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Understanding and implementing online marketing is crucial to the success of nearly every business and organization. Online marketing involves utilizing the art and science of the web to sell products and services and increase brand awareness. Creating an effective online marketing campaign involves several facets, including knowing your target audience, determining the best online locations to use marketing, and choosing the right strategies that will appeal to your target customers. In this article, we will explore what online marketing is as well as the various aspects that go into a successful online marketing strategy.

What is Online Marketing?

Internet Marketing Graphic with eyeglass and related keywords

Image via Flickr by CassandrawithAnAttitude

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Online marketing is any web-based strategy, method, or tool used to increase the awareness of a company’s brand, products and/or services. The primary goal of online marketing is to reach potential customers by targeting the places where they spend the most time online (e.g. searching, shopping, and using social media). There are various methods that can be used in online marketing, including search engine optimization, email, social media, content marketing, and pay-per-click.

Online marketing is different from traditional marketing in a number of ways. The primary difference between these two types of marketing is that online marketing often strives to provide value to its viewers while traditional marketing typically only seeks to increase sales. An example of online marketing could be a blog post created by a cleaning product company that educates viewers and potential customers on the importance of non-toxic cleaning ingredients. On the other hand, the traditional marketing version of this example would be simply inserting an ad in a newspaper asking readers to buy the cleaning product.

Online marketing also allows businesses to accurately track their return on investment as well as provides detailed analysis so that you can improve your marketing strategies. Traditional marketing typically provides little or no ROI feedback and vary rarely offers ways to track how well an ad or other traditional marketing strategy is working.

Why is Online Marketing Important?

Staying abreast of current internet trends and using online resources to market your company is one of the most successful ways to increase sales and awareness of your business. The following are a few of the many reasons why online marketing is important for business owners:

  • Many potential customers are online: More than four billion people in every corner of the world use the internet on a regular basis. From connecting with friends to shopping to scheduling appointments, individuals rely on the internet to fulfill many of their day-to-day tasks and needs.
  • People often look to the internet to find companies and services before they look elsewhere: For example, a person may search “hair salons near me” and choose the top hair salon listing on their search engine. By investing in online marketing, you’re making it easier for internet users to find your business. Even if your business operates on a local scale, incorporating internet marketing into your strategy can prove beneficial.
  • It gives your company more visibility: Utilizing online marketing allows individuals to search for and find your website or other marketing platforms at any time of the day. It also allows you to directly target certain demographics that make up your target audience. Unlike traditional marketing which is typically limited and only reaches a select few people, internet marketing can reach thousands and even millions on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
  • It allows for two-way communication with potential customers: Whereas traditional marketing, such as ads, is strictly one-way communication, online marketing opens the door for two-way communication between your business and potential customers. For example, if you use a Facebook page for your company and utilize ads on the Facebook platform, users can see the ad, visit your page and send a direct message to your company regarding the ad or asking questions they may have about your services. This gives potential customers the chance to immediately connect with your company, which can promote a faster conversion rate.
  • It can legitimize your business: An online presence is an important component of many businesses today. In fact, some potential customers will not even consider using a company’s services if the company does not have a viable online presence. Using online marketing can boost your legitimacy in the eyes of users and help to create a dynamic and active online space that attracts potential customers to your business.

Advantages of Online Marketing

Online marketing can provide a business with a number of advantages. These benefits include:

Lower Marketing Costs

Online marketing is often much more affordable than traditional marketing options such as taking out ads in a magazine. Many forms of online marketing allow large audiences to be reached through strategic placement and an in-depth analysis of where a company’s targeted audience can be found online. Whereas a traditional ad may only reach 100 people per month, online marketing can help businesses reach hundreds and even thousands of customers on a daily or weekly basis.

More Marketing Options

Traditional marketing typically only offers a select few options when it comes to how a company can advertise. However, online marketing provides a variety of options and enables businesses to choose which method of marketing best suits their company’s brand and needs. For example, a company could choose to use Facebook to target a select audience through ads or it could utilize search engine optimization to become more prominent in search engines. Online marketing is highly customizable and able to be implemented based on a business’s budget and goals.

Customer Convenience

Rather than having to go into a physical store to buy a product or talk to someone about your services, customers can use your website or other online resources to get the answers to questions they have and to purchase services or products directly. This makes it convenient for customers to turn to your business for products or services and increases conversion rates.

Increased Perceived Authority

Because people use the internet to discover new businesses or services, having a respectable online presence can significantly increase your overall perceived authority in the eyes of potential customers. For example, if you invest in effective online marketing that has allowed your website to be in the first few search results when a potential customer searches for a service you offer, this customer is much more likely to engage with your content than that of businesses that are found in lower search positions.

Increased Quality of Online Traffic

Most online marketing strategies implement a tactic known as targeting to reach a specific demographic of people. For example, if your company sells baby clothes, you will likely want to primarily reach a target audience of people who buy baby clothes, such as parents. You may also choose to target shoppers who have recently searched for baby clothes or related topics. Through targeted online marketing, you can reach more potential customers that are within your desired demographic and draw high-quality traffic to your website. This often results in increased conversion and heightened brand awareness.

Broader Reach

Online marketing gives your company the chance to be seen by people regardless of their geographic region. This is especially important for companies looking to sell products or services online rather than in person. For example, you could have a local clothing boutique that has a brick-and-mortar store where local customers can shop in person. However, you may want to expand your reach by also selling products online to customers throughout the nation. By using online marketing, you can broaden your company’s reach to more people throughout the country much faster than by depending on traditional advertising methods.

Ability to Measure Your Marketing Strategy’s Success

While traditional advertising provides little to no way to measure the success of the marketing you pay for, internet marketing is easily measured through a number of tracking methods. These methods can often measure a number of factors that contribute to the success of online marketing, including daily, weekly, and monthly traffic rates, growth, and lead conversions. These measurements enable you to determine if a particular marketing tactic is working and also gives you a clear idea of where you should adjust your campaign to increase results.

Disadvantages of Online Marketing

While online marketing can certainly provide a number of benefits for companies large and small, it’s also important to be aware of the potential disadvantages of utilizing internet marketing. The following are a few of the cons that may come with incorporating online marketing into your business approach:

Limited Face-to-Face Interaction

A potential disadvantage of online marketing is that it provides for little to no face-to-face interaction with customers. This can result in weaker personal connections with customers which can cause them to be more likely to try other products rather than remain loyal to your company. You may also lose customers to brands that rely on more traditional marketing approaches.

One way to overcome this disadvantage is to ensure that each customer receives personalized contact from your company on a semi-regular basis. For example, a customer service rep could reach out after every purchase is made or a monthly or quarterly email could be sent that has customized information in it specific to the customer’s interests or recent purchases.

Dependent on Technology

Online marketing requires companies to rely on technology to advertise their products and services and bring in new customers. This can leave companies vulnerable to potential marketing operation interruptions if anything were to happen to the business’s technological assets. For example, if a company’s Instagram is hacked, it may be forced to create an entirely new Instagram account from scratch. For companies that do most of their marketing through Instagram, this can be devastating and cause loss of sales and customers.

One way to prevent total devastation from being dependent on technology is to have back-up accounts or utilize more than one type of technology or social media. For example, rather than only having an Instagram, your company could also have a Facebook and Twitter. This way, if anything were to happen to the Instagram account, you could quickly inform your customers/followers and encourage them to seek out your new Instagram account.

Potential Security Risks

Similarly to the previous potential disadvantage, online marketing may also make a company more vulnerable to security risks due to its reliance on technology. If a company has inputted important or private information into social media accounts or other online channels and is compromised, it could suffer serious consequences. These consequences could include theft and loss of customers as a result of spam or other hacking-related harassment.

A great way to protect against potential security risks is to install good security software and/or hire a tech security company to monitor your technology and ensure safety.

Lack of Trust from Consumers

Due to the vast amount of online advertising being used, many customers will not immediately trust a company or brand that they see an ad for or email from. It may take several exposures for customers to truly trust a business that is using online marketing to broaden its reach.

In order to counteract this potential disadvantage, it’s important to invest in high-quality advertising as well as amplified brand awareness. If you spend an adequate amount of time and money in making people aware of your brand, they are less likely to mistrust you and more likely to recognize and share your company with friends and family.

Who Uses Online Marketing?

Nearly every entrepreneur, small business, large company, and organization can use online marketing to further their reach and success. For example, an accounting firm may use internet marketing to advertise its services during the busy tax season. A banking corporation may use online marketing to increase brand awareness and promote a new credit card its banks are now offering. A local retail store may use internet marketing to sell clothes online as well as promote upcoming in-store sales and promotions. Almost all companies can benefit from incorporating internet marketing into their marketing strategy.

The following are the two primary types of businesses that use marketing:

B2B Companies

A B2B company, or business-to-business organization, is a company that sells products or makes other transactions with another business. For example, a publishing company may work with other companies that want to advertise with the publishing company. B2B companies will typically use online marketing to generate quality leads that will result in interested companies speaking with a salesperson. A B2B company may do this by using internet marketing on their website as well as their other digital channels such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

B2C Companies

A B2C, or business-to-consumer company, is one that sells products or services directly to consumers. Digital marketing is especially useful for B2C companies because it can often help a company make sales without a customer ever having to speak with a salesperson or go to a physical store location. For example, if a customer sees an advertisement on Facebook for your product, they can click that advertisement and be taken directly to your website. At this point, the customer then has the choice to purchase the product from your website. B2C companies often use digital channels such as Facebook and Instagram to attract potential customers and lead them to the company’s website.

Types of Online Marketing

There are several different types of online marketing that a business can utilize. From a company’s website to the various branding assets they may use, there are several internet marketing tactics that fall under the general digital or online marketing umbrella. A company’s goal should be to explore the different types of online marketing, determine their goal in using online marketing, and then select and implement the most appropriate forms of online marketing for their unique needs and goals.

The most commonly recognized and used types of online marketing are:

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing is a primary form of online marketing and is often incorporated into nearly every other type of digital marketing. This type of marketing involves using content on the internet to increase brand awareness, provide valuable information to potential and current customers, generate leads, and increase traffic. The primary objective of content marketing is typically to create and distribute relevant and valuable content that attracts a certain demographic and increases the likelihood of turning these viewers into customers.

The following are a few of the most commonly used types of content marketing:

  • Infographics: An infographic is a visual form of content marketing that portrays relevant information using graphics. For example, a company may create an infographic of a chart or graph depicting statistics on valuable information related to the company’s industry. Rather than requiring a user to read through content to get information, they can quickly look at an infographic to learn something related to their specific demographic.x
  • Blog posts: Some companies or entrepreneurs choose to create a blog that represents their business’s industry. For example, a plant nursery company may create an online blog that regularly provides tips on how to care for certain plants. A blog is a great way for a business to show its expertise within an industry as well as provide valuable information that may help turn potential customers into buying customers. It can also help bring in more organic traffic to a company’s website by having blog posts link back to the website.
  • White papers and eBooks: White papers and eBooks are long-form content that may be available on a company’s website. For example, a company that sells cookbooks may offer a free eBook that includes popular recipes from the cookbook they are currently promoting. This gives webpage visitors an incentive to visit the website, give the company their email address, and introduces them to the cookbook. These content marketing strategies help companies get useful contact information from potential customers and generate leads.
  • Videos: Videos are a common form of content marketing for companies and individuals alike. A company may use Instagram or Facebook to create quick one-to-two-minute videos that users can easily watch or use a YouTube channel to provide more in-depth and lengthier information via videos. A video is a great way to visually tell your target audience about what you offer or what solution you can provide to a particular problem. For example, a makeup company may create a quick video showing a before and after of someone applying one of the company’s makeup products.
  • Podcasts: Podcasts are a more recent form of content marketing that a business or individual may use to provide meaningful information to potential customers and help generate leads. For example, a life coach may create a podcast where they provide weekly tips on how to manage your mind while also offering users the chance to work with the life coach for 25% off. While the podcast is typically free for listeners, it often helps to increase brand awareness as well as sales for a company.

Additional forms of online content marketing include tip sheets, training videos, presentations, solution pages, and product guides.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is the utilization of online marketing tactics to increase a website’s visibility on the search page. For example, a company may use SEO strategies to help their website rank as the first result when someone searches “dry cleaning Las Vegas” in the Google search engine. As a result of ranking higher in particular searches, a company may experience increased organic traffic to their website as well as a higher rate of quality leads.

Businesses may use SEO to boost a number of their online channels, including websites, blogs, and video content. The following are the different ways your company can use SEO for online marketing:

  • Technical search engine optimization: This type of SEO focuses on a website’s backend. How your website is coded and how images are compressed and displayed on your website are aspects of your website’s backend. Technical SEO is most often used to increase a website’s loading time, or how long it takes the page to load when a person clicks on the website. This can provide a better user experience and enhance a website’s overall ranking on search engines like Google.
  • On-page search engine optimization: This type of optimization focuses on what is on the actual website and viewable by users. Most on-page SEO tactics look at the highest-ranking keywords (what people are searching for) and incorporate these keywords into their on-page content to help boost rankings in a search engine. Knowing what a target audience is searching for and the questions they are trying to answer, companies can use on-page SEO to answer these questions increase their overall online visibility.
  • Off-page search engine optimization: This type of SEO focuses on how outside factors can affect the overall ranking of your website or another online channel. Off-page SEO most typically utilizes content syndication, or backlinks, to increase website traffic and overall awareness. Content syndication is when an outside website links to your company’s website. For example, another website may refer to your company’s product as the best option for solving a particular problem. In order to attain quality backlinks, companies may network with other sources or companies to form a working relationship. A company may also provide guest posts for another website to increase brand awareness and provide readers with valuable information that may encourage them to visit the company’s website.

3. Pay Per Click (PPC)

Pay-per-click online marketing is when a website pays a search engine or other internet publisher to promote the website in return for a set payment every time the promotion, or ad, is clicked. For example, you may create an ad for your website using Google Ads and select to have your website ad listed at the top of the search results for a particular keyword. In return, you will pay Google Ads 50 cents each time someone clicks on your website ad and visits your website. PPC marketing helps to provide more exposure and traffic for websites as well as requires companies to only pay for actual results (clicks). In addition to Google Ads, other common PPC channels include Facebook ads, Instagram promotional campaigns, and Twitter ad campaigns.

4. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is an online marketing tool used to set up the automatic completion and distribution of basic and regular marketing operations. For example, if your company sends out a weekly newsletter to its clients, you may use a marketing automation system to create and send these newsletters. Other marketing automation examples include scheduled social media posts, reporting and tracking of online campaigns, and automated lead follow-up and workflows.

5. Email Marketing

Email marketing is a popular online marketing tool and can be used for a variety of reasons. Many companies rely on email marketing to inform potential and existing customers of sales, events, discounts, and new products. They may also use email marketing to help generate more website traffic by including links to the company’s website in the email.

Examples of the types of emails you may send as part of email marketing include:

  • Welcome emails for new customers
  • Subscription newsletters, such as from a blog that is updated weekly
  • Promotions
  • Loyalty program information
  • Follow-up emails after a website visitor or customer downloads something or provides their contact information
  • Series emails that nurture customer retention

6. Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is an online marketing strategy that helps to attract customers by tailoring the user experience to each specific customer or demographic. Inbound marketing offer involves various online channels and marketing tactics to be successful and keep users engaged. This online marketing method focuses on attracting, engaging and delighting potential and current customers throughout every step of their experience with a company.

At the attracting stage, a company may use blog posts or other content marketing to attract customers to the company’s website. For example, you may produce a blog post that illustrates how your product can solve a problem that your target demographic often faces. Once you have attracted a user to your website, you then want to engage them. This can be done through various methods such as a chat system that pops up when a new customer visits your website. This chat may include a live salesperson who can answer any questions a user may have. The delighting aspect of inbound marketing focuses on keeping customers satisfied after they have made a purchase from your company. This can be done through various methods such as sending out surveys and well-timed requested feedback that enables customers to provide their thoughts on your company’s services and products.

7. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing entails using various social media channels to connect with your target audience and increase your company or brand’s overall online presence. You can also use this form of marketing to drive traffic to your website and increase sales. The most common social media platforms used for online marketing include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Social media marketing has become more important for companies in recent years. More people than ever rely on social media to learn about new products and nearly three billion users have a social media account. As a result, social media is a prime place to implement online marketing and promote your business. There are both paid and non-paid social media marketing options and how you approach marketing on social media will vary depending on your target demographic and the platforms you are using.

8. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is when a company provides an affiliate with a commission for advertising its products or services. For example, if you are a company that sells house plants, you may work with a house plant blogger. The blogger would promote your products on their blog and receive a commission for every purchase made through their link to your website. The sales are tracked through a unique link that you provide for the affiliate you are working with.

The most common way to pay an affiliate is through pay per click, pay per lead, or pay per sale. This type of online marketing provides benefits for both the affiliate and the company that the affiliate is promoting and can be profitable for both parties.

9. Online Public Relations

Online public relations is a form of online marketing in which companies use various online communication platforms to broaden their reach and increase the awareness of their brand. Common online channels that may be used for online public relations include social media platforms, websites, and blogs. Strategies used for this online marketing method may include networking with journalists, influencers, and bloggers as well as publishing online press releases. The goal of online PR is to establish an online presence and form relationships with influential online sources for promotion purposes.

How Do You Get Started with Online Marketing?

Each company will vary regarding the type of online marketing it will benefit from. However, there are certain steps that most businesses can take to get started with online marketing. These steps include:

  1. Create a user-friendly website: Having an easy-to-navigate and attractive website is key to attracting potential customers and keeping them on your page. The design of your website can set you apart from competitors and attract your target demographic. A clean and user-friendly website can also boost your chances of ranking high in search engines.
  2. Research and incorporate quality keywords into your website: In addition to being user-friendly, your website should also be optimized for keywords specific to the products or services you offer. Keyword optimization requires you to perform research related to the top keywords searched in your industry and understand frequently asked questions related to the products or services you offer and the solutions they provide. You can incorporate keywords into your website’s URLs, image text, body text, navigation bar, and headers.
  3. Use email marketing: Email marketing is one of the easiest and most effective online marketing strategies for businesses of all sizes. Email marketing allows you to stay in contact with potential and new customers as well as promote brand loyalty. Common types of email marketing include welcome emails, emails regarding sales and discounts and surveys.
  4. Utilize social media: Social media is another effective way to incorporate online marketing into your company’s marketing strategy. If you are unfamiliar with social media, conduct research related to the platforms your target audience uses the most as well as how competitors in your industry use social media marketing. Easy ways to begin using social media marketing include social media contests and campaigns that engage your target audience and expose them to your brand.
  5. Start a blog: Starting a blog for your company is a great way to attract potential customers by providing valuable information and building trust. A blog can also help you rank in search engines in different ways and establish your company as an authority in your industry. Your company blog should be focused on offering high-quality content rather than on overtly promoting your products or services.

Examples of Online Marketing

The following are examples of how well-known companies have used online marketing to increase their brand awareness and gain customers:

  1. Lululemon: This well-known activewear brand initially began by only offering yoga attire. However, through the strategic use of social media marketing, the brand discovered the activewear requirements of its target audience, It has since evolved to offer a variety of casual wear and activewear and has become a household name in the industry. Lululemon used Facebook’s targeted ad online marketing program to show their advertisements to users who had previously engaged with competing brands. By combining the users’ need for comfortable athletic wear with the growing trend of activewear that resembled streetwear, Lululemon established a new category (athleisure) and dominated the market.
  2. Uber: Uber is one of the most well-known driving services, and this company’s online marketing strategies play a large role in the company’s global recognition. One example of how Uber uses online marketing to increase its brand awareness and drive sales is through email marketing and segmentation. The company collects geographical data from its current customers to target new customers through segmented email campaigns. Most notably, Uber will send select demographics in certain areas emails promoting the company before or during a big event in the potential or current customers’ location. This keeps Uber at the forefront of a person’s mind as they try to navigate traffic and parking as a result of the event and increases sales for the company.
  3. Nike: The famous shoe brand Nike has dramatically increased its sales and reach by turning to the recent influencer trend as one of its primary online marketing strategies. One way Nike has used the power of influencers to broaden its brand awareness is by researching and finding some of the most influential trendsetters in the social media world and commissioning them to collaborate with Nike to design their own line of shoes. The strong fan base associated with these influencers ensures that Nike will receive ample exposure when the influencers promote their shoe line. Additionally, allowing influencers to create their own customized line of Nikes helps buyers feel as if they are purchasing exclusive products rather than those that are mass-marketed to the general public.

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