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Chapter 1: What is Internet Marketing?
The term “internet marketing” has become associated with a broad range of topics in recent years. For many, it literally means only what it says: “marketing on the internet”, in which case it is seen as synonymous with “digital marketing” and “online marketing”. For others, however, it has come to be associated more specifically with the worlds of affiliate marketing, information products, and the “make money online” niche. For our purposes, we’ll lean more towards the former and will settle on the following definition:
Internet marketing is the use of internet properties and traffic to generate leads, sales, or brand awareness. This is typically done via search engine visibility, social media marketing, email marketing, and various forms of paid advertising.
One of the best ways to begin understanding internet marketing is to break down the various goals a business can seek to accomplish with it. The ultimate end goal of marketing is, of course, revenue. With that in mind, we can certainly classify sales as a primary goal of internet marketing and many businesses do focus on sending traffic directly to paid offers, whether digital product sales pages or physical product pages in an eCommerce store. However, for many businesses, sales remain a distant, long term goal. A more common immediate or short-term goal of internet marketing, however, is lead generation. By using the internet to affordably collect leads rather than make individual sales, a business can then use their lead list to continue marketing for free (or close to free) to potential customers from that point forward with the expectation that multiple future sales will increase the average lifetime value of each lead and result in a greater long-term ROI from each dollar spent on marketing.
Lead generation for an online business might consist simply of building an email list, perhaps with customer names associated as well. Lead generation for an eCommerce business or local “offline” business might also include physical mailing addresses and phone numbers so they can follow up in other ways such as telemarketing or mailing out catalogues and special offers. Other businesses might pursue even more robust lead data such as business information like industry categories or number of employees in the case of B2B marketing, or income ranges and family size in the case of higher-ticket B2C models like insurance sales or real-estate. Since lead generation is often seen as the most common and multi-faceted immediate goal of internet marketing, the entirety of chapter three will be devoted to the various methods and forms of lead generation.
Finally, another immediate goal of internet marketing is growing brand awareness and familiarity. For many businesses, this might consist of spending large amounts on banner advertisements or video ads primarily for the purpose of getting their brand name, logo, or unique selling proposition (USP) in front of as many eyes as possible as many times as possible. The idea here is to increase top-of-mind awareness so that the potential customer will think of the brand in future situations when they need that specific need fulfilled. For example, when a fast food chain airs ads on television, it’s not because they expect people to immediately hop in the car and go buy a burger because of it. It’s because they want you to think of their restaurant next time you clock-out for your lunch break and are deciding what to eat. The internet marketing equivalent of this might be an online tax service heavily investing in banner ads and video ads in December and January, not because they think people will suddenly start doing their taxes early, but because in April when 90% of Americans do their taxes at the last minute, their brand will be the first one they remember. Other forms of brand awareness might simply consist of frequent social media posting. Companies know that constantly seeing their brand image in their followers’ newsfeeds or Twitter feeds accomplishes that same top-of-mind awareness as well as other emotional associations with their brand such as loyalty, pride, good will, and humor (covered in more detail in Chapter two).
Chapter 2: Internet Marketing Methods
Regardless of whether your intended destination for traffic is a sales page, a lead page, or simply a piece of content, the potential internet marketing methods are manifold. We’ll cover the most common ones here.
Email marketing is unique in this list for a very obvious reason: you already have their email address. In other words, the main goal of email marketing is sales, whereas the other methods in this list can have both sales and lead generation as a goal. Email marketing basically consists of sending promotional email messages to a list of leads, typically using an autoresponder service like GetResponse or Aweber. Email marketing can be done on a completely manual basis, in which a business sends out newsletters or offers at their respective times, or on an automatic basis, in which a list of leads are put through a sequence of pre-planned auto-responder messages.
More recently, the concept of marketing automation has become popular. This is where leads are put through a unique series of autoresponder sequences that change and adapt based on the actions of the lead and various “if this then that” (IFTTT) conditions established by the marketer. For example, if a lead does not open an email, they might be automatically sent a follow-up email asking why they hadn’t opened the previous one, or if a lead clicks on a certain link in an email which indicates they have a particular interest, they might be segmented into a separate list or new sequence that caters to that specific interest.
Search Engine Marketing consists of leveraging a search engine’s paid advertising platform to position your business as a “sponsored” search result in a prominent, visible place on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The most popular search engines for SEM at the moment are Google and Bing. A business can setup their ad to target a group of keywords that they’d like to “rank” for, as well as selecting other variables such as demographics and location. These ads will then appear at the top or bottom of the SERPs (depending on various factors such as budget and bidding) and will have the appearance of a typical search result, with the one exception of a small word like “ad” or “sponsored” somewhere on it (this varies among search engines).
Search Engine Optimization is the use of various on-site and off-site practices and factors to make your web properties rank higher in search results. These practices include methods like keyword usage, original content, frequent updating/posting, backlinking, social sharing, bounce rates (how many people leave after viewing just one page), visitors’ average time on site, and the use of images and videos. Until around 2012, SEO was arguably considered the most vital internet marketing method around and, depending on your industry, it might still be.
However, in recent years the growing number of competing web properties in the online space have made ranking very difficult and expensive for many businesses. This, along with constant changes to some of the top search engines’ algorithms have led many businesses to conclude that paid SEM is more cost-effective than SEO. SEO still maintains its importance in many cases, however, such as in the case of local “brick and mortar” businesses whose search rankings are positively affected by the use of nearby city names in the search terms as well as the various search engines’ use of locational data.
Ad networks are an excellent way to get your brand or offer in front of your target audience on a broad range of web properties. The most commonly discussed ad network is Google’s AdWords network but there are several other out there. Using these networks will allow you to place banner image ads, video ads, or simple textual ads in front of web traffic on a variety of websites. This approach can be especially powerful when combined with retargeting. This entails placing retargeting pixels on your web properties and then specifically targeting your site visitors via ad networks so that the offer they initially looked at (and are presumably interested in) starts following them around the internet wherever they go. This may sound creepy, but statistics indicate that people who are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert!
Some marketers might prefer to do their advertising on a case-by-case basis by personally approaching individual, relevant websites, forums, or blogs in their niche or industry. When using this manual method, marketers should be sure to research the metrics of the given site, blog, or forum. Naturally you’ll want to display your ad in places with a reasonable level of traffic and a positive reputation to ensure your advertising dollars are spent well. You can learn a lot about websites by researching them on Alexa. That said, the majority of businesses tend to find the use of ad networks to be a more cost-effective way of advertising.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing has come a long way in the last several years and has changed the way many businesses think about marketing in general. For some marketers, social followers have replaced email addresses, posts and tweets have replaced promotional emails, and likes have replaced email opens. Virtually every successful business today has not only a social media presence, but a clearly defined social media strategy. Most of these strategies revolve around posting consistent content.
But it’s more than just posting promotions and offers. A successful social strategy will include various types of non-promotional content for various types of goals. Posting about a charitable cause associates your brand with feelings of goodwill. Posting about trendy topics makes your brand seem relevant. Posting useful tips without a sales pitch makes your business come off as genuinely helpful. Posting humorous or “feel-good” content associates your business with positive emotions, and so on. But more importantly, these types of non-promotional posts are accomplishing two other goals. First, they’re encouraging social sharing, which grows your following even more. Secondly, they’re creating top-of-mind awareness for your brand. People will get used to seeing your content and your business name, logo, and USP. As a result, when they have a problem that your business fixes, they’ll be more likely to think of you first.