Internet Marketing 101

What is Internet Marketing and How Can Online Marketing Work for Me?

Row of figurines next to dot com
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What is Internet Marketing?

Depending on whom you ask, the term Internet marketing can mean a variety of things. At one time, Internet marketing consisted mostly of having a website or placing banner ads on other websites. On the other end of the spectrum, there are loads of companies telling you that you can make a fortune overnight on the Internet and who try to sell you some form of "Internet marketing program".

Today, Internet marketing, or online marketing, is evolving into a broader mix of components a company can use as a means of increasing sales - even if your business is done completely online, partly online, or completely offline. The decision to use Internet marketing as part of a company's overall marketing strategy is strictly up to the company of course, but as a rule, Internet marketing is becoming an increasingly important part of nearly every company's marketing mix. For some online businesses, it is the only form of marketing being practiced.

Internet Marketing Objectives
Essentially, Internet marketing is using the Internet to do one or more of the following:

  • Communicate a company's message about itself, its products, or its services online.
  • Conduct research as to the nature (demographics, preferences, and needs) of existing and potential customers.
  • Sell goods, services, or advertising space over the Internet.

    Internet Marketing Components
    Components of Internet marketing (or online marketing) may include:

    • Setting up a website , consisting of text, images and possibly audio and video elements used to convey the company's message online, to inform existing and potential customers of the features and benefits of the company's products and/or services. The website may or may not include the ability to capture leads from potential customers or directly sell a product or service online. Websites can be the Internet equivalents of offline brochures or mail order catalogs and they are a great way to establish your business identity.
    • Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is marketing a website online via search engines, either by improving the site's natural (organic) ranking through search engine optimization (SEO), buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads or purchasing pay-for-inclusion (PFI) listings in website directories, which are similar to offline yellow page listings.
    • Email marketing, which is a method of distributing information about a product or service or for soliciting feedback from customers about a product or service through Email. Email addresses of customers and prospective customers may be collected or purchased. Various methods are used, such as the regular distribution of newsletters or mass mailing of offers related to the company's product or services. Email marketing is essentially the online equivalent of direct mail marketing.
    • Banner advertising, which is the placement of ads on a website for a fee. The offline equivalent of this form of online marketing would be traditional ads in newspapers or magazines.
    • Online press releases, which involve placing a newsworthy story about a company, its website, its people, and/or its products/services with on online wire service.
    • Blog marketing, which is the act of posting comments, expressing opinions or making announcements in a discussion forum and can be accomplished either by hosting your own blog or by posting comments and/or URLs in other blogs related to your product or service online.
    • , which involves writing articles related to your business and having them published online on syndicated article sites. These articles then have a tendency to spread around the Internet since the article services permit re-publication provided that all of the links in the article are maintained. Article marketing can result in a traffic boost for your website, and the distribution of syndicated articles can promote your brand to a wide audience.
    • , which can involve social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and social bookmarking sites like Digg.

    Internet Marketing and Home Business

    Of all of the components of Internet marketing, prospective customers and clients expect a business to have a website. In fact, not having one could raise a red flag to a prospect. Online usage has become so pervasive today, many prospects might easily choose to do business with a company that they can get up-to-date information on 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

    Even a business that only has very local customers, such as a single location restaurant or shoe store can benefit from having a website and engaging in online marketing. And, those businesses whose customers are not restricted to a geographical area might have a difficult time finding an alternate method of attracting customers that offers a reasonably low expense and worldwide reach of a Web presence.

    Because of the "virtual" nature of most home businesses, websites, if not an absolute necessity, can certainly provide benefits to a home business operator. Since most home-based businesses don't have a physical location, a website provides an inexpensive means for prospects to get to know what you do or what you sell and can even be a "storefront" for selling goods and services directly.

    The Internet has greatly enabled home businesses to prosper because of the reasonably low cost to start and maintain a web presence. Therefore, Internet marketing should be part of your business plan and your marketing strategy.

    Finding the Right Internet Marketing Mix

    How much of your marketing strategy should be handled online, which Internet marketing elements you use, and the importance you should give to your website depends on the nature of your business, your budget, and, to some extent, your personal traits? All of these considerations are part of strategic Internet marketing decisions that help develop Internet marketing strategies for a business.

    Using Offline Elements with Internet Marketing Strategies

    Unless you transact business only online, for example, if you are an eBay reseller, you will probably want to include some traditional offline marketing elements in your overall marketing strategy in addition to the elements in your Internet strategy in your marketing mix. Even those who conduct business only online might consider placing traditional ads in newspapers or magazines to bring prospects to their website to transact business online. Perfect examples of including offline elements as part of Internet marketing strategies are Expedia, Travelocity, and Monster.com. While they are online businesses, they invest heavily in traditional advertising, including radio and TV advertising, to draw traffic to their sites where the actual business is conducted.

    Develop Internet Marketing Strategies You Like

    If you have a personal distaste for "spam", which most of us do, you may not want to include email marketing in your strategic Internet marketing plan. However, email marketing doesn't have to mean just sending out unsolicited messages to every email address you can gather. If you include a visitor registration form on your website, for example, or if you exhibit at trade shows, you have the vehicles needed to collect email addresses of interested prospects. You might consider creating a newsletter and sending it to these prospects on a regular basis as part of your strategic Internet marketing plan. Or, you might just set up a schedule where you periodically send an email to your interested prospects to see how they're doing, if you can be of assistance to them, or if their needs have changed since you last talked. So even if you don't incorporate email marketing into your Internet marketing strategy, per se, you are still using email as a tool to promote your business.

    Your Budget and Your Internet Marketing Strategy

    Of course, your budget will also determine the components you use in any of the Internet marketing strategies you might develop. A website will require you to choose a domain name and register it and to purchase web hosting services from your website. Both items are deeply discounted, in fact, I recently saw an offer for domain name registration for only $1.99 per year - provided you also purchase other services, like hosting, which is now also available for less than $10 per month.

    Once that's done, you'll need a design and content for your website, which you'll either need to provide yourself or pay to have a web content professional and/or web designer handle it for you.

    Once your content and design are in place, you'll want your site to be found, so you'll want to learn about search engine optimization (SEO), which is an important part of strategic Internet marketing, whether you do it yourself of pay someone else to do it for you.

    Ideally, if you pay to have web content written for you, that content should be optimized for search engines when it's written. Likewise, you or your web designer should know something about SEO because how your site is designed can enhance or limit your site traffic, and in the vast majority of cases, SEO should be a significant part of your Internet marketing strategy. In both cases, you may pay a bit more, but you'll save time in the long run.

    Once your website is up and running, you'll either need to maintain it yourself or outsource the duties to an independent Webmaster to do it for you.

    Pay-per-click advertising (PPC), like Google AdWords, can be easy on your budget because you can specify how much you're willing to pay when someone clicks your ad and how much you're willing to pay per day. You can also specify whether you want to include your ad only on search pages or on other websites related to your keywords. You can set geographic and time of the day restrictions on when and where your ads run. Plus, PPC ads are fairly easy to activate and suspend whenever you need to do so, they're easy to update and they provide near real-time tracking benefits you won't get with most other elements in your Internet marketing strategy. You can also use images and/or videos with PPC advertising, which may be more cost effective than placing banner ads on other websites.

    On the other side of the coin, you can use pay per click ads to make money with your website, through programs like Google AdSense, Yahoo Publisher or Microsoft AdCenter.

    Tracking the Results of Internet Marketing Strategies

    Let's face it: the average home business operator is not awash in cash. If you're going to be spending money on strategic Internet marketing initiatives, you'll need to track how effective they are. As you do so, you'll discover which Internet marketing strategies work for your business and which do not. And, you can learn from the mistakes you make in your Internet advertising campaign to improve your skills and enhance your success. Knowing what's worth spending money on and what isn't is very helpful in developing Internet marketing strategies as your business matures.

    Strategic Internet Marketing Needs to be Flexible

    Keep in mind, in most cases, patience is a true virtue when it comes to tracking the success of a strategic Internet marketing campaign. Search engines aren't likely to find you overnight and your strategies may not generate revenues right away.

    Because you'll have literally millions of competitors who are also engaging in strategic Internet marketing, it will behoove you to keep on your toes and be ready to make necessary adjustments in your Internet marketing strategies when appropriate. However, some knowledge, some capable assistance, and a well-managed strategic Internet marketing plan can increase your chances for success.

    This article on Internet marketing is just one in a collection of articles available in the Online Marketing Guide.