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What Is A Digital Marketing Strategy? 5 Steps To Create One



What Is A Digital Marketing Strategy? 5 Steps To Create One

Part of any successful business is a successful digital marketing strategy.

Creating a strategy is one thing, but the execution is just as important, if not more.

But with the digital landscape changing every day, where’s the best place to start creating and optimizing your strategy?

Read on to learn how to create a successful digital marketing strategy for your brand.

What Is A Digital Marketing Strategy?

Inevitably, digital must become the pillar of your overall marketing strategy.

With an average of 12 touchpoints and two months for a customer to convert from awareness to sale, many of those touchpoints will be digital.

While there’s not one clear-cut definition of what a digital marketing strategy is, it can be summarized as the following:

A digital marketing strategy is part of a larger business plan that outlines how to reach its overarching business goals using digital channels.

A digital marketing strategy must be tailored toward specific company key performance indicators (KPIs). Core elements of creating a successful strategy include:

  • Digital channels.
  • Target audience and regions.
  • Core messaging components.
  • Budgets.

As part of a digital marketing strategy, specific channels are identified to target the company’s ideal customers and lead them toward conversion.

These channels can include (but are not limited to):

  • Search engines.
  • Social media platforms.
  • Email.
  • Websites.
  • Apps.

Identifying channels is just one part of the digital marketing strategy. The second necessary key piece is consistent and relevant messaging to the target audience.

While the overarching message should be consistent across channels, the way brands engage and specifically talk to customers will, and should, vary by platform.

Digital Strategy Vs. Tactics

Many brands tend to confuse strategies and tactics and end up blending them together.

While both are essential elements of a marketing plan, strategy and tactics have different definitions and serve different purposes.

As mentioned above, a strategy is part of a larger business plan to help brands reach overarching company goals.

Conversely, tactics are planned actions to achieve a greater marketing strategy.

The Key Differences Between Digital Strategies And Tactics

Strategy Tactics
Focused on long-term goals Focused on short-term goals
Part of a larger company plan Can be measurable objectives
Channel-oriented Campaign-oriented
Audience-oriented Action-oriented
Provides a roadmap for tactics

One example of a digital strategy could be paid media marketing. The tactics that fit within paid media marketing could include:

  • Running paid search ads on Google or Microsoft.
  • Testing audiences on the Google Display Network (GDN).
  • Testing landing page or ad copy creatives for optimized conversion rates.

To summarize: Tactics do not equal strategies. Strategies are created to then inform which tactics should be used.

Digital Strategy Examples

While digital marketing strategies may contain similar characteristics across brands, each strategy and its tactics will look different. Strategies are not a “one size fits all.”

Below are some of the more common digital marketing strategies used by brands across the world:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Content marketing.
  • Ecommerce.
  • Email marketing.
  • Social media marketing.

PPC Advertising

PPC marketing is a form of online advertising where brands pay each time a user clicks on their ad and is driven to the company website. Typically PPC campaigns are run in Google and Microsoft Ads.

Within those two PPC platforms are multiple campaign types to choose from, depending on the advertiser’s goals. These can include:

  • Search ads.
  • Display ads.
  • Shopping ads.
  • YouTube ads.
  • App ads.
  • Discover ads.
  • Performance Max.
  • And more.

PPC ads can be hyper-targeted to specific audiences or targeted to the masses, depending on the brand’s objectives. PPC is generally used to drive a brand’s traffic, sales, and conversions.

An example of a PPC search ad on Google is below.

Screenshot from search for [ppc software], Google, March 2023


An SEO strategy involves optimizing the brand’s website, app, or content to help rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

When a brand’s website and content are optimized, it helps drive improved organic (non-paid) search visibility, ultimately driving more traffic to the website.

SEO is considered a long-term strategy, and while there are typically no “direct” costs (like PPC advertising), it does involve indirect costs such as:

  • Employee or agency time and fees.
  • Third-party platforms or technology costs.

One benefit of having a strong SEO strategy is that, over time, the reliance on PPC marketing can be reduced, making the budget more efficient.

Using the same example of the search query [ppc software], an example of organic listings and answer boxes on the Google SERP is below.

An example of organic listings for the query 'ppc software' in Google.Screenshot from search for [ppc software], Google, March 2023

Content Marketing

This strategy is more “behind-the-scenes” work, if you will. It includes creating (and sharing) unique and valuable content with a company’s target audience.

Part of a content marketing strategy involves creating different types of content for each digital platform.

For example, if a brand wants to create content for the TikTok platform, the content would be in the form of short video clips (maximum of three minutes).

Conversely, if a brand wants to increase brand authority, it may involve creating a long-form article and blog strategy to live on its website.

Content marketing aims to help build and establish trust with the target audience and turn them into long-term, repeat customers.

Using the same example as the PPC section above, an example of content marketing is below. The brand Skai (formerly Kenshoo) curates blog posts for its readers to increase engagement. Screenshot from, March 2023


If a brand sells physical products, an ecommerce strategy should be crucial to a company’s business goals.

Enabling an ecommerce strategy means an online storefront is created for consumers to purchase products.

Some of the tactics in an ecommerce strategy can include:

  • Creating an online storefront where brands sell direct to consumers (DTC).
  • Selling physical products on online marketplaces such as Amazon.
  • Creating affiliate sales programs where others get paid to promote the brands’ products.
  • Paid shopping ads on Google and Microsoft to drive sales.
  • Influencer and brand ambassador marketing.

Email Marketing

This component of a digital strategy involves sending targeted emails to potential and current customers. The ultimate goal of email marketing is to drive leads, sales, or transactions and create repeat purchasers throughout the customer journey.

For example, a soon-to-be bride is looking for the perfect wedding invitations after getting engaged.

After this user is subscribed to the brand’s email or marketing communications, an email strategy cadence is created to guide them throughout the planning process. That could include:

  • Promoting free samples on wedding invitations.
  • Discounts on wedding invitation suites.
  • Free (or discounted) Thank You cards after the wedding.
  • Referral program to create word-of-mouth sales.

Email marketing is a great way to talk to the target audience and build lasting customer relationships, even after the initial purchase.

Below is an example of a targeted email offering a promotion in my inbox:

What Is A Digital Marketing Strategy? 5 Steps To Create OneScreenshot taken by author, March 2023

Social Media Marketing

Depending on the brand, a social media marketing strategy will have different use cases and goals.

As part of the larger digital marketing strategy, social platforms should be chosen to promote content or interact with the target audience in some form.

Below are just a few tactics that can be used in social media marketing:

  • Creating organic content to post.
  • Running paid ads on platforms to target audiences.
  • Launching influencer marketing campaigns depending on the specific goal.

Using the same brand example as the email section, below is an example of a retargeting ad on Facebook (Meta):

Thrive Market Facebook adScreenshot from Facebook, March 2023

How To Create A Digital Strategy In 5 Steps

As mentioned above, a digital marketing strategy should be created after identifying the overarching business goals.

For this reason, the steps to create a successful digital strategy include specific steps to help achieve the larger business goals.

What Is A Digital Marketing Strategy? 5 Steps To Create One

Step 1: Identify Target Audience And Build Personas

A digital marketing strategy will only be as good as the target audience behind it. After all, they’re the ones who purchase your brand’s products and services.

When identifying a target persona, consider the following items:

  • Demographics: After identifying where to sell your products/services, determine if any key geographic areas may outperform others. Other demographic categories are age, parental status, household income, and more.
  • Interests: What kinds of hobbies does your ideal persona have? This information can help shape content for the customer.
  • Behaviors: How (and where) do these users consume content on the internet? Are they impulse shoppers? What social platforms do they frequent?
  • Pain points: What problems are users trying to solve? This is the key area to focus on. By providing your target audience with a solution to their pain points and speaking to them in a way they understand, you’ll likely win a customer for life.

Step 2: Conduct Competitor Landscape Analysis

It’s important to understand the digital landscape before diving into digital channels.

Some of the key components of conducting a competitor analysis include:

  • Which competitors are bidding on relevant keywords you’d like to target?
  • How are competitors messaging their target audience?
  • Which channels are competitors advertising on?
  • How do competitors rank organically compared to you?
  • How much are competitors’ monthly digital ad budgets?

Third-party tools like Semrush, SpyFu, Google Keyword Planner, and Google Trends can help answer many of these questions.

Note that with any third-party tool’s data, the information provided cannot be guaranteed 100% accurate and should be used as a guide, not as an absolute.

Step 3: Determine Necessary Digital Marketing Channels

Once you’ve figured out who your target audience is and where they hang out online, it’s time to determine the key digital marketing channels.

Ideally, a mix of channels will be chosen as it’s not best practice to choose one or two and put all your eggs in one basket.

The key is to diversify the digital channels and meet your customers where they’re online at any given point in time.

These channels will likely include any of the above in the digital strategy examples section.

Each channel identified should include its own set of KPIs. These are set by the marketers and greater business teams.

Be sure not to set the same KPIs and measurement goals for each channel, as they all serve different purposes.

Creating realistic measurement goals ensures that awareness channels are measured against awareness KPIs, such as brand lift instead of direct conversions.

As with any digital channel, it’s important to understand how they can be measured.

This step should include identifying a proper measurement platform, such as Google Analytics or another tool, to ensure that marketing dollars and channels can be measured.

Step 4: Create Content And Unique Value Proposition Plan

Once the digital channels have been identified, it’s time to plan your content for each channel.

The key is creating a consistent messaging framework that can be reused and reworked in each channel. That way, you’re not starting from scratch each time.

For example, if you want to introduce your brand on YouTube or the Google Display Network, the content should not be focused on a direct conversion or a “Buy Now” CTA. That’s simply asking for too much on an initial brand awareness touchpoint.

On the other hand, for someone well on their search journey and looking for specific products and services, that could be a time to introduce discounts and special offers.

Lastly, make sure that what you’re providing your customers is unique and differentiated in the market. Conducting a competitor analysis first will help identify what’s currently being offered in the market.

Even if your product or service is similar to your competitors, it’s important to find a way to differentiate your brand.

Step 5: Execute And Optimize Digital Marketing Strategy

Once you’ve defined steps 1-4, it’s time to launch your digital marketing strategy.

However, the work is not done yet. Your digital marketing strategy should be ongoing and fluid based on performance and the changing market landscape.

Digital marketing channels and campaigns should be continuously monitored and analyzed to ensure that marketing budgets and resources are utilized most effectively.

This should include daily, weekly, and monthly checkpoints in each channel.

Monthly reports and quarterly business reviews (QBRs) should be conducted to provide opportunities to shift and pivot strategy based on findings.


Digital marketing strategies are not a “one size fits all.” They also should not be the only strategy a brand has.

While it’s important to think about “digital-first” when it comes to strategies, it needs to align with the overarching business goals.

Don’t confuse strategy and tactics and end up rushing into a tactics-first approach.

By taking the time to create a solid digital marketing strategy, you’re setting the brand up for long-term success and the ability to pivot based on performance.

More Resources:

Featured Image: ImageFlow/Shutterstock

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Google’s AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility




Google's AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

An analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries by Bartosz Góralewicz, founder of Onely, reveals the impact of Google’s AI overviews on search visibility for online retailers.

The study found that 16% of eCommerce queries now return an AI overview in search results, accounting for 13% of total search volume in this sector.

Notably, 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.

“Ranking #1-3 gives you only an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews,” Góralewicz stated.

Shift Toward “Accelerated” Product Experiences

International SEO consultant Aleyda Solis analyzed the disconnect between traditional organic ranking and inclusion in AI overviews.

According to Solis, for product-related queries, Google is prioritizing an “accelerated” approach over summarizing currently ranking pages.

She commented Góralewicz’ findings, stating:

“… rather than providing high level summaries of what’s already ranked organically below, what Google does with e-commerce is “accelerate” the experience by already showcasing what the user would get next.”

Solis explains that for queries where Google previously ranked category pages, reviews, and buying guides, it’s now bypassing this level of results with AI overviews.

Assessing AI Overview Traffic Impact

To help retailers evaluate their exposure, Solis has shared a spreadsheet that analyzes the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.

As Góralewicz notes, this could be an initial rollout, speculating that “Google will expand AI overviews for high-cost queries when enabling ads” based on data showing they are currently excluded for high cost-per-click keywords.

An in-depth report across ecommerce and publishing is expected soon from Góralewicz and Onely, with additional insights into this search trend.

Why SEJ Cares

AI overviews represent a shift in how search visibility is achieved for ecommerce websites.

With most overviews currently pulling product data from non-ranking sources, the traditional connection between organic rankings and search traffic is being disrupted.

Retailers may need to adapt their SEO strategies for this new search environment.

How This Can Benefit You

While unsettling for established brands, AI overviews create new opportunities for retailers to gain visibility without competing for the most commercially valuable keywords.

Ecommerce sites can potentially circumvent traditional ranking barriers by optimizing product data and detail pages for Google’s “accelerated” product displays.

The detailed assessment framework provided by Solis enables merchants to audit their exposure and prioritize optimization needs accordingly.


What are the key findings from the analysis of AI overviews & ecommerce queries?

Góralewicz’s analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries found:

  • 16% of ecommerce queries now return an AI overview in the search results.
  • 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.
  • Ranking positions #1-3 only provides an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews.

These insights reveal significant shifts in how ecommerce sites need to approach search visibility.

Why are AI overviews pulling product data from non-ranking sources, and what does this mean for retailers?

Google’s AI overviews prioritize “accelerated” experiences over summarizing currently ranked pages for product-related queries.

This shift focuses on showcasing directly what users seek instead of traditional organic results.

For retailers, this means:

  • A need to optimize product pages beyond traditional SEO practices, catering to the data requirements of AI overviews.
  • Opportunities to gain visibility without necessarily holding top organic rankings.
  • Potential to bypass traditional ranking barriers by focusing on enhanced product data integration.

Retailers must adapt quickly to remain competitive in this evolving search environment.

What practical steps can retailers take to evaluate and improve their search visibility in light of AI overview disruptions?

Retailers can take several practical steps to evaluate and improve their search visibility:

  • Utilize the spreadsheet provided by Aleyda Solis to assess the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.
  • Optimize product and detail pages to align with the data and presentation style preferred by AI overviews.
  • Continuously monitor changes and updates to AI overviews, adapting strategies based on new data and trends.

These steps can help retailers navigate the impact of AI overviews and maintain or improve their search visibility.

Featured Image: Marco Lazzarini/Shutterstock

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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny




Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.

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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App




New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

A keynote at Google’s Marketing Live event showed a new AI-powered visual search results that feature advertisements that engage users within the context of an AI-Assisted search, blurring the line between AI-generated search results and advertisements.

Google Lens is a truly helpful app but it becomes unconventional where it blurs the line between an assistant helping users and being led to a shopping cart. This new way of engaging potential customers with AI is so far out there that the presenter doesn’t even call it advertising, he doesn’t even use the word.

Visual Search Traffic Opportunity?

Google’s Group Product Manager Sylvanus Bent, begins the presentation with an overview of the next version of Google Lens visual search that will be useful for surfacing information and for help finding where to buy them.

Sylvanus explained how it will be an opportunity for websites to receive traffic from this new way to search.

“…whether you’re snapping a photo with lens or circling to search something on your social feed, visual search unlocks new ways to explore whatever catches your eye, and we recently announced a newly redesigned results page for Visual search.

Soon, instead of just visual matches, you’ll see a wide range of results, from images to video, web links, and facts about the knowledge graph. It gets people the helpful information they need and creates new opportunities for sites to be discovered.”

It’s hard to say whether or not this will bring search traffic to websites and what the quality of that traffic will be. Will they stick around to read an article? Will they engage with a product review?

Visual Search Results

Sylvanus shares a hypothetical example of someone at an airport baggage claim who falls in like with someone else’s bag. He explains that all the person needs to do is snap a photo of the luggage bag and Google Lens will take them directly to shopping options.

He explains:

“No words, no problem. Just open Lens, take a quick picture and immediately you’ll see options to purchase.

And for the first time, shopping ads will appear at the very top of the results on linked searches, where a business can offer what a consumer is looking for.

This will help them easily purchase something that catches their eye.”

These are image-heavy shopping ads at the top of the search results and as annoying as that may be it’s nowhere near the “next level” advertising that is coming to Google’s search ads where Google presents a paid promotion within the context of an AI Assistant.

Interactive Search Shopping

Sylvanus next describes an AI-powered form advertising that happens directly within search. But he doesn’t call it advertising. He doesn’t even use the word advertising. He suggests this new form of AI search experience is more than offer, saying that, “it’s an experience.”

He’s right to not use the word advertisement because what he describes goes far beyond advertising and blurs the boundaries between search and advertising within the context of AI-powered suggestions, paid suggestions.

Sylvanus explains how this new form of shopping experience works:

“And next, imagine a world where every search ad is more than an offer. It’s an experience. It’s a new way for you to engage more directly with your customers. And we’re exploring search ads with AI powered recommendations across different verticals. So I want to show you an example that’s going live soon and you’ll see even more when we get to shopping.”

He uses the example of someone who needs to store their furniture for a few months and who turns to Google to find short term storage. What he describes is a query for local short term storage that turns into a “dynamic ad experience” that leads the searcher into throwing packing supplies into their shopping cart.

He narrated how it works:

“You search for short term storage and you see an ad for extra space storage. Now you can click into a new dynamic ad experience.

You can select and upload photos of the different rooms in your house, showing how much furniture you have, and then extra space storage with help from Google, AI generates a description of all your belongings for you to verify. You get a recommendation for the right size and type of storage unit and even how much packing supplies you need to get the job done. Then you just go to the website to complete the transaction.

And this is taking the definition of a helpful ad to the next level. It does everything but physically pick up your stuff and move it, and that is cool.”

Step 1: Search For Short Term Storage

1716722762 15 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows an advertisement that when clicked takes the user to what looks like an AI-assisted search but is really an interactive advertisement.

Step 2: Upload Photos For “AI Assistance”

1716722762 242 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above image is a screenshot of an advertisement that is presented in the context of AI-assisted search.  Masking an advertisement within a different context is the same principal behind an advertorial where an advertisement is hidden in the form of an article. The phrases “Let AI do the heavy lifting” and “AI-powered recommendations” create the context of AI-search that masks the true context of an advertisement.

Step 3: Images Chosen For Uploading

1716722762 187 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows how a user uploads an image to the AI-powered advertisement within the context of an AI-powered search app.

The Word “App” Masks That This Is An Ad

Screenshot of interactive advertisement for that identifies itself as an app with the words

Above is a screenshot of how a user uploads a photo to the AI-powered interactive advertisement within the context of a visual search engine, using the word “app” to further the illusion that the user is interacting with an app and not an advertisement.

Upload Process Masks The Advertising Context

Screenshot of interactive advertisement that uses the context of an AI Assistant to mask that this is an advertisement

The phrase “Generative AI is experimental” contributes to the illusion that this is an AI-assisted search.

Step 4: Upload Confirmation

1716722762 395 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

In step 4 the “app” advertisement is for confirming that the AI correctly identified the furniture that needs to be put into storage.

Step 5: AI “Recommendations”

1716722762 588 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows “AI recommendations” that look like search results.

The Recommendations Are Ad Units

1716722762 751 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Those recommendations are actually ad units that when clicked takes the user to the “Extra Space Storage” shopping website.

Step 6: Searcher Visits Advertiser Website

1716722762 929 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Blurring The Boundaries

What the Google keynote speaker describes is the integration of paid product suggestions into an AI assisted search. This kind of advertising is so far out there that the Googler doesn’t even call it advertising and rightfully so because what this does is blur the line between AI assisted search and advertising. At what point does a helpful AI search become just a platform for using AI to offer paid suggestions?

Watch The Keynote At The 32 Minute Mark

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski

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