Online Marketing Basics
Here at Success U we talk incessantly about the importance of online marketing. As experts who have been involved with Online Marketing for the last 15 years, we have an almost intuitive understanding of the industry. This knowledge feels natural, like everyone should have it, and that is the danger we face. Familiarity breeds complacency. Staying on top of the ever changing and constantly evolving industry can be a challenge. The opposite is also true; we had the advantage of adapting as the industry grew up. We were able to adapt.
I see the online marketing wars as similar to an arms race. If you are early to the battle and have a stone hammer you can control your competition as long as they are unarmed. However when they show up with a flint tipped spear you are now at a serious disadvantage. As long as you keep up with the little adaptations you can absorb the technological shifts as they occur. We often find that our clients were involved in online marketing in its infancy and are armed with just a rock and now the industry is using muskets. Or worse they are only getting started today and are completely unarmed. This concept really hit home with me over the weekend.
I was sitting in a consultation meeting with a brand new client. They have been using online marketing since 1999, and thus they saw the industry in the stone age. Innovocus has been hired to fix a disturbing trend they have been dealing with for the last five years. Our client has had their online sales erode consistently over time. They are noticeably frustrated by this trend; after all they are doing exactly what they have always done.
Warning bells should be wringing. Online Marketing changes so rapidly, that what made an effective campaign 6 months ago, might not work today. Expecting 10 year old techniques to succeed is akin to fighting the British empire of the 1700’s with rocks and sticks. You can win, but the cost will be enormous. The battle field and the weapons are more complex now, and you need use different tactics than you once did.
Online Marketing History
Fifteen years ago, to be successful online, your really only needed to build a good website. There was very little or no competition in most markets. If you took the time to build a good site, customers would magically find you. It was easy, you were the only one offering a product or service online. No competition. If people wanted your product or service, you were successful.
This was only true for a few years. Starting roughly ten years ago the concept of Search Engine Optimization began to take center stage. This was a major new weapon in the growing online market. Every day there was a new competitor and hundreds of new websites. The internet was beginning to become too complex for any person to know all the important websites. Search engines such as Google allowed a user to find what they wanted. It became paramount that these search engines knew about your website. So the industry as a whole began to focus on SEO.
Over the years a wide array of new technologies and trends emerged. Most have become important tools in the development of a successful online marketing campaign. Our toolbox has grown substantially.
When you are only absorbing little bits of new information it is easy enough. However when you have to try and master a wide range of foreign concepts, ideas and tools it can be quite daunting. Imagine you are an amazon tribesman who stumbles across a modern laptop computer. Could you even understand what this new device does? How would you learn to use it? For those of us that have the benefit of growing up in a modern society we can at least recognize the laptop for what it is. For us we only have to learn the particular OS or some of the software. It is simple because we only have a small amount of new information to add to the our memory banks.
So there I was, talking with our new clients and listening to their current online marketing efforts, when it struck me. They did not even know the basics of online marketing. The next three hours were a marathon question and answer session. I would give them a tool or technique and then they asked for a complete description of why and how. For them it was a tremendous amount of information to absorb. For me it was an eye opening experience. As a consequence of this meeting I have decided to write this comprehensive guide to online marketing in a series of posts here at Success U.
Online Marketing Definitions
Before getting into the details it is important that we are all speaking the same language. If we see words as meaning different things then we will never come to the same understanding, as such here is our definition of the most important terms in online marketing:
SEO – Search Engine Optimization. This term is often misused and is almost universally misunderstood. Simply put SEO is getting the search engines such as Google to rank you site highly. There are many “Black Hat” methods. However as Google has become more advanced most of these “black hat” methods have been rendered obsolete and can actually get your site de-listed from Google.
What is “Black Hat” SEO? Any technique that tries to trick the search engines into ranking your website higher than it should for a particular keyword. Google’s goal is to give the user a list of websites that offer valuable content related to the keywords they are searching. As such they spend a considerable amount of time trying to find ways to return pages that have great content. Their “Algorithm” is constantly evolving, making most black hat methods short lived and rarely worth the effort.
In a future article of this series I will go into great detail over the “do’s and don’ts” regarding SEO. For now it is important to understand that your goal is to create great content that is valuable to the end consumer.
Article Automation – This is a service that takes your content and distributes it to a wide range of other websites. You write an article, submit it, and other websites, potentially thousands of them, post it to their site.
RSS and Feeds – Really Simple Syndication is a method for distributing the content of a blog, podcast or website that allows other websites and online services to share the content. There are many ways an RSS feed can be consumed. It is a way to syndicate your content to other websites and interested consumers via subscription. A great example is our Online Marketing RSS Feed. The difference between RSS and Article automation is that an RSS feed gives an excerpt that points back to your website where as in article automation the full content is displayed on outside websites.
Press Release – Closely related to Article Automation, when it comes to online press releases you are usually writing a brief description of why a news service or blog would care to write about you, your website, service or product. It is a teaser article meant to grab their attention. Most major news agencies accept Press Releases and there are many online services to distribute them widely.
Blog – Any website with regular updates in the form of a post that is centered on a topic. With a business based website these posts can be product release announcements, interesting facts and frequently asked questions. Most Blogs are little more than daily updates into some persons life, unless the person is famous or leads an otherwise interesting life, they have very few readers. Success U is a Blog, we choose to focus on helping our readers learn to be successful online.
Social Media – There are so many Social Media outlets it is hard to grasp the full width of this industry. The most important two are Twitter and Facebook. Social Media is any site or service that encourages interaction between all users. Most have the concept of a “friends” or “followers”. The idea behind social media is to use people as the ultimate filter for the value of content. If a friend recommends a particular website, then it might be interesting, if all my friends recommend it, then I know it is interesting.
CPC - Cost per Click. Google Adsense is probably the most widely known CPC system. You bid on a particular keyword where your advertisement will appear. You pay only when a user clicks on your ad.
CPA - Cost Per Action. This is an online marketing, pay per performance type of advertising system where you only pay when a certain action occurs. CPC is one type of CPA. Other types of actions include user registration, product purchase or a download.
CPM – Cost Per M or cost per thousand viewers. Rather than paying every time a person does a particular action you are paying for a certain number of viewers to see your advertisement. Banner Advertisements are often done on a CPM basis.
Banner Ad – There are in fact a wide variety of banner Ad formats. Typically it is meant to reference an advertisement that is placed in the “header’ or top of a website.
Landing Page – This is the specific page you have your online marketing efforts link to. Whether it is from a banner ad or a CPC campaign this is the URL your potential customer will first see when they come to your site. Ideally it is optimized to convert them into a customer and is directly relevant to the ad that drew them in. it is also wise to develop individual landing pages for your keywords.
Conversion Rate – Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who visit your site that complete the desired action. If you are trying to sell a product on a page, it is the percentage of people that go to the page and actually buy the product.
Keywords – The specific words or phrases that a person would type into a search engine and would find your website relevant. There are really two types of keywords, Fat Belly and Long Tail.
Search Volume – The number of times in a given month that a particular word or phrase is used in one of the major search engines.
Fat Belly – These are keywords that have a high search volume. They are often very short, one or two words, and highly competitive.
Long Tail – More often than not Long Tail keywords are longer phrases. They have a very small search volume and rarely have much competition.
Viral Marketing – An Online Marketing technique where you try to get your customers to spread the word. The most successful viral marketing campaigns encourage and help people share it with their friends. It can be as simple as a funny video. Social Media is often an integral component to viral marketing.
Vlog – A video blog. These are still pretty rare but are gaining in popularity. Rather than writing a post the Vlogger creates a video about their topic on regularly scheduled intervals.
Podcast – There are two types of podcasts, video and audio. A Vlog is actually just a video podcast. An audio podcast is a regularly scheduled audio show distributed via a blog or other online service such as iTunes. You should already know of our Online Marketing Podcast.
Affiliate Marketing – This type of online marketing uses affiliates to promote your site or product. These affiliates are paid only on commission, so you only pay them when a sale occurs. There are many affiliate marketing programs out there with Commission Junction being the most well known. Affiliate Marketing is often referred to as “Revenue Sharing”.
Mobile Marketing – Online marketing that is focused on cell phone and “smart phone” users. A Smart phone is any cell phone with web access, the most popular being the iPhone. Mobile marketing has many components and can be most simply thought of as simplified online marketing. The simplification is due to the limited bandwidth of the network and the size of the display.
Help Me Help You!
I am breaking this topic into digestible chunks for those of you who are just getting into online marketing. For those of you with some experience, did I miss anything? As part of Success U, I hope you will help me help you. For some of you this post is very remedial and for others it might be a lot of information to absorb. Either way if you have read this far, let me know what you think.
In the next article I will talk in great detail about SEO, what you should and should not do. Hopefully by the end of this series you will be an expert in all aspects of online marketing.