More than ever, business owners are turning to the internet to meet demand and stay competitive. It’s impossible not to. In 2019, 90% of U.S. adults said they used the internet. That number jumps to 100% if you only include those aged 18 to 29.
Clearly, the future of meeting customers where they’re at is digital. This trend has only been further fueled by the events of 2020. A 70% increase in activity on Facebook and Instagram was reported in Italy as COVID-19 spread, with Live video views doubling, Influencer Marketing Hub reports. Additionally, 22% of businesses are increasing ad spend, and finding lower costs per click and impression.
Billions of dollars are poured into online marketing strategies each year, mostly in the U.S. The speed, reach, and affordability of these digital platforms give them a measurable edge over traditional marketing channels. Brands, especially new or local ones, are able to build brand awareness and increase sales for their products or services at a much larger scale.
Whether your goals are to promote your business to attract potential customers, convert your existing base, or expand into new markets, we’ve curated a list of strategies and tactics with the best conversion rates.
Benefits of online marketing
While online marketing can appear overwhelming, there’s little use resisting platforms so widely used by consumers. What’s more, to hold back is to miss out on the many benefits digital marketing provides. Besides the internet’s obvious pervasiveness, marketing your business online is:
- Convenient. Online marketing doesn’t require leaving your desk. Much of it can even be done from your smartphone. Digital marketing campaigns are generally easy to employ; all you need is a willingness to learn how.
- Low cost. Paid online advertising is generally more affordable than non-digital channels. In fact, four of our five marketing strategies below can be executed for free. This is especially helpful for small businesses but can be leveraged by companies of any size.
- High value. As technology advances, markets change. The internet has cemented convenience and availability to the modern consumer experience. Digital marketing grants business owners valuable agility in their marketing efforts.
- Customizable. Ninety-one percent of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations. Online marketing enables businesses to tailor their marketing techniques to suit the needs of their target audience.
Ready to start marketing your business online? Let’s explore some online marketing strategies:
Strategy #1: Paid online advertising
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the concept of paid advertising, and online marketing is not without its own paid channels. Here are a few of the most popular platforms:
Instagram, owned by Facebook, accounts for 69% of U.S. marketers’ influencer marketing channel spending. Another 5% goes to Facebook, for a total of 74% of this online marketing strategy.
With social media claiming a large portion of internet usage and advertising, social media marketing is worth your attention. Facebook and Instagram offer paid advertising options that allow you to target who sees your ad based on interests, geographic location, marital status, age, etc. You can spend small amounts of money experimenting with demographics and ad copy before committing more of your budget to a full-blown campaign.
YouTube, owned by Google, trails Instagram and Facebook in influencer marketing spending at 11%. However, video marketing is an increasingly popular marketing strategy, with 92% of marketers leveraging video in 2020.
Video ads on YouTube can be targeted based on viewers’ recent search history. The platform also allows for a wide variety of video ad types, from discovery to in-stream, and preroll ads to bumpers. With high-quality videos and the right campaign, YouTube ads can be a great online marketing strategy.
PPC (Google Ads)
Today, pay-per-click (PPC) usually refers to search engine advertising. As a result, it should come as no surprise that Google Ads (previously Google Adwords) is a major PPC provider.
With PPC Google Ads, businesses pay for their websites to appear at the top of search results when certain keywords are used. The business owner pays a tiny fee each time someone clicks this sponsored link. Ideally, these link clicks result in conversion rates that significantly outweigh the small cost of the ad.
PPC online marketing strategies require a little keyword research and organization. However, with smart campaigns and optimized landing pages, they can be highly successful.
While surfing the web, you’ve probably seen banner ads across the top, bottom, and even down the sides of web pages. These are display ads, and they are highly effective online marketing strategies thanks to their visibility and ability to leverage images. Like PPC, Google is a major provider of display advertising.
Experiment with layouts, images, and ad copy to fine-tune your campaign. These ads may be affordable enough to experiment with and worth the investment.
Retargeting ads take display ads a bit further. If you’ve ever visited a website for a product or service only to see nothing but banner ads for that product or service for days afterward, congratulations! You’ve become the recipient of a retargeting campaign.
Retargeting ads aren’t limited to web pages, of course. Many of us have seen our social media feeds filled with products or services we clicked on just once. Retargeting ads are effective because your audience has already expressed interest in what you’re selling. With enough exposure to your brand, they’re more likely to follow through on that interest.
If these options sound like a lot of work—but you still want to try them all—programmatic ad buying may be for you. Rather than doing the manual work of experimenting with these online marketing strategies, programmatic advertising automates the process. Software from Rubicon or Simpl.fi can help you maximize your reach and impact with potential customers.
Strategy #2: Search engine optimization
If doling out cash to appear at the top of search results isn’t your style, search engine optimization (SEO) might be a better fit. Your customers may prefer you for it: 70-80% of internet users say they ignore paid ads and prefer clicking on organic search results.
SEO will help your web pages appear higher in search engine results. With the right keywords, it will increase visibility and traffic from your target audience. For effective SEO, you’ll need strong landing pages and smart web design. You can put in the work yourself, or hire an SEO specialist to keep content relevant and fresh.
Here’s how to make SEO work for you as an online marketing strategy:
When potential customers use search engines, they use keywords to find relevant businesses. If your site doesn’t have those keywords, then it won’t appear in search results. If it has the right keywords but they don’t appear often enough or aren’t tagged, the site will appear too low on search results to be seen.
Google Analytics and Google Keyword Planner are great marketing tools to use here. They’ll help you identify keywords and analyze how well your site uses them compared to your competitors.
The visible content on your web pages is extremely important for SEO. Good content meets customer demand and is linkable so that other pages can link to it and increase your page rankings. Title tags and URLs should also meet keyword, format, and length optimization standards. Image alt text should include the page subject. Even little things, like linking back to the homepage with a clickable logo, increase on-page SEO.
Off-page/inbound linking, or backlinking, increases your page’s authority. If your content is good enough for other content creators to link to it, that improves your ranking.
Not all links have to come from content creators, however. Brand mentions, guest blogging, social media marketing, and influencer marketing all help increase SEO from off the page. If your business appears on review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, or offers insights on Quora and Medium, that online presence bolsters the credibility of your site.
Strategy #3: Content marketing
Good content does more than just improve SEO. Content marketing centers around creating valuable content—written, video, audio, images, infographics, and more—for your target audience. Creating content that is relevant to your potential customers is a highly effective online marketing strategy—that’s why 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.
Eighty-six percent of companies produce blog content compared to other formats, HubSpot reports. Long-form content like blog posts, whitepapers, and case studies all provide your potential customers with something they want: information. Even existing customers can benefit from troubleshooting or FAQ content, which increases traffic and keyword presence on your site. Written content presents an opportunity to encourage purchases or signups for your product or service.
Blogging and other written content is a long-term marketing strategy. A brand needs a consistent presence over time to establish authority. Until then, potential customers may have a hard time finding your content (which is why SEO is important). With high-quality content, however, you can eventually attract a large audience that regards your brand as an industry leader.
We talked a little about linkable content in regards to SEO, but it’s important for other reasons as well. When another website links to content on your site like ebooks, reports, or infographics, it boosts your online credibility. To double down on this, consider creating well-written press releases for major brand announcements. If media outlets pick it up and link it, you’re well on your way to industry recognition.
Guest posting takes the backlinking-and-authority-building benefits of Quora and Medium directly to your niche. Reach out to other bloggers in your industry to find out if you can write a guest post on their blog or site. If other industry experts consider your insights worthy of including on their site, that boosts your authority.
Fifty-five percent of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast, and the number is growing. With podcasts available for everything from storytelling to political analysis, podcasting has something for everyone.
Not sure what to include in a podcast? Record interviews with people in your organization or who work with it. Discuss current events in your industry. Alternately, keep things easy and record blog posts as podcast episodes. There are many software options available that will publish your audio content across multiple podcast platforms.
As of 2020, video has overtaken blogs and infographics to become the most commonly used format in content marketing.
One of the best ways to leverage video marketing is to create video tutorials about your product or service. YouTube how-to channels can be extremely successful when done well, and the platform’s parent company, Google, ensures that high-quality, relevant videos show up in search results. Alternately, Facebook and other social media platforms have popular Live video options.
To make the most of video tutorials, be sure to show your ideal audience something they want to see. Videos should be accessible to your audience and boost their confidence in your expertise. Use keywords in the video title and description, and link to your site or related content you’ve provided. You can also embed YouTube videos on your website. This will increase views and reduce your site’s load time (compared to hosting the video on your site).
Strategy #4: Social media marketing
Leveraging social media platforms for online marketing strategies is far from a new concept. Paid ads are one method we’ve discussed, but they’re not the only way. By combining some of the advice we’ve already covered with the unique marketing strategies available on social media platforms, you can attract and engage the potential customers signing into them every day.
Choose the right channel
Not every social media channel is the right channel for every business. People on Facebook tend to be older than people on Instagram. LinkedIn is for professional networking, Pinterest is great for visual creatives, and TikTok focuses on community and often comedy. It’s ok to be on more than one channel, but be aware that each channel’s audience may require slightly different marketing strategies. Start with one you feel confident with, and grow from there.
Deliver channel-appropriate content
You know each channel has a unique audience. How do you tailor to that? It’s important that, whatever you do, you use the platform in a way that leverages what it was designed for. LinkedIn was designed for connecting professionals, so post industry-specific content like articles and opportunities. Instagram is for images, while Twitter is for news and commentary.
That doesn’t mean you can’t bend or even break from traditional practice in some instances. It means that if you plan to do so, you’ll have to be strategic about it. You’ll also need to make sure that what you’re posting isn’t a constant stream of sales pitches. Social media platforms are meant to be social, communal spaces. Comment, like, and engage with your potential customers on a human level to build relationships.
Start a Facebook group
Starting a Facebook group is a more time-demanding online marketing strategy. However, the incubated community it creates can go a long way in strengthening customer relationships. The Facebook algorithm prioritizes group posts to encourage community, and people who are friends on Facebook will see one another’s group posts on their personal news feed.
To maximize a Facebook group as a marketing tool, avoid salesy, spammy posts. Keep things fun and light, and encourage engagement with polls or by asking questions in posts. Engage in the comments, and work to maintain the group as a safe space for members. Link to your products and services only when they’re relevant to the conversation. Remember: your online presence in social spaces is a reflection of who you are as a business, socially.
Social media platforms allow users to employ hashtags and similar tools to reference and link to brands and people. You can search these hashtags and call-outs to get an idea of what your audience thinks of your brand. You can even respond to this content to answer customer questions and boost engagement. Most importantly, you can get an idea of the language people are using to talk about your brand, which you can leverage to reach more potential customers.
If social media marketing sounds exciting, but also like a lot of work, there are platforms that can help. Hootsuite and Sprout Social offer assistance with automating posts and social listening. Alternatively, you can hire a social media strategist to help with these online marketing strategies.
Strategy #5: Email marketing
Email is one of the most popular online marketing strategies utilized in the last decade. This is unsurprising when you consider that eMarketer found email marketing has an average ROI of 122%. In 2020, HubSpot found that roughly 80% of marketers had reported an increase in email engagement over the previous 12 months.
An email marketing’s strength is two-fold: it’s a direct line to potential customers who have also already connected with your business in some way. There’s no algorithm or SEO to worry about via email, and it’s also very low cost. Something as simple as a monthly newsletter can keep your brand at the forefront of your audience’s attention.
Grow your list
Before you can take advantage of email marketing, of course, you’ll need an email list. Getting customer emails is usually pretty easy, but you’ll want the emails of potential customers to get email converting. Most business owners use lead magnets—something that encourages people to opt-in to the email list.
Lead magnets can be anything you offer someone in return for their email. Perhaps it’s access to an ebook or report, or maybe even a webinar or a sample of your product or service. Once you’ve got an email list of people interested in what your business offers, you’ll need to deliver valuable content.
Deliver the right content
Admit it: you hate spam emails. We all do. Avoid becoming just another email spammer with relevant content your audience wants to read. Newsletters, promotions, and exciting announcements are more likely to keep readers from unsubscribing. Over time, good content will build relationships that convert.
One way to ensure you are delivering the right content is email segmentation. By segmenting your audience by activity, signup date, or interest, you can better target the emails individuals receive. Mailchimp found that email campaigns segmented by interest are clicked 75% more often than non-segmented campaigns.
Email marketing can be tricky. To suss out what’s working and what isn’t, try A/B testing. “Brands that A/B test every email see email marketing ROIs that are 37% higher,” Litmus reports.
An A/B test is where you have two versions of the same email, with just one thing different between the two. It might be the subject line, layout, or color of the call-to-action link. Then, you send half of your email list one version, and half the other. The version that gets more desired action or conversion is the better version.
This helps you narrow down the best messaging, timing, images, etc. for your audience. It’s important that only one thing be different each time you test, or the A/B test won’t work. You want to know which specific thing caused people to take action. This method is useful for many online marketing strategies.
As with other online marketing strategies, there are options for automatic email marketing campaigns. In particular, drip email campaigns are known for being highly automatable and effective. Check out software like Constant Contact and MailChimp to learn more. Marketing automation means work gets done faster, cheaper, and more accurately.
Make the most of your online marketing
With so many options out there, it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re ready for an expert’s help, it might be time to hire a digital marketing strategist. With the right strategies and people, every entrepreneur can leverage online marketing to reach their business goals.
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