Online Marketing: The Beginner’s Guide
Is online marketing necessary? A better question perhaps is: what is online marketing?
This is a division of digital marketing. Neil Patel defines digital marketing as any form of marketing that engages electronic devices to promote products and services.
Digital marketing includes both online and offline marketing. Online marketing gained popularity in the 2000’s since the advent of the internet. Both matter and given the fact that they all involve the use of electronic devices, says much given the direction the world is headed.
The infographic from Unbounce summarizes it in a very concise manner.
Billboards have lost their luster. Few years back, smart devices did not exist to occupy the attention of pedestrians or motorists alike.
Today, drivers are spending the extra minute in traffic to check emails or scrolling through messages in chat apps. 90% of the time, the passengers are fully immersed in their phones if not watching something from the screen mounted on the passenger seat.
That is the reality of the world we are living in. Paper has become a conversation of the environmentalist; in good faith I must add. As printing presses are adapting to digital publications, there is no excuse for businesses debating to take the leap to digital.
While that is still shaking heads, internet and mobile technology checks in disrupting the world of digital. Now, it is even more aggressive. Tech has quickly evolved to augment with people’s lifestyles in an incredible way.
At the point of writing this article, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the way of business and working from home has turned out to be the new normal.
If ever the conversation about shifting online got airtime, it is now. From brick and mortar to virtual companies, the reality is here with us. Businesses that are not making use of online platforms may fast be losing out or even worse, going extinct.
That is why I will walk you through how to get started with online marketing in this article.
When I started the article, I emphasized the need to adapt. Technology makes it necessary given its fluid nature. This guide is helpful for budding entrepreneurs, small business owners, experienced entrepreneurs, marketing managers, PR managers and anyone looking to understand how online platforms can propel the wheels of an organization forward.
The internet has so much on marketing. From training manuals to video tutorials, the subject of online marketing has been exhaustively covered. However, this guide seeks to bring together the contents of these resources to create a biteable guide that tackles the subject from the beginning, to offer users across the spectrum with a balanced strategy and action plan.
The Main Forms of Online Marketing
Below are the 7 main categories of online marketing that you should get fully acquainted with as you embark on this journey.
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Affiliate marketing
- Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Social media marketing (SMM)
Let’s explore each of them to help you have a full scope of what to engage as you come up with your online marketing strategy.
1) Grow and Retain your Audience with Content Marketing
According to CMI, content marketing is a marketing approach that is strategically focused on the consistent creation and distribution of relevant and valuable content, towards attracting and sustaining a defined audience, with the aim of driving profitable customer action.
Content marketers don’t pitch for products or services, but rather push relevant and useful content to help solve problems.
Blogging is one such example that hit the waves with the advent of content marketing. This is one of the ways businesses have been able to build their authority in the market. However, content marketing is more than that. It covers so much including guides like this one, infographics, videos, eBooks, webinars, and much more.
Content marketing needs to be focused on building trust by generating quality consumer-worthy content. Through this content, you can capture the right metrics to help measure your return on investment (ROI).
2) Boost your Personal Connections with Email Marketing
Optinmonster defines email marketing as a digital marketing strategy that involves sending emails to customers and prospects aimed at turning prospects into buyers and customers into loyal fans. This involves the use of leads to execute cold or warm email. One can also keep their audience raved through email newsletters with exciting and useful content.
Often, it has been misused by culprits who end up with emails flagged off as spam. This is an easy way to ruin your organization’s online reputation. When used correctly, it can be powerful. By prioritizing genuine human interactions and letting the sale show up naturally, you stand a higher chance of gunning the right results.
Crafting good emails with the recipient in mind is an art that can be learnt. Here is a guide on how to.
3) Affiliate Marketing as a Source of Passive Income
Affiliate marketing is simply the process of earning commissions from the sales made by marketing another company’s products. Most businesses are not aware of the incremental sales they can make by introducing an affiliate program. According to data by BigCommerce, at least 84% of publishers and 81% of brands are leveraging on affiliate marketing in the United States.
As a company looking to increase their sales print online, having an affiliate program allows for affiliate marketers to find your link and use it to market your product. For any sale you make from your link, they pocket their commission. This is a win-win for both sides.
This method of increasing sales has existed since the early years of online marketing. You can get help on how to get started here.
4) Level UP your Sales with Paid Channel Advertising
This technique is also commonly termed as ‘pay-per-click’ advertising (PPC). This is a type of search engine marketing (SEM) that entails the purchasing of online traffic through online ads.
Often, marketers shy away from this method because it costs money. Simply, you pay every time someone clicks on the ad even if they do not buy. While most companies will take this to be too risky, it is not uncommon for small and established brands to run PPC campaigns.
This is because if executed well, PPC has great return on investment (ROI), and is a great boost to the other forms of search engine marketing. Get started.
5) Get Noticed on Searches with SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization and it entails increasing the quality and number of traffic to your website by engaging organic techniques.
When it comes to Google and Bing, the idea is to constantly better the user experience when looking for information through their platforms. While they don’t produce content, they process a lot of submitted content every second from millions of users.
Due to this surge in growing online content, search engines are keenly prioritizing what needs to get on the first page when a user keys in their search phrase. Quality traffic means then that you have earned the right to get your content exposed to users looking for exactly what you are offering. Often, this traffic converts almost immediately to business.
In terms of numbers, this method takes time to perfect. Before you can get high ranking for any keyword, you need to put in work which involves building great content, optimizing your website and social media, as well as backlinking with authority websites. Once search engines are convinced that your content is worth the attention, then anyone who searches that phrase will see your website listed among the first search results on the first page.
Organic means you don’t have to pay to get the good results. This is why engaging this method alongside PPC gives you a great leap forward.
6) Combining SEO and PPC for Great Search Engine Marketing Results
Think about a scenario where you had to hand out fliers to a crowd and individually explain why the product you were offering was important for them. You would take perhaps a whole week even months to circle round a crowd of 1,000 people.
While you will still accomplish your goal, you will only need 10 minutes or less to explain the same thing to the same group with a massive paid screen. That’s the concept with PPC and SEO. While SEO is careful, slow and sustainable in the long term, PPC is short term, expensive, but gets you enough visibility to boost your website traffic; for as long as you can afford it.
As you work on search engine optimization, one key factor that boosts results is consistent increase in traffic. Usually, search engines take this as an indicator that your content is doing well hence getting more eyeballs. As such, while you may not be able to share to as many people by yourself, PPC helps you buy the traffic as you eventually grow towards building your own.
With the right strategy to combine the two, you can experience increased sales and better yet, build a sustainable system to make that consistent. Get started.
7) Keep Connected to the Online Community with Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is more than having a Twitter account or running a Facebook profile. It involves engaging strategy and consistency to win an audience. When well executed, social media is a potent tool for customer engagement.
Social media platforms hold the prospective consumers of your products and services. While it does not work independently of the other online marketing methods, it is a powerful driver of web traffic.
However, don’t fall for the temptation to create multiple profiles and flood them with content. Focus on the channels that will give you maximum reach to your clients. Get the right content and distribution strategy, and you will be off to a good start.
Soon, you should begin to notice engagement in your channels. Also, pay attention to what your audience is saying. Keep them locked by iterating your methods to blend your company’s objectives and your audience needs. Get started.
Now that you understand the different content marketing methods, you need a game plan. If you are totally new to this world, you need to know that this will be a tough but exciting experience if you choose to maintain a learning spirit. Let’s get down to it.
Consider an Expert to Guide Your Online Marketing
As a business owner jumping into digital for the first time, you want to get as much help as you can. This will help you cut down your execution time by half (figuratively).
Think of it this way; you can choose to do it by yourself and save the money or simply get an expert to lift your stress load and earn you more money.
Doing it for yourself means that you will need to put in many hours to learn what needs to be done and how to do it right. For a short term strategy, this can be very helpful to help you save the money. However, this would mean losing out on potential income in the long run.
Hiring an expert doesn’t have to be expensive but you will definitely need a budget for it. An expert gives you exposure to best practice and faster execution. This is enough to generate you more business to help pay for their services in the long run, with ease.
But even if you are not new to digital, there is only so much that you can handle in regards to your business and managing your own online marketing. Worse yet, it becomes hard to keep up with the changing world of digital as you try to maneuver other crucial areas of your business.
Start off with outsourcing to a freelancer or full-time agency. Later on you could consider working partly with a consultant to help you manage it by yourself. With these, you get to guarantee a good foundation for your online marketing efforts, as well as manage your marketing costs based on results.
Research the Subject Thoroughly
Going to an expert and briefing them on your expectations may not be enough. You need to do your homework and understand what it is they will be asking you to commit to.
Often, parting with money will be your number one concern. Meaning, it will be easy to try and push for a lower quote or get a cheaper option.
However, beyond the quotation, you need to understand how they will drive results and what metrics will be used to measure performance.
Don’t worry about the buzzwords; keep asking questions until you have full clarity on what tasks will be accomplished and the measures of success.
Set Objectives and Create a Plan
Just like any other type of marketing, you need clear objectives before engaging this. First, identify what your business needs to achieve from online marketing.
Often, the goal is to create awareness, generate leads, or both. Learn how to achieve each of these objectives. This is where you engage the expert to help you get an effective strategy.
There are a few things to mark off a strategy as effective in online marketing:
- Efficiency – Does it help you achieve your objective at a minimum cost? Are you able to meet your objective faster without any delays or accrued costs? If you answered yes to both then you have achieved efficiency.
- Tools and resources – Often, I see clients overlook this as they engage their marketing campaigns. The tools required are as important as the results you get. In any case, the relationship between the results you get and the tools you use are directly related and not inverse. Working from a budget, your consultant should guide you on how to choose and prioritize the right tools for the job.
- Call to Action – The end-goal of any online marketing campaign is ultimately leading the audience to act. Your strategy should always incorporate active call-to-actions at every stage. This is to ensure that you are not having any leakages as you work towards acquiring the attention of your audience.
Engage the Execution Process
At this stage, the ‘getting-started’ fever is probably at its peak or you are almost losing it. Not to worry, finally you get to put your plan to action.
If you have an expert lifting the full load for you, then you are in good hands. By this time, I assume that you have approved their plan, and received satisfactory answers for all your questions.
You might have considered doing it by yourself from the start; with or without an expert to guide you. With the latter, you are still in good hands. It may have taken you longer to align your objectives and come up with a working plan, but with the help of a consultant, you got your way around it.
At this stage, it gets more complex. Without an expert to take you through, more patience and skill is required to get the right results.
I like to break down the execution process into the following:
- Content Creation – Each type of online marketing dictates the kind of content you need. For instance SEO requires that your text, graphics or video content is optimized to satisfy the different users running queries on search engines.
Social media content will appeal to different user demographics which vary across different channels. Having the right knowledge will dictate how you get to create your content and what kind of resources to engage.
- Distribution – You can have good content but without the right channels of distribution, it is synonymous to dressing for an occasion and never leaving the house. Often, this will involve a creative strategy in order to break the walls that would obscure your content from getting noticed.
Ensure to budget for promotions, buying ad space, or even getting syndication. These are simply but a few ways of getting your content distributed. While not everything has to be paid for, you will require a smart strategy to get in front of your desired audience.
- Engagement – Assuming that you crack it and generate the right content and distribute it effectively, then your first signs of success will be the engagement you receive on the content. This will include possible shares, likes, and comments.
Better yet, if you remain consistent, you could begin to notice a gradual influx in your audience size. This is a good thing because it means that your online marketing strategy is working.
- Iteration – The flipside is experiencing minimal to zero engagement. This means two things; either the content is not good enough or the distribution strategy is a total fail. Often, the latter is the problem especially where little work goes into blasting the content.
However, in cases where work has gone into both content creation and distribution and there is no significant engagement as desired, it is time to revise the strategy. This means reviewing the entire process to see if there could be any flaws to rectify. Sometimes, it means doing A/B tests or a couple of runs before getting the results you need.
- Conversion – Once you have the attention of your audience, it is time to convince them to take up the desired actions. Engagement is not enough when it comes to online selling.
Whether you are simply building awareness or selling directly, you need to see to it that your audience takes the right action. Having the right funnel is essential in helping guide the process.
With the internet, it all boils down to the strategy, tools, and the audience. If you can get the audience to engage and act in your favor, then you have a winning strategy. This means that you have engaged the right content and distribution arsenals. It might be impossible to engage most of the online marketing methods on your own without help.
Often, the muscle to remain consistent weakens for most entrepreneurs resulting in minimal to zero results. It is easy to conclude that a certain marketing strategy is not working because of this. That is why it is helpful to hire an expert to handle the load for you. This way, you can focus on your business as you grow your marketing.
Let us know if you could use a hand with your digital marketing here.