The way I see it, marketing and advertising strategies can be split into two main categories: long-term and short-term.
Short-term strategies are ideal if you need to build traffic or sales quickly; for a set amount of money, you can place and ad or distribute a message that leads to an immediate, but finite influx of new interested customers. Long-term strategies, on the other hand, require more investment—both in time and in money.
They don’t usually allow you to see results right away, but over time, their effectiveness grows, ultimately leading to a higher long-term ROI and a better capacity to sustain themselves.
So what’s the best long-term online marketing strategy?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of my personal favorite strategies. It’s the process of optimizing your website (and off-site targets) to increase your rankings and visibility in search engines. This increase in rankings will result in more traffic and, hopefully, more revenue. It’s advantageous because of its:
- Flexibility. Your strategic direction in SEO is usually dictated by the types of keywords you want to target and the type of visibility you want to earn. Since pretty much everybody uses search engines as a conduit for their eventual online interactions, this makes SEO an enormously flexible strategy. You can use it for almost any business in any industry, and customize it to your needs.
- Targeting. SEO is also advantageous because of its precision. Though you’ll be in the dark about certain subjective metrics, like your exact domain authority, you can track your rankings and scrutinize meticulous details about your audience.
- Sustained authority. The authority you build in your SEO campaign is permanent. You’ll continue reaping results of your efforts even after you’ve ended your campaign.
Content marketing serves as an excellent complementary strategy to SEO—and I consider it an inherent part of SEO. At its core, content marketing is the development, publication, and syndication of content that’s valuable to your customers, whether it comes in the form of buying guides or entertainment.
It’s valuable because of its:
- Trust and reputation. Content marketing isn’t just about attracting more traffic to your site. It’s also about building your brand’s reputation, and building trust within your target audience. This will lead to an increase in customer retention and public brand perceptions in addition to core visibility.
- Strategic complements. Content marketing is an excellent complementary strategy to any other strategy on this list; it can significantly influence your organic search rankings, provide value for your email marketing blasts, and even be a source of material for your social media marketing campaign.
- Conversion potential. You can use your content as a means to convert your audience, rather than just attracting them, so long as you include a call-to-action (CTA) in your posts. This makes your content a perfect one-two punch for customer acquisition.
- Lasting value. Every piece of content you create will remain on your site until you choose to take it down. That means every new piece you add increases your brand’s online value permanently, and continues returning value to your brand for the indefinite future.
Email marketing has been around since the early days of email, and all our fancy new forms of digital communication haven’t yet led to its demise. Email marketing usually consists of regularly sent newsletters and promotional offers to a growing list of subscribers, and it, too, has distinct advantages:
- Pure ROI. According to some studies, email marketing has a higher ROI than any other marketing, sometimes projected as returning 400 percent of your investment.
- Retention and attraction. Email marketing is useful for both attracting new customers and retaining old ones, making it a double threat.
- Simplicity. There aren’t many best practices or technical components to learn in the field of email marketing. Though it takes time and patience to master, it’s an approachable strategy for anyone with a basic grasp of marketing fundamentals.
Social media marketing is the process of building a reputation for your brand through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s nearly impossible to see a high ROI right off the bat, but over time, you’ll take advantage of these inherent benefits:
- It’s free to create a page for your business on social media, and free to post. You’ll have to invest time in your campaign, but the low cost barriers to entry make social media one of the best targets for long-term profitability.
- Social media can be used for a variety of tactics, including engagement, attraction, promotion, and even sales. Once your audience is established, it becomes a marketing Swiss Army Knife.
- Explosive potential. If you get the timing right (or get a little lucky), the sharing power on social media can make your brand visibility explode. This is the medium through which content becomes viral.
The Bottom Line
So which of these strategies is the “best” for long-term online marketing? That depends on what your goals are. If you’re interested in the highest possible ROI, email marketing is probably your best bet, but if you want a well-rounded strategy with many benefits and virtually unlimited growth, content marketing is better.
If you want the absolute best results, no matter what your goals are, you should be using these four strategies in tandem with one another. Individually, they’re each a powerful way to build your reputation and attract more traffic to your site, but together, they’re far bigger than just the sum of their parts.