It's hard to believe that the commercial Internet has been around for only 20 years. Look at the upheaval it's caused in the area of marketing! Over the past two decades, online advertising has risen from zero to more than 20 percent of total advertising expenditures. Over $30 billion will be spent for online advertising in the U.S. in 2013. And that doesn't include the billions of dollars businesses and organizations spend every year designing, building, and managing websites, blogs, newsletters and social networking profiles.
While dot.com businesses have seen spectacular growth and crashes, the online marketing tools they've pioneered have been adopted by virtually all organizations. These techniques have reduced marketing costs while improving results for almost all who've used them. These include techniques that were cutting-edge 20 years ago and are commonplace now: email, online newsletters, websites, search advertising, webinars, etc.
On top of those staples of online marketing, whole new layers have been added in the form of social networks such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Not only has the way people use the Internet changed, but the content that's being consumed is also changing. The early Internet was text-heavy, with still images and slow download speeds.
The new Internet is loaded with video content, slide shows, live events, and lightning-fast downloads. These changes have spawned a whole new industry devoted to multimedia marketing online and another, broader industry called content marketing, which includes items such as blogs, infographics, slide shows, videos and other types of original content.
- Set a budget. Many companies have started pay-per-click campaigns only to find that they got a lot more clicks than expected and owe more money than they planned. It's important to set a budget and work within it until you get comfortable with how much things cost and what you get in return. The same is true for contracting with an online marketing firm: it all sounds good, but you probably can't afford everything you want, so prioritize your needs and build slowly.
- Get serious about tracking. You can't know if your money is well spent if you don't track the results. It's great to get traffic, but how much of it converts to actual sales? Your online marketing vendor(s) need to show a direct path from your marketing expenses to your income, or else you'll never know how much you should be spending. There are many good analytics programs available to help you: some are free, but it's worth paying a little for accurate, insightful analyses. Ask to see sample tracking reports from actual campaigns that your vendor has run.
- Investigate providers. These days, you can't abuse a customer and get away with it. Unhappy clients can air their complaints fast and far. Anyone with a poor reputation is unlikely to survive in business for long, so be sure to do your homework and investigate your online marketing providers to see if people are happy with their services. Check references, as well as what's being said about them on social networks. Also, consult review and rating services. Your vendor's membership in a professional organization may give you added leverage if there's a dispute.
Glossary of Terms
- Blacklist: A list of suspected spammers, hackers, and other online troublemakers that's shared among Internet service providers. They use the blacklist to block communications from those on the list from reaching subscribers to their service.
- CAN-SPAM Act: All email marketing in the United States is governed by this act, which prohibits unsolicited commercial email. It specifies how email messages must be formatted and what disclosures they must contain.
- Click-through: The act of clicking on a link. The click-through rate is a measure of the percentage of people shown a link that activates it. Online advertising is often priced on a pay-per-click basis rather than paying per exposure.
- Crowdsourcing: Using public input to come up with new ideas, products, or solutions. Social networks use crowdsourcing to tell you what content is most popular among your friends and followers.
- Direct Email: Sending a marketing message via email. Also called bulk email, email blasts, or email marketing.
- Domain Name: A unique Web address that directs people to your file server. An example is www.companyname.com, where "companyname" is the name of your company. The domain name includes the extension, so that companyname.com is a different domain name than companyname.org or companyname.edu. Buying a domain name is usually the first step in setting up a website.
- Metadata: Basic information that travels along with files online and is used to tag the files by title, author, date, keywords, subject, and other basic bibliographical data.
- Netiquette: A popular term for online etiquette-or acceptable norms of online behavior. These rules may not be written down, but they're often enforced by people online who take such matters into their own hands.
- Newsletter: Refers to any regular communication sent via email. Also called an e-zine or a mailing list.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC): A method of pricing online advertisements, where the advertiser only pays if someone clicks on the ad, rather than paying every time the ad is displayed.
- Reputation Management: The practice of monitoring what people are saying about the products, companies, topics, and people important to you; and then correcting or offering an opposing view about incorrect or damaging material.
- Social Network: A group of people participating in an online service where they may share information, thoughts, images, and other content with others on the network. Examples of social networks include Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Social Networking Profile: Your profile is the site you build within a social network. For example, a Facebook page is a profile. Your profile is like your home page on most social networks, and contains basic information you want to share with others.
- Website Host: A firm that stores the files you want to share on a file server connected to the Internet. In addition to storing your files, most website hosts provide site-building and site-management tools. Website hosting charges are usually a combination of file-storage charges and bandwidth charges.