What Is a Digital Marketing Strategy?
A digital marketing strategy is a comprehensive plan that guides businesses on how to use online channels to reach more customers, increase brand visibility, drive more sales, and achieve specific business goals.
These channels can include organic search, paid search, social media, email, and more.
You might have multiple digital marketing strategies since there are different types. Including social media, search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, and more.
Key elements of a digital marketing strategy are as follows:
- Marketing goals: Clear and measurable outcomes you aim to achieve with your marketing efforts
- Target audience: Who your potential and existing customers are
- Budget: The financial allocation to run marketing campaigns
- Available resources: Tools, team size, and assets at your disposal for executing marketing strategies
- Competitors: Other businesses offering similar products/services
- Online marketing channels: Digital channels you can use to connect with and engage your audience
Basically, a strategy acts as a roadmap for businesses.
It guides you in the right direction to meet your business objectives.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into why businesses should make it a priority to build a marketing strategy.
Why Is a Digital Marketing Strategy Important?
Creating a digital marketing strategy for your business has many benefits. Yes, it takes a little more work upfront, but it can lead to more impactful results in the long run.
On the other hand, skipping strategy creation can lead to failed campaigns, unnecessary expenses, and missed opportunities.
Here are a few of the biggest benefits of digital marketing strategy planning:
Provides Clear Direction and Focus
Creating a digital marketing strategy plan provides you with clear direction to help achieve a strong return on investment (ROI). This involves steps like setting marketing goals, target market research, persona creation, and more.
A strategy will help you and your team better understand where, when, and how to reach your target audience effectively.
Without a comprehensive strategy in place, you can make costly mistakes. This could include targeting the wrong audience, investing in the wrong channels, overlooking user experience, and more.
Keeps the Marketing Team Accountable
A crucial step in the strategy-building process is setting both short- and long-term marketing goals, which align with the broader business goals.
An example of a short-term digital marketing goal:
- “Get 100 new newsletter subscribers from Facebook ads in one month.”
An example of a long-term digital marketing goal:
- “Gain 5,000 new followers on our Facebook page in the next year.”
Setting these goals helps marketing teams clearly communicate their progress or shortfalls to stakeholders.
With these goals in place, marketing teams can plan, execute, and measure their marketing campaigns effectively.
Provides a Better Understanding of Your Customers
Having a digital marketing strategy can help everyone in marketing better understand your business’s target audience. This can lead to more effective marketing campaigns that align with customers’ pain points, needs, and preferences.
In fact, a HubSpot survey of 1,200 marketers revealed that less than 50% of marketers know their audience’s shopping habits, interests, hobbies, and preferred online channels.
If you don’t know who your customers are and what challenges they face, you can run into major issues. This could include the inability to create messaging that resonates with customers and hyper-targeted marketing campaigns.
It could make it more challenging to convert leads into customers.
5 Types of Digital Marketing Strategies
Digital marketing is a vast field. Under its umbrella, there are multiple strategies you can implement.
Here are a few effective digital marketing strategies for you to consider:
1. Search Engine Optimization
Your customers are likely using search engines like Google to find information, including related to your business, product, or service.
This is why it’s so important to include SEO in your digital marketing strategy.
Search engine optimization refers to a set of processes aimed at naturally improving a website’s visibility in search engines like Google and Bing.
SEO digital marketing strategies include:
- Keyword research: Finding the most relevant keywords (words or phrases users enter into search engines to find specific information) for your business
- Content creation and optimization: Creating high-quality content and optimizing it for search engines
- Technical SEO: Improving the technical aspects of a website, like an SEO-friendly site structure and sitemaps
- Link building: Build high-quality backlinks (links on one website that point to yours) from reputable websites to improve your search engine rankings
Optimizing your website can increase the chances of it appearing in search results when your target audience searches for keywords related to your business.
This can boost organic traffic, leads, and conversions.
For example, suppose your company sells an online graphic design tool.
Your target audience is likely to search keywords like “benefits of graphic design tools” and “best graphic design tools” on search engines.
Ranking for these keywords, ideally at the top of search results, can help you get traffic from your target audience who is actively searching for what you offer.
You can use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to discover the most relevant keywords for your business.
To get started, enter a seed keyword (a broad search term related to your business or a specific topic).
For example, if you sell online graphic design software, you can use “graphic design” as a seed keyword.
Then, select a country (e.g., U.S.) and click “Search.”
Now, you’ll see a comprehensive list of related keywords. Next to each keyword, you’ll see more information.
This includes the following:
- Volume: Average number of estimated monthly searches for a keyword over a 12-month period
- Keyword Difficulty: A number from 0 to 100 that conveys how difficult it is to rank for the keyword
- Intent: The reason behind the searcher’s query
To identify lower-difficulty keywords, use the Keyword Difficulty Filter (KD%).
You can also identify the most relevant keywords for your business using the topical groups and subgroups in the left column of the tool interface. Go through the list and click on the ones relevant to your business.
In this case, let’s select the topical group “best,” since it can help us identify keywords likely to attract customers who are close to a purchasing decision.
Further select from the sub-groups to narrow down your results even more.
For example, say your goal is to sell graphic design software. So, it makes sense to select the topical sub-group “software.”
You can also use a combination of filters to narrow down your search.
When you find keywords that are relevant, have a good/decent monthly search volume, and low difficulty, add them to a keyword list for easy future reference.
Here’s how you do that:
First, select the box next to the keywords you want to add to the list. Then, click the “+ Add to keyword list” button.
You can either create a new list by giving it a name or add them to an existing one.
You can further export these keywords in the form of a spreadsheet as CSV, XLSX, or CSV using the Keyword Manager.
2. Paid Advertising
Paid advertising is a popular digital marketing strategy that involves running paid ads on advertising channels to put your content in front of your target audience.
These channels can include Google, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and more.
Paid advertising digital marketing strategies can help you target people who are most likely to purchase. You can also run paid ads to reach out to people who have previously interacted with your business.
Paid ads are typically marked as “Sponsored,” “Ad,” or “Promoted.”
Here’s an example of a paid ad on Google (marked as Sponsored):
And here’s an example of a paid ad on LinkedIn (marked as Promoted):
Once you set up and fund a paid advertising campaign, your ads can begin appearing in front of your specified audience almost instantly.
However, it’s important to note that the moment you stop funding your paid ad campaign(s) or your budget dries up, the traffic from your paid advertising will cease.
There are several paid ad models. One is pay-per-click.
Pay-per-click, also called PPC, is a paid ad model where the advertiser (you) pays a specific amount each time a user (your target audience) clicks on your ad.
You can run PPC ads on different platforms like search engines, social media, online marketplaces, and more.
Just like with search engine optimization, if you want to achieve success with PPC, finding the right keywords is crucial.
You can also use the Keyword Overview tool to get more information on a specific keyword. Especially on a local level.
Navigate to Semrush, launch Keyword Overview, and enter the keyword you want to get local data for.
Select the country where you want to display your ads.
If you want to promote your business locally, select the city or state where you want to display your ads.
Then, click “Search.”
Next, you’ll see several metrics related to the keyword. Like monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and cost-per-click (CPC).
Since we’re talking about PPC ads, let’s focus on CPC.
And as the name indicates, CPC is the amount you’ll pay every time someone clicks on your ad.
For the keyword “graphic design tool,” the average CPC (in New York City) is $1.87.
This means, every time someone clicks on your paid ad targeting the keyword “graphic design tool” in New York City, you’ll be charged $1.87, on average.
You can also use the Keyword Overview tool (and Keyword Magic Tool) to identify a keyword’s search intent.
Search intent refers to the “why” behind a user’s search. Analyzing a keyword’s search intent can help you understand what the user wants.
There are four main types of search intent:
- Informational: The user wants to find information or an answer to a question
- Navigational: The user wants to find a specific page or site
- Commercial: The user wants to research brands, products, or services
- Transactional: The user wants to complete an action (for example, make a purchase)
If your paid advertising goal is conversion, it makes sense to target transactional keywords.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to build brand awareness, it’s a good idea to target informational keywords.
3. Social Media Marketing
With over 4.5 billion people actively using platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, companies should consider social media marketing an important digital marketing strategy.
Social media marketing involves the use of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to market your brand.
It can help you increase your business’s visibility, build stronger connections with your target audience, drive traffic to your website and increase sales.
Even though social media digital marketing strategies can be powerful, a mistake many businesses make is choosing platforms based on monthly active users.
Why is this a mistake?
It’s more important to identify the channels where your target audience hangs out the most—even if it’s not the platform with the most users. These are the channels you need to target.
Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your resources on platforms that might have a vast user base but minimal engagement or interest from your target demographic.
Moreover, to improve visibility on social media, it’s crucial to consistently publish high-quality content.
However, doing so across multiple channels can be challenging.
To make things easier, use the Social Poster tool. This tool lets you schedule your posts in advance.
This can free up some of your time, which you can spend on other important activities like monitoring social media efforts.
You can also use the Social Analytics tool to track the performance of your social media posts across multiple channels.
To get started, launch the tool in Semrush.
Click “Social Analytics.”
Click “+ Add profile” and connect your Facebook, Instagram, and/or LinkedIn accounts.
Once done, you’ll be able to analyze metrics like new followers, post engagement, engagement rate, and more.
Further reading: Learn more about social media marketing, including how to track competitors’ social channels and develop audience insights, by watching our free Social Media Marketing Crash Course.
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves the use of email as a marketing channel to send promotional, transactional, and informative content.
A big benefit of using email over other online channels is that it’s not algorithm-driven. Email marketing provides a direct line of communication between businesses and their target audience.
This means, when someone subscribes to your email list, they’re expressing a clear interest in receiving information from your business.
Unlike many other digital channels, this direct link isn’t filtered by an algorithm that impacts what your subscribers see and what they don’t.
However, that’s not a guarantee that every email you send will land on your subscribers’ primary mailboxes.
Email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook have filtering systems in place to ensure users get the most relevant emails in their primary inboxes.
To achieve success with email marketing, marketers must send high-quality, relevant content only to those who have subscribed and follow local email regulations.
Depending on your goals, the type of emails you send will vary. Different types of emails include:
- Informative emails: To educate your audience and/or share essential information/updates
- Transactional emails: To send details of commercial transactions or specific actions like password reset or account notifications
- Promotional emails: To advertise products, services, special deals, events, or product launches
Semrush’s Educational Newsletter is a great example of email marketing done right. Each week, we send out educational emails to over 4M+ subscribers. This allows us to educate our audience and build long-lasting connections.
Want to create an email newsletter but need content ideas? Try the Topic Research Tool.
Type in a broad topic related to your brand, select the country, and click “Get content ideas.”
Next, you’ll see a list of potential content ideas that include headlines, questions, and related searches.
5. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing involves a collaboration between a brand and influencer(s) to promote that brand’s offerings.
Influencers are people with an established following on one or more online channels and a reputation for being experts or trusted figures in their respective niches or communities.
Brands of all sizes create influencer digital marketing strategies to boost brand awareness, gain more followers, reach new audiences, and increase sales.
For example, Honey, a coupon browser extension company, collaborated with over 56 influencers and sponsored 63 videos to market their product.
The brand collaborated with popular YouTube influencers like Mr. Beast (200M+ subscribers) and The Ace Family (18M+ subscribers).
As a result of their collaboration, Honey was mentioned in more than 100 podcasts and 400-plus YouTube videos, while drawing 60 million-plus views on YouTube. Helping them increase their reach and put their product in front of their target audience.
If you’re interested in trying influencer marketing, it’s important to know there are different types of influencers.
This includes the following:
- Nano-influencers: 1K-10K followers/subscribers
- Micro-influencers: 10K-100K followers/subscribers
- Macro influencers: 100K-1M followers/subscribers
- Mega influencers: 1M+ followers/subscribers
Depending on your budget and specific needs/requirements, you can choose the category of influencers you want to work with.
To achieve success with influencer marketing, it’s important to collaborate with influencers in your niche. And whose followers/subscribers match your target demographic.
More importantly, it’s a good practice to work with influencers with a high engagement rate. Otherwise, you risk wasting your time, money, and efforts on influencers who might have a large follower count but minimal impact or audience engagement.
However, finding the right influencers for your business can be challenging and time-consuming.
So, if you’re serious about influencer marketing, it’s a good idea to invest in influencer discovery tools like Influencer Analytics.
How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy
Follow these digital marketing strategy steps to create impactful results for your business:
Conduct Target Audience Research
Your target audience refers to a group of people who are likely to purchase your products or services.
A successful digital marketing strategy focuses on target audiences, including their problems and behaviors.
You can also learn the online channels they use to consume content, how they make purchasing decisions, and more.
This information can further help you tailor your marketing campaigns to resonate more deeply with your audience. Helping you build an emotional connection, drive higher engagement, and increase your sales.
For instance, if you sell men’s health supplements, your target audience may likely be men within a certain age range who are health-conscious.
They’re most likely looking to enhance their physical performance, recover from deficiencies, or address specific health issues.
But that’s a very broad description.
To truly resonate with your audience and create impactful marketing campaigns, you need a more detailed understanding of this demographic.
You can do this by creating buyer personas.
A buyer persona, also called customer persona, is a profile representing an archetypal member of a target audience.
Here’s an example of a buyer persona built using the Semrush Persona tool.
The tool provides you with information on your target market, like pain points, factors that influence buying decisions, communication channels, and more.
Creating buyer personas is extremely beneficial, as it helps you categorize your target audience, based on different factors like demographics, pain points, stage of their purchase journey, etc.
These personas can be used by your marketing team to create marketing campaigns and messaging that resonates deeply with each specific segment of your audience.
Run a Competitor Analysis
A competitor analysis is the process of identifying and researching your competitors.
Conducting a competitor analysis will provide you with crucial insights you can use to refine your digital marketing strategies. This includes everything from your competitors’ most-used marketing channels to customer interactions.
To run a competitor analysis, first it’s important to identify your top competitors. If you’re not sure who they are, you can use the Market Explorer tool.
To get started, launch the tool.
Click “Find Competitors.”
Select the location (e.g., worldwide) and enter your domain.
Then, click “Research a market.”
Scroll down to the “Growth Quadrant” widget to get a visual representation of different types of competitors.
This quadrant breaks down your competitors’ sites, along with your site, into the following four categories:
- Niche Players: New or small companies with smaller audience size and a low growth rate
- Game Changers: Emerging companies with a comparatively smaller audience size but that are growing quickly
- Established Players: Companies with large, established audiences
- Leaders: Companies with both a large audience and a rapid growth rate
Once you’ve identified your top competitors, you can use a wide range of Semrush’s competitive analysis tools to gather more information like:
- Organic Research: Find new organic competitors, discover their top-performing organic keywords, and track their position changes in the SERPs
- Advertising Research: Gain insights into your competitors’ ad strategy
- Keyword Gap: Compare your keyword profile to your competitors
- Backlink Gap: Identify backlink opportunities
Allocate Your Marketing Budget
The next step before setting marketing goals is to figure out the funds your company can allocate and what existing resources are available at your disposal.
Things to consider when setting your digital marketing budget:
- Forecasted budget: Map out what you’ll need for tools, content production, paid ads, and hiring freelancers and contractors
- Employees: Consider the existing team members in your marketing department, whether you’ll need to hire freelancers/contractors, and if there are employees in other departments who can be cross-trained or can contribute to the marketing efforts in some capacity
- Tech stack: Go over the current tools you have access to and which ones you’ll need to purchase for successful marketing campaigns and tracking
- Existing content library: Identify the content pieces in your library you can reuse or repurpose
Set Marketing Goals
The next step is to set your marketing goals.
While doing so, don’t make them too vague or broad, like increasing social media followers or driving thousands of people to your website.
These goals can’t be effectively measured, aren’t actionable and don’t provide a clear roadmap for the team.
Using the SMART framework can help. SMART stands for: (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)actionable, (R)elevant, and (T)ime-bound.
Here’s an example of a SMART goal:
“Increase organic website traffic by 15% over the next three months by optimizing on-page SEO and publishing four new blog posts per month.”
This goal is now:
- Specific (targeting an increase in organic website traffic)
- Measurable (quantifying the target with a 15% increase)
- Actionable (achievable through on-page SEO optimization and consistent content creation)
- Relevant (focused on enhancing the website’s organic reach)
- Time-bound (setting a clear deadline of three months to accomplish the objective)
It’s a good idea to set long-term goals. And take them into reference to create smaller, achievable goals that contribute to overarching objectives.
For example, you can set a long-term goal as:
“Increase annual website conversions by 25% by the end of the fiscal year.”
To achieve this long-term goal, break it down into smaller, more immediate goals, such as:
- “Optimize the website’s landing page for higher conversions by the end of Q1.”
- “Implement a new email marketing campaign targeting cart abandoners by the end of Q2.”
- “Collaborate with industry influencers for three promotional campaigns by Q3.”
- “Launch a holiday promotional campaign in Q4 to attract and convert more customers.”
Choose Your Marketing Channels
The next step is to choose the right online marketing channels for your strategy.
Marketing channels are grouped into the following categories:
- Owned channels: These are channels owned by your company. For example, websites, email, social media profiles, etc.
- Earned or shared channels: These are channels that belong to a third-party that promotes your brand. For example, third-party publications.
- Paid channels: These are channels that you pay to promote your content. For example, social media, search engines, music streaming platforms, etc.
Use the information gathered during target audience and competitor research to better understand which channels you should target.
Also, take into consideration your marketing budget and the resources at your disposal. If you have a very limited budget and employees, it doesn’t make sense to spread yourself thin across multiple platforms.
Instead, focus on one or two channels where your target audience is most active and where you can deliver consistent, high-quality content.
Lastly, it’s also important to consider your marketing goals. Match your marketing goals with the platforms best suited to achieve them.
For instance, if your goal is to drive 50,000 visitors to your website by the end of fiscal year, it may make sense to use search, social media, and paid advertising. That’s because these channels typically have the capability to generate significant traffic when leveraged correctly.
Plan and Execute Your Marketing Campaigns
Once you’ve picked your channels, the next step is to plan what digital marketing strategies to implement to establish a solid presence.
Here are different strategies you can implement for different online channels:
- Social media: Social media marketing, paid advertising, and influencer marketing
- Search engine: Search engine optimization and paid advertising
- Email: Email marketing (newsletters, blog post roundups, promotional deals, etc.)
Depending on your budget and resources, the strategies you implement will vary. For example, if you have a $2,000 monthly social media budget, it doesn’t make sense to invest in all three strategies, i.e., social media marketing, paid advertising, and influencer marketing.
It’s a good idea to estimate the costs associated and resources required with implementing each strategy. Based on this estimation, select the strategies that are feasible for implementation with your current budget and resources at hand.
Once you’ve picked the channels that align with your budget and resources, the next step is to build tailored strategies to start building a strong online presence.
Continually Refine Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Your digital marketing strategy must be flexible to adapt to economic uncertainty, evolving trends, seasonal fluctuations, changes in customer behavior, technological advances, and more.
How can ensure your strategy stays targeted and relevant?
Use SEO and digital marketing tools to continually analyze keywords, your target market, competitors, and campaign performance.
This will help you create effective digital marketing strategies that keep your business fresh and thriving year-round.