With the rapid growth of social media and search platforms over the past few decades, people are more active on the internet than ever before. Online marketing provides an extremely unique opportunity for marketers to reach a diverse base of active and engaged customers online.
However, with so many different platforms and options available for implementing online marketing, marketers need to decide on which strategies are best for their businesses. In this article, we’ll examine some of the most common approaches and show you how you can begin implementing them.
What is Online Marketing
Online marketing is the use of the Internet and other digital technologies to promote a product or service. Some common forms of online marketing include search engine optimization, search engine marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and influencer marketing.
The potential for online marketing is massive. In fact, there are now nearly 5 billion Internet users, or about 63% of the entire world population. In North America alone, the percentage of people on the Internet is over 90% of the population! It’s no wonder that marketers in all industries are accelerating their adoption of online marketing to meet their customers online.
This growth also shows no signs of stopping. Even in places with high levels of Internet adoption like in North America, new technologies are providing additional channels that innovative marketers can utilize to stay engaged with their customers. Internet of Things and mobile devices are affording marketers the opportunity to reach customers not only at home, but at work, on the go, and throughout their day as they use technology for all aspects of their lives.
The Benefits of Online Marketing
In addition to the large user base of the Internet, online marketing provides a number of unique advantages to traditional forms of marketing:
Unlike physical marketing, digital media can be distributed to users instantly wherever they are. This allows marketers to be fast and flexible in how they engage with their potential customers, and reach people in broad geographic areas.
The CPMs—cost per thousand impressions—of online marketing can be orders of magnitude cheaper than other traditional marketing channels. In order to most efficiently get the most eyeballs on your content, online marketing is the way to go.
The digital content used in online marketing can be dynamic and interactive. Videos, 3D photos, VR/AR, and carousel images are just a few of the many options marketers can use to provide an engaging experience that static content cannot easily compete with.
Due to the vast amounts of data that Internet companies collect, marketers can efficiently target their advertising to specific segments of consumers with specific attributes like demographics, interests, and online engagements. Marketers can even have the platforms show content that is statistically most likely to lead them to perform a particular action, like purchasing a product.
Many traditional forms of marketing — like TV and billboards — are very passive and therefore provide a challenge for marketers looking to catch viewers’ attention. Online marketing allows businesses to engage directly with users as they interact with their favorite online platforms.
Online Marketing Strategies and Techniques
Since internet users now utilize so many different services online, there are a wide range of opportunities available to market to them.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a website to generate more organic traffic from search engines. When performing SEO, marketers attempt to structure the web content in such a way that ranking algorithms of services like Google favor their website over other relevant websites.
The first step in SEO is creating relevant content that search engines can “crawl.” Informational pages, blogs, and other text material can provide content to the search engines about what is relevant to the website, and encourage the promotion of that content in related searches.
Marketers will also work to optimize existing material on websites to ensure that it’s structured and written in ways that the search engines can understand. Adding structure like metatags and ensuring usage of relevant keywords are two common ways of doing so. However, since Google and other search engines are constantly tuning their ranking algorithms, SEO is a fast changing and iterative process.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of promoting a website through search engines, typically through paid advertising. Like SEO, the goal of SEM is to encourage search engine users to click through to a website when searching for something related to the product or service being promoted.
The most common form of SEM is called pay-per-click (PPC). This is a form of online advertising where the marketer pays search engines every time a user clicks their ad. The search engines will then show the ads in prominent locations when users search for related keywords to encourage them to click the ad over other organic or paid content.
Pay-per-click can be very valuable to marketers due to the fact that the users seeing the ads are already actively searching for something related to the product or service, and therefore are much more likely to find the ad relevant and click through to the website.
Content marketing is the process of creating and publishing content—typically free to the consumer of the content—that a target audience finds useful or valuable. The content can take various forms, such as blogs, videos, infographics, eBooks, or email newsletters.
By providing value to a target audience of potential customers, content marketing is a unique way for marketers to generate leads and increase brand awareness. The idea is that if the content is valuable and interesting enough to these customers and demonstrates the brand’s expertise in the respective field, the customers will research the brand behind it, share the material with friends and colleagues, and make a purchase.
Typically marketers will define specific audiences that they’re writing the content for to make it particularly engaging and relevant for them, rather than trying to make broad content that can serve everyone. Content marketing is also valuable for SEO, as search engines can index the material and promote it to people searching for related topics. This improves the organic traffic that the website receives over time.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is the process of using social media platforms to promote a product or service. This can be done through organic posts on a brand’s own social media page, or it can be done through paid advertising where the social media platform shows ads to users as they use the social media service.
Organic social media posts allow marketers to stay engaged with their existing audience by sharing updates and relevant information about the brand. It also allows for sharing content and other things that users may find interesting and share with their friends to encourage organic distribution.
Paid social media advertising allows marketers to reach a broader audience on these platforms by placing ads within the content of the platform itself — like on a feed page, for instance. With the average person spending almost 2.5 hours per day on social media, there is a lot of potential for reaching new customers. Furthermore, social media allows for very specific hyper-targeting, which can greatly reduce the cost of clicks and conversions.
Influencer marketing is a specific form of social media marketing where influencers—people with a large social media following—are paid to promote a product or service on their social media pages. Unlike standard paid social media ads, influencer marketing uses the organic reach of influencers’ existing audiences.
Many influencers have very active and engaged followers, and they can typically be defined by a certain niche or demographic. Because of this, marketers often find that partnering with influencers in similar niches to their product or service can drive a lot of engagement and qualified leads. Complementing influencer marketing with retargeting strategies can be a very effective way to convert customers.
Tips for Your Online Marketing Strategy
While there are many different platforms and strategies for marketing online, there are some common best practices that can be implemented across all of them:
Research your target audience. Marketing material that is relevant to users will get more engagement and drive more sales. It’s important to understand your customers and what their needs are, so you can tune your marketing material to them. Defining buyer personas can be a good start.
Collect and utilize data. Online marketing generates a lot of data. Everything from page views to purchases can and should be tracked. Not only will this help you understand what your users are doing and how you can improve your service, but it can also be used for highly effective marketing practices like retargeting and lookalikes.
Split test your targeting and content. It’s unlikely that every piece of marketing content or every ad you run will be successful. Split testing both the targeting of your advertisements and the content itself will help you understand what works and what doesn’t. Most online advertising platforms allow you to track fine grained metrics about clicks, views, purchases, and more, which can help you to determine which ads are successful and which should be modified or stopped.
Read comments and feedback. Social media comments, product reviews, customer service requests, and articles are all valuable data points for understanding how your marketing is performing. Customers will be quick to tell you what they don’t like and you should look for trends to see what could be improved.
Double down on what works. You can split test and iterate on your marketing all day, but when you find a winning advertisement or strategy for your brand, stick with it. There’s nothing wrong with leaving something running for a long time if it keeps producing results.
Experiment with new platforms. The popular platforms that your customers use will change over time. While the next “hot thing” may not seem relevant to the demographic of your customers right now, it may soon be — and it will take you some time to get a hang of the best practices. Allocating a bit of your marketing budget and time to exploring new platforms for experiments is a great way to prepare for the future and get ahead of the competition.
Examples of Successful Online Marketing Campaigns
Businesses in all industries and of all sizes are now running online marketing campaigns. Here we’ll look at a few businesses that are successfully using these strategies to promote their products and services:
Charles Schwab Encourages Gifting Stock on Facebook
Leading financial services company Charles Schwab uses paid social media ads on Facebook and Instagram to promote custodial accounts for gifting small stock ownership. Targeted copy and videos serve to draw users who want to help their younger family members and friends begin investment accounts.
Microsoft Drives Qualified Enterprise Leads Through Content Marketing
Microsoft’s self-hosted blog provides content on the use of the cloud for digital transformation. Blog posts contain statistics, survey results, and anecdotes about how businesses across industries are implementing these processes.
This type of content marketing helps to drive traffic from relevant readers that are likely looking for a solution to a problem that Microsoft has products and services to solve. This increases Microsoft’s visibility in space, encourages sharing of the content, and drives customers to try Microsoft’s cloud solutions.
Canon Promotes Cameras Through Google Pay-Per-Click
Canon uses Google pay-per-click ads to promote high-end digital cameras to users that are searching for related keywords such as “DSLR camera”. They also promote free shipping on the orders to encourage active shoppers that are looking for good deals and promotions.
These search engine marketing activities allow Cannon to target customers that are actively looking for related products to purchase. Since Cannon is already prominence in the industry gives them an edge on other companies lower in the search results and increasing the click-through rate and conversions.
Manage Your Online Marketing Campaigns with Marketing Automation
Online marketing is a cost-effective way to instantly distribute marketing material to customers and provide them with engaging and high-converting content. However, managing your campaigns across all different platforms at scale requires marketing automation software that can integrate and control all the different aspects of these systems. Adobe’s Marketo Engage solution provides all the tools necessary to not only manage these different systems, but also track and analyze customer behavior across them. Learn how Marketo Engage can help your business grow with online marketing.