A beginners guide to online marketing
Online marketing is a term that seems to encompass a mind boggling array of options, all of which can be complex, confusing and ultimately time consuming to those that are not directly working within this industry. As a result of this I thought I would create the beginners guide to online marketing, providing you with an overview of the options, how they work, what they are appropriate for and how they can help you grow your business.
Online marketing, as the name suggests, incorporates using any online medium to market your business to potential consumers, this can include:
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Search Engine Marketing
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Content Publishing (News, Blogging, Press Releases)
So let’s dive in and take a look at each of these types of online marketing to see what they are, how they work and what they can do for your business.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search engine optimisation (often referred to as SEO) is the practice of optimising a website and performing tasks involved with the website to try and get it to rank as high as possible in the “organic” results within a search engine. These are the standard results that appear in the left hand side of the search results and are not paid for in any way.
Search engines use algorithms to programatically deduce the quality and relevance of a website to an entered search term, which in turn defines where it appears in the search rankings. It is thought the Google algorithm may use over 80 different factors to decide this including things such as:
- Relevance of the text on the page
- Density of the keywords on the page in relation to the rest of the text
- Code structure and existence and position of keywords in certain structure elements
- Number of links pointing to the website
Search Engine optimisation starts with the website, making sure the structure is clear and logical and that the chosen keywords are within the page the appropriate number of times and in the right locations. The overall structure of the website, link URL’s, linking text are all considered.
Search engine optimisation will also look outside of the website to ensure there are sufficient and relevant “inbound links” (links coming from other sites) using a natural range of keywords in the linking text, integrated social media and many other factors all of which influence the websites ranking.
Search engine optimisation can be a fairly involved and time consuming task. The outcome is significant, the first three results in Google searches get nearly 80% of all clicks. Clearly by being in those top three positions your business will benefit from increased traffic to your website, the first task in converting a visitor to a customer.
Search Engine Marketing (PPC)
Search engine marketing (often referred to as Pay Per Click or PPC) incorporates a number of different approaches all of which focus around displaying an advert and paying every time someone clicks on the ad or every time the ad is displayed.
You will see PPC adverts on Google, they are often the top three results highlighted in yellow and all of the adverts running down the right hand side.
PPC adverts work on the basis of defining what words or phrases you want to target, which defines when your advert will display. Dependent on the platform you can get very specific with the criteria, enabling you to only display your adverts when a very close match is made. For example on Facebook you can define something along the lines of:
- People aged 20-35
- Who are female
- Who live in the Sydney area
- And have an interest in Fashion
Facebook uses the extensive data it holds on its members to only show your advert to someone that matches all of these criteria, ensuring your advert is very specifically targeted to only these users.
You place a maximum “bid” on your chosen keywords, which defines how much you are willing to pay every time someone clicks on your advert.
Whenever someone clicks on your advert you are charged a fee based on a number of criteria including:
- Your maximum bid
- How much competition there is for your chosen keywords
- The quality of your advert
- The previous performance of your advert
Adverts can point to any location on your website but work best when they take the user to a very specific and highly optimised “landing page”. This should be very relevant to the content of the advert and have a clear conversion goal (enquiry, purchase etc).
SEM has the potential to drive highly relevant, targeted traffic to a very specific location on your website. It can be excellent to sell product or promote a service. It is also a useful way to get immediate traffic for a new website or a website that is not currently ranking well and is often used in conjunction with SEO in its initial stages. SEM is very useful and highly efficient if done right and for the right reasons. Done wrong it can be a huge money drain.
Social Media is currently the in thing. Everyone is talking about it and business seems to feel it has to be on it. It can be a powerful marketing tool for some business and a complete waste of time for others. Unfortunately this is a whole blog article in itself to cover but here is some basic information.
Social Media networks allow people to share information with other members of the site. They often work on the basis of “friends” or “followers” which allows you to build a network of people you know or are interested in. Most networks now allow business to have a profile or page to share information and use it for marketing.
One thing should be made clear, Social Media is not for marketing. Let me clarify that, you should never user Social Media as a direct sales tool, simply posting content or information which is trying to sell a product or service will not work. Social Media is about adding value and building communities, a by product of which may be to convert a small percentage to customers.
Social Media is an excellent brand awareness tool, it is a mass broadcast system allowing you to reach a large number of people. The challenge is to then engage with the relevant people, build awareness and interest in your brand, products and services with a view to being able to convert some of those people.
Effective use of Social Media requires a well planned and consistent approach to content development and delivery all focused around adding value, entertainment, education. Content should be designed to spark discussion and sharing so needs to be highly targeted to your core demographic. Different networks work in different ways and require different strategies, the key is to work out where your target demographic is and focus on those networks.
This is why it is not relevant for some business as it involves a fair amount of work over a prolonged period of time. If you have relevant content that is easy to generate then this can be highly effective, but if you will struggle to find or create relevant content it will quickly become onerous and probably not be worth your time.
Note: It seems that Social Media content is now being considered in some search results and Google may be using links from Social Media as part of its ranking algorithm (especially from its own Google+ network) so this is something to bear in mind as part of your overall marketing strategy.
Email marketing has been around for a long time and can take many forms. Done right it can be a highly effective way to have regular “touch points” with your clients to entertain and inform them, done wrong it can be a highly annoying and quick way to lose clients or potential clients.
A while ago it was thought email marketing was dead but statistics show fairly consistent and relevant figures for open rates (averaging 25%) and click through rates (averaging 5%). So if you sent out an email to 1000 clients 250 of them would open the email and 50 of them would click on a link back to your website. As a comparison click through rates for Pay Per Click on Google can often be below 2%.
The key to email marketing in 2013 and beyond is relevance and adding value. Simply sending out emails that talk about you (as a business) and trying to sell your products or services have no value to the end user, send a few of these and your unsubscribe rate will go through the roof. Instead focus on generating creative and useful information which can be supplemented with sales calls to actions. If you have a new product or service create an article around the issue that this product or service solved and highlight the benefits to the user, you can then place a small or relevant advert in relation to this.
Email marketing allows you to stay in regular contact with your clients and potential clients, reminding them you are there and providing them with relevant information, promotions and content that helps them in some way. That way people will want to open your emails to see what you have on offer and the next time they need a product or service your business name will come to mind.
Content Publishing (Marketing)
Content marketing involves creating and distributing relevant and “value add” content to attract, and engage a specific target audience.
Content marketing can incorporate (among many other things):
- Adding new pages to your website
- Adding latest news or blog articles to your website
- Creating and adding videos to YouTube and other video sites
- Creating content on other websites
- Running competitions and events
- Creating webinars and podcasts
Over the last year or so Google has made big changes to its ranking algorithm and seems to be putting much more weight on quality content. It is also believed that it puts weight on the size of your site growing over time and having fresh content on a regular basis.
Quality content also means that it is more engaging for your site visitors and has the potential to generate “inbound links” from other websites.
Creating quality content is really the cornerstone of online marketing and is the core of all the other methods highlighted above.
Essentially, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and potential customer without necessarily selling. Instead of just selling your products or services, you are delivering information that adds value to your client. The essence of this is the belief that if you, as businesses, deliver consistent and valuable information to buyers, they will ultimately reward you with their business.
And we’re done
Phew! that was a lot to cover in not much time. I hope you have found this article useful to give you an overview of online marketing. Here at Flow we understand online marketing and how it can work for your business. If you would like to discuss anything outlined here or would like to put a strategy in place please call Ivan on 1300 77 3569 today.