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The amount spent advertising online has finally exceeded that amount spent on TV promotions. So, if you're planning to dedicate more marketing money to the web platform, where should you spend that cash?

People are spending more online, both shoppers and advertisers. That means your customers are on the web but it also means your competitors have upped their game.

So you probably plan to increase the amount you spend, but where should you spend that cash? Should you boost your email marketing or ramp up your paid ads?

Clearly, you need to spend money on what's working best for you. Before experimenting with unknown tactics, I recommend you target the platform that is already generating the most returns and see if an increased budget translates into even more sales. However, perhaps your online marketing has been a little limited to date? Maybe you want to take advantage of the online pound but don't know where to best invest?

Well, then this post is for you. Here are the most popular and effective few ways to earn new business for your organisation. I suggest you  try a few tactics out on a small scale at first and seeing how effective they can be for you.

Web design

Before you spend a load of cash on any tactic designed to drive purchase-ready consumers to your website, make sure your pages are ready to actually sell to those visitors.
If your pages are clunky, awkward, ugly and badly written, then you're wasting much of the cash you spend marketing online.
So if you want to make your marketing budget work harder, make sure your website is a help and not a handicap.
Search engine optimisation

As little as two years ago, I would encounter people who didn't make use of SEO because they didn't think it was an effective way of marketing. Now those same people believe they have missed the boat. They think organic optimisation has become too competitive.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to tactics such as localised search and carefully targeting keywords and phrases that are really specific to your organisation, optimisation can be effective for any company.
Social media
This can be really hard for companies do well, especially smaller firms. The amount of time it takes to make social media work puts many people off, even though the cost is minimal.
It's understandable. If you want to run a successful blog, for example, it takes time and dedication.
However, the returns can be satisfying and rewarding, because they aren't just monetary. Popular bloggers can become opinion formers, industry authorities, the spokespeople the press approach when they need someone from the sector… It can really enrich your career.
Of course, if you know you do not have sufficient time to populate a regular blog then look at easier options. Approach existing blogs and ask if you can write the odd guest post, submit articles and letters to your industry's specialist press.
Paid search

Most companies engaging in some form of online marketing will be making use of paid search – the advertising at the top and sides of the search results.

However, I do encounter people who think they can't afford it. They think the search results they would want to advertise next to will have inflated prices and will simply cost too much.
This comes down to a lack of understanding of search advertising. The same tactics you've used to organically optimise your website come into force – choose really specialised keywords and phrases.
If you don't bring in a specialist, you should make use of the search engine's tools that show you what phrases are searched for and how competitive they are. There's a tonne of information and guidance available, on this blog, the SEOptimise blog and all over the web.
Paid advertising is effective and it isn’t prohibitively costly.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 5 October, 2009 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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David Hamill

David Hamill, Usability Specialist at Freelance

This is quite a broad brush article, even by E-consultancy standards. The section on web design stops a good bit short of being useful. Simply throwing money at web design will not resolve the problems you discuss. You need to know what you're supposed to be fixing first.

The best way to find out how your website can be improved is to test its usability with target users.

E-commerce website can also make huge improvements using split and multivariate testing. But this isn't really mentioned either.

Before spending a lot of money increasing the number of visitors you get, it's a good idea to plug the holes that are causing them to spill out the sides.

over 7 years ago



I agree with David. I also think its easier for smaller companies to get into social media. I know many entrepreneurs, head of companies, ceos who tweet for instance, or blog. The issue they face is should it be the "person" engaging in social media or the "company /brand". Its more difficult for big corporations to embrace Fb, twitter, etc. Cute cartoon on this theme here. http://bit.ly/fbnbrands :)

over 7 years ago

Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood, Head of Media Technology at Signal

I think it's important to look closely at affiliate marketing too. It may not make sense for some companies but it's critical for others. The likes of ASOS and ebay were born from the channel.

Another *must* for your digital budget (and I appreciate this may not come out of the marketing pot, per say) is analytics. Having the time and resources necessary to understand the full value of all the efforts above and how they integrate and resonate with one another is essential.

over 7 years ago


Jacob Wright

I know the author works for an SEO company and is therefore biased towards a reductive click-based model of online marketing, but surely an article about where brands should spend online dollars should have at least MENTIONED online display advertising?

over 7 years ago

Colin Watson

Colin Watson, Director at Watson Hall Ltd

Sorry, I may not be a marketer, but shouldn't the first question be "why?" and the second "what are the objectives?", rather than "where to spend it?"?  Are the objectives to increase revenues, build trust, attract new customers, provide better service to existing customers, reduce risks, ...?

over 7 years ago

Nigel Cooper

Nigel Cooper, Director at Qube Media

Certainly interesting in terms of increased online advertising spend.

Think its good that online spend is increasing, but don't think it's going in the right areas at all.

In terms of social media, we recently ran a comparitive campaign against a banner ad campaign - and our social media activity came out on top for engagement and awareness - and cost 23 times less per engagement.

Despite stats like this, people are still scared of allocating their budgets to social media instead of traditional online advertising and banner ads - despite increasing evidence about their falling influence.

over 7 years ago

Corinna Witt

Corinna Witt, Owner at Corinna Witt : e-conceptory

I agree with Colin. The first question should be what goals do you want to reach. The second question how. Also, if possible the goals should be measurable (sales, leads, newsletter subscriptions etc.), so that you get a good idea about the ROI. This will tell you a lot about the effectiveness of your various online campaigns and their suitability for your line of business. Everything else may just mean poring money down the drain and perhaps not getting buy in from senior management thereafter. If you are unsure which area of online marketing works for you, try a mix and analyse the results.

Obviously, the foundation of all your efforts forms a website that sells. You can drive as much traffic to your site as you like, if the site is not engaging, usable and trustworthy you are going to lose potential customers at this point and you won't get conversions. 

over 7 years ago



Life is becoming faster & faster, nobody has time to visit to your site.No matter how great the products you're selling are, people aren't going to beat a path to your door to get them. You need to bring the products to the customers.So DIRECT marketing is the BEST strategy.(I am also following the same).

over 7 years ago


Timothy Read, Founder at Ripplenet web design

No, SeoNext, I don't agree. Yes, direct marketing is part of the story, but look at all the sites that provide all kinds of interesting content that draw people in and keep them engaged. Content is still king.

over 7 years ago

Nigel Cooper

Nigel Cooper, Director at Qube Media

Sorry SEONEXT, I don't agree either - people are spending a lot more of their time online - and if you understand them and provide content that is of genuine value to them, you're much more likely to engage them than a direct marketing approach - I pretty much junk email newsletters and bin direct mail that arrives in the post. It would have to be pretty special to get my attention.

over 7 years ago



I think I would have to agree with SEONEXT, especially when a budget is limited. How are you supposed to out brand or out bid companies with bigger budgets? It's like chasing a faster car, and it the faster car has a head start. With direct marketing you can quickly discover your costs to convert, and quickly adjust your business plan/costs to work with it. Another example to support SEONEXT would be if you had discovered a new soda to drink. Are you going to spend 10 million in PPC ads, and a few million more on getting a killer Social Media team together and to be the new king of cola? I'm pretty sure if you are even a mild threat Pepsi or Coke will crush you in a marketing dollar war. Your much better off making the sale today using direct marketing, and THEN let social media do the work for you if the product is truly great.

over 7 years ago

Nigel Cooper

Nigel Cooper, Director at Qube Media

I think it's short sighted to just focus only on the 'now' sale (although of course this is important)... in the longer term, a good social media strategy can help you can outbrand and outbid companies with larger budgets by playing a longer game and developing a community of advocates and influencers who spread your message for you. No, the results aren't immediate, but they do reap large rewards. Companies not thinking about this now really will be left far behind in the months and years to come when their competitors are already beginning to utilise the social web for research and marketing.

Rob, not sure your reasoning on getting buried by bigger brands if you spend money on social media, but not via a DM approach?

over 7 years ago

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