Marketing Strategy: Definitive Overview for Executives
Jul 2, 2019|Read time: 18 min.
- Many companies treat SEO as an afterthought, first developing a marketing strategy and the corresponding initiatives, campaigns, and assets.
- It’s only then that they look to optimize what has already been developed.
- Instead, by using search data as an insights engine, SEO can act as a powerful compass upstream in the marketing strategy development process.
- An SEO-driven marketing strategy provides you with human-driven data that reveals unique marketing opportunities.
- Build an effective marketing strategy by defining your marketing goals, gaining audience insights, and conducting competitive research. You can then target the entire funnel and create a unique plan that leverages SEO for each channel.
SEO isn’t a marketing tactic that you can just plug into your larger marketing strategy like a LEGO block. If you think of it that way, you’ll miss out on the power enterprise SEO has to guide the overall direction of your marketing strategy.
In terms of audience insights, SEO is rare in its ability to capture the way your audience thinks throughout the conversion funnel. More importantly, it accomplishes this at the precise moments when they are most receptive to your message.
It behooves any brand to stop retrofitting digital marketing initiatives with SEO band-aids. Instead, view SEO as a strategic marketing approach that drives better overall marketing planning, decisions and results.
Marketing Strategies Vs. Marketing Tactics
When you set business marketing goals, the direction you’ll take to get to those goals is your marketing strategy. Your goals could be general, like “reposition our brand in the public eye as a technology leader.” Or, they can be more specific, like “increase our Q2 online revenue by 10%.” Then just as a coach arranges players on the soccer field, you’ll outline your strategy based on what and where these goals are.
Marketing tactics, on the other hand, are the tasks that must be completed to achieve those goals. Your strategy relates to the big-picture arrangement of your players (think SWOT analysis). Your tactics relate to the physical movements of each player.
Putting your largest player on defense is a strategy; heading the ball is a tactic. Making a hard push to enhance brand reputation for thought leadership is a strategy. On the other hand, publishing expertly-written byline articles or speaking at industry conferences is a tactic.
Marketing goals take both strategic and tactical work. But you need the strategy before you can focus on the tactics. The more customer centric your marketing strategy, the easier it is to implement tactics to achieve your goals.
Why an SEO-Based Digital Marketing Strategy is So Effective
When you use SEO to power your online marketing strategies and tactics, your marketing team will have a structured framework to identify audience insights. SEO also ensures digital marketing aligns with how your audience thinks and provides a superior customer experience.
Because that’s precisely what SEO is at its core. It’s about much more than traffic. Organic search offers insight into customer behavior. It also provides a tight focus on topics, phrases, content, and credibility that requires you to squarely think about the target customer across brand touch points.
When you approach each customer touch point from an SEO perspective, you do so armed with human-driven data. That information uncovers ways for your brand to connect more authentically and powerfully with your audience.
In fact, a 2020 commissioned study by Forrester Consulting revealed that organic traffic is more engaged, loyal, and results in a higher customer lifetime value! Read the full study below.
Those are all key elements that help you to increase sales. Learn more about how to create an SEO strategy that gets results.
Audience Alignment & Customer-Centricity
Search is a window into the psyche of your target audience. It’s a form of market research that reveals precisely what they are thinking about at every stage of the purchase funnel. If you know how your audience thinks (and how they themselves articulate their needs) you can meet them at the time when they are most receptive. That’s practically the definition of customer-centricity.
That allows you to connect more directly, engage more deeply, and provide an excellent customer experience.
The more you understand your ideal customer, the more deeply you can empathize with them. In turn, your marketing strategies can more effectively connect with them. And your marketing messages can more compellingly resonate with them. The more you align with your audience and put their needs first, the more you can provide the content, education, and the solutions they’re eager for.
As a result, you’ll have a more successful marketing strategy that supports your business goals.
Superior User Experience (UX)
At the end of the day, good marketing strategies should deliver a superior experience for customers and prospects. Forrester has done extensive research into the impact of customer experience on business results. They found that customer experience leaders grow revenue faster, drive higher brand preference, and are able to set higher prices. In addition, better customer experience yields “staggering” stock performance improvements.
With this in mind, developing a digital marketing strategy that delivers a better experience has critical ramifications for your brand. And used correctly, SEO significantly influences your site visitors’ experience.
In fact, search engine optimization and your site’s user experience (UX) are codependent. When you do great SEO, you’ll attract the right people to the right pages in your site. As a result, you’ll likely deliver a positive user experience.
For SEO to enhance your UX, use search data to inform the way you structure your site. Insights can help you guide the user from a landing page all the way to the checkout page (or other conversion pages).
You can also use search data to develop a content strategy template around topics your target audience will love. This may include product/service descriptions, use cases, blogs, articles, tools, and other resources designed to answer the up-to-the-minute questions they’re asking. It ideally also includes the “Wow, this was exactly what I was looking for” solutions they’re aiming to find.
On the flip side, the better your user experience the easier it is to generate high engagement metrics. That’s crucial because it signals to Google that your site delivers what it promises in the SERPs. Plus, the better the user experience, the more you can convert your audience into a happy, loyal customer base.
How to Develop a Marketing Strategy
Set marketing goals
It’s hard to achieve a goal without knowing what and where that goal is. So the first step in developing a marketing strategy is to outline your marketing goals as specifically as possible:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What would you like your audience to do? What actions should they take?
- When should you be hitting each milestone?
- Where will you be meeting your audience, and through what channels?
- Why should your audience care and how will you know that your efforts are working?
Start with this framework and work backwards, identifying the areas you hope to impact. Provide specific, time-constrained numbers whenever possible.
Be sure to document your marketing goals so that they are crystal clear to the team. Documented goals enable you to track progress over time.
And be specific – a goal to increase leads by 20% is not as useful as a goal to increase leads by 20% for Product ABC in North America while increasing leads by 35% in Southeast Asia by the end of Q2 without increasing budget. Specificity enables your team to take more focused action, increasing the probability of success.
Analyze audience insights
Use search data to gain valuable insight into customer pain points. That information helps you understand what they want and how they articulate their thoughts. Dig into keyword search volumes, autocompletes, related queries, search trends, social shares, and Google Search Console data:
- What questions are they asking?
- Is there something they’re trying to learn?
- What do they want to achieve?
- Can you identify their problem and provide a solution?
- Are there certain attributes and qualities they want in products like yours?
- What types of content marketing do they consume with each search?
- What information do they need as they approach a purchase decision?
Use search data to improve marketing strategies
Use tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMRush to do keyword research and uncover your audience’s search behavior.
For a company like Revlon, for example, this would include broad category search terms as well as specific long-tail keywords for products.
You should also find long-tail keywords that could increase your website traffic. This helps to provide you with a more holistic, deeper understanding of their interests.
In addition, utilize tools such as Answer The Public and BuzzSumo Question Analyzer. The data you uncover can help you create a detailed map of the questions people ask related to their challenges. As a result, you’ll be able to position your products or services as the ideal solution before potential customers decide on a brand.
For example, since we know that Revlon’s audience members search for makeup tips and tutorials, we can conduct a deeper dive into this topic area. An Answer The Public search for “makeup tips” reveals a wealth of content ideas, including:
The final search listed here would reveal another important clue about Revlon’s audience: they are eager for video tutorials. Revlon knows this, and has taken to YouTube to give their audience what they’re searching for. Use your own search data to uncover the unique preferences of your own audience to understand how to best connect with them.
Consider customer behavior first
To build a powerful marketing strategy, it’s important to incorporate audience insights upfront in the process. Doing so helps to guide the direction of your marketing activities.
Some companies develop their marketing strategy in a vacuum, and look to map audience insights at the campaign development stage. Think of internal teams that devise strategies and build out marketing programs in isolated corporate conference rooms. This is a risky approach and distances the brand from the customer.
Successful marketing teams integrate the customer at the outset.
It’s also all too common to build out web assets and campaigns first. Then when it’s time to launch, the SEO team is pulled in to “optimize” what has already been built. In other words, SEO is retrofitted to the campaign at the last minute.
This thinking is backwards.
To maximize the impact of any campaign, search insights should provide direct upstream input into the marketing strategy. That way, your campaigns will be better aligned with your audience’s unique needs. Further, SEO will be scalable, and embedded in the very DNA of the campaigns.
This type of upstream input helps your brand to understand what matters most to your audience. It also helps to develop compelling, differentiated strategies that resonate more deeply.
Conduct competitive research
What topic clusters and SEO keywords do your competitors target? How does their website structure reveal their priorities and focus areas? Can you identify their target audience segments and build similar buyer personas?(Check out these buyer persona examples if you need help.) What content on their sites is the most popular, and why? Which websites link to your competitors’ pages, and what compelled them to do so?
Answering those questions will help you gain insight into what’s working for your competitors. It also reveals any content gaps where you’re falling short and opportunities you can strategically exploit to gain a competitive advantage.
Your competitive analysis shouldn’t stop at your “traditional competitors.” It’s also essential to Google your high-priority keywords and see who’s ranking for them. Analyze the top content to see why Google favors it. Note things such as:
- Content formats
- Quality of content
- Content length
A thorough analysis will allow you to pinpoint what resonates with your shared audience.
Target the entire funnel (ToFu, MoFu, BoFu)
To maximize the results of your marketing strategy, target prospective customers at every stage of the funnel: awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase (ToFu, MoFu, BoFu). Users in each stage have different needs. You can use search data to discover more about your customers’ behavior at every point in their decision-making journey.
When a customer is in the “brand awareness” phase, for example, it means they haven’t yet discovered that your product or solution exists; they’re simply searching for any solution.
Let’s say you’re the head of marketing for iRobot, which makes the Roomba. Your prospects, during the awareness phase, are looking for a solution to any number of problems. Perhaps they:
- Hate vacuuming
- Want to automate daily tasks
- Don’t have time to clean
- Want “productivity hacks” for the home
You can satisfy those top-of-funnel (ToFu) searches through informational blog posts, videos, infographics, resources and articles.
If your customer is in the “consideration” phase, on the other hand, they’ll be making comparative searches. This group may want to know which robot vacuum will give them the most bang for their buck.
If they’re in the “purchase” phase, buyers will examine your brand specifically. They may seek out online product reviews, investigate your return policy or look into shipping costs. All you need to do is to give them that final push with an offer, incentive or warranty.
If your entire blog strategy is focused on users at the top of the funnel, you’ll find it difficult to push potential customers to the purchasing stage. On the other hand, if your marketing strategy is focused on the bottom of the funnel, you’ll miss out on reaching those crucial new prospective customers in the “awareness” phase.
Draw insights from search data to inform your content marketing funnel. Then, optimize each piece of content to address the questions your audience asks throughout the buying journey.
8 Marketing strategies powered by SEO
SEO is a powerful marketing driver. But that’s only a fraction of how it impacts your brand overall. SEO actually boosts the performance of your investments in other marketing channels, as well. When done holistically, SEO maximizes your ROI through your entire marketing mix.
Use conversion funnel tools to reveal your most profitable digital marketing channels. Then, leverage SEO to boost the visibility of those channels.
By allowing SEO insights to drive your decision-making, you’ll be able to give each medium a data-informed framework, compounding the effect of your marketing overall, as outlined below:
1. Website and blog strategy
Your website acts as your digital command center. It ties together your various marketing efforts and is a direct conduit to sales. As such, SEO should play a major role in shaping your website, blog strategy, architectural structure, content, and its conversion paths.
Identify the topics, SEO keywords, and questions that matter most to your audience, and ensure that your website includes pages to fully satisfy the query intent of your audience.
Use search data to identify evergreen content as well as specific campaign ideas.
Study the behavior of your site visitors from different searches. Going back to the Revlon example, how does the digital body language of someone looking for lip gloss differ from someone searching for lip plumper on your site? By understanding the differences in site behavior of visitors with different source queries, you are better able to optimize your content and enhance the experience of each type of visitor, strengthening your marketing to each segment.
2. Content marketing strategy
Search data is the fuel that drives superior content performance. By understanding your audience’s interests (as well as problems), you’ll be able to use content marketing to capture their attention, drive them to your site, engage them, differentiate your brand, build a relationship, and ultimately convert them. The benefits of content marketing are almost limitless.
As you explore your website’s entry points and the keywords that bring people there, pay special attention to the performance of blogs, how-to’s, vidoes, resource pages, and other content marketing examples that capture informational, long-tail searches. These pages should have healthy time-on-site metrics, showing that people are actually reading the information. Ideally, they’ll inspire visits to additional pages and deeper engagement.
Once you understand your top-performing content, you can replicate the formats and subject matter that resonates. Find out more about how to develop a content strategy here.
3. Email marketing strategy
SEO drives your content, and your content helps drive your email marketing strategy. So as you build out your content calendar, don’t forget to tie in email, allowing your content to become the “talking point” you’ll use to gain your customers’ attention.
The data from email makes a wonderful foil to your SEO data, providing you with faster, more simplified answers about what resonates with your audience. While it will take months to validate the results of a given keyword or topic organically, email will allow you to validate almost immediately based on open rate, click-throughs, and conversion rate.
A/B test different subject lines against one another, broadly testing one topic against another and then getting more granular. Allow this information to feed back into your other types of marketing, fine-tuning your focus as you gain a deeper understanding of the language, incentives, and subject matter that moves your audience.
4. Social media marketing strategy
SEO can help guide a powerful social media strategy. Collect search data to understand your audience, and then couple it with social listening data for even greater, deeper insights.
You can use social listening to uncover conversations about your brand, your products, your category, your competitors and your industry. Use it to understand what your audience is talking about, as well as sharing online.
Cross reference all of this with your search data:
- Where are the overlaps?
- What search data is pointing to untapped social media opportunities?
- Do search trends indicate that you need to adjust your social marketing?
- Are there opportunities to build relationships through blogger outreach?
In these ways, use SEO to not only inform your social media efforts but to also strengthen your social marketing results.
5. Video marketing strategy
Organic search and YouTube are deeply connected, so much so that “YouTube SEO” is its own independent branch of SEO.
Because YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine, even just existing on the platform has the potential to expose your brand to new customers. But it’s also owned by Google, and videos that have been deemed helpful have their own place in the search results.
That means a useful, SEO optimized video won’t just rank on YouTube; it could also rank organically. That can widen the net of keywords you could appear for or take up additional SERP real estate.
With this in mind, you can use YouTube search data to help power your video marketing strategy. Use tools such as YouTube Suggest, YTCockpit, vidIQ, and Ahrefs Keyword Explorer (YouTube setting) to glean video-specific audience insights to deliver the types of videos that will meet the query intent of your audience.
These insights will complement the search insights you acquire through Google search data, helping you understand your audience across all your digital channels.
6. Influencer marketing strategy
Influencer and micro-influencer marketing can have a staggering impact on your ROI, with your strategically-chosen influencers taking over the tough and critical job of securing audience engagement and trust. On social media, links from influencers and their audiences not only drive traffic, but they also boost credibility signals as interested customers visit the site, engage with the link, and convert. And on blogs, links from influencers have an even more substantial impact, with the website itself serving as a crucial vote of confidence along with the traffic it sends.
With micro-influencers, you can reach a passionate and loyal audience efficiently, and an audience far more likely to convert than with larger, more mainstream, celebrity influencers. Although the audience of each micro-influencer may be smaller than of a celebrity, you’ll be reaching the right audience. Use competitive keyword, topic and content research to find the creatives who address what your audience cares about, and focus on building strong, long-term relationships.
7. Advertising strategy
Advertising is a means to reach a lot of people, and to reach them quickly. But let’s face it, advertising is not cost-effective. Brands with an overreliance on advertising are handcuffed into continuing the outflow of ad spend in order to maintain traffic, leads and conversions. Turn off the ads, and marketing results nosedive.
However, you can use SEO to drastically reduce your Adwords spend and your corresponding cost per acquisition (CPA). This allows you to move your advertising into a more strategic role.
By focusing on SEO as a strategic marketing driver, you can gain real estate in the search engine result pages (SERPs). As a result, you’ll reduce your reliance on expensive paid search.
However, insights from advertising provide faster insight into the messaging that resonates with your audience. With this in mind, you can use advertising to test new concepts, offers, and keywords. This new learning can then feed your longer-term strategies and organic initiatives across multiple channels.
Use advertising as a test-and-learn platform and leverage SEO as a complementary long-term acquisition funnel. As a result, you’ll gain key insights while reducing the cost of your customer acquisition campaigns massively for the overall business.
Your organic and paid strategies can also fill the gaps for one another.
For example, PPC can temporarily capture search traffic for a valuable keyword until your SEO results gain traction. Conversely, if PPC keywords are too expensive to produce a good marketing ROI, you can make an organic push for those keywords. As a bonus, when you put effort into ranking a page organically for a given keyword, the CPC for that same keyword will usually come down due to higher quality scores. Learn more about combining SEO and PPC here.
In these ways, SEO plays a powerful role in maximizing your advertising spend, mapped to your overall marketing strategy.
8. PR strategy
Off-page SEO can help steer your PR efforts, as well. You can vet potential websites, blogs, podcasts and other digital properties from an SEO perspective, using back-end tools like Spyfu, SEMRush, or Ahrefs to determine the site’s backlink profile, authority, and traffic.
Search data on the front end can also guide your marketing decisions. For example, you could capitalize on spikes in search for hot topics in the news (“newsjacking”) by providing content and conducting outreach that responds to that subject matter in a highly timely manner.
And remember, your PR campaigns don’t just have to focus on media exposure or product reviews alone. The right content can become its own link building asset. As a result, you’ll earn backlinks, shares, and mentions through content amplification efforts.
Many blog editors are happy to share a well-researched infographic, making them an ideal fit for your visual content marketing strategy. An industry survey report can be the source of snippets, charts, and excerpts that many websites would welcome.
The options for gaining exposure and backlinks through creative content is nearly endless, with SEO giving your team the data to set priorities and understand where the big potential wins exist.
Integrate your PR and SEO teams so they can collaborate and support each other. For example, have your SEO team train the PR team in link building best practices, so the PR team will know what to do when they gain exposure from a third-party source, thus compounding the results that your PR team is able to achieve over time.
Your digital marketing plan
It’s one thing to have a marketing strategy; it’s another thing entirely to have a digital marketing plan to execute the strategy.
- What will your marketing achieve?
- How will you achieve it?
- How will you adjust your initiatives for each audience segment?
- Who is responsible for each task?
- What is the timeline for each objective?
- How will you know that you’re appropriately targeting each stage of the conversion funnel?
- What will your KPIs and SEO success metrics look like?
- How will you report on these metrics, and at what frequency?
Once you have your objectives clearly outlined, build out your tactical approach by aligning it with a content marketing calendar. This lets you start with your main objectives for each month and zoom in from there, filling out more process-oriented details as you go.
By allowing SEO to guide your marketing strategy, you’ll gain deep insights into how your target market thinks, including the topics, content and answers they want. Furthermore, you’ll be able to integrate that understanding into every marketing channel. And once each member of your team knows what plays they’ll be making and when, it’s just a matter of refining and optimizing the strategy, until your marketing department can win the game every time.