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  Online Marketing Basics
          Article by Austin Internet Marketing Company Semantic Advantage -- June 2011

Online Marketing Services Overview
Online marketing can bring your business more visibility, new customers and increased sales, and provides a cost-effective way to reach a large number of customers and prospects.  Online marketing services employ the same basic principles as conventional marketing; but the analyses and implementation can be highly technical and complex – and everything happens much faster.

The capabilities and technology of online marketing services are growing so quickly it’s difficult for business managers (not to mention web marketing experts) to keep up with these developments and formulate an Internet marketing strategy that works for their customers and business model.  This is especially true for small businesses that don’t have the online marketing expertise to do this in-house; most of these will be more successful hiring a professional online marketing services company to devise and implement their web marketing programs.

Here is an overview of the major online marketing services offered by web marketing companies -- how they work and the benefits they have for your business.

Website Development and Optimization
These days nearly every business has a website -- many have multiple websites.  Just as ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’, your website is the world’s online window to your business.  Your website’s content (words), navigation, layout and visual appeal portray your business and your brand – and determine how effective your website will be.

The most important thing for your website to do is attract the visitors you want and provide them with useful, compelling information about your products, services and value proposition.   Your website should be logically and intuitively organized, so visitors can easily find the information they want.

There are several ways visitors can arrive at your website:
  1. Direct Traffic – enter URL (or selects a bookmark) in web browser
  2. Search Engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, etc.
    • Organic Search – click link in organic search results
    • Paid Search – click on your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad on the results page
  3. Referring Sites – social media site, business directory, blog, etc.
    • Organic – click your link on the website
    • Paid – click your ad on the website
  4. Email or newsletter – click on link in email

Depending on the specifics of your business and characteristics of your target audience, some of these methods will be more effective than others.  Many businesses and online marketing services organizations pursue traffic from all these sources, periodically adjusting resource allocation to the ones that are most successful and cost-effective.  

Search Engine Optimization – SEO
Enhancing your website to improve your ranking in the organic search engine results is called search engine optimization (SEO).  The search engines -- Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Ask, etc. -- continuously scour the Internet to evaluate websites and their pages.  Each page is analyzed to distill its contents down to a set of ‘keyword phrases’ (generally one to four words long) and assign a numerical ranking for each of these keyword phrases.    Whenever someone enters a keyword phrase into a search engine, it looks up the pages corresponding to that keyword phrase and delivers them to the user in the form of search engine results pages (SERPs for short).  The highest ranking web page appears first in the list, and generally the top ten ranked pages appear on Page One of the search results.   Search engines are pretty good at this, and most users find what they’re looking for on Page One of the search results.  So it’s very important for your website pages to be listed on Page One of the SERPs for keyword phrases corresponding to your business.  An important aspect of SEO is the process of selecting the most effective keyword phrase for each of your pages, and optimizing each page for that keyword phrase.

Search Engine Marketing – SEM

The most popular form of online advertising is search engine marketing (SEM), and the major search engine advertising platforms are Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter (Bing).  SEM ads appear in the SERPs above and to the right of the organic search results.

There are two methods of paying for SEM ads.  You can elect to pay per click (PPC), or pay per impression (the number of times the ad is displayed).  Depending on which method you choose, the search engine will charge you a Cost Per Click (CPC) every time someone clicks on your ad, or a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for every thousand times your ad is presented.

In either case you can set a maximum daily or monthly budget to manage your advertising expenses.  Most advertisers begin with PPC and monitor the number of clicks per impression to see if CPM would be more cost-effective.   Search engine marketing has a more immediate effect than SEO, and does not require a significant modification of your website.  On the other hand, SEO has a more persistent effect than search engine marketing – when the SEM ads stop, so does the website traffic.    

Display Advertising
Online advertisements appear in many forms; and the ones containing graphics, videos or images are called display ads.  Online ads without these features are usually referred to as text ads or classified ads.

Display ads can be placed by contacting the website owner and negotiating an online marketing agreement, or (more commonly) by dealing with an online advertising broker that manages ad placement across a multitude of websites.  The major search engine companies act as ad brokers in this capacity through the Google AdSense program, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter.

The search engines and ad brokers have online applications for creating ads, allowing you to select the ad’s size, position on the page, color scheme -- and add copy, images and/or videos, and a link to your website.  As with search advertising, display ads can be purchased on either a CPC or CPM basis.

Social Marketing
One of the latest developments in online marketing is business use of social media sites. Businesses can use social marketing to create an online community of customers, prospects and business partners to discuss topics of interest.  The most popular social marketing sites for business are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Blogger (and there are many other industry-specific social marketing sites); and most of these are now targeted by businesses for advertising and other online marketing applications.   Another form of social marketing is the ratings/reviews website.  This began with Epinions.com (and reviews on Amazon.com), and has now expanded to Angieslist, BBB.org, Glassdoor, Yelp and others.  Social marketing reviews are especially important in the restaurant business, with numerous city-specific sites and national coverage by ChowHound, DineSite, UrbanSpoon, Yelp and Zagat.   In addition to the inherent benefits of social marketing, using social media also enhances SEO and SEM by creating links to your website.   These links provide a path for visitors to your site; and the number and quality of these links is a major factor in calculating your search engine rankings.    

Email Marketing
Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of online marketing, but it is still popular and effective today.  Although the average open rate for online marketing emails is very small – typically below 2% -- the low cost of emailing makes this a high ROI form of online marketing.

Many businesses elect to do email marketing through an email service like Constant Contact, Exact Target, MailChimp and Vertical Response.  For a small fee, these companies provide tools for creating professional emails with embedded graphics and links; emailing to your distributions lists, and tracking the number of bounces, opens, forwards and unsubscribes.  Email marketing can also be done in-house through customer relationship management (CRM) or special purpose emailing applications including Act!, Eloqua, Manticore, NetSuite or Salesforce.com.

Professional email marketing companies generally require that you provide mailing lists for which each recipient has opted-in (given you permission to sent them email).  As a result, these companies are trusted by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), so even a large emailing will get through the ISPs spam filters.

Conclusion
Online marketing services can help your business secure new customers and increase sales.  Web marketing programs can reach thousands of prospects, and are a cost-effective way to develop your brand, generate qualified sales leads -- and sell your products and services online.   Semantic Advantage specializes in online marketing services including website development and optimization, search engine optimization (SEO), social marketing, search engine marketing (SEM) and email marketing.  By combining these in an integrated online marketing program, we can allocate your marketing budget across all these disciplines to obtain the best results and maximize your ROI.   For more information about our Austin online marketing services, email us at info@Semantic-Ad.com or visit the Semantic Advantage website.



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