Chances are that if you work in advertising, marketing, web development, public relations or really any type of business, you’ve heard those two all-important words: online marketing. But what does online marketing really mean? As a copywriter for an online marketing company, I’m very familiar with the various aspects of this industry and how they can help a business grow.
Online marketing is a blanket term for a number of different ways a business can promote itself on the Internet. In today’s world, marketing your company online is just as, important as traditional marketing and promotions, if not more. So then, let’s take a look at the key factors involved in online marketing. The topics we’ll be looking at are search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media and email marketing.
Search engine optimization
Commonly abbreviated to SEO, search engine optimization is the process of improving the visibility and rankings of a website in unpaid search engine results. These are also called natural, organic or algorithmic results. This means that you’re not paying search engines for increased visibility; you’re creating it yourself. In its search results, Google offers users a combination of advertisements and organic results, both of which are clearly marked so users know what they’re clicking on. It ought to be noted that paying for a limited-time advertisement with Google by no means changes or improves the organic ranking of your website and is not to be considered SEO.
You might notice that we mention Google a lot; that’s because it dominates the search engine market. Other search engines include Bing (Microsoft), Yahoo, Ask, and AOL. Every search engine calculates organic page rankings somewhat differently, but chances are that if you’re looking to increase your visibility online, you’re going to want to focus on Google first.
SEO can be done through a number of different tactics. One of the most important factors in SEO is the number and quality of websites that link back to your company site. Not all links to your page are good ones, though. Google watches carefully for spam links and other negative practices. These will not increase your site’s authority in the eyes of search engines. The best links are those that are made based on the quality of your content.
There are many other factors involved in SEO, however. Google alone determines a page’s relevancy through over 200 unique factors. If you’re interested in reading more about SEO, check out Google’s SEO advice.
Pay Per Click (PPC), sometimes called Cost Per Click, is a type of online advertising where advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target markets. The idea is that PPC offers advertising opportunities wherever people may be surfing online, and the advertiser only pays for that ad when someone clicks on it.
The three largest PPC providers are Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter.
You create ads and choose keywords relevant to the ad, your brand and/or your product. When people are doing a web search using the keyword(s) you’ve bid on, your ad may appear on the search engine results page, where the user can then click to either purchase your product or learn more about what you do. In this way, your ad only appears to those who are interested in the keyword you’ve bid on. It is a super-targeted form of advertising where you can ensure the ad is shown only to your target audience.
There are two different models for PPC advertising: flat-rate and bid-based. In both forms, the advertiser must keep in mind the potential value of a click. This value is determined by who the advertiser is expecting to visit their website and what the advertiser can gain from that visit. Targeting is key, because PPC really only works if your target audiences are seeing your ad and clicking on it.
In the flat-rate model of PPC, the advertiser and provider agree upon a flat rate that will be paid for each click. The rate is usually determined by the content on the pages, with content that attracts more valuable customers (typically customers who intend to buy) having a higher rate than content that attracts less valuable customers. However, advertisers can often negotiate lower rates if they commit to a long-term or high-value contract.
In bid-based PPC, the advertiser signs a contract that allows them to compete with other advertisers in the advertising network (Google, Yahoo, Bing, and so on). The advertiser sets the maximum amount they are willing to pay for a keyword phrase. The auction proceeds automatically when a visitor clicks on the ad spot that the search engine displays.
Social media is by far the most buzzed about aspect of online marketing. Social media is by definition online networks that connect users with their family, friends, co-workers and even acquaintances by letting them share status updates, long-form posts, videos, photos, music and any combination of those five things.
The biggest players in the world of social media are, of course, Facebook and Twitter. There are also other services like Tumblr, a micro-blogging platform catering mostly to to-the-point “not-safe-for-work (NSFW)” content and Internet memes. And while its content may seem juvenile, it boasts over 120 million users and 15 billion monthly pageviews. Those are some serious numbers worth considering when it comes to marketing. Other notable social media services include:
- Instagram is a hip photo-sharing app recently purchased by Facebook
- LinkedIn is a site for career-focused networking
- Google+ is Google’s foray into social networking
- YouTube is for video sharing (owned by Google)
- MySpace is the kinda, sorta, but not really dead music-centric networking service
- DeviantArt is the social site for art geeks
There are literally hundreds of social media sites and services out there, but Twitter and Facebook are definitely the two that most people focus on. But keep in mind that Google+ is becoming increasingly important as using and actively sharing on Google+ improves your SEO. In fact, social media in general is becoming more and more important to SEO.
What is valuable about social media is a) how frequently people use it and b) how much data it offers advertisers. Social media allows advertisers to target extremely precise audiences. If you need to sell hair products to women between the ages of 17 and 24 who live in Seattle and love Lady Gaga and the color purple, social media marketing can help you.
For more information about the specifics of social media marketing, check out Marketing Pilgrim’s Social Media Marketing Beginner’s Guide, Whitepaper Source’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report or Douglas Lim’s SEO and social marketing blog.
Email marketing is in some ways like the grandfather of social marketing. Long before people were aggressively buying ads on Google and Facebook, they were putting together email marketing campaigns and sending them out to target audiences.
Essentially, email marketing involves sending tailored, promotional email messages to users who have agreed to receive digital promotional messages from your company on a regular basis. This may mean daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the needs and goals of your marketing plan.
Unfortunately, the world of email marketing is riddled with people making it harder for the rest of us. Spam is the bane of most people’s inboxes and is pretty much universally hated. As email technically predates the inception of the Internet, people have been exposed to every dirty trick advertisers have tried and as a result are extremely wary of unsolicited promotional emails.
There are three types of email marketing:
- Email newsletters
- Transactional emails
- Direct emails
Email newsletters allow users to subscribe to frequent updates in the form of a newsletter. These typically indicate the latest sales and news, and work to increase and improve the relationship between a customer and the brand. The best email newsletters are those that provide real value, advice and tips to the intended targets.
Transactional emails are sent out when a customer interacts with your web page. For example, maybe you send them a confirmation email when they’ve registered for an event or a receipt when they’ve made a purchase.
Direct emails solely involve communicating promotional messages to your subscribers, such as exclusive sales, new catalogue items or other special offers.
The great thing about email marketing is that you can precisely track return on investment and you can typically reach a huge number of people that have subscribed to your messages. 1st Web Designer has a great article on email marketing.
As with any kind of marketing, a great deal of care and planning must be taken to ensure you meet your online marketing goals. Online marketing has really become an exercise in providing real value to visitors, users, subscribers and followers. The Internet is a resource people use to add value to their lives. If you’re not truly helping to add value, you’re not marketing online effectively.
It’s important to note that one’s intention should be to generate sales as a product of providing high-quality and valuable content to users. Content (articles, guides, videos, images, audio, etc.) truly is king in this realm. If you’re looking to ramp up or improve your marketing strategies, start by taking a good look at how your company is using each and every one of these tactics, and how much value is really being provided. To learn more about these topics visit the Canada’s Web Shop Online Marketing Blog.
Albertine Watson is a copywriter for Canada’s Web Shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, specializing in online and social media marketing