Introduction

What is online marketing?

Online marketing is the process of reaching out to customers and promoting your brand to them through the medium of the internet. With so many potential customers connecting to the internet on a daily basis, online marketing provides a huge marketing opportunity for many businesses. There are a number of different techniques involved with successful online marketing, across a variety of channels all providing the opportunity to approach your prospective consumers.

The benefits of online marketing

There are many benefits to online marketing.

Marketing channels

In coming up with an online marketing strategy, you will need to consider which channels you will be using to target your audiences. So what is a channel? Put simply, it is a medium which your target consumers utilise on a regular basis. For this purpose, we’ll be discussing mediums that are used when target consumers are online.

Below we will discuss four of the main channels you should consider when creating your online marketing strategy and plan. The four we will discuss are search, content, email and social networks.

Search

The most common way that a consumer will be connected to your website is through using a search engine. Commonly, this means Google of course. But there are many different platforms, including Bing and Yahoo not to mention search engines specific to international regions. Search engines function through crawling through web pages, building a thorough understanding of a website’s theme, through keywords and phrases. Search engines use complex algorithms, working to deliver the most relevant result to the searcher.

There are two types of search results:

On going commitment

Whether you decide to use paid or organic search channels, you’ll need to allocate time to ensure your campaigns are running cost effectively and giving you the best results possible.

To run a cost effective paid search campaign, you will continually need to manage and optimise bids per keyword, test new ad copy, and add negative and more accurate targeting across the account. This can take anywhere between a couple and many hours a week, depending on the size of the account, the complexity of your field, and the level of competition.

To maximise organic search traffic you will need to optimise your website’s pages through tweaking the body text, headlines and meta tags. This means utilising search engine optimisation techniques to ensure that your website ranks highly in the search engine results when users are searching your particular field.

Both organic and paid search marketing have become their own service offering and field of expertise. Search engines update algorithms on a regular basis, leaving search marketers the task of staying up to date with the latest trends to give their brands the best possible opportunity through search marketing.

Questions to ask yourself

Content Marketing

You’re going to hear the phrase ‘content is king’ at least once when it comes to online marketing. But what is content? Content is simply additional media you generate for an online audience, it may be written articles, it may be multimedia content in the form of images, streaming video, gifs, or audio in the form of podcasts.

Most websites will have a blog area or a news section in which to host their latest content. There are many advantages of doing so. Firstly, it will maintain a degree of activity on your website, a reason for customers to check in every now and again. Since you are adding to your website, generating content is a valuable opportunity to strengthen your SEO making your site resonate more with your keywords, making you more visible to search engines and the search queries of potential customers.

Content is a commitment, you want to be uploading pieces frequently at least once a month on your own website, if not more. Content further provides you with a means for talking about your business or your industry as a whole, thereby making you look more professional to your customers. They are more likely to buy from you because you have proven you are knowledgeable about your industry.

Questions to ask yourself

Email

To target potential customers more directly, email campaigns are usually a good way of maintaining a regular connection. Email campaigns are one of the more older and traditional means of online marketing, but they are still a highly effective way of maintaining the interests of your customers and business networks, keeping them up to date with the latest news and developments relating to your brand and company. Email marketing is best approached as a way of nurturing leads that may lead to potential business.

Things to consider

Engagement
You will need to establish a way for your customers to provide you with their email address, this is done usually by having users sign up to your website in some fashion, perhaps through newsletters and/or promotions.
Design
You want to spend some time thinking about how the email is going to look. Most companies will build a HTML template, that will allow content to be displayed in a uniform fashion, it will also allow you to switch between content.
Content
Consider what information your email outreach is going to focus on. Perhaps its a newsletter, perhaps it’s introducing a new product or even discount. You will also want a concise and engaging subject line that will entice the customer to open the email.
Frequency
The last thing you want to do is spam your customer’s inbox with daily updates. This will have a negative effect on your brand, and more than likely you will become associated as ‘that company who is always sending me emails’. Therefore, you will want to make sure that your email updates are sent out at least once every week, providing a concise overview of your brand at that moment.

Questions to ask yourself

Social Networking

These days, social networking websites are almost ubiquitous in the lives of your customers and so represent a very important means of connecting your brand towards your target audience and growing your audience. The objective when approaching social networking is to encourage shares and likes, and to direct traffic towards your very site with engaging content.

Social networking campaigns require a lot of planning, and you must be aware that sites like facebook and twitter are platforms of free speech, sometimes unrefined, angry, gratuitously negative free speech! Campaigns can backfire, which is why so much planning and thought must go into determining the correct tone and angle of target.

There are many different networks for you to target:

Facebook

Facebook needs little introduction of course, as the site that gave rise to social networking in the mainstream. The broadest social network site, facebook is particularly useful when you are looking to target a broader B2C audience. In addition, it is great for selecting particular groups, whether they are age specific, university educated or affiliated to certain groups or interests.

Twitter

Twitter is particularly useful for directing content towards specific interest groups. From experience, we also find that twitter is more popular with mobile users. Twitter is slightly ineffectual for more in depth discussion, since user posts are limited to 140 characters. Add ons such as tweet longer can offer users to provide more comprehensive discussion, but the allure of twitter is the absorption of succinct points within the 140 character limit.

LinkedIn

For a B2B audience, LinkedIn is your best means of getting in touch with professionals and a B2B crowd. It functions by developing networks between other professionals and companies. The larger your network the more effective LinkedIn becomes. You can pay extra to become a premium member and gain access to additional features.

Google+

Google have tried many times to create a social networking platform to rival facebook. It hasn’t exactly happened yet, but Google+ is steadily becoming more and more popular, since it connects with all other Google applications such as Gmail, Google Docs and Blogspot. Google+ lies somewhere in between facebook and LinkedIn, with its use of networks (circles) and a more personal attachment.

YouTube

Online video is becoming increasingly important for online marketing. Video is a great way of delivering a clearly composed message directly to your audience. There are many different platforms that can host your video, YouTube is the most popular but Vimeo and Wistia are equally capable of doing the same.

Steps to effective Marketing using social networking channels

1. Setup profiles
To make the most out of social networking, the first task will be creating a profile for your company. You want to ensure that your presence is set up on all networks to secure branding. Keep empty profiles private if you’re not using them.
2. Link profiles to your website and other social media channels
Make sure that all your channels link back to your website. Also make sure that all your social media channels are adequately linked together. For instance, you can connect twitter to facebook.
3. Start generating or forwarding content.
Whether you’re generating your own content or forwarding content that relates to your organisation or your customers, you will want to share it across your social network channels. It is important to get into a rhythm, don’t over publicise content, as that may get on people’s nerves, and you may lose followers.
4. Attain likes and followers
You want to keep referring customers to your social media channels. The simplest way is just asking of course. Every time you deal with a customer, tell them about your social media presence, if they have any questions or problems drop them a message through facebook or twitter for example.

Questions to ask yourself

Tools

On top of the channels you will be utilising to target and connect with your audiences. There are many different tools you can utilise to both track how well your online marketing is doing and for researching future campaigns. Whilst some tools will require a fee to use, it is worth noting that Google tools are free to use.

Social media tools

Questions to ask yourself

About the author

Written by Christophe Boudet, Managing Director of Akita Systems Christophe Boudet Managing Director at Akita Systems

founded Akita in 1996. He's a father of two young boys, a Club100 kart racer and is currently Chairman of Tonbridge Round Table. Tweet at him @Christophe_BF.