Online marketing has really exploded, and businesses now have a variety of methods to reach out to their potential clients. Over a dozen online marketing avenues roll off the tongue, and this is by no means an exhaustive list: the opportunities are endless, and limited only by creativity and resources. That being said, these are some of the most common online marketing avenues; learn to leverage them effectively, and you can dramatically expand your reach, capture a significantly wider audience and boost your conversion rate.
Email marketing has been around for a long time, and many businesses now eschew it as old news. It may not be new or exciting, but it remains one of the most effective forms of contact. Effective email campaigns to opt-in email addresses continue to produce higher conversation rates than any other marketing technique. All you need to do is give people a good reason to opt-in, create effective messages that target your audience and send them out at the appropriate intervals.
2. Social Media
Social media was the new hotness a year or two ago, but now it’s become an accepted part of many businesses’ online presence. If you’re a major player, it’s surprising to find that you don’t have a Twitter account or Facebook page, and more and more businesses are now adding Google+ and LinkedIn, too. Effectively utilizing social media can be a great tool for drastically expanding your scope. But social media requires a lot of up-front time investment, and the return on the investment for most businesses is not proportional to the resources that go into this marketing avenue. This is one of those things that you should maintain because clients expect you to, but in general you’ll find more bang for your marketing buck elsewhere.
3. Article Marketing
Article marketing involves submitting articles relative to your field of expertise to article directory websites. Popular article marketing sites include eZine Articles, Hub Pages, Squidoo – more than a hundred article directories exist, some of which have a unique style and flare, and others are little more than link-building directories. Article marketing can provide you with inbound links and improve your SEO. However, avoid spamming article marketing sites, as Google frowns upon duplicate content. If your article shows up in a hundred different places, your article marketing efforts can actually hurt your website’s reputation.
4. Press Release Marketing
Press release marketing functions much like article marketing. You can submit your press release to one of many press release directory services, or submit it directly to various news services. In an ideal world, a major news service will take your press release and run with it, providing you exposure to thousands of new viewers. But doing press release marketing right takes an experienced professional; too many press releases read like an ad for the company, and don’t get picked up by news services.
5. Landing Pages
A landing page, or lead capture page, is designed to get your audience to take some action; typically to sign up for an email campaign or create an account. A landing page should always have a clear call to action, and many businesses customize a landing page for a specific traffic source – making it easy to see which traffic source results in the largest number of people responding to your call to action, and also making the landing page more effective because it’s tailored to a specific source and audience.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of taking a website and optimizing it to rank highly in specifically-tailored search results. SEO may include internal HTML and code tweaks, content changes designed to target specific keywords, and website structure changes. Effective SEO boosts the page rank of your site for certain keywords, and makes it easier for your customers to find you in a Web search.
7. Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a type of internet marketing designed to increase traffic as a result of paid search engine placement. SEM techniques may include contextual advertising, paid placement and paid inclusion. SEM for a niche site may be relatively inexpensive and effective, but it’s difficult to compete in SEM for popular, high-demand keywords.
8. Inbound Linking
Inbound linking is an online marketing technique that has a couple of benefits; effective inbound linking can increase your page rank, and it also makes it easier for your customers to find you. Inbound linking can be achieved in a variety of ways; through posting responses in forums related to your product or service; through paid inbound linking services and through things like guest blogging and other exchange-type interactions. It’s important to keep in mind that if you pay for an inbound linking service, the wrong link-building program can hurt your page results, and even get you banned from Google; we’ll explore this further when we talk about Black Hat marketing techniques a bit later.
9. Affiliate, Reseller and Associate Programs
These programs are designed to incentivize the promotion of your site or services. Reseller programs make it easy for people to sell your products for you in return for a cut, while affiliate and associate programs incentivize people to drive traffic to your site. These programs are underutilized in online marketing, and have substantial benefits to the right business models.
10. Contests and Giveaways
Contests and giveaways are a great way to spread the word about your company and drastically increase your potential audience in a short time. Targeted contests and giveaways, such as gift cards for your business or products that you sell, can generate a smaller pool of well-qualified leads, while more generalized contests and giveaways, like iPad giveaways, can help you expand your reach but fewer of the leads will be qualified.
Blogging is a great way to build an online presence, establish authority and credibility, and expand your SEO. But blogging tends to yield slow results, and it can take months of steady blogging before you gain traction. Generally, scheduled, routine blogging forms the backbone for SEO; it’s an integral part of a marketing plan but doesn’t necessarily yield high conversion from the blog itself. Unusual or highly controversial blog posts, however, have the opportunity to be picked up and shared on sites like reddit that can get your content in front of thousands, tens of thousands or even millions of viewers.
12. Video Marketing
Video marketing, when done well, can be extremely effective. Video is the most socially-shared content on the Web, and video marketing can dramatically increase your reach and audience. If a video goes viral, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands or even millions of hits in a matter of days. Poor video marketing, though, doesn’t contribute to your reach, and can actually hurt your business.
Podcasting is another avenue you can use to reach out to your potential audience. Like blogging, podcasting provides you an opportunity to establish authority and credibility, and can help draw potential audience members. But podcasting represents a significant time investment, and should only be undertaken under certain business models and with very clearly defined goals and scope.
Ultimately, these tools can help any business reach a wider audience, and should form the core of your marketing platform. The right combination of tools in the right proportions varies depending on your business, but an experienced marketing professional can help you explore which tools are right for you.