Digital marketing plans: a complete step-by-step guide

Last checked and updated on 25 January 2022

If you want your business to generate income, you’ll need to market your products or services. This means raising awareness of your brand. Digital marketing is arguably the easiest way to do this. After all, the average person spends around seven hours online each day.

By creating a successful digital marketing strategy, you can reach countless potential new customers. Whether you’re using paid advertising, social media campaigns or organic traffic-generating techniques such as SEO, a well-thought-out digital marketing plan is essential for any business.

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How to write a digital marketing plan

  1. Complete a SWOT analysis

    This means reviewing the Strengths and Weaknesses of your brand and business, alongside the Opportunities and Threats presented by a digital marketing campaign.

  2. Set SMART goals for your digital marketing strategy

    A SMART digital marketing plan involves setting targets that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

  3. Consider your audience

    Many businesses may consider the single most important factor of a digital marketing campaign.

  4. Test different strategies

    Next, you need to think about the many different options open to your business for online marketing.

  5. Review your results and amend where necessary

    There is no point in putting all this effort into generating a digital marketing plan then failing to review the results.

  6. Digital marketing plan template

    The chapters or sections that should make up your marketing plan.

  7. Digital marketing plan FAQs

How to write a digital marketing plan

When the time comes to write a digital marketing plan, the process can feel overwhelming – especially if you are inexperienced in the field. That’s why has built this step-by-step guide to creating a digital marketing plan. Follow our advice and you’ll become an online marketing guru in no time.

1. Complete a SWOT analysis

The first step to any marketing plan, digital or otherwise, is a SWOT analysis. This means reviewing the Strengths and Weaknesses of your brand and business, alongside the Opportunities and Threats presented by a digital marketing campaign.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn. Gather your team for an open and frank exchange of ideas about the following.

Strengths of your company

Think about the strengths of your business, and how you can use these as part of your digital marketing plan. This is no time for modesty. There will be plenty of opportunity for long, dark nights of the soul when you review your weaknesses in a moment.

Examples of strengths that can be played to include:

  • What elements of your business are playing well with consumers?
  • What does your business offer that your key competitors do not?
  • What resources do you have that provide your business with an advantage?
  • How would you describe your company when pitching for new business?

Be sure to capture all of these strengths in your marketing. These are what you will be looking to accentuate when constructing a digital plan.

Weaknesses of your company

Just as what goes up must come down, every strength is tempered with weakness. You must put just as much effort into assessing these before constructing a digital marketing plan.

Weaknesses are not inherently negative. They could be described as positive. They provide your business with clear and prominent targets to improve upon. You may find that team members are reluctant to speak up about perceived weaknesses, though. To encourage honesty, consider these questions.

  • How would competitors belittle your business compared to their own?
  • What areas of the business are seeing the least return on investment?
  • If you could change one facet of your business, what would it be?

Only by identifying the weakness of your business can you take the necessary steps to overcome them. Doing so should be another cornerstone of your digital marketing plan.

Opportunities for your digital marketing strategy

Next up, consider the opportunities that would be provided by an appropriate digital strategy. Things to brainstorm here include:

  • What are the latest and greatest digital trends that could be exploited?
  • How could you use digital marketing to increase your reach, such as attracting international business?
  • Could you expand your digital marketing strategy to include audio-visual elements as well as text?
  • How is the world of tech changing, and how can your business ride this wave?

The world of digital is opening new doors every day. Remain au fait with this ever-evolving landscape and build advances into your digital marketing plans.

Threats to your digital marketing strategy

Finally, be vigilant about any threats to your digital marketing plan. Take plenty of time to consider these. Examples of obstacles that could land in your way include:

  • Budgeting – marketing of any kind can be expensive
  • Being overshadowed by competitors with greater resources and deeper pockets
  • Legal or societal incidents that could derail a campaign 
  • Marketplace saturation
  • Unexpected loss or dissolution of a partnership 

Always remember the adage when it comes to threats to be the best-laid plans – failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Ideally, none of these threats will materialise. All the same, in case they do, ensure you’re not left rocking on your heels trying to find an instant solution.

2. Set SMART goals for your digital marketing strategy

Once your SWOT review is complete, you need to step up to a SMART strategy. Acronyms, acronyms everywhere!

A SMART digital marketing plan involves setting targets that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. This table provides a SMART digital marketing plan template that you can follow.

SpecificA vague goal like, “make more money” helps nobody. Be specific in your targets. Are you looking to increase conversions through your landing page by a set percentage? Are you looking for a particular number of sign-ups for a newsletter? What is the minimum amount of organic traffic you consider acceptable? You need to assign particular aims to your intention.
MeasurableAs above, ascribe measurable, readable and tangible results to your goals. This way, by assessing your KPIs, you’ll immediately be able to see whether your digital marketing strategy is bearing fruit. It’s important to keep measuring the success of your campaigns so you’ll know what is working and what is falling flat. Setting measurable goals will make this much easier.
AchievableYour goal must be achievable. Look at what your business, and your competitors, have achieved in the past – and how. Look to build on and improve these results without reinventing the wheel. Consider any restrictions that may be in your way, such as a lack of resource or the global economic picture.
RealisticWhile dreaming big is admirable, keep your head out of the clouds. Refer back to the previous step and consider the threats to your digital marketing plan. Have you assigned a realistic goal and timeframe? Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater if you are not going from 0-60 overnight. Ensure you have a credible idea of what you can, and will, achieve.
Time-boundPatience may be a virtue, but it’s also dangerous in the marketing game. While you’re unlikely to see overnight results from any digital marketing plan unless you experience extreme good fortune, you can’t wait forever to achieve your aims. Set a deadline, and if your strategy is not performing, consider making changes. Regular meetings and reviews will help with this.

Think SMART to be smart. A digital marketing plan with no discernible targets is impossible to review, which means you won’t know if your strategy is successful. By applying these parameters, you’ll have a lot more joy when it comes to step 5 of our guide.

3. Consider your audience

Many businesses may consider the single most important factor of a digital marketing campaign. It’s certainly critical, so feel free to escalate this practice to step one. 

If you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will eventually stick. Unfortunately, you’ll waste time and energy with this scattergun approach – and likely end up getting filthy. The same applies to digital marketing. Spamming consumers with irrelevant adverts will not endear you to a potential customer base. You’ll just get a reputation as an online pest. 

Knowing your audience, and tailoring your digital marketing plan to appropriate consumers, will be the difference between success and failure. The internet is a big place with a wide cross-section of users. This means that you’re going need to think about who you should be targeting, and how. Thankfully, digital marketing can be tailored with judicious use of keywords.

Imagine that your business model is a paperback book publishing house. Everybody has their preferred genre of novel or non-fiction. This means that advertising the latest blood-soaked crime thriller on a website, podcast or social media group dominated by fans of Mills and Boon romance, for example, will be a waste of time. You will see no traction from your marketing, and those that may be interested will remain ignorant of your offering.

Instead of spamming the internet at large, build a consumer profile. This can be achieved by conducting market research or simply reviewing the KPIs of your online performance. Knowing what your consumers wantmakes step 4 of your digital marketing plan considerably likelier to succeed – and cuts down on a great deal of potentially wasted finance and resource.

4. Test different strategies

Next, you need to think about the many different options open to your business for online marketing. The days of simply flooding a range of websites with a selection of annoying pop-ups are long gone. You have several different techniques to experiment with.

Digital marketing plan examples

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO remains a gold standard for digital marketing. Your business should always focus on appealing to the algorithms of a search engine so appear close to the top of any user search.  After all, 75% of users do not scroll past the first page of search engine results.

SEO is a tricky skill to master, though. Remember that search engines are businesses too. They are only interested in providing results that will satisfy their client base. This means that adopting questionable, so-called, “black hat” SEO practices could see your traffic – and revenue – plummet overnight following an algorithm update.

Content marketing

Content marketing places greater emphasis on entertaining and informing visitors to a website than simply pushing for a sale and promising to meet a need as a quick fix. Content marketing plays a long game, inspiring brand loyalty and creating a connection between business and consumer.

It can be trickier to measure KPIs through content marketing, but the rewards can be vast – if you are patient. By forging a bond with customers, you will invariably be at the forefront of their thinking when they seek a new product or service. This will immediately give you an advantage over your competitors. 

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

Pay-per-click advertising is primarily used on search engines, but it’s also popular on Facebook. Take a look at the results of any search and you’ll see between two and five links at top of the page, marked as advertisements. These businesses adopted a PPC model to reach this plum location.

In many respects, PPC is a sponsored extension of organic SEO.  Businesses bid on a financial value attributed to certain keywords found in the microcopy of their website. When a consumer clicks on that link, the business pays the search engine a fee for the privilege of attracting attention. Oftentimes, if this click leads to a conversion, a further fee is payable. 

If the idea of PPC appeals, think about where you use it. Google is undoubtedly the biggest search engine in the world, attracting over 90% of all global search traffic. More visitors leads to more competition for those prized PPC slots, though. What’s more, Google can name their price. That’s a luxury that comes from being a market leader.

Bing may be the butt of countless jokes, but it typically attracts older, wealthier consumers with greater disposable income. Coupled with lower pay-per-click costs, you may learn more tailored marketing in less populated marketplaces yields a greater ROI. It all comes down to what we just discussed – tailoring your approach according to your audience.

Social media marketing  

Social media marketing can be approached through an SEO or a PPC model. You can either rely on a canny use of copy and hashtags to go viral or push the boat out and pay for promoted advertising.

One of the great things about marketing on social media is the fact that the platform will do a lot of work for you. For good or ill, social media sites gather and harvest all manner of data about their users. This means that your campaign is likeliest to reach the newsfeeds of those likeliest to respond.

However, this is no guarantee of success. Many users begrudge the increasing dominance of advertising on social media. People use these platforms to stay connected with friends via photographs of their dinner, not to be sold goods and services. While social media marketing is likely to increase awareness of your brand, exposure does not always equal conversions.

You can give your campaign a greater chance of success, though. Build your marketing around current trends, including the social landscape of the world at large, and be sure to interact with any comments on your advertising. Social media users want to feel like part of a conversation. If you can adopt this model in your marketing, rather than pushing hard for sales, you’ll likelier to see results.

Podcast advertising

Content on a website will always be king, but in the 21st Century, words on a screen are only one way that potential customers consume their media. We are firmly in the audio-visual age, and there are almost two million podcasts now in circulation

This explains why podcast advertising is a rapidly growing form of digital marketing. Video may have killed the radio star, but podcasting is arguably just as popular as YouTube and similar platforms. It also offers advertising opportunities for any business.

You can write your copy and ask the host to read it out verbatim. This means that you’ll be sure to get your message across as intended. As conversions based on a discount offered to podcast listeners are typically built around a tailored code, this also makes it easy to track performance and KPIs for podcast advertising. 

5. Review your results and amend where necessary

This step should be self-explanatory. There is no point in putting all this effort into generating a digital marketing plan then failing to review the results.

Refer back to the SMART goals that you set in step 2 and look at the KPIs of your strategy. Is your digital marketing plan bearing fruit and seeing the results that you hoped for? If so, you can continue as you were. It’s worth refreshing your content to remain relevant and interesting, but the strategy is clearly paying off.

If the results are below par, think about why. Head back to step 1 and start over. Substandard performance suggests that you are not playing to your strengths but falling foul to your weaknesses. 

If this is not the case, consider just amending the focus of your digital marketing plan. Do not throw good money after bad, though. If consumers are not responding to your marketing strategy, something is amiss that must be rectified. This may require a new approach from a different angle.

Digital marketing plan template

Here are the sections you could include in your marketing plan contents:

  • Executive summary
  • Objectives
  • Market analysis (SWOT)
  • Competitor analysis
  • Target market and buyer personas
  • Goals and KPIs
  • Pricing or monetistion strategy
  • Growth strategy
  • Channels plan
  • Budget breakdown

Digital marketing plan FAQ

What is digital marketing?

Marketing is the act of raising awareness of your brand. Digital marketing is doing so using the internet and other online resources. This includes search engine advertising and traffic generation, social media platforms and good old-fashioned banner advertising on websites and apps.

What is SEO in digital marketing?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In essence, this means using critical keywords that capture the attention of search engine algorithms, convincing a webmaster that your site will meet the needs of a user. SEO is a cheap and effective form of digital marketing but a passive approach that relies heavily on the consumer.

How to do digital marketing?

Check out step 4 of our guide to creating a digital marketing strategy above for digital marketing plan examples. This will shed light on the many and varied ways that your business can generate income. You may need to try out a variety of different techniques to find one that works best for your business. 

What is a digital marketing strategy?

A digital marketing strategy is a tailored approach to increasing brand awareness by marketing through the internet. A good digital marketing plan will ensure that you will only reach consumers that are interested in your offering. This approach will be more cost-effective and see considerably better results than simply flooding the web with adverts and hoping to find an audience.

How to create a digital marketing strategy?

If you want to improve your digital marketing strategy, simply follow the step-by-step guide that we provide above. If you still have queries or need further assistance, is waiting to hear from you.
Our expert team have years of experience in digital marketing campaigns. As a result, we are confident that we can aid your business in seeing superior results and an impressive return on your investment. Get in touch now for more information, and to see how can assist with your digital marketing plan.

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Important – The information provided in our articles is intended to be for general purpose use only, and not advice for you or your business. We strive to publish accurate information, but encourage you to fact-check and seek expert guidance. You should always speak to a qualified professional to get tailored advice about how to operate your business under your specific requirements and circumstances.