Hi and welcome to the first post on our internet marketing blog. This beginners guide to internet marketing is designed to help you understand the basics of online marketing. We’re going to look at the basics as well as some more advanced ideas (which we can explore more in-depth in later posts).
Let’s Get This Internet Guide Started
My name is James, I live in the UK and have been making money online since 2008. Before anyone calls me a guru, let me assure you that I’m not. Like many of you, I am on a journey (and my daughter has joined me as she is fascinated by the ins and outs of the online world, so expect lots of content from her too…)
Let me explain.
The internet is in a constant state of flux. For example, Google can change the rules in the blink of an eye. Ten years ago, it was easy to trick the search engines and earn a lot of money online.
Those days are behind us. Which is good news. Look at that last statement. The gradual rooting out of underhand tactics available only to those with the technical know-how and/or money is a good thing. A levelling of the playing field means that everyone now has the chance to make a good living from building an online business.
But there is still competition and we need to arm ourselves with the skills necessary to beat, or bypass, that competition
More on that later.
Let’s move on. It’s time to get a true understanding of what it means to be an internet marketer.
What is internet marketing
Can you remember a time when the internet didn’t exist? For many people under the age of about 30, it’s difficult to picture a world without web access. And looking into the future, it’s almost unimaginable to foresee a time when the World Wide Web no longer exists.
The last 20 years have been marked by an evolution of the internet.
When I started using the web, way back in the late 80s, there was no such thing as online banking. No MooCs. And certainly, no YouTube.
With the advent of broadband came an explosion of innovations. And, in some ways, internet marketers helped shape this shift from dial-up connections to super-fast downloads.
Internet Marketing Basics
The basic constructs of internet marketing were invented way back before the world wide web even existed. Take billboards as a prime example that was easily converted into a digital format: the banner ad. Commercials seen on YouTube are nothing more than an extension of traditional TV advertisements.
And now, like those shifts from traditional marketing, we nudge our focus to the web.
Internet marketing basics are easy to sum up. They use various digital channels (search engines like Google and Bing, email lists and websites, including blogs) to reach an audience. The aim is to advertise a product, or service, and create sales revenue.
For anyone running a business online, there is a need to understand internet marketing. And key to your strategy is working out what’s best in both the short and long terms. Both views count: you need to have a plan to generate profits in the short-term in order to build a business that will survive, and thrive, in the long term.
Attracting Customers Using Internet Marketing
This is main outcome internet marketers are attempting to achieve. There are a number of methods of drawing in, and winning, new customers including:
- paid advertising
- Web content/design.
Each of these methods can be combined to generate a multi-channel approach to customer acquisition.
Let’s look a little more closely at the different methods we can use to find customers.
Search Engine Marketing
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Also known as SEM, this method is way of using search engines such as Bing and Google to bring customers to your website. The primary means of bringing traffic is through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Many marketers use paid search and SEO as part of SEM, a topic we will explore shortly.
Unlike paid search, SEO costs ‘nothing’, but requires a certain amount of technical knowledge and hard work. The basic idea behind Search Engine Optimisation is that you create a website, create useful keyword-rich text and build good quality backlinks. Understanding how to do keyword research based on user intent and writing high quality content is vital to success.
Like an good skill you can learn, SEO is an evolving and ongoing process. Building links, generating content and tracking rankings are time consuming tasks. And you’ll need to keep on top of all them in order to bring customers to your site.
Pay per click, the fastest way to get your product in front of customers.
Paid advertising has been around for a very long time. It’s a tried and tested way of bringing customers to your shop, physical or virtual, and will be around for a very long time to come.
The idea behind paid advertising is very simple: you pay a set amount of money for a space in which you can showcase your services, or products. Before the internet came to life, the fees were fixed and, in the case of newspapers, based on the number of people your advert could be seen by. When pay per click burst onto the scene a new term was coined: reach (I’ll let the link explain)
Early banner ads worked in the same way but were placed on websites. As technology improved so did the ability to track clicks on an ad. And so ‘pay per click’ was born.
What is Pay Per Click Advertising?
This is a model whereby you pay only when someone clicks on your ad. If you advertisement is seen by 10 million people (also known as ‘impressions’), but nobody clicks you won’t pay a penny. Note: if you get this many impressions and zero clicks it’s worth reviewing your ad content for ways to improve it.
Pay per click ads used to be pretty simple affairs. A visitor to a search engine might click only to find that what your offer doesn’t interest them. You might not make a sale, but you still have to pay for the click.
And so retargeting was born.
What is Retargeting?
Retargeting uses tracking cookies to follow a potential customer around the web. The reasoning goes like this:
- Let’s call your potential customer ‘Bob’
- So Bob clicked on your ad, which means he must have been interested in your product
- Bob arrived at your website, but decided not to buy and leaves
- When bob clicked on the original ad a cookie was stored in his browser
- Now Bob goes to a website where your adverts run
- The ad system recognises the cookie set in Bob’s browser
- Your ad is displayed again with the aim being to get Bob to follow the link again and buy from you (also known as a conversion)
All The Other Types of Paid Advertising
Pay per click is the most common form of getting traffic, but what other types of paid advertising exist? Here’s a rundown:
If you were asked which company you most associate with video ads, which would you choose? Probably YouTube, right? Advertising using video is a great way of capturing interest in an age over ever decreasing attention spans (which is why YouTube works so well)
AKA the ancient ancestor of PPC. Don’t dismiss display ads, they might not have the sexiness of pay per click but this type of ad is still pretty effective. In fact, many of these advertising systems have merged with PPC to create a hybrid means of advertising.
Some examples of display adverts include:
- Popups – those little windows that appear over a website page and encourage visitors to perform an action.
- Video – a more recent addition to the range of ad types, videos can be configured to automatically play when a user lands on a page (YouTube ads use this model), or wait for the viewer to click the play button.
- Banners – advertising strips that are either embedded into a page, or float across the screen.
Companies such as Outbrain and Taboola are the masters of native advertising. Sponsored listings can be inserted into social media feeds, at the end of a web page, etc. Complex algorithms scan the page content and then deliver relevant content that, when clicked, takes visitors off-site.
There are numerous other paid tools you can use to get visitors to your content. Here’s a few examples:
What are the Benefits of Paid Adverts?
The main benefit of paid adverts is a fast return on your investment. Unlike SEO, which is a mid to long term strategy that yields results over time, paying for traffic delivers immediate returns. With careful planning and compelling copy you can be selling within minutes.
And there are many more benefits:
Ability to Split Test
A/B split testing is key to helping you get the most from your advertising spend.
Advertising platforms such as FaceBook Ads, Google Ads, Instagram, etc give you the option to split test. This is a topic we’ll explore more deeply at another time.
For now, the simplest way to describe split testing is to imagine have two or more variations of an advert. Each has a different copy and you want to test which version is most effective at creating the type of conversion you want. To track the effectiveness of each ad you would rotate each variant, tracking clicks and conversions as you go.
Analysis of the metrics would give you an indication of which type of advert works for your chosne audience.
Ad platforms deliver instantaneous feedback. Metrics begin to accumulate within seconds of sending your advert live. The data allows you to adjust on the fly.
I’m a huge fan of long form content and SEO, an approach that doesn’t provide rapid feedback. For the kind of ‘need it now’ metrics marketers demand the only way to deliver is by using paid advertisting.
Quick Set Up
Paid ads can be up and running in minutes. Having a process for setting up paid advertising will have you up and running fast.
Most ad platforms allow users to either quick start, or use an expert mode when configuring adverts. I highly recommend you get to know your preferred platform and not simply rely on any kind of ‘quick start’ functionality which could lose you money over the long term
Note: quick set up does not equal easy. Learn how to be effective at using your chosen ad service.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Paid Advertising?
It goes without saying that, whilst there are positives, paid advertising has a number of disadvantages. As an advertiser you need to consider each before decided if paid traffic is the right approach for you.
Here are some of the disadvantages of paid ads
Ad Platforms Have Steep Learning Curve
What I mean by this is that you’ll need to put in time and effort to understanding how to best use an ad service. Not understanding how to optimise for your chosen metric (clicks, conversions, views, etc) can cost you money.
Most ad platforms have huge functionality, giving savvy advertisers the ability to tailor targeting and spend. Notice I said, “savvy”. In order to get the best return for your spend you will need to really understand the service, a task that can take many hours of learning.
Advertising Mistakes Can Be Costly
FaceBook is a popular destination for advertisers. Demographics collected by the social media titan give marketers a way of drilling down deep into interest groups. What this means it that you can get your ads in front of a very specific and targeted group of people.
Which is great news, if you build your ad sets right. On the first run it’s easy to create a single advert that targets many interests. Over time your adverts become less effective, but because the ad group targets many interests its hard to identify what works, and what doesn’t.
Paid Advertising Requires Investment
SEO is easy, especially on-page Search Engine Optimisation. You research you topic, create optimised content (along with some on-site interlinking) and post. Over time your authority grows, and your articles move up the SERPs (search engine ranking page).
Ad platforms give instant returns, as long as you can afford to pay for the traffic. Large advertising campaigns, for example those run by fashion brands, will have millions set aside for advertising. As a beginner, or even intermediate, marketers we are unlikely to have those sums of cash available and need to be realistic about what we can achieve.
Networking As A Form of Internet Marketing
One of the most overlooked ways to market your website/business is via networking groups. In fact, learning to navigate the complex interactions of businesses and business owners is a far more powerful tool than either SEO or paid advertising.
LinkedIn has become the place for professionals to gather and share ideas. Many groups exist to create connections and leverage the power of connectivity. But there are other places built with the aim of the kind of mutual promotion that will help your business and those you interact with.
Here’s a few ways I’ve used to promote by online businesses:
Local Networking and Business Meet Ups
There are business-oriented groups and meet ups dotted all over the globe. Since I started my own business back in 2008 I’ve joined:
- Several local business clubs
- Toastmasters (primarily to improve my public speaking skills, but turned out to be a great way to meet other entrepreneurs and business owners)
- Chambers of Commerce (links to main pages for both the UK and United States)
Hobby and Interest Groups
This type of group is great if you have a very specific marketing niche you’re selling to. The important consideration is this is very much a give and take relationship – you’re joining a hobby or interest group because you’re actually interested in being there for enjoyment. Business comes second.
- An organised hiking group. Some of the members helped promote my outdoor gear review website.
- A local writing group full of incredibly interesting and creative people who helped me hone my copywriting skills by injecting some soul into the words! Thanks guys.
Email Marketing Still Rocks
Seriously, this is one of the best forms of internet marketing you can invest time into learning. Don’t get me wrong – learning the ins and outs of this marketing method take time and effort, but the rewards far outweigh the effort you’ll inject into sharpening your skills.
Here are a few reasons why email marketing still ranks as one of the most effective means of marketing:
- You own your list and the only people who can take that away from you are your subscribers.
- Having a list of email subscribers removes much of you dependency on getting traffic from search engine and paid channels (which can only be a good thing).
- Maintaining and growing your list is proof your content is effective. If your subscriber numbers fail to grow, or you see a large number of people unsubscribing, you have a chance to find the cause and fix the issue.
Email marketing does take some work to get right, but it’s worth the effort. Once you know how to create and grow an email list, you’ll never have to worry about traffic. A great example of list building is the Morning Brew newsletter – created in 2015 and currently (in 2020) earning about $11 million per year.
Essentials Skills for Internet Marketers
It wouldn’t be fair of me to write a beginners guide to internet marketing without exploring some of the skills you’ll need. You see, it’s not just about finding a product, writing a quick review and making money (if review sites are your chosen path).
In order to make serious money online, the kind that will change your life, you’re going to need to develop some of the tools in your toolbox. In fact, you’re probably going to need to add to your capabilities.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most important aspefcts of starting a blogging business:
If you’re starting a blog then you need to able to write. Later on, when you have traffic and money you can outsource most of the work to writers on places like iWork and Upwork. But you’ll still need to maintain your writing skills so that you can personalise content that you buy in.
Plus, being able to write in a way that’s coherent and influential is a huge bonus that will help expand your horizons beyond that of your online business.
Here are a few writing resources I’ve found useful:
- Creative Writing (at Amazon): telling stories is an essential part of your sales process.
- The Story Teller’s Secret: more story telling ingredients
- The Boron Letters: a great read that will help shift your mind into marketing mode
Summary and breakdown of the Boron Letters: useful if you find it difficult to extract ideas from Gary’s writings.
Understanding How to Sell
All marketers need to able to sell. If they don’t they won’t make money, or not enough to make life changing sums (and that’s what you’re after, right?)
Selling is a skill. It’s not a dark magic known only to a few, select billionaire hiding behind the row of bodyguards that protect their fortress homes!
And it’s one of the most useful skills you can ever learn.
Once you know how to sell you will have a guaranteed income source for as long as you desire. But where can you learn the selling skills needed to run an online business?
Lessons are everywhere… here are a couple of resources that will help you learn how to sell:
- Persuasion tactics from Hubspot: read this!
- Check Reddit’s Entrepreneur sub-reddit for a treasure trove of sales ideas and skills.
Wrapping It Up: Has This Internet Marketing Beginners Guide Been Useful?
When I started this internet marketing guide I assumed it would a fairly compact journey into the world of making money online. I was wrong. The web is huge and so are the possibilities. ThoughtCafe was built to help anyone who wants to start a blog and earn money for their efforts, and will continue to be a resource you can rely on.
And I’ll always endeavour to answer you questions, so feel free to add comments and queries below.
When you’re ready to move on to the next stages of your blogging journey and want to learn more about how to make money online, then check out these posts (the list will grow over time so check back regularly):
- Learn how to blog and be successful (it’s simple, and it’s not!)
Have you this found this beginners guide to internert marketing useful? Then hit anyone, or all, of the social media buttons and let everyone know about ThoughtCafe. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you make the success you wish to achieve.
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