, the practice often leads to keyword spamming, which ultimately causes search engines to disregard an organization’s content. Even worse, this type of spam often appears to be relevant to a user’s initial search query, so the person searching may not realize that they’re actually being marketed to.

Today, SEOs must take a more holistic approach to digital marketing and use all available information, including paid ads, social media, and website performance, to determine the effectiveness of their campaigns. This is especially essential for large brand websites, where small tweaks in SEO can have a huge impact on a business’ digital marketing success.

Why Should You Pay Attention To SEO?

In the previous section, we discussed how the focus of SEO has changed. However, that doesn’t mean that SEO doesn’t still matter. Far from it, in fact.

In today’s world, digital marketing and SEO work hand-in-hand. Your site may not be performing well organically, but you can bet that it will perform great when targeted with paid campaigns on social media and search engines.

When it comes to marketing, everything is political. You can’t just pitch up a website and call it a day, seeing as everything takes time. Especially when you’re growing a business.

SEO is a big part of the political machine. It’s an ongoing process that requires your continued attention and the understanding of whether or not your efforts are paying off.

Keyword Research

No, we don’t mean canvassing for votes – we mean analyzing keywords. A steady stream of potential customers may be lurking just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered through targeted keyword research. This is a crucial step in the process. If you’ve ever tried to market a product without first understanding how others were trying to find information about it, you’ll know that it’s incredibly difficult. The more you know about your target audience’s interests, the more you can tailor your strategy to suit them.

In order to conduct keyword research, you’ll need access to the internet. Don’t worry, we have you covered. A simple search on Google Keyword Planner will provide you with a wealth of information on keywords and the demand for them. Just remember to be creative and find several phrases for each search term you discover.

Landing Page Optimization

Once you’ve discovered the right keywords, the next step is to optimize your landing page for them. This entails taking everything about the page and making it as relevant and valuable as possible for your target audience. One of the first things you should do is to optimize the landing page for SEO. This means placing the keywords you discovered in the page’s content in a relevant place, as well as including those keywords in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator, or address, of a page). When a user types a keyword or combination of keywords into a search engine, your website will appear at the top of the list.

If your page is optimized for SEO and contains the keywords you discovered, it will appear at the top of the list in the search results. This is a great place to be, because it means that you’re potentially reaching the right audience at the right moment and can follow up with a conversion strategy. Don’t get us wrong, organic search is still incredibly important, but SEO serves a vital role in ensuring your target audience finds you when they’re searching for information.

Content Creation

Once you’ve optimized your landing page, the next logical step is to create content for it. This content should be aimed at boosting your website’s SEO and driving traffic to the page. If your page gets a decent amount of traffic, you can rest assured that it will serve as an effective platform for further content creation. Think of your website like a blank canvas, waiting to be inspired.

Your first piece of content should be a blog post. Blogs can be very effective platforms for content creation, because they require little to no previous experience and give you the opportunity to build up a following. Once you’ve got some content published, you can begin to think about leveraging other platforms, like social media.

Social Media

With the rise of social media, it’s important to have a social media strategy in place. Just because your website is optimized for SEO and has a nice big following doesn’t mean you can neglect the other important aspects of digital marketing. Having a presence on social media can help drive traffic to your site and create brand awareness. When used effectively, social media can be a very powerful marketing tool.

To begin creating a social media strategy, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my target audiences?
  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What platforms do they use most often?
  • What content do they value most?
  • What goals do I want to set for my social media efforts?
  • How much time do I have to devote to this?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to build a social media strategy. Look for communities of people with shared interests and value and begin to engage with them. You can also consider establishing quick, informal relationships with influencers in your industry, people who have large followings on social media and can help disseminate your message to their audience.

Paid Advertising

Depending on your budget, you can either run paid ads or promote your products and services through affiliate marketing. If you’ve got the money, paid advertising is the way to go. You can choose from a variety of platforms, like Google AdWords, to locate, target, and engage audiences.

Paid advertising offers several advantages. For one, you’re not required to have a website. Anyone with a digital home can join the fray.