online marketing background

Too often online marketing professionals talk about our trade as if it were full of secrets. It isn’t. Online marketing; whether it’s SEM or SEO, organic or paid, simple or complex is a profession like any other and many of the same best practices apply. To illustrate the point, today we’re going to discuss where smart online marketing strategy comes from and—spoiler alert—it isn’t a super-secret tool you haven’t heard of. Smart online marketing is based on clear goals, focused research and informed experimentation.


Every business has goals, but not every business takes the time to break their goals into realistic components and evaluate their traffic channels based on performance. Even if the goals are optimistic, having them documented allows the team to know where they stand, and allows for clear communication on progress and evaluation of each traffic channel.


Anyone can take an educated guess at what marketing strategy might work, and for that matter, an online marketing company can just sell you what they’re good at. If they are lucky, that approach could show results, but there is a reason so many SEOs recommend audits as a first step. If you don’t know the state of your web presence and the data on what your users are searching for, it’s hard to know (not guess) how likely it is that you’ll see a return on your investment.


Online marketing is the poster child for the ‘Lean’ movement. If you’re familiar with the Lean Startup methodology, or the continuous deployment model for development you may recognize that most online marketing is a series of experiments. A smart online marketing team should start with a goal, research a budget and a path to success and then decide what traffic experiment seems most likely to succeed. If the experiment fails in its first iteration, can it be modified to succeed? If not, what can be learned to help design the next experiment?

If data are being collected along the way, an experienced online marketing team can learn from each experiment and dial in the traffic mix to meet client goals, or identify why the goals can’t be met in the current environment.

It may not be sexy, but smart online marketing strategy can be clearly defined and if executed well, it should lead to positive results.