These days it can be hard to determine exactly what types of online marketing will give the best value for your business and how you should weight budgets across the different areas.
In this post I will cover the more popular methods of getting your name out there, detail their strengths and weaknesses and a give a few tips. This post is not meant to be overly comprehensive, but links to other resources will be provided at the end for those still keen.
The key areas and disciplines of online marketing:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Paid Search
- Optimization and Testing
- Other worthy mentions
1) Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization has the goal of increasing traffic to a website by improving the position that a link to that website appears within natural search results.
When you engage an SEO consultant they will usually be tweaking your website with the goal of improving its overall quality and conformity to website guidelines. Depending on the strategy agreed to, this may be by increasing rankings of selected keywords or increasing the number of keywords your website is being listed for.
One of the key areas used when performing Search Engine Optimization is what’s known as ‘off-page’. This is the process of either obtaining directly or baiting backlinks (links that are on other sites that point to yours). These links are important as they are (still) a key indicator to search engines of the importance or relevance of a website. The strategy of where to obtain these backlinks from is a large part of search engine optimization.
The goals and subsequent tasks can be very varied when performing SEO and most SEO consultants will tailor the service depending on these requirements. This can also encompass social and content as below where required.
Why would you do it: Increasing your website traffic will have the obvious benefits of increasing the potential clients, leads and sales you obtain via your website.
Positives: Great return on investment, ability to camp rankings once obtained without expenditure.
Negatives: Not an overly reliable source for the long term as your placement is not guaranteed to remain, limited flexibility in messaging, very labour intensive.
2) Paid Search
This can allow your site to rank highly in the search engines, while waiting around for your SEO work to start delivering results. It can also be an effective stand-alone strategy. Paid Search, AKA PPC, AKA Search Engine Marketing, is the name given to the “sponsored links” advertisements you see on all of today’s major search engines. The reason for the name “Paid Search” is that the system works on a PPC (or “Pay-Per-Click”) model where users place a particular bid on each keyword which determines how highly their advert ranks on the search engine. Each click delivered to the advertiser’s website from a particular keyword will cost the bid price for that keyword.
Although results are much quicker with paid search when compared to SEO (or “Search Engine Optimization”), quality management of your campaign can be quite labour intensive. In order to get the best results. You will need to perform regular bid adjustments, monitor in-depth reports within your management interface and optimize your advert & keyword list based on the data your reports provide.
Why you would do it: To quickly deliver highly targeted traffic to your website for the purpose of either direct response or brand exposure.
Positives: Instant results, transparent reporting, complete control over advertising cost.
Negatives: You pay for each click, Profitability is highly dependent on the quality of the landing page and market pricing, can be highly competitive.
Anyone who uses the internet has no doubt come across those annoying banner advertisements that have the aim of stealing your attention whenever you’re looking at a content driven website, whether it is a blog, a news site or even YouTube. This is probably the oldest form of online advertising and it’s called “Display”.
Display advertising is basically the use of any visual advertisement to capture an audience across online 3rd party properties – static images, GIFs, video adverts and more are all considered display advertising. The outcomes of this channel can be very different to that of either SEO or Paid search, due to the fact that users are generally not actively looking for your product or service. Instead, you’re attempting to intercept users that are accessing content which may or may not be related to your product/service.
Why would you do it: Display advertisement has huge reach potential and thus is great for getting your message seen by a large audience. Display is a great way of getting brand exposure because of this.
Positives: Great for branding & exposure as well as getting particular sales and/or giveaways known to the wider public.
Negatives: Due to the fact that users are generally not actively seeking your service or product, conversion rates are typically not as high as those seen with search marketing.
One of the most effective ways to get content in front of qualified prospects is via Email Marketing but building the lists of appropriate email addresses can be a much more difficult task.
Email marketing these days is usually handled by specialist providers that utilize custom servers to deliver your message to your contact list. They have ability to manage the list, perform auto updates, segment contacts, and handle unsubscribes ensuring that you are complying with legal requirements. Added to that, if you sent thousands of emails via your normal ISP you would run into the possibility of being black-listed.
Content delivered in an email marketing strategy can be promotional or informational depending on your strategy. The key factors to seeing success in this channel are to deliver content to lists that are interested, and ensuring your message (especially the subject line) is clear and enticing, otherwise you will find most of your list unsubscribing from your service. You also want to ensure you aren’t over-delivering or abusing your list.
Why would you do it: With email you can keep in touch with your current client base and you can quickly get a message to any interested party about your business or promotions.
Positives: Great for getting in front of prospects, very inexpensive, short creative time, fast measurable results.
Negatives: Can be hard to build a qualified list, can cheapen a company’s image to its most important clients if the incorrect message is sent or the frequency is too high. Also be very wary of buying lists.
This is relatively new, but can be extremely effective for the right product. Social Media Marketing can drive your brand, products and service right through peoples social groups.
Social Media Marketing works on the simple principal that if a person’s peers use or recommend a product or service then the chances of that another person engaging, or making a conversion are much higher.
Most people these days use some form of social media to interact with peers, whether it be through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Google+ or some of the more obscure products out there. The idea is to build a following by interacting with people on these platforms and hopefully encourage them to share your messaging across their followers, friends, fans or circles. While often overused and abused, in some markets a social presence is essential to complete a business’s online presence..
The key to cracking social media is to develop content that correlates with natural conversations about your brand engaging users to communicate on your social media page (basically, it’s your house and you’re inviting everyone to the party). Most social media platforms have a monetization model where you can also advertise on them for a fee, similar to the paid search and display model above.
Why would you do it: Control the conversations already happening about your brand or business, drive user engagement and get in front of people that are likely to convert.
Positives: Awesome for consumer industries, low cost to start, limitless possibility for viral growth if you are very lucky.
Negatives: Can be almost impossible to get people excited about certain industries, does not really suit B2B businesses where you can feel like you’re talking to yourself for a long time.
Content marketing encapsulates all of the above, because without some form of content none of the above would work, However, in this definition let’s look at blogs, e-books and video style content.
The concept is quite simple; generate specific content targeted to people in the process of making purchase decisions, at the research stage. Some of world’s biggest companies rely heavily on content marketing to drive sales but it can also be executed well by any sized business. Common strategies involve giving away free advice to prospects by creating ‘how-to’ videos, e-books, articles, and even providing news and reviews.
Content marketing can also be a great strategy to build an audience and to start conversations between the business and potential client, but remember, content marketing is not about pitching or selling, it’s about providing very valuable specific information that isn’t biased, with the ultimate reward being loyalty and sales.
Why would you do it: Increases your brand profile and trust, establishes your business as an expert on a subject, and provides great qualified prospects.
Positives: Great return on investment when executed properly and can become the core function in your marketing campaign that feeds all the above disciplines.
Negatives: A fairly large time investment is required to see the full benefits of this, even to the point of requiring dedicated staff. Short term, it can be hard to measure.
7) Optimization and Testing
While this is a large part of all of the above, it is separated here as it is one of the key disciplines in online marketing. The process of making changes, introducing experimental marketing to a control group, then taking your findings campaign wide is essential to improve (and sometimes just maintain) your online marketing performance.
This can involve watching the conversion rates of a website and modifying or introducing elements to it to encourage a higher conversion rate, trying to segment out higher performing paid search sectors and allocating more time and budget to them, or running a series of short term or members only promotions. The goal in any testing or optimization process is to obtain data and knowledge from a control group that you can then introduce to your main campaigns with the hope of improving overall performance.
An important process in online marketing is the weighted A/B split test. This is running a test over a period of time where you may serve 1 in 10 visitors with a different version of a web page, ad or email and look at the results, if the data confirms the optimizations are better, then the new version can be rolled out.
Why would you do it: Constantly optimizing your marketing efforts will help you stay ahead of your competitors and help to continually improve your results.
Positives: Gather great data that you can use to boost performance.
Negatives: Need to set aside a budget, time and labour to set the experiments monitor and roll out.
8) Other worthy mentions
While the major areas have been covered, worth mentioning are:
Mobile apps: Creating and promoting your business by having your very own app allows prospects to easily access your material by downloading an app to their phone. These are getting smarter every day with push and location based notifications being proactive in getting your message out.
Community: Creating a community that encourages like-minded people(basically all your prospects are like-minded people) to share information, post questions and start discussions about your products and services. There are some great examples of companies seeing massive success through this channel.
Network: Being a business owner and an active part of an online network (such as LinkedIn) can help drive great referrals. Remember it works the same way as traditional networking; if you’re not referring people on then don’t expect anything back. Also these networks provide a great forum for you to demonstrate your experience by answering questions and providing resources.
Video: Included here even though covered briefly in content marketing. Video can convey much more of your message, information about your products, and provoke emotional responses. A good video marketing strategy will also give you exposure on video search engines, such as YouTube, the 2nd biggest search engine in the world.
9) Some great links for further reading
- Moz’s beginners SEO guide
- The Advanced Guide To SEO
- The Advanced Guide to Link Building
- The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing
- The Beginners Guide to Online Marketing
I hope you have enjoyed this overview on some of the different areas of online marketing, if you have found it useful please don’t forget to share. If you have any questions or comments please leave below.