The SEO Collective

The Sailboat Analogy | SEO & Other Digital Marketing Channels

sailboat analogy seo

One of the simplest ways to understand how different Digital Marketing channels work is though the Sailboat analogy. This metaphor explains how each type of online marketing influences your website and your brand.

As a website owner, the online space can feel overwhelming. And with all the digital marketing channels out there, it can be hard to keep track of which ones to invest in and the value that they add.

Learn about each type of digital marketing and how they can work for your business by using the Sailboat Analogy.

Quick Overview of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a comprehensive strategy that leverages online channels and technology. Through this medium, businesses can promote products, services, or brands, aiming to reach and engage with a targeted audience. It encompasses various tactics such as SEO, social media, email marketing, and paid advertising to drive awareness, customer acquisition, and business growth in the digital landscape.

Forms of Digital Marketing

Here are the main forms of digital marketing available to businesses:

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): SEO is the art of optimizing your website’s content and structure to rank higher on search engine results pages. This digital marketing form is responsible for driving organic traffic and improving online visibility.

Paid Ads: Paid advertising encompasses various forms, such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and display ads. This type of digital marketing allows businesses to reach a wider audience by paying to display their content prominently on platforms and search engine results pages.

Branding: Branding is the process of creating a unique and memorable identity for your business. It includes elements like logos, colors, and messaging to establish a strong and recognizable presence in the market.

Email: Email marketing involves sending targeted messages to a list of subscribers, fostering customer relationships, promoting products or services, and nurturing leads through personalized and automated email campaigns.

Social Media: Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn and Twitter offer powerful channels for businesses to connect with their audience. They provide the perfect platform to build a community and promote products or services through engaging content.

the sailboat analogy digital marketing

The Sailboat Analogy in Digital Marketing

Imagine your website as a simple sailboat complete with a sail, a motor, and two oars. In this situation, your website is the actual boat, and the different marketing channels are the different elements that make the boat go forward.

Each element propels the boat forward in a different way and requires a varying level of effort from you.

  • SEO – Sail
  • Paid Advertising – Motor
  • Branding – The Flow of the Ocean
  • Email – Oar
  • Social – Oar

SEO – The Sail

seo the sail

With a boat, once you set the sail, you can just sit back and watch the boat go forward. You’ll need to make adjustments to the sail every so often. You may need to turn the sail to catch the wind better or adjust it if you want to change direction.

It requires minimal effort once it’s properly set up, but you’ll still need to keep an eye on it to make sure you’re going the right way.

This is an excellent analogy for SEO. Once properly set up, SEO is a cost-effective digital marketing channel that doesn’t require a lot of energy. It doesn’t propel you forward very quickly, but when you catch the wind just right, your site will soar.

Paid Advertising – The Boat Motor

paid ads motor boat

Like the motor of a boat, Paid Advertising sends you forward quickly and swiftly. It gives you a huge boost as soon as you turn it on. But when you turn off the motor, the boat comes to a standstill.

It’s great if you need to get somewhere quickly (e.g. boost sales for Christmas or promote an end-of-season special), but it’s not sustainable over a long period of time. Additionally, the motor needs fuel (money) to keep going.

You’ll also need to keep a close eye on it because if it turns out you’re going in the wrong direction, it can be quite costly (this is why you’ve got to set up your negative keywords).

Branding – The Flow of the Ocean

branding seo

Your company brand is important. Without it, you’ll be lost. You have to ensure that your products or services are serving the needs of your customers. Your brand awareness is like the flow of the ocean. It requires no effort at all.

If you decide you want to kick back and bask in the sun, your brand will keep you going. It is the single most powerful asset you have.

Email Marketing – The Oar

email marketing oar

When you want to go a little faster or change direction, you’ll need to use an oar. While they get you places faster than SEO or branding, it requires constant effort and energy. You’ll have to sit and paddle in order to keep going.

Email marketing requires a lot of effort and energy. It’s incredibly powerful and an awesome way to boost your brand and connect with your audience. But if you stop paddling, you stop moving as fast.

Social Media Marketing – The Other Oar

social media marketing sailboat analogy oar

The other oar of your website’s sailboat is Social Media Marketing. As with Email Marketing, it requires consistent effort in order to keep moving.

If your brand needs a boost, but you don’t want to turn on your boat engine or the wind isn’t blowing hard enough, your oars are a huge asset. Even a simple stroke through the water can propel you forward slightly.

But you need to monitor your social channels, funnel time and energy into them, and get paddling if you want to go anywhere. As soon as you take your oar out of the water, it is made redundant.

Navigating the Digital Marketing Sailboat Analogy

Knowing which digital marketing channels to use at the right time is an art. Deciding where to place your energy and your money can be tricky, especially if you aren’t experienced in the digital world.

To give your website its best chance, you’ll likely need all of the channels mentioned in this post. But if you’ve got a limited budget, then it’s important to choose where to place your energy. This is why using the sailboat analogy is really useful.

Working on your brand is essential for small businesses, but investing in different types of SEO is another solid option to get you started. While the sail picks up wind, you can focus your energy on social media or email marketing. And when your budget grows, you can start with paid ads.

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