For years, marketers have been trying to answer an age-old question: how can you most effectively spend your budget in a way that drives maximum audience attention and conversion? The answer, of course, isn’t simple or straightforward. Part of the problem is that nothing in marketing is ever linear. Long-term successes drive sustainable growth, but you can’t wait for a year or more while those long-term efforts have time to come to fruition.

Illustration of charts and graphs of long term digital marketing strategies inside a crystal ball

What do you do? For many organizations, the answer is short-term marketing investment. Digital ads sound great, can be launched in a day, and get instant attention. But they’re also not as sustainable as those longer-term initiatives.

So let’s end the complications once and for all. In this guide, we’ll cover the most important short-term and long-term digital marketing strategies, including their nuances and approximate timelines. From there, we’ll provide helpful tips on how you can prioritize between the two segments (and all the strategies that fall into them) to optimize your marketing budget for a reliable, consistent return on investment.

3 Short-Term Digital Marketing Strategies for Instant Returns

No shocker here: all of the strategies we’ll discuss with short-term results require at least some monetary investment on your end. In return, they get almost instant results, allowing you to quickly raise your organization’s profile. They also tend to be targeted, helping you reach a specific audience (or even audience segment) exactly as intended.

1. Search Engine PPC Ads

We start with search engine PPC (pay-per-click) ads, which are text-based messages that appear near the top of search results for relevant terms. Search PPC ads are almost instant: the day you set them up, including a budget and creative, they’ll go live and start delivering for your audience.

As their name suggests, PPC ads draw funds from your budget only when someone actually follows through and clicks to your website. On average, you can expect to pay about $2.50 per click, although that number fluctuates drastically by industry and keywords. In other words, a $5,000 campaign can result in about 2,000 clicks to your website.

Search ads are targeted by keywords and phrases, providing significant leeway in terms of targeting. If you know what terms your audience tends to search for or perform some basic keyword research, your messaging can get in front of your audience as they use Google or Bing, two of the most-visited websites in the United States.

As a short-term marketing tactic, search engine PPC ads come with a few core advantages:

  • Almost instant results, if you measure results in exposure or website visits.
  • Integration with Google Analytics allows for in-depth tracking of lead and customer conversions.
  • Specific, keyword-based targeting that can get your message in front of a high-intent audience.

In short, it can help to kickstart awareness of a new web presence, building traffic quickly while organic visitors through SEO or other tactics still play catch-up.

However, search ads also tend to be expensive compared to the other strategies on this list. They’re also hit-or-miss, while taking time to evaluate honestly. If you don’t target the right keywords or focus on the wrong messaging, you might spend a significant part of your budget before knowing that you’re going in the wrong direction.

2. Social Media Ads

Next up in the short-term strategy space are social media ads, typically placed in the news feeds of popular networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. These ads are designed to match the news feed, save a sponsored label that denotes them as ads. As a result, they’re less intrusive, while still potentially providing instant results.

Social media ads can take a variety of forms, featuring videos or static visuals to maximize audience attention. Like search ads, they are PPC, but tend to be much more visual and engaging as a result. They’re also quick to set up, and can be live within a day, making them another short-term marketing tactic of choice.

Unlike search ads, though, sponsored messages on social media are typically targeted not based on intent, but one of three core targeting options:

  • Behavioral targeting, sending your ads only to users of the platform with specific interests, demographics, and behaviors.
  • Custom audience targeting, through uploading a list of leads or customers that match user profiles on your network of choice.
  • Remarketing, showing your social media ads to recent website visitors or app users.

This marketing tactic combines instantaneous results with extremely low cost. Across industries, for instance, the average cost per click on Facebook is about $0.23 in the United States. Unfortunately, those clicks aren’t always relevant, so conversion rates for clicks from Facebook ads tend to be relatively low.

Still, this is another good short-term tactic to pursue. If you just have a demographic profile of your audience, and a budget as low $5 per day, you can quickly set up a social media ad campaign to attract new audiences.

3. Programmatic Display Ads

Finally, display ads are the third type of common short-term tactic leveraged by many businesses and industries. They’re static or animated banners displayed on networks that include some of the world’s most popular websites. The Google Display Network, for instance, reaches 90% of the world’s internet traffic.

Programmatic advertising can be targeted in a variety of ways:

  • Based on keywords, typically keywords that appear on websites your audience frequently visits.
  • Remarketing, based on a pixel that you place on your website so your display ads can ‘follow’ visitors when they browse other websites.
  • Advanced targeting options like geofencing, which allows you to draw a narrow radius around specific areas (such as a shopping mall) to reach your audience while inside.

The technical setup of programmatic display campaigns can be just as fast as the other two short-term tactics above. However, prep time tends to be longer, because you’ll need to plan in at least some graphic design to create the actual ad. Unlike search, where you only need text, and social, which adds an image, display ads only work when designed as graphics with multiple design components.

Still, this counts as a short-term tactic because, once live, those ads start delivering results quickly. It’s especially relevant for awareness-based marketing goals; the reach is comparatively high, and the cost per click tends to be lower than either of the other two options described above.

3 Long-Term Digital Marketing Strategies for Sustainable Success

While the above tactics are designed for short-term successes, that’s not the whole picture. It’s just as important to build long-term strategies designed to help your business keep growing, with or without budget.

These tactics take a while, but the wait and effort are worth it. Search engine optimization, organic social media, and content marketing are three of the top 4 marketing channels for ROI in a recent marketing survey. Together, they can go a long way towards sustainable business success.

1. Search Engine Optimization

We’ve written at length about search engine optimization (SEO), which can make a major business difference. It’s the process of optimizing your website — its content as well as its structure and code — to optimize your rankings on relevant keywords for Google (and other search engine) searches.

SEO is the ultimate long play. You’ll need at least six months to start seeing results, and the best-ranking websites in competitive industries have spent years perfecting the craft. Once you get it right, though, the marketing results tend to be immense: according to some experts, you can expect to see $3 or more in business revenue for every dollar spent.

Implementing a cohesive SEO strategy, of course, is anything but easy. It requires an expert understanding of your audience’s search behaviors as well as your industry before you start. From there, you need a content strategy, ongoing website backend optimization, and a reliable way to keep building your inbound links. The low cost of the strategy is offset by the high requirement in time and expertise.

Still, it’s one of the core marketing strategies used across industries today for a reason. With Google accounting for more than 50% of all web traffic today, a prominent placement on search results can make all the (long-term) difference to get the word out about your brand.

2. Organic Social Media

Just like SEO is the long-term equivalent of search PPC ads, organic social media is the long-term counterpart to social media ads. Put simply, it’s the process of building an engaging, interactive, and popular presence on the social media networks your audience tends to spend their time on.

Organic social media marketing typically includes three distinct components:

  1. Publishing, the process of regularly pushing out content that’s relevant and engaging for your audience.
  2. Community management, which includes responding to comments and reviews to turn your presence into a two-way engagement street.
  3. Social listening, which includes paying attention to relevant industry conversations and chiming in where appropriate to build your credibility and responsiveness.

Combine the three, and you’re well on your way to turning your social media presence into an important part of your marketing strategy. But getting there takes time. On average, expect to spend between six and twelve months building your presence before you begin to see tangible business results.

3. Content Marketing

The final long-term strategy we’ll discuss here is content marketing, which can actually incorporate components from all of the tactics mentioned above. It’s the process of turning your website into a hub full of high-quality content, including relevant blog posts, articles, whitepapers, and other pieces that draw attention to your online presence and, ultimately, your organization’s core offering.

Content marketing is a complex process. Each of the types of content mentioned above has unique applicability in marketing terms:

  • Blog posts can help your SEO through optimization on specific keywords.
  • Whitepapers can become lead-generating machines designed to draw your audience through free sign up forms.
  • Brand storytelling videos can be effective on social media as well as your website.

As a result, it takes time. To be exact, you can expect to need about six to nine months of hard work to start seeing tangible marketing results. But once you get there, it pays off big time: compared to traditional marketing tactics, content marketing costs about 62% less while generating three times as many leads.

5 Tips to Integrate Short-Term and Long-Term Digital Marketing Strategies

As you read through these short-term and long-term marketing strategies, one thing is crucial to remember: none of them work well in isolation. Instead, they all need to be integrated to result in optimal marketing results. Fortunately, you can help to make that happen through these five tips.

1. Stay True to Your Marketing Goals

This one is simple, but important nonetheless. Always start a marketing strategy with your goals before getting into the tactics. Understanding exactly what you want to achieve can go a long way towards finding the ways to achieve it.

2. Optimize for Audience Preferences

Do you know what types of channels your audience likes to frequent and how they typically behave online? For instance, the use of ad blockers goes up significantly for younger internet users, making tactics like social media or display ads difficult to execute. Understanding your audience, as well as their preferences, can help you find the short-term and long-term strategies that work best for you.

3. Drive Short-Term Strategies Towards Long-Term Efforts

Here’s one way to think about the short-vs-long split: one can help to accelerate the other. To provide just a few examples:

  • Results and insights from your search ads can help you better optimize your SEO keyword strategy.
  • Social media ads can help you test the types of visuals your audience responds to on each network.
  • You can leverage your ads to drive traffic to your core content, maximizing its effectiveness and visibility.

4. Build Your Strategy With Your Budget and Expertise in Mind

The budget ranges required for the above tactics vary greatly. So does the expertise required to implement them. In fact, both your budget and your expertise separately may prevent you from fully optimizing for one of them. As you build your marketing strategy, make sure you know exactly what budget you have available, and what your capabilities look like.

5. Work With a Reliable Digital Marketing Partner

Finally, it helps to work with someone who doesn’t just understand the above tactics, but also knows how to integrate them for maximum results. Remember that the whole in digital marketing is always greater than the sum of its parts, and results tend to be exponential. A reliable partner can help you build your strategy with a balanced mix of long-term and short-term digital strategies.

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