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What Is Digital Marketing Strategy? (And How To Create One)

Reading time: 17 minutes
compass for digital strategy

A digital marketing strategy is a plan that helps your organization attain specific goals through carefully selected marketing channels such as paid (google ads), earned, and owned media. Running a digital marketing campaign without a strategy in place is much like exploring a new city without a GPS – you are likely to take many wrong turns resulting in both frustration and an unnecessarily long route to get where you want to go.

When you are planning a trip, you probably begin by developing an itinerary to ensure you make the most out of your time and budget. The same goes for digital marketing, a marketing plan is necessary for increased efficiency.

Below are 5 key components to crafting a winning digital marketing strategy. What follows are additional components you may want to consider when creating a well-rounded, complete digital marketing strategy.

Goal Setting: Decide Where You Want to Go


When creating an itinerary, you have a destination in mind. When creating a digital marketing strategy, the destination is a set of defined marketing goals you hope to achieve from your efforts. These marketing goals should be tied back to the fundamental goals of your business. For example, if the goal of your organization is to increase your clientele list by 20%, then your marketing goal should be to generate viable leads to contribute towards that success.

Whatever your goal may be, you also must ensure you are measuring your results. Maybe your goal is to boost email subscribers. In this case, your key performance indicator (KPI) would be increased sign-ups.

Understanding Your Target Audience

Local buying at market

When traveling, you know the importance of understanding how locals interact - you don't want to seem like an odd tourist. The same rings true for digital marketing campaigns. This means understanding your target audience, demographics, and the psychology of existing and new customers.

There are several steps a potential buyer must move through to get to a point of purchase, and ideally become a long-term customer. The stages may vary, but they generally begin with brand awareness and education, then move to the consideration phase, and finally end with a decision and sales conversion.

Effective Content Marketing

You can't simply write just any content, or follow a "spray and pray" method. You need to be strategic about what you write about, what words you want to own, have an SEO keyword strategy in place, and think about continuous optimization of your content.

Establish Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Buyer Personas

crowd of people

Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling! But it wouldn’t be beneficial to try to communicate with someone who has no desire to speak with you, right? Perhaps there is a language barrier, or they simply aren’t interested in who you are and what you do.

This also goes for marketing. As a digital marketer, you need to develop your buyer personas so that you know exactly who you want to speak with, knowing that they will have a mutual interest in speaking with you.

Keep in mind, that the personas you develop should be based on research. Have you had proven success with a certain group of individuals? Great, target them! It is beneficial to be specific. Skip the stereotypes and look into factual insights through readily available tools like Facebook Audience Insights and Google Analytics.

You can begin to identify these personas with basic background information such as job title and location. You also want to determine what this person wants, such as a solution to a specific problem (a problem your business can solve)! Next, determine the best way to reach this person, which leads us to step four.

Pinpoint Effective Marketing Channels and Buying Stages

Come in we're open sign

If you want to meet local beer connoisseurs, you might choose to visit the local pub. In turn, if you want to meet decision-makers in a specific industry, you need to choose where to find them, and also what messaging to use given what buying stage they are at in their buying journey.

The awareness stage may be focused on education and establishing expertise while targeting decision-makers in ideal client verticals. The KPIs for this campaign type could include reach, impressions, and engagement.

The consideration stage would influence and incentivize by targeting those that engaged with your awareness campaign with a promo or value proposition. The KPIs for this campaign might have to do with lead generation.

The conversion stage would drive sales by retargeting past website visitors. The KPIs for this campaign could be a meeting booked through a contact form or a signed contract/proposal.

By structuring your campaigns to meet the buyer where they are at in their journey, you will move toward your marketing and business goals more strategically.

Keep buyer personas in mind. You have a good understanding of your audience and how they buy, but now you need to understand where to connect with them.

For example, if your buyer persona is a 35-year-old journalist who reads the news online, then Twitter might be the best channel for you to communicate with them.

Choosing the right digital channels will help you increase ROI. There are more marketing platforms than ever before, so be strategic by determining where your buyer personas are located, and connecting with them through those channels.

Get Your Messaging Right

People interacting at bar

Let's say you're traveling solo and you pop into a local restaurant to sit at the bar. You see someone you want to speak with, and you know there is an art and etiquette to approaching them. The same goes for your marketing campaigns!

Craft your messaging to resonate with who you are trying to speak with. The voice and content of your campaign should speak to them in a way that they understand. This is where your research and planning from the previous steps come full circle.

If you've identified where they are in the sales funnel, you should know where to kick off the conversation. If they know nothing about you (prospecting stage), then you begin by establishing your expertise and building trust.

If you've identified their buyer persona and are selling a service, you should know their pain points and can tell them how you can solve their problems. If you are selling a product, you should know their interests.

By taking the time to get your messaging right, perhaps even personalizing it, your audience will be far more receptive to what you have to offer.

Other Components of a Digital Marketing Strategy

There are several other components of a solid digital marketing strategy. They include basics like web design and SEO, along with more complex topics such as CRM, CRO, data measurement, and analytics.

Web Design. SEO. Content Marketing.

Your company website is the main gateway through which most (if not all) of your prospects will pass before becoming actual customers. That means it needs to be designed for efficiency, appeal, and smoothness of user experience. Without properly developing these components, inbound traffic will fail to convert or, even worse, leave without any significant engagement.

Basic web design concepts should be employed in the creation of your website to ensure optimal results. Check out our Basics of Web Design and Understanding Web Development guides for more information.

How the pages are set up and laid out isn’t enough, though, if the content itself is not relevant and interesting. Careful attention should be placed on creating engaging material for visitors to connect with. Here, Digital marketing channels are also vital ways to grow your voice and strategy.

From LinkedIn to influencer marketing, traditional marketing, and beyond! Each of these online marketing channels requires a unique online presence, unique content, and unique marketing activities that ultimately enhance your customer experience. Let’s look at some content tips to get started.

O8 Digital Marketing Strategy
  • Make sure the introduction can hook people. The content should begin with ideas or questions or statements that shock, entertain, awe, interest, or inspire. If the reader is not hooked within those first few lines, chances are he or she will leave the page. Speaking of which…

  • Keep the main idea above the fold. The fold is the bottom line where most screens cut off the initial display. Make sure your first (or at least the second) paragraph succinctly explains what the content is about. Readers want to be sure what they’re getting into before going forward.

  • Use multimedia. Images, videos, and infographics are all valid marketing tools to keep your content dynamic. Too much text on a screen can feel burdensome for some readers, and the idea is to keep them engaged.

  • Use your own voice. Every company – every brand – has a unique voice. You want people who visit your company website to know what yours is, so be sure that all your content matches it. If the people engaging with the content feel the tone is insincere or that something is off, even if it’s at some unconscious level, they are more likely to leave or react negatively.

O8 Marketing

Writing is by no means an exact science, but there is some common ground that most people can agree on. As a good point of reference, the University of Maryland in Baltimore put together a nice list of best practices to keep in mind when creating web content.

Once you’ve got the website and content ready, it’s time to start thinking in terms of ways to ensure the material is found. The best (and cheapest) way to accomplish this is by optimizing content so it can be found organically through search engines, including blogging, and aligning your bloggers with a high-traffic keyword strategy.

Search engines power the internet. It’s estimated that Google alone processes over 3.5 billion queries every single day. With staggering numbers like those, it’s no wonder companies are working hard to rank their content in those highly coveted first results pages. With 71% of website traffic remaining on that first page, it’s imperative to apply proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as part of your digital marketing strategy to guarantee a return on investment.

How Do You Optimize for Search Engine Results (SEO)?

Search engines operate by quickly crawling through every single indexed website when a query is performed, then processing the information with an algorithm that assigns a rank to each page based on a very specific set of criteria.

While the details surrounding that process are kept under wraps, some parameters have been proven to influence rank, such as:

  • Use of keywords that clearly define the topic being addressed by the content

  • The number of links, both internal and external, that connect to and from each page

  • The number of quality visits and level of engagement each page gets

What this means for your content is that you need to ensure that it addresses each of these points so the page can obtain a higher rank and increase your chances of showing up on that coveted first page. This is what sets the content apart from all the other material of the same subject saturating the searchable landscape.

​By showing up on that first page, your company is boosting the probability of getting that content accessed, which as mentioned is itself an important metric for engines such as Google when assigning rank. This is called the Click-Through Rate (CTR), which much like the name describes, is the rate at which users who perform a query click to access your content as a result. Much like the number of backlinks to the page, this metric helps establish credibility for the content and authority of your website as a whole.

A good point of reference to get these basics down – and a very wise instructional choice if you’re learning the ropes – is Moz’ renowned guide for SEO beginners.

Making these considerations a part of your marketing strategy will ensure optimal results in luring organic traffic to your website, which is where the journey begins for these visitors who will then need to decide just how much they engage with what they find.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools

Customer relations O8
Once visitors are attracted to a page and significantly engage with the content, they become leads. Leads are like small seeds that need to be nurtured and cared for so they’ll blossom into customers. The best way to accomplish this – and, of course, a key component of any digital marketing plan – is to have efficient Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools in place.

What a CRM service or software does is provide a series of tools to obtain contact information from those who engage with the content, and sort it out efficiently so your sales, client relations, or any client-facing department can quickly access it if necessary.

How that information is obtained is entirely up to you, as it requires implementing changes on your website so visitors willingly hand it over. This is another point where conversion optimization comes into play, as it’ll help you define which solution is the best for this particular objective.

Is it a simple form that asks for contact information to subscribe to a weekly newsletter? Is it a call to action button that offers access to download a free guide in exchange for an email address? Using data to determine which alternative works will be crucial in increasing your database of prospects.

Email Marketing Optimization

Email marketing optimization.

Many CRM tools can also improve and complement your other marketing efforts, such as how you do email marketing, some aspects of marketing automation, social media marketing, PPC (pay-per-click digital advertising), landing page creation, CTAs, as well as tracking offline activities.

Email marketing is part of a healthy digital marketing strategy. CRM tools that offer platforms to help you create a killer email marketing campaign directly to your target audience while integrating call to action that guarantee conversions - while now you have yourself a digital strategy designed to make your business grow.

Segmentation of your database means you can narrow down communications relative to your audience and further increase your chances of conversions.

Of course, this database is also important in keeping existing customers engaged. By keeping tabs on those who’ve already become clients and applying some clever marketing tactics to keep that interest going, companies can increase their rate of return for more purchases.

Be sure to discuss with your client-facing team members the available options – whether a specific CRM system or a more complex and all-inclusive platform where customer relationship management is actually one of many aspects – so a choice can be made because this decision will have an impact.

Analytics and Metrics: Making Choices Based on Hard Data

A digital marketing strategy is all about removing speculation from the equation and focusing your tactics based on accurate information or at least educated estimates and approximations, at first. As your marketing work progresses, your company will start gaining hard data, which it’ll need to use to reshape, refocus and retarget all efforts in order to optimize and maximize results.

Data can come from all types of sources. Social media platforms, for example, use their own set of metrics based on performance, which is certainly very useful. But there is one tool that is absolutely remarkable in terms of understanding the traffic that reaches your website.

Enter Google Analytics. Google Analytics’ tracking code installed on your website will acquire information about all the traffic, which pages it reaches, where it’s coming from – both source and medium – and how long it stays, how often it engages with other pages, or simply if it leaves without further action, among several more metrics. It’ll tell you which country the traffic is coming from, their demographic groups, and several other insights into the type of people reaching your content.

When it comes to marketing, information like this is a precious commodity, and Google Analytics is a goldmine.

O8 Analytics

The reason this information is vital is that it will show you just how successful the marketing tactics are and how they can be better. While closed sales and profit might be the ultimate measures of success for some companies, the metrics provided by these analytics can help increase the rate of customer acquisition simply by knowing what’s working and what’s not. This is where you’ll learn what expenditures need to be cut, which investment costs trimmed, and which ones require boosting.

Analytics can be confusing for the inexperienced, but Google offers courses for both beginners and the more advanced users, which even include a Google Analytics Certification.

This tool is indispensable for the elaboration and progressive optimization of any digital marketing plan.

Paid Search and Social Media Ads

Every digital marketing strategy should include a part of the budget for paid web marketing. While the whole content and SEO aspects certainly drive traffic, paid marketing actually offers different insights that can be rather useful.

O8 Paid Search
First and foremost, ads for both search engines and most social media offer immediate data that can be used to glean information from prospects, and because both those platforms want people to keep paying them to advertise, they offer opportunities for very precise remarketing – which is to say, your company can target prospects that showed some form of interest but didn’t actively engage with ads better tailored to their interests.

While ads are usually affordable and can be easier to manage, any paid search strategist will tell you that there is in fact a certain science to it all. Even ads need to be optimized, and best practices definitely come into play when laying out your tactics. Learning the basics of paid search is extremely important if your company wishes to find success.

O8 Paid Social

For paid social media, the same principles apply. The difference here is that, depending on how much budget you’ve allocated for this particular area, your company needs to be very careful and astute when making choices.

It’s very important to understand who your prospects (or Buyer Personas) are. This will help you narrow down the list of platforms you may wish to use. After all, each social media platform tends to have its own set of demographics, so knowing what your prospects are more likely to use will increase your success rate.

As a reference, the people at Hootsuite compiled a list that offers a rather nice overview of demographics per platform.

Equally important to the type of platform is the type of message you’ll advertise, so be sure to plan out what you’ll say or show, with a clear understanding of what your prospects are most likely to connect with.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Traffic is not enough. You need to optimize your website for conversion so those visitors become quality leads, which means they engage with what they find and become potential customers or clients.

CRO is a very systematic solution that consists of – step by step – improving each page on your website so it becomes its own best possible version. This is not improvisation or guesswork based on what you think will fix issues or boost engagement. This is a process of proven methods and effective tools that provide hard data, which can then be turned into precise changes that will dramatically help with the user experience.

What Steps Are Vital for Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

First, you need to audit your website. With the help of tools such as Hotjar, you can assess page performance through heat maps that reveal click and scrolling engagement. This powerful service also provides anonymous recordings of page visits, showing exactly what each visiting user did, what he or she stopped to read, where his or her cursor moved, and what they chose to click.

This cornucopia of information can be used to determine what areas of the pages aren’t getting attention or engagement, which is in turn the kind of data that experienced minds can use to define concrete and effective changes that will radically improve performance.

This is an intricate process, and it’s often recommended that companies make sure their teams are knowledgeable in this area of work to reduce the level of testing and trial and error. If your company is planning to employ digital marketing services from a third party, it’s a good idea to make sure they have the tools and know-how to boost your conversion optimization rate.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Prioritizing Clients

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a metric that determines how valuable each client is to your company in the long run. The reason this particular piece of information is useful is that it can be compared to the cost of acquisition in order to learn if the current business model and practices are resulting in profit or not, and create future projections and estimates along those lines.

As part of your digital marketing strategy, this metric serves as the foundation from which customer acquisition and retention tactics will grow. If your CLV for each client is lower than what it cost your company to bring them in, then your entire promotional strategy needs to be restructured in order to reduce costs.

Calculating CLV should not be a daunting process as long as you understand the math and science behind it. If you find the entire process burdensome, just remember that neglecting this particular step in your marketing plan will have a negative impact on the quality of your future tactics.

Getting Additional Digital Marketing Support

Digital marketing work can be very taxing because of how complex and diversified it is. In many cases, companies deal with a decline in the level of results or even a high rate of staff turnover, all because they ignore the symptoms of a very real problem: burnout.

There are several ways to address the issue of burnout among marketers, but the best and most cost-effective way is simply to hire out some of the workload.

Seth Viebrock, CEO of O8
         Seth Viebrock, CEO of O8

Digital agencies provide an array of services that can help ease the load off overwhelmed and overburdened marketing departments, especially in medium to large companies where the flow of different tasks is continuous.

The products offered by these auxiliary agencies can range from web development and design to all the different aspects of digital marketing, which is why, if they are to be included in the overall strategy, it is imperative to sit down and examine which areas the company needs real assistance with

Choosing the right marketing or web design agency is a delicate process, one which should not be taken lightly because of the impact it will have on your company’s overall digital performance.

About Cory Docken

Cory comes to O8 with over 20 years of design, marketing, and technology expertise. Working with both small and large clients across retail, higher ed, healthcare, and B2B, he has helped world-class brands tackle their most complex marketing technology projects with his knowledge of strategy, design, and development. Cory consults O8 clients on effective website solutions and strategies, leveraging open-source platforms such as WordPress and Drupal. He is a proponent of O8's DIO(Digital Integrity Optimization) methodology, leveraging a combination of SEO, CRO, and UX to drive measurable...
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