What Is an Online Marketing Strategy?

It is not a secret that the world of digital marketing is changing. The lines between offline and online marketing are blurred and the ways consumers interact with brands are diversifying.

What is an online marketing strategy? Is it the same as an offline marketing strategy? How can you apply traditional marketing methods to compete in today’s online world?

The strategy behind an online marketing plan determines the tactics used to generate interest in and engagement with potential consumers. Essentially, it is a combination of the following:

  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Product
  • Channels
  • Cost-effective & Scalable
  • Measurable
  • Adaptable
  • Testing
  • Tracking
  • Attention to Detail

The 4 Pillars Of An Online Marketing Strategy

To answer these questions, we need to examine the foundations of an online marketing strategy. As we will see, these pillars can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your plan. So it is important to ensure that you lay a strong foundation before you add further layers.

1. Marketing And Advertising

There are four distinct parts to any marketing plan:

  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Product
  • Packaging

The first two are considered ‘traditional’ while Packaging and the last two are ‘digital’ or ‘new’ marketing methods. So let’s examine each one in turn.

In an age where consumers can go beyond the physical shopping experience and research and compare products online, marketing through traditional channels may seem somewhat antiquated. But, don’t be fooled; without marketing, you would not have a brand and without a brand, you would not have a product. Marketers plan to move goods from one place to another and they use various channels to achieve their goal. The advent of the internet has only widened the scope of marketing significantly. With a click of a button, you can compare prices and find the best offers for thousands of products, easily.

Traditional marketing methods, such as radio ads, billboards and magazine spreads, are being utilized more than ever before to reach potential consumers. However, given the massive growth of the internet, many marketers argue that traditional methods need to be adjusted to fit the new environment. So instead of going to a billboard to promote your product, why not put up a blog post or social media account that encourages people to learn more about your product?

If you look at the marketing section of most business plans, you will see that most businesses invest heavily in traditional advertising channels in an effort to reach potential consumers. In 2019, the top five marketing channels, as determined by HubSpot, are as follows:

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Direct Mail Marketing (DML)
  • Display Advertising (DMA)
  • Email Marketing (EMA)
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Content Marketing (aka Blogging)

Let’s examine each one in turn. First, Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

SEM encompasses all of the activities performed to drive traffic to a website or online store. Essentially, it is a combination of the following:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Offsite SEO
  • Pay Per Click (PPC)
  • Conversion Optimization
  • Remarketing Analytics
  • Content Marketing

SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization”, focuses on making your site appear high in the search rankings of major search engines, like Google and Bing.

These engines exist in almost every industry and they are responsible for pulling in the vast amount of traffic that we see across the internet. In 2020, SEO will continue to be a major focus for digital marketers. However, due to the extreme optimization that many sites undergo, it is important to keep your expectations in check. In a nutshell, SEO is a long-term strategy aimed at incrementally increasing the organic traffic to your site.

If you want to grow your business in the digital world, you must become skilled at driving traffic to your site organically. Unfortunately, learning SEO can be quite difficult and it takes a lot of trial and error to achieve real results. Moreover, as your business grows, keeping track of all the moving parts required to maintain a high level of organic traffic can be extremely complex. For these reasons, SEO is not a ‘set it and forget it’ strategy. If you want to truly dominate the search results for your targeted keywords, you will need to continue to invest in SEO as a channel.

2. Advertising

As we established above, SEM encompasses all of the activities performed to drive traffic to a website or online store. Advertising is the process of reaching out to potential consumers (or ‘audience members’) and encouraging them to take action. In the digital realm, advertising can be performed through many channels:

  • Display Advertising
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Product Reviews
  • Blog Marketing
  • Video Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Managed Print Ads

The most popular and effective form of digital advertising is display advertising.

If you have an established social media account with hundreds of thousands of followers, you can use it to promote various products. The goal is to gain credibility as an expert in your industry and eventually, you can utilize this platform to drive traffic to your website. Simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get started with affiliate marketing.

Products associated with affiliate marketing earn a commission when a consumer purchases a specific product after being referred to the brand or product by an online platform, like a retail store or blog. The upside is that this method of advertising is cost-effective and since you are not paying for the clicks, you do not have to worry about reaching a specific threshold to make it economical. The downside is that you need to have an established social media account with a significant following.


The product section of an online marketing strategy is, in a way, the mirror image of the marketing section. The product you choose will depend on many factors, including your target audience, budget and the nature of your business. The most effective way to describe the role of the product in an online marketing strategy is through the lens of a consumer. What do you want people to think or feel when they use your product?

For example, let’s say you are a real estate agent and you want to launch a service that allows home sellers to post their house for sale through your agency. Your product is essentially a software or a platform that connects home buyers with agents. Your target audience is people who are in the market for a new home, so you will select a product that serves this need. Moreover, you will want to ensure that your product is of high quality, easily accessible and of value to your audience. Finally, you need to consider how much you are willing to spend on this product before making any purchase decisions.


Packaging focuses on delivering your product to the market in a way that makes it easier for consumers to understand what it is and why they need it. The role of packaging is to draw attention to the product and, in some situations, it can be the difference between attracting or losing customers. Consider the following example: You buy a $20 purse. The packaging is of high quality and it is attractive. Moreover, it is made from the same material as your favorite designer’s handbags. Now, imagine you buy this same purse, but the packaging sports an ugly design and the material is of poor quality. In this case, you would most likely be upset with the purchase and you may even take back the item. So, to avoid this situation, make sure that the packaging for your products are streamlined, easy to comprehend and have a high degree of visual appeal.

3. Channels

Channels are the ways in which you communicate your message to the target audience. Essentially, they are the tools you use to spread the word about your business. In the past, marketing involved primarily paid advertising in newspapers and magazines. In today’s world, however, traditional marketing methods have evolved to be more effective and affordable.