If you ask 100 different people involved in internet marketing the question, “What is Internet Marketing?”, you are very likely to get 100 different answers. The answer of a small brick-and-mortar business owner gives you will likely be very different from that of a marketing manager of a Fortune 500 company, which is going to be very different from someone working from home making their income through “the internet.”
In this article, I’m going to attempt to provide a concrete answer to what internet marketing is, the different forms of internet marketing, and why internet marketing is important.
What Is Internet Marketing?
If you boil internet marketing down to its core, it all comes down to using the internet to promote a product, service, business, individual, or even ideas. From there, how you accomplish that particular objective is where the different competing definitions of internet marketing come into play.
To further complicate things, new ways of marketing on the internet are always popping up as new technology is invented and adopted. Just look at how cell phones have drastically changed the way people interact with the world wide web and have made new forms of internet marketing available to marketers.
Before the use of smart phones internet marketing primarily revolved around marketing products and services to people who were using desktop or laptop computers to browse the internet. Now with smart phones, internet marketers are able to advertise within smart phone apps or use GPS tracking to offer customers discounts and coupons when they come within a certain distance of a store, at a mall for example.
No matter what technology is in use, just remember that at its very foundation internet marketing is about leveraging the power of the internet to connect your product/service/business with people around the world who might not otherwise encounter your product/service/business.
What Are The Different Forms of Internet Marketing?
Now we are getting to the fun stuff. There are a bajillion forms of what people call internet marketing. Instead of trying to list them all on this page, I am going to attempt to categorize the different forms of internet marketing into broad groups and then link to other pages where I have explained that broad group or form of internet marketing in more detail.
Search Engine Optimization(SEO)
In its simplest terms, search engine optimization is about getting your product, service or business to appear in the search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. People want to appear in the search engines because they know that people are searching for solutions to their needs on the internet and do so by using search engines.
More specifically, SEO is what people do to try to get their product, service or business to appear on the first page of the Search Engine Results Pages(SERPs). People want to be on the first page of the SERPs because the vast majority of people who are using search engines do not click past the first couple of entries, let alone the first page.
SEO has proven to be a big cat-and-mouse game between the search engines and the marketer. Over time, keen marketers see patterns and trends that get their websites ranked higher in the search engines. They share or sell these tips and tricks and then before you know it everyone is using those tricks to get ranked. The only problem is that this can lead to a poor user experience from the perspective of the search engine visitor and the search engines(especially Google).
Invariably, the search engines(especially Google) make changes to their system to improve the end user experience for their visitors and help them find the information they are looking for. A lot of times this involves closing loopholes that grey hat and black hat internet marketers use to unfairly rank on the first page of Google without providing quality content that is useful to the search engine visitor.
Below I have listed some different forms of Search Engine Optimization. Some of them are obsolete due to search engine algorithm updates and will actually harm your website rankings if you use them. I only include them for completeness and to help educate you on the SEO tactics that you should avoid.
Keyword Stuffing – Back in the early days of internet marketing search engines relied on a primitive ranking algorithm that determined a website’s relevance to a given query by determining if the same keywords used in the search engine visitor’s query were also on a website.
Marketers soon realized that the more times a keyword was on a website, the higher the website ranked. They realized that they just couldn’t endlessly repeat the keyword 1 million times on their website and still make sales, so they made the keywords the same color as the background of their page, so they could get the best of both worlds. The search engines soon caught on and eliminated this loophole.
Backlinking – Up until recently, the last few years or so, backlinking was a really popular SEO strategy that helped people get to the top of the search engines. Marketers realized that the more links you had on other websites that pointed to your website the higher in the search engines your website would rank. They also realized the anchor text of links on other websites would influence the keywords that your website would rank for.
At that point website owners and marketers blanketed the internet with links to their websites. The “backlinking arms race” had begun with each marketer trying to get more backlinks, and thus higher rankings, than their competitors that were operating in the same niche.
Getting backlinks was the primary driver behind a lot of techniques such as posting your links on link directories, creating private blog networks, commenting on other websites, social bookmarking, article marketing, video marketing. Basically, marketers were trying to use any and all methods to get links on as many other websites as possible.
As happens so frequently in the SEO world, the search engines updated their ranking algorithm(s) and placed less weight on backlinking and more weight on other ranking signals, so the backlinking gravy train came to an end.
Article Marketing – As I mentioned above, article marketing can be considered to be a form of backlinking. Basically this involved writing content that you would then place on other websites that accepted content. These were largely known as “article directories”.
Basically, the theory behind article marketing was that these sites were already well ranked in Google and any content you placed on those websites would rank faster than content than you placed on your own sites especially if it was a new website.
Article directories such as EzineArticles, HubPages, StreetArticles, and a slew of other ones I can’t remember anymore would let you publish your article on their website. Within the article you were allowed to place hyperlinks that linked back to your website. These articles would then get ranked in the search engines quickly, visitors would find these articles and read them. If they liked your content they would click on the hyperlink in your article and visit your website.
Marketers soon realized that writing articles for a bunch of different websites was hard works, so the concept of “article spinning” and the use of “article spinners” emerged. The basic premise was you would write one article and then use a piece of software that would automatically replace certain words with synonyms of your choosing and thus create multiple articles from one article. Obviously this could lead to some really awkward phrases and useless SERPs if it was just full of articles that said the exact same thing, but using different words.
Eventually the search engines realized that marketers were turning their SERPs into complete cesspools of useless garbage, so they changed their algorithm to derank what they called “content farms”, aka article directories, and to be able to detect the article spinners.
Authority Sites – Today the emphasis of SEO seems to have shifted to what are called authority sites. Instead of making content and placing that content on other websites, you now place that content on your own website and make your website an authority in your niche market. This is partly possible due to the changes in the ranking algorithm that enabled newer websites to compete on a level, or should I say more level, playing field with the more established websites. As long as your content is high quality, useful and engaging you stand a good chance of getting it ranked in the search engines without having to mess around with a lot of SEO.
Everything Else – It seems like all forms of internet marketing are tied back into SEO in some way or another as the search engines use a lot of different ranking signals to rank websites. Even though I’ve placed video and social media marketing underneath their own group they could also be considered to play a part in SEO along with a slew of other internet marketing techniques.
Content marketing kind of goes hand in hand with SEO. It’s essentially the creation of content that is going to drive traffic back to your website. Content isn’t just limited to pages and posts that you place on your website. Content can also be videos that you place on video sites such as YouTube or DailyMotion. It can also be pictures and images that you either take or create and place on sites like Instagram or Pinterest. Content can also be a free podcast that you create and make available at iTunes. Everything that you put on the internet for your target market to read, listen to or interact can be considered a form of content marketing. Each tweet, share, and pin are in and of themselves a form of content marketing.
As I have mentioned before video marketing can be considered to be a part of SEO, a part of content marketing or even its own strategy. With video marketing you are just creating content in the form of videos and posting them to either your own website or to video sharing services such as YouTube.
The advantage of video marketing is you get your content in front of more people and you give the search engines a different type of content to index and display on their results pages. A lot of people really like to watch videos and would rather watch a video than read text on a web page.
It also seems like that video marketing has become the new article marketing. Instead of creating articles with links back to your main website you create videos with either links in them that people can follow back to your website or you just tell people to check out your website from within the video.
People will find your videos through the search engines, they can also find your video through what is known as “related videos” on the video sharing platform itself, and they can even come across your video if it gets shared across social media platforms.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is where you join websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, and any other website where the primary goal of the platform is for users to communicate with other users, and you engage with your customers and target market/demographic.
Social media’s true power is that you are no longer reliant on search engines to get traffic to your website. You can share content that you create on social media sites and if its well liked it can “go viral” and get in front of a lot of people as people share it with their friends, and those friends share it with other friends, and so on and so forth.
Each site is going to have its own nuances, but the basic strategy stays the same. You create content that you post to social media sites in an attempt to get other people to view, like, and share it with their social network.
Believe it or not, social media actually plays a role in search engine optimization and getting your website and content ranked in the search engines. If you have social media buttons installed on your website and a page on your website has been shared, liked, tweeted, +1’d, pinned thousands of times you can be sure that the search engines have noticed and will be ranking that page higher than other pages because it has proven to be content that people like and find useful.
Pay Per Click(PPC Advertising)
Pay Per Click advertising, more commonly called PPC, is where you pay for your ad to be displayed on a website. It derives its name from the method of payment. You pay for each time your ad is clicked, hence the name pay per click. If you have ever searched any search engine and saw the ads or “Sponsored Links” above or to the right of the Search Engine Results Pages, then you have seen PPC ads. Google has their PPC platform that they call “Google Adwords” and Microsoft and Yahoo at one point(I’m not sure if this is still the case) combined their PPC platforms into “Bing Ads”. Facebook’s ad platform is also another example of a PPC ad platform
Pay Per Click platforms aren’t just limited to the search engines. There are a lot of websites that receive a tremendous amount of traffic from people on a daily, hourly, and minutely basis. A lot of times these websites will run their own PPC platform where you can run ads with them directly or they outsource this function to a third-party who manages the details for them.
Just to make things confusing, most of these platforms will also have something called CPM which stands for “cost per thousand”, with the M being the Roman numeral for one thousand. As you would imagine, instead of paying per click you are paying per thousand ad impressions. The advantage of CPM over PPC is that if you know how to get really super-high click through rates on your ads, you can end up spending a lot less money than if you had been paying per click.
Both the PPC and CPM platforms operate on a bidding model. You’ll place a bid for how much you are willing to pay per click or per thousand impressions in order to get your ad shown for a certain keyword or demographic. If there are many advertisers bidding on the same thing as you, then you can expect for the cost per click price on PPC platforms and the cost per thousand impressions on CPM platforms to increase. Likewise, the cost will be lower for less in demand keywords and demographics.
Email marketing involves getting the email addresses of your existing customers or potential customers and then marketing your product and services to them with email. To be clear, I’m NOT talking about just buying a list of email addresses and spamming them with emails telling them to buy something. What I’m talking about is known as permission-based email marketing or opt-in email marketing.
Opt-in email marketing involves placing a form on your website where visitors can enter their email address. In most cases you offer something for free that’s often referred to as a “lead magnet” to get the visitors to sign up from your email list. From there, you can either just have them join your email list or you can have them confirm their subscription. Having them confirm their subscription is known as “double opt-in”, this helps protect you against claims that you were emailing them without their permission.
As we all know, advertising is expensive. PPC advertising can be very expensive and burn a hole in your pocketbook very quickly. Email marketing offers an opportunity with you to keep on following up with a potential customer over time to eventually make a sale instead of just having them visit your website once and never return to your website again. It also allows you to keep continuing marketing to those people in the future.
Why Is Internet Marketing Important?
Internet Marketing is important because internet usage has exploded in the last decade. Shopping and purchasing on the internet also grew tremendously during that same time period. If you’re not marketing yourself on the internet you are going to quickly find you and your business left in the dust as your competitors market themselves on the internet and increase their market share.
Internet Marketing is also important because its a lot easier to quantify your results. With internet marketing its very easy to determine what efforts are producing traffic and sales on your website. This allows you to keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t work. It helps you be more effective with your advertising monies.
As long as this post is, I haven’t really begun to scratch the surface at describing this thing that we call internet marketing. The internet marketing rabbit hole just keeps on going. If I can offer just one piece of advice, it would be to focus on building your internet marketing efforts for the long term and not the short term. Don’t get caught up in the latest fad that tries to lure you in with quick and easy rankings in the SERPs. Build your internet marketing campaigns around what your target market needs and wants. Cater to your target market, provide them what they need, and the search engines will cater to you.