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Online marketing and world class football have a lot in common, really. No, I don’t mean that it’s mostly done by men or that we all drink too much beer. I mean that a well-planned marketing campaign has a lot in common with a tactically-minded football team.

I’ll admit this may be a tenuous way to illustrate how a good marketing campaign works but, thanks to World Cup fever, football metaphors are everywhere, so here is mine.

(For the record, my favourite irrelevant football quote to date has been “One in four armchair sports fans have stained carpet and upholstery from over exuberant television viewing.” Thanks for the ambiguity, Santander.)


You can have the best team in the world but if your goal is unprotected then your whole strategy is at risk and you lose matches.

Same goes for your internet marketing; if your website design lets the side down then you leave yourself wide open and you will lose customers.

Your website’s design is not as important as the rest of your strategy, it is more important. It is where you convert visitors into customers, where you encourage repeat business, where you upsell.

If you’re spending money on SEO without first looking at the effectiveness of your website then your Wayne Rooney has no support from your David James.


After you’ve looked at your website’s ability to retain customers, you want to consider your second line of defence – organic SEO.

If something went wrong for your business’ flow of cash and you couldn’t afford to pay for marketing for a while, your organic optimisation is how you keep it ticking over – it’s a long-term defence strategy.

While your pay-per-click search marketing strategy would cease the moment the money stopped, organic SEO keeps on giving. It will take time for you to fall down in the search rankings.

That makes organic SEO a sensible way to secure your company’s long-term success. It’s a vital line of defence.


There’s a lot of work to be done in midfield – you may have to push forward to support the attack, or drop back to help the defence. You have to be multi-talented and work harder than anyone else in the team.

So I’ve picked blogging as my midfielder. It’s flexible and hardworking, and it supports a variety of different online marketing work, from link building to online reputation management.

If you’re blogging for your business, you’ll work hard but the results will be worth it. You’ll support SEO, PR, your wider social media marketing campaign and more.


At the very front, you have your strikers. These can be your most expensive players but they are worth the money because they score goal after goal after goal.

Your online marketing strikers are your paid search ads. They can cost a small fortune but they are worth the money because they bring in business.

Of course, they need to be intelligently placed adverts based on sound analysis, just like a world class striker needs to be given the right instructions and supported by wider tactics.


Finally, your substitutes. There are two main reasons for a manager to bring subs onto the field. Perhaps they want a change in tactic, maybe the match isn’t going as well as they’d like, or maybe something has gone dramatically wrong (perhaps a clumsy tackle has floored your man-of-glass captain, for example).

The online equivalent is PR. A PR exec can be used to manage a drama and work to restore a reputation, or they can be used to proactively boost interest in your brand and change the tactic of your marketing.

So, you accidentally infuriate a blogger and their post goes viral on Twitter – bring on your PR person or team to regain control of the situation. Perhaps they can deal with the issue but at the very least, they can communicate with the blogosphere and twittersphere.

Perhaps you’re falling slightly short of your monthly targets. A decent PR effort can invigorate a tired strategy and boost interest in your brand. You could pay for some interesting research under your company name, you could aim to increase press coverage, you could proactively market yourselves through social platforms.

Having someone with a good understanding of PR on board really strengthens your team’s overall performance, even if it doesn’t deliver every single day.


Of course, however talented your players or however good your individual search execs, they will never get anywhere without the support of a forward-thinking manager.

Whether it’s football or marketing, you need someone at the top who is clear about your long-term goals and what steps you need to take in order to achieve them.

Make sure your online marketing team is supported by clear vision and decent, targeted investment. If you don’t have the necessary skills then hire them.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 11 June, 2010 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 (4)

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, SEO at Like2Bid

Ya it's true that better knowledge we have better we can give.

over 6 years ago


Rahman Mehraby

If one thing is for sure, it's the wise decisions and neat balance on choosing various online marketing channels. One shouldn't focus only on one media to bring in business.

Choosing several different channels should also be domne with a purpose: To eventually lead all roads toward the ultimate goal of natural placement in search engines and get the targeted traffic.

over 6 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

Thank you for the World Cup metaphors Kevin. Surprised by the lack of backroom staff though. Seeing how fragile England are, I would have thought the physio would be the first position listed. Even SEOs need some support from the time to time!

over 6 years ago


Laura Jennings

Interesting article. Howevver, is paid advertising really the Striker? I would say that a well optimised website is the big money earner, a site that is found again and again for several search terms, straight to the website from the organic Google rankings. Paid advertising costs more and while you can control where and when it is seen, there is still a lot of refining involved.

over 6 years ago

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