How to create a digital marketing strategy in 10 steps (Updated 2022)By Domenica Martinello
A digital marketing strategy is just online marketing for websites. Simple, right? Not so fast.
It turns out, there are a number of different ways to market a website online. And that's where the latest digital marketing strategies come into play.
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There are the big guys—like search engine optimization (SEO), online advertising strategies, social media marketing, and the list goes on. Each category represents a specialty of its own along with a unique set of skills and best practices. In other words, what happens in SEO is very different from what happens in digital advertising.
For this reason, it’s no cakewalk to create a digital marketing strategy.
Since every website is different, the best digital marketing strategies are created using a custom-tailored approach.
In this post, we’ll cover different areas of marketing to show you how to create a digital marketing strategy, explain the strategic process in more detail, and then provide a 10-step guide on addressing the basics.
For a quick overview, here is how to create a digital marketing strategy in 10 steps:
- Step 1: Create a customer persona
- Step 2: Identify your goals and tools
- Step 3: Focus on blogging
- Step 4: Evaluate existing digital marketing channels
- Step 5: Automate marketing
- Step 6: Nail mobile optimization
- Step 7: Make it easy for customers to reach you
- Step 8: Use the right technology
- Step 9: Confirm your differentiators
- Step 10: Track your progress
For more details, keep reading below.
What is a digital marketing strategy?
We can’t address the basics without first beginning with a clear definition of what a digital marketing strategy is (in case the answer “online marketing for websites” wasn’t illuminating enough for you).
It’s helpful to think of your strategy more like a digital marketing roadmap or action plan for expanding your online reach and establishing your place on the internet. And there’s no doubt about it: the internet is valuable real estate.
It’s where your customers are buying, engaging, and researching. In fact, 78% of consumers scope out a business’s online presence before ever physically visiting (Cision). A lackluster online presence can have a hugely negative impact.
The latest digital marketing strategies will help boost your brand awareness and attract customers through the big strategies mentioned above, namely SEO-fueled organic search, paid ads (ppc in digital marketing can be crucial, but more on that later), website design, and social media.
It also bears repeating that every business and website is different. The best digital marketing strategies take this into account and are designed with specific goals in mind that can be accomplished, tracked, and refined using particular tools and channels.
To summarize what you’ve learned about your digital marketing roadmap:
- It is a way to stake your claim on the valuable real estate of the internet
- It is a series of actionable ways to expand your online presence
- It is a strategy that will raise awareness about your business
- It is a way to attract more customers and increase your brand reputation
- It uses specific media and tools to tailor a plan for your particular business (no one size fits all)
The 6 pillars of your digital marketing strategy
The thing about the internet is that it is always growing, expanding, and changing. While this is exciting, it also means there can be a steeper learning curve that constantly needs updating.
It only makes sense that the world of online marketing grows, expands, and shifts, too. Today there’s clearly more than one way to craft a winning digital marketing strategy that positions your website on the internet to optimize results.
The good news is that though these areas are separate marketing categories and online advertising strategies, they can all work together to achieve your goals and grow your business.
A digital marketing strategy can be categorized into 6 main disciplines:
- Content marketing
- Native advertising
- Pay-per-click management (PPC)
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
1. Digital content marketing strategy
Content marketing, in the context of your digital marketing strategy, is the creation and publication of useful content online. Putting out high value content is a strategy designed to attract, educate, and maintain your target audience. It can also establish you as a thought leader in your industry.
But what is “content,” exactly? And where does it go?
When people think of content, often they think of written content. In content marketing, written content (including SEO content writing) can take the form of:
- Case studies
- Product guides
- Social media posts
- And more
But there are other types of content, too, such as:
- Google ads
- And more
Video content is particularly valuable, and has been designated “the future of content marketing.” For a quick example, 69% of people prefer video over text when learning about a product or service (SmallBizGenius).
As to where your content will go, on your website—mostly. In reality, it will benefit your digital marketing strategy if your content can be shared in multiple locations, across various channels.
Each type of content will be published online, often cross-platform (in multiple locations). For example, your website should have a section for a blog. That’s where you will publish well-written, high-value, SEO-optimized content to establish credibility and boost visibility.
When it comes to video, you might upload your content to YouTube, then embed it in a blog, share it on Twitter, include it in your monthly email newsletter, etc.
Content marketing is a key part of the best digital marketing strategies, no matter your business or agency (LinkedIn).
2. Native advertising
Also known as advertorials, sponsored content, or “sponcon,” native advertising is one of the online advertising strategies that uses paid media.
Native advertising is a combination of content and advertising, using sleek and non-intrusive ads that are designed to blend into the website or platform you're browsing.
It is popular in some of the latest digital marketing strategies because native advertising creates a better, more integrated user experience. Native ads are less disruptive than traditional pop-ups or banners. Instead, they integrate seamlessly into the organic content being perused so that customers are exposed to promotional ads without it being frustrating or clunky.
Native advertising can be broken down into several different forms. Each form can benefit your digital marketing strategy in different ways, depending on your goals.
- In feed/in content. By “feed,” we mean news feeds and social media feeds like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Native ads are interspersed into feeds, articles, blog posts, and more, blending in with the organic content.
- Content recommendations. Suggestions provided at the end (or along the side) of an article or website page, recommending related products, services, content, and more.
- Promoted search listings. Ever notice the listings that appear at the very top of your
Google search results? If you look closely, you’ll notice the faint “Ad” label.
3. PPC in digital marketing
Pay-per-click advertising is best known as PPC.
PPC in digital marketing can be a great part of your overall strategy and is related to the point about promoted search listings above. PPC advertising involves online ads; advertisers pay each time a user clicks on one.
Basically, if you pay to have your website or offering listed at the top of a search engine results page (most commonly Google, but also Bing, Yahoo, and on social media channels), potential customers will find you when they search relevant keywords. The charge is accrued based on how many people click the ad.
The best digital marketing strategies involve a variety of tactics, and PPC in digital marketing is important to have in your toolbelt.
Some folks tend to shy away from paid online advertising strategies, but when executed effectively, PCC can benefit any business, from agencies to radio broadcasters.
4. Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is the practice of improving a website so that it becomes search engine friendly and brings organic traffic to the website. It is an essential part of any digital marketing strategy. In fact, organic search accounts for more traffic than all other sources combined (Ahrefs).
Think about the old saying: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you have a beautiful website and amazing business offering, but no one knows you exist, does it even matter?
The best digital marketing strategies take return on investment (ROI) into account. If you invest a ton of resources into your website, but it is not being found online, your efforts have a low ROI.
Some components of SEO include (Forbes):
- Meta tags
- Social media
- Product images
When agencies or businesses think about how to create a digital marketing strategy, often the SEO component can seem daunting. What are the local SEO ranking factors? Which algorithm changes do I need to care about? Which keywords will help my audience find me? SEO can be one of the toughest parts of your digital marketing strategy, that’s for sure.
Fortunately, there are many resources out there, from instructional articles to SEO white-label services.
5. Social media marketing
Social media marketing for a digital marketing strategy is the practice of promoting a product or service on social media platforms, and sharing content that builds brand awareness and trust. All the best social media blogs and sites will tell you that this is typically done through a social media management platform. Key social media platforms included in many of latest digital marketing strategies:
An effective social media marketing strategy not only helps promote or advertise. It can be a purposeful tool that allows brands to communicate directly with customers and prospects to establish credibility, create an affinity, and nurture brand loyalty.
Dispel the notion that social media is just for “fun.” It can be a powerful ally in monitoring your clients’ online reputations, driving traffic to their websites, communicating directly with customers, and generating new leads—all essential to components to a digital marketing strategy.
6. Email marketing
Email marketing is an approach that uses email as a way of marketing to and nurturing potential and existing clients.
But first you must build your email marketing list so that you have people to send your emails to in the first place. One way to gather new email addresses and expand your reach? Place calls to action (CTAs) on the website and blog encouraging people to sign up for your promotions or newsletters.
Other ways to build a list to make it a more valuable aspect of your digital marketing strategy include offering an incentive and using social media to prompt people to share their emails.
In addition to keeping customers and prospects abreast of new product offerings, discounts, campaigns, and other services, a “softer sell” approach can play a powerful role in email marketing. One of the most effective and often underestimated online advertising strategies is the act of educating, engaging, and providing value to an audience.
How to create a digital marketing strategy in 10 steps
Now that you know a little about the latest digital marketing strategies and principles, it’s time to learn the basics on how to create a digital marketing strategy of your own—even if you’re just a beginner.
From personas to the right tools, there are plenty of things that can help or hinder the success of your digital marketing strategy. Here’s the foundational work you need to make sure your strategy works well, including our favorite tools and software.
Step 1: Create a customer persona
Previously, digital marketers collected qualitative and quantitative information about the target audience that included age, gender, occupation, interests, and location. The definition of the potential customer has been taken to another level recently, with buyer personas taking over. Now, the best digital marketing strategies are incomplete without them.
Buyer personas are a term used to describe the ideal customer that can be defined by surveying and contacting the pre-defined target group. The latest digital marketing strategies begin with defining your own unique buyer personas. You can search for many free templates online to get started.
Step 2: Identify your goals and tools
Every professional marketer knows how important this stage is. Without goals, a digital marketing strategy simply will not work, so defining them is your main task. Make sure that the goals you developed are suitable, and make them measurable.
Example of a weak marketing goal:
Increase the conversions on the website next year and create two promotional offers.
What is wrong with this goal? Right, it is non-measurable! How do you measure your progress using this goal?
Here is how it should have been formulated:
Increase the conversions on the website by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2022, and create two promotional offers: free marketing report and a marketing book. Have them online by February and March respectively.
There, measuring the progress becomes possible now. It’s how to create a digital marketing strategy that actually delivers.
Step 3: Focus on blogging
Blogging has been around since the 90s, and yet the latest digital marketing strategies still include blogs. Why? Because blogging is one way to create quality content for a site and expand your reach, and creating high-quality content is important for any digital marketing strategy.
Blogging performs some critical functions, including bringing more traffic to your website, reinforcing social media presence, positioning against other companies, and ranking all those long-tail search queries and keywords.
If you have a regularly updated blog that the visitors find useful, it means that your website will be easily found through the search engines and can be used as a platform for your online advertising strategies and marketing campaigns. If you don't have capacity to tackle blogs in-house you can look into blog writing services for support.
Step 4: Evaluate existing digital marketing channels
Analyze the digital assets and channels that you are already using, including website, blog content, social media account, word-of-mouth, native advertising, Google Adwords, paid advertising, and so on. Ask yourself: how effective were they and how can they be used next year? Which online advertising strategies can be refined or dropped?
It is okay if your future digital marketing strategy process does not incorporate all of these elements, but it sure should use those that were the most effective in the previous year. For example, if a landing page you recently created has been effective in generating leads, use it again but improve it as much as possible. The same applies to other assets and channels.
Step 5: Automate marketing
Marketing automation is huge, and it’s only getting better with the new technology and software being incorporated into the latest digital marketing strategies.
Today’s leading marketing automation platforms can do wonders for your digital marketing strategy, making it easy for you to automate activities such as content marketing, email marketing, lead generation, and more. Plus, it’s easy to find marketing automation platforms that are integrated with your company’s sales CRM, which improves the entire sales process.
If your company is still not on board with automated lead generation, make sure you add it to your digital marketing strategy this year.
Step 6: Nail mobile optimization
If you want to know how to create a digital marketing strategy that is fully optimized for 2022, the answer is to take mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets into account. It’s a mobile-first era (Statista), and there’s no excuse for not improving your site for a wonderful mobile experience.
Mobile optimization includes page speed, site design, and various other search engine optimization practices to ensure that people who come to your site using a mobile device have a good experience.
Review your mobile responsive design and email templates to ensure that you are using the latest methods and provide only relevant and latest data.
Step 7: Make it easy for customers to reach you
Online business is all about connecting with potential customers, so traffic on your website should be high to ensure positive outcomes. Your digital marketing strategy therefore should ensure that your leads and visitors are not exerting unnecessary effort to connect with you. Engaging with your customers is invaluable for your business.
To eliminate the unnecessary effort, you should ensure that landing pages do not ask for irrelevant data. Make CTAs clearly visible on the landing page and other pages on the website.
Step 8: Use the right technology
A marketing effort is wasted if an ineffective or inappropriate technology is used.
The best digital marketing strategies include tools such as marketing automation software as well as sales intelligence tools such as the Snapshot Report by Vendasta. There are tools that can help you during every stage of your strategic process, including ones that help you identify your goals and help you track where your visitors are coming from.
Step 9: Confirm your differentiators
If your company is not different from your competitors, you should not expect high profits. Make sure you change (or reinforce) your difference from the others by talking to your customers and asking them why they selected your company.
Every company has a unique selling proposition, an attribute that sets you apart from the competition. A key part of your digital marketing strategy includings doing the research and working to find out what that is. Then, fix your existing differentiators if needed. Incorporate this message into your digital marketing roadmap.
Confirming differentiators is how to create a digital marketing strategy that is truly custom-tailored to your offering.
Step 10: Track your process
Constant monitoring should be provided to ensure that your digital marketing strategy is working effectively. This is done by assigning teams that would deliver this task. Remember to learn from the mistakes and always find improvement opportunities!
There is a lot of work involved in designing a digital marketing strategy process, but an effective and well thought-out plan will make it much easier.
At Vendasta, we specialize in an end-to-end platform for companies who sell digital products and services to small and medium businesses. This includes our white-label marketing services you can resell under your own brand. We have the software and tools along with a team of in-house marketing strategists and content creators that help identify and create the best digital marketing strategies that deliver results.
The following is a guest post by Tom Jager from A-Writer. It was updated in 2022 by Domenica Martinello.