Most digital marketing falls in the category of online marketing, and online is almost always the place to start a digital marketing or advertising campaign. The Internet has been a blessing to advertisers, but sometimes a curse to consumers. Fortunately, however, Internet marketing techniques are becoming more sensitive to consumer needs. What is an online marketing strategy? Ultimately, it depends on what you are trying to sell and who your target customers are.
Online Marketing: Definition
As its name suggests, online marketing (also known as Internet marketing) is any advertising strategy that involves the Internet. Yes, ultimately, this is most of digital marketing, or at least, it is definitely a good start. Internet marketing is such a big part of digital marketing, and really marketing as a whole, that it is hard to determine where its definition stops.
Creating a blog or website is usually the best start to an online marketing campaign, whether for your own product or as an affiliate. If you are embarking on an affiliate marketing career, you will see that it is an overwhelming field, but with a little research, you can use the multitude of options to your advantage.
Content is king: in today’s time, people want to be inspired and informed, even by their advertisements. Therefore, the best thing you can do as an Internet advertiser is offer relevant, interesting, inspiring, or provoking content, whether on a website, blog, social media, or YouTube site. Therefore, writing, speaking, recording, and camera skills come into play here.
Everyone is on some sort of social media, and so this is a natural area for marketing. Depending on what you are trying to sell, you can focus on a particular social media site, but the good news is that all of them have marketing programs to help you out.
Even though they are the most obnoxious of the Internet ads, banners are still quite effective; and therefore, they are worth considering. Finding something bold that engages the viewer’s emotions is the best approach. The more attractive or emotionally-engaging your ad is, the more people will click, and, generally, these ads are funded on a PPC (pay-per-click) basis.
Online marketing has grown extremely fast, when you consider how young the Internet itself is. The first email was sent by its inventor in 1971, and in 1978, the first mass email went out. At that point, the Internet was used by research or academic institutions and the military, primarily. However, in 1994, the Internet started to look more the way it does today. Mosaic emerged as the first web browser. However, fortunately, AT&T introduced some of the first content marketing, and Amazon opened Internet sales in 1995. By the 2000s, Maytag and United Airlines had introduced some of the first online ad banners.
Web Connect was the first Internet ad agency to help advertisers find the right website on which to advertise in order to target certain customer categories; it also used ad-capping, an approach still used by ad programs today, to be sure that individual users did not see the same advertisement but so many times.
Google’s DoubleClick became the first DART (dynamic advertising reporting and targeting) tool in 1996. The system maximized return on investment for companies that used Internet advertising. It was also the first instance of CPM (cost per impression)—that is, the company sponsoring the advertisement paid each time (or per specified number of times) the advertisement was viewed.
In 1997, pop-up ads debuted, but generally, this is considered regretful, even by the inventor. Like anything else, Internet advertising was a struggle to find what worked, and unfortunately, mistakes were made at times. However, optimistically, in 1999, GoTo.com (later Yahoo) posted the first paid search engine advertisement, and soon after, Google AdWords used a quality score for ad content, so that advertiser payment did not taint the reliability of users’ searches.
By 2006, Internet ads were more effectively targeted, and they needed to be: Users were far less responsive to Internet ads than they had been at the beginning; this is understandable – initially, users probably paid serious attention to any content that made its way to such cutting-edge media; later, people became jaded and overwhelmed. Around this time, Facebook mitigated the problem by providing better ad targeting.
By 2010, Internet ads were even more carefully targeted and started to look less like ads. They came in disguise of informative or entertaining media. While this appealed to the jaded Internet user, it also meant that ads were annoyingly ubiquitous—the problem continues to this day.
Advantages of Online Marketing
The most obvious advantage of online marketing is just the sheer increase in marketing opportunities: you can reach more people, in more ways. However, another great thing about Internet marketing is that you can take that larger body of people and more effectively find a certain group to target, too. In this way, Internet marketing gives you more control over the scope of your advertisement.
Internet marketing, especially when social media is involved, gives more opportunity to interact with customers. This is not only a great way to advertise and promote, but it also is a great way to gather information, firsthand and free of charge, about what customers really want.
Indeed, social media is mostly free; there might be some paid marketing services that give you advanced marketing stats and greater visibility, but the free media is more than enough for many marketers. In general, it is best to max out on free opportunities before adding on paid features. You start by seeing how many likes (or other reactions, if available), comments, or reviews your product or service has gotten.
Influencer and niche marketing have grown with these change to the Internet. Influencer marketing involves pinpointing a customer who is influential among your target customer group. If you effectively sell the product to the influencer (and possibly create some sort of mutually beneficial deal), the influencer will bring a large number of sales in your direction. Influencer marketing is closely aligned with niche marketing, which involves pinpointing a certain constituency – based on specific needs and/or demographics – and marketing in such a way as to target the niche specifically.
In fact, a great thing about all Internet advertising is that you can monitor how your advertisement, site, or blog is performing at all times with Internet stats and data; you do not have to wait and see what happens, as you would with traditional advertising. This is part of what is known as data-driven advertising.
For larger businesses, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning are revolutionizing the online marketing process. With so much information available and better programs to analyze this data, the online marketing process is increasingly automated. Marketing software can target the right audience and even send correspondences (email, messages, etc.) to fit an individual prospective customer. AI and machine learning even allow software to predict customer behavior, using statistical analysis. This process can be used to increase sales by automatically adjusting the content a customer is shown based on his/her anticipated preferences.
In essence, search engine marketing (SEM) is a kind of data-driven marketing, because it relies on the search engine’s records of common search expressions. One of the best free approaches to data-driven advertising is keyword research using observation of the search engine’s autocorrect; also, for free or a small fee, you can use keyword research services, such as Google Trends, Google Keyword, and more.
We have all seen websites install cookies onto our computer. Cookies are files that track your Internet travels and show you advertising in opportune places. However, it gets more complicated yet: Many advertising software systems instantaneously use data from the customer, affiliate advertisers, and the advertising company in a combined bidding process to find the best ad deal for the company (and hopefully the most relevant ad for the customer). As users, we load webpages and see all of this seemingly random advertising appear instantly, but in fact, machine learning analysis is processing millions of data pieces to choose the ads we end up seeing on a given webpage at a given time.
Long and Short Term Goals of Online Marketing
One’s exact online marketing goals ultimately depend on what you are selling and where you are in the process. Also, as in all areas of life, there are both short-term and long-term goals in online marketing. Common long-term goals are to increase sales or sales leads, to monetize (make financially valuable) a website, to build your brand or online reputation, or to optimize conversions (increase rate of financial return from customer views of your online marketing material).
What is an online marketing strategy in the short term? In the short term, you might just want to find a web host, such as WordPress, and create a website and/or blog. Then, you need to write (get someone to write) content that your prospective customers will get something out of. Alternatively, if applicable, you could shoot videos or record audible media to embed on a website or blog, or even to post on a YouTube channel (or, better yet, you could do all of these).
To make your content easy for potential followers to find, another short-term goal would be to integrate some SEO into your writings. For videos and audible media, SEO-informed titles are key. Also, many businesses find that a great way to unify all of their advertisement avenues and grow their brand is to create a logo or trademarked expression.
Later, you might decide that you want to become your own Internet host, which requires more web development knowledge. Being your own host is desirable, because it allows you to have a more personally descriptive URL address, which makes your online brand easier to distinguish from others. Lastly, you might want to incorporate some associate or affiliate advertising, or alternatively, you might want to be an affiliate or associate for someone else. Not only is this a moneymaker, but it also creates networking opportunities to grow your brand.
Online Marketing Strategies
Most online marketing campaigns are non-linear in their approach: This means that the advertising elements can work together in an assortment of different ways to create brand familiarity; interaction – among customers or customer interaction with the company – is part of the campaign. In contrast, linear advertising, which includes most traditional types of ads, is advertising that goes in one direction – out to the public.
Online marketing is not just for online businesses. Traditional businesses can and should start an online marketing campaign, because it is relatively inexpensive and easy, while bringing considerably more customers. Alternatively, Internet businesses should at least consider traditional, linear advertising – this is an especially good way to advertise to your local community or to those few out there who are not tech savvy. The two approaches do not have to be mutually exclusive: we have all seen TV or newspaper ads that show social media and/or website links.
Digital Marketing vs. Online Marketing
Ultimately, these two expressions are almost synonyms; also, there is some debate as to what actually falls in the category of online marketing. Some say that it is the need for an Internet connection that makes something an online feature, but ultimately, this seems to describe all digital media, with the possible exception of SMS text messages.
Web TV and web radio both require an Internet connection, and most apps require an Internet connection for you to get all features. Email, while not consider online marketing by some, clearly requires an Internet connection, and – even though most of us find spam annoying – it turns out that email is still an effective advertising method.
Still Growing and Changing
The Internet is still changing – improved data analysis is improving our search engine results and targeted ads. Ultimately, this improved technology democratizes the Internet, and so if you have good content that people want, they are more likely to see it than ever before. More than ever before, the key is to think creatively about what your prospective customers really want.