It’s a question that, curiously enough, presents itself quite a lot: what is online marketing? The simple answer would be that it’s a way for brands, companies, and businesses to reach new audiences and grow their profits.
It’s a strategy or an ensemble of tools that in today’s world, which is dominated by the internet, can’t be absent. You need the best online marketing strategies to build your image, gain exposure, promote your products or services, drive traffic to your website and convert visitors into loyal customers.
But saying that digital marketing consists of a group of methods that can help you achieve this and that doesn’t provide that much clarity, does it?
Consider this article an Online Marketing 101 course, and by the end of it, you’ll understand why you need to join the bandwagon.
So, What Is Online Marketing?
It can be quite difficult to understand the entire scope of online marketing, especially without fully understanding what it’s made of, or the ways it can help your business.
Call it as you wish: online marketing, internet marketing or online advertising – they all mean the same thing: any tool or method that can help you promote your business online. But, that’s just barely scratching the surface. When you dive deep into the subject (as we’re about to do), you will soon discover that digital marketing can take many shapes and sizes, depending on multiple factors. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
First, let’s target the how: online marketing works on a fairly simple principle. It’s an instrument that enables you to develop your online presence, build and polish your reputation, and ultimately to make it easier for potential customers to find your business. That way, you increase your chances of getting found in organic search when a prospect is looking for a product or service that you sell online.
You may think that you don’t need online marketing. After all, your business is doing just fine with the customers you’re acquiring through traditional marketing strategies, thank you very much. But, consider this: a vast majority of consumers (about 81% of them) conduct online research before deciding what and from where to shop. Think of them as an entire audience you’re not targeting at all, or you’re unable to properly reach just because you don’t have the right online marketing strategy in place.
Luckily, we can help you fix that.
What Goes into Online Marketing?
One of the reasons a small business owner may be reluctant about giving digital marketing a try is its sheer size. After all, we’re not talking about just one method that could help you promote your business to the digital world, but a complex mechanism you can put in motion to reach your goals. It can get pretty overwhelming, especially if you are new to it.
Let’s take a look at what goes into online marketing, and you will soon discover that it’s not as scary as you initially thought.
- Website Development
We can’t talk digital marketing without mentioning website development. Sure, you can use your social media platforms or email marketing to promote your business, but ultimately prospects want to browse through a list of your products or services on your website.
A website works like a digital business card: it’s one of the first places people will check to decide if you can help them solve their problems.
Don’t assume that you can just choose any template, create content, and call it a day. A poorly-designed website can damage your reputation, as users who are not familiar with your brand can think you’re untrustworthy and move on to your competitors. So, think about your website as a representative of your entire business, and try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes when structuring it:
- What information do they expect to see?
- What kind of content do they expect?
- How do I structure it so that my users can use it easily?
- Where do I put the contact details?
- What goes on my landing page?
- Search Engine Marketing
You’ve crossed the website off your checklist. Now, it’s time to make some moves and generate some buzz around it. The first place to start is with the two main components of Search Engine Marketing: SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising.
SEO refers to the tactics you put in place to boost your website’s ranking in organic search results. Search engines use bots (also known as crawlers) to collect information and index it. Then, the search engine decides where on the results page to place your website, using a complex algorithm and a variety of ranking factors (over 200 in the case of Google.)
Although the search engines are getting extremely efficient at understanding natural language, they still need some help to decipher the content on your website and decide whether it deserves a high ranking position. Here are a few ways that you can help them:
- Make sure your website works on mobile devices;
- Improve loading speed;
- Remove any broken links or irrelevant pages;
- Optimize media content;
- Use the right keywords;
SEO may be rather cost-effective, but it can take a lot of time to see any significant results. So, if you want to increase awareness, boost your traffic, and get some qualified leads to your website as quickly as possible, then online advertisements are the way to go.
With Google AdWords, for instance, you can bid on the keywords that you think your prospects are likely to use when looking for your products and create online ads that tell them why they should choose your brand instead of your competitors.
Be careful, though. Although paid search is an excellent way to bootstrap your online marketing goals, it can also turn into a black hole if you don’t know what you’re doing. A high click-through rate from prospects that have no intent to shop and are just looking around can drain your advertising budget quickly, leaving you with nothing to show for in the end. So, pay close attention to the keywords you’re targeting, your ad copy, your CTA, and your landing page if you want to get a maximum return on your investment.
- Social Media
Social media may still be the new kid on the block, but that doesn’t make it less important. In fact, social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn have proved time and time again they are a marketing force to be reckoned with.
- a) Social Media Builds Your Reputation as No Other Tool Can
Social media can seem terrifying to a small business owner as the power is now in the hands of the consumer. The communication is not unilateral anymore, and prospects can now hold you accountable for inconsistent brand messages, faulty products or insensitive advertising (take the H&M recent scandal as a case study for the power social platforms hold.)
However, social media is also an excellent opportunity to engage and connect with your audience and build your reputation. Even when they post negative comments about your products, you can use that as a chance to showcase your stellar customer service and professionalism. That way you could even turn an unhappy customer into a loyal brand advocate.
If you want your social media strategy to be effective, then you need to understand a few basic principles:
- Engage directly with followers by asking questions, liking or replying to their questions, answering their messages, and so on.
- Try to be authentic. Online consumers have a BS radar and can spot hollowness from a mile away;
- Post frequently but don’t overwhelm your audience with content. Keep the profile of the social platform in mind too. For instance, you can post on Facebook once every 2-3 days without affecting your posts reach, whereas on Twitter you can post several times a day;
- Understand what kind of content works best for your audience;
- b) The Cost to Benefit Ratio Is Amazing
Social media campaigns aren’t just easy to run, but they’re also rather cheap. For instance, you can place an ad on Facebook with a daily budget as low as one dollar and reach a wide audience.
The targeting options social platforms offer can also ensure that your ads reach your ideal audience. Social networks gather a lot of information about a user’s likes and interests, and you can use that information to target potential customers with the right message and at the right time.
- Email Marketing
Email marketing is perhaps one of the oldest online marketing tricks in the book. But, don’t let the fact that email is as old as the internet itself make you think that it’s not effective anymore. Just consider some of the following facts:
- 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based advertising via email rather than social media, direct mail or cold calls.
- Over 80% of small businesses claim that email marketing is their best customer retention tool, even better than social media.
- Email subscribers are three times more likely to share content on social media than prospects that came through another channel.
- Welcome emails can generate 320% more revenue than another type of email messages.
- People that purchased through email tend to spend 138% more than those that converted through other channels.
If this data tells you anything is that email marketing is not only well alive and kicking but perhaps one of the best digital marketing tools you have in your arsenal. But, if you want to generate long-term results, make sure that the messages you create are relevant to your audience’s needs and help them solve a problem. You want to be seen as a trusted partner, not as a spammy brand whose place belongs in the trash box.
- Affiliate Marketing
In a way, affiliate marketing seems rather counterintuitive. After all, it’s a strategy that involves promoting someone else’s products in exchange for a commission that you get if a prospect ends up buying the product you linked to in your content. Why would you advertise other businesses’ products when you have your own to sell?
Well, first things first: affiliate marketing is an excellent way to boost your revenue. Moreover, you can partner with complementary players in your niche and leverage each other’s audience to generate some traction. For example, if you’re a garden landscaping business, you can partner with a store that sells garden tools and help each other grow your revenues.
- Content Marketing
In a way, we saved the best for last. If other methods on this list could gain their fair share of criticism, pretty much everyone agrees that content marketing is a vital component of a good marketing strategy. In fact, you could argue that it’s an essential part of all the marketing strategies we’ve presented so far. After all, everything from email marketing to social media and SEM relies on creating and sharing valuable content.
Here’s the thing: consumers have become so accustomed to online advertising that they’ve learned how to tune it out, either through tools or mentally. What they want instead is authentic communication and content that can educate, inform, and help them solve their problems.
With the right content marketing strategy in place, you can build your credibility, establish yourself as the go-to source in your niche, drive traffic to your website, engage your audience, and ultimately convert visitors into customers.
Let’s take a random example: Imagine you own a flower shop, and you’ve just launched your blog. On it, you create articles relevant to your niche. Today it’s “Five types of bridal bouquets that are out of fashion,” a few days later it’s “How to grow your garden.” You then use social media, email marketing, and paid search to promote your articles.
That’s content marketing for you. Your prospects visit your blog or click on your links because they want to find out how to grow their gardens. If you provide them with valuable content on a regular basis, prospects will begin to check your blog on their own just to learn what other new tips you have in store for them today. Once you’ve created a meaningful relationship with your audience, it can be a lot easier to convince them to give your products a try.
These are the basics of online marketing or at least the most common methods that form it. Marketers know them well, but if you’re reading about some of them for the first time, they can seem more complicated than they are.
Online marketing isn’t a big secret privy to only a few people; you’re most likely already doing some form of it without even realizing. Still, for it to have notable results, there needs to be a comprehensive, overall strategy to guide it.
Don’t have the time to do it? That’s not a problem! At Australian Internet Marketing, we can take the online marketing wheel from you and do the hard work while you focus on other aspects of your business.