Internet marketing is cost – effective and quick to execute, but it’s not simple or easy. Even in the presence of in-house experts, many businesses rely on internet marketing consultants who specialize in particular areas of the increasingly complex field of internet marketing. As an umbrella term, internet marketing encompasses any form of marketing via the web, e-mail, or mobile devices. Like any other form of marketing, the ultimate goal is conversions, defined as gaining sales, subscribers, or any other type of customers. Before potential customers can convert, they must be exposed to your message or product, and on the internet, that is usually expressed by traffic numbers: either visitors to a web page, or the number of page views on a web site.
There are five main channels for gaining traffic, and an internet marketing consultant will usually be an expert in one or more areas. The major channels are:
- Advertising, or paid placements of text or display (banner) ads. Internet advertising is priced on a Cost Per Mille (CPM) or Pay Per Click (PPC) basis. CPM means the cost per one thousand “impressions”, or views of the ad. The majority of CPM ads are banners or embedded videos, and they tend to be more effective for branding, so getting them in front of the right audience is crucial. There are a myriad publishers, ad networks and other platforms selling advertising space, and a skilled internet marketing consultant will know how to choose the ones that get your message in front of the right audience. PPC advertising comprises the majority of search advertising, and is often, but not always, in the form of text. This form is becoming more popular because the payment is more directly related to results – the advertiser doesn’t pay unless someone clicks. However, given pricing variations between advertising venues, PPC is not always less expensive than CPM, and the proper combination of both might be the right choice for your business.
- Affiliate marketing depends on referrals from other web sites. Unlike direct advertising, an affiliate doesn’t get paid unless an action is performed, usually a purchase. For instance, a travel blog may contain affiliate links to hotel booking websites at the destinations mentioned in the posts. When someone clicks the link or banner, and then goes on to book a room, the blogger collects a percentage of the payment. The benefits of affiliate marketing are high accountability, and shifting some of the efforts to promote your products or services to affiliate partners. The drawbacks include the need to motivate affiliate partners to actually engage in promotion, and the risk of brand dilution from unapproved promotions by affiliates. There are many existing affiliate networks and programs, and an internet marketing consultant with expertise in this field will be able to advise you on which ones to join or how to build your own.
- Organic search is one of the most powerful ways of building traffic to your web site, and one of the most complex. The basic principle is creating content on your web site that shows up at the top of the results in the major search engines when users search for specific terms. These terms are called keywords, although a more accurate term would be key phrases, since most contain multiple words. Search engines have complex ranking algorithms, and determine the placement of search results on a combination of factors including keyword relevance, content quality, recency, and many others. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the art and science of creating web pages that meet these criteria. There are are many firms and consultants specializing in SEO, of varying quality, and the bad ones can actually hurt your search rankings by using outdated or unethical techniques, so make sure your internet marketing consultant is open about his or her process, and can provide references and examples.
- Email is sometimes classified under social media, but it’s important enough to be considered its own channel. Every organisation should maintain a mailing list of contacts, existing and former customers, and partners, and use that list to regularly send out newsletters and promotions. Many businesses also send out promotions to lists owned by other organizations, in the form of email blasts or ads placed within a third-party newsletter. Well-designed, impactful emails will bring traffic and conversions to your site with an effectiveness that outpaces most other channels. However, email design is very different from web design, and poorly designed or wrongly targeted emails are worse than ineffective – they could get your domain name blacklisted as a spammer! That’s why it’s important to work with an internet marketing consultant who has experience with email, and understands how it differs from other forms of online marketing.
- Social Media marketing engages audiences into a dialogue via their social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. For some businesses, social media is replacing email as the main way to keep their audiences updated, but most organizations use both, customizing their tactics for each. The social media landscape changes rapidly, which is why business might engage a social marketing consultant to handle their social media campaigns. However, the key to effective social media marketing is to make it a conversation with your audience, rather than just broadcast your promotions, so a skilled consultant is likely to involve others within the organization.
How do you decide which channels are the most important for your business? That could also be a question for a generalist internet marketing consultant. When evaluating consultants, get multiple opinions, and do some research on what similar businesses are using. With the right mix and the right people working on each channel, your internet marketing can reach its potential.