Note: This post is the second section of a seven-part series called “The Fundamentals of Internet Marketing.” Click here to read the first part of the series: Part 1: Introduction.
Because it’s constantly growing—added to every hour by millions of people all over the world—new words are always being invented to describe it. Trying to understand it is sort of a bizarre never-ending learning process. You’re studying a subject which has terminology so new that much of it isn’t even in the dictionary yet. Books written on it are obsolete in a few years. Entirely new communication platforms attracting millions of users are invented from scratch out from out of nowhere.
Really, it’s a revolution for mankind. Life has changed. The playing field has suddenly shifted in the past 20 years. Welcome to sci-fi, you know.
This makes the whole thing seem very complicated and hard to understand.
But it isn’t. You just need to know the basics.
Remember, the words have changed. The tools have changed. But, the basic principles of marketing and human communication have NOT changed…at all.
Understanding Your Tools
In order to make money off internet marketing, you’ll have to know your tools. You can’t use what you don’t understand, right? But before we can even talk about the tools, we need to go over some basic definitions related to the Internet.
What is a blog? What really is social media? What is SEO? You have to conceptually grasp these in order to use them.
The purpose of this blog post is to define key terms that might be used in internet marketing. No use in talking high-level strategy if the basic words are misunderstood. So we’ll talk basic definitions first. After we define these, we can then get into how to wield internet marketing weapons like a ninja.
Basic Internet Marketing Definitions
The following is an absolutely incomplete (sorry—just being honest!) list of terms you need to know in order to be successful at internet marketing. My goal is to write this in a way that can be understood by anyone. If it’s not, write and let me know.
Social media is a phenomenon that originated as a result of the Internet. It didn’t exist before that because the technology wasn’t in existence. (However, the underlying principles behind social media totally applied back then—it was just called “word of mouth.”)
“Social media” describes any method of interaction on the Internet by which individual people are able to create, publish and share information through online networks. This is contrasted with traditional media outlets such as newspapers or TV stations—hence, the name “social” media.
With the advent of the Internet, suddenly a random guy in his living room could write something and share it with all kinds of people, who could themselves share it with others. This led to content spreading through society on its own, with no help from newspapers, TV or magazines—called “going viral” (because it’s spreading like a virus through society).
Social media has grown to include a huge number of websites and computer applications, connecting billions of people across the planet. There are countless social media channels which serve all the various countries, languages and demographics you find in the world. Probably the best-known are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
Social Media Marketing
This is the use of social media to market a product or service. It can be done right or it can be done wrong. The result of properly-done social media marketing is that people spread the word about some product or service to their friends and then way more people decide to buy it than otherwise would have.
“Blog” is short for “weblog” or “web log.” This is a type of website, or a part of a website, which is regularly added to over time. The major thing which defines a blog is the fact that it is updated regularly, with new posts at the top. Almost every person active on social media regularly reads different blogs, whether they know it or not. (All those funny articles on Facebook? Those are blogs.)
A type of website that allows you to search the gazillions of websites on the Internet and find the exact right information you’re looking for. They do this by the use of magic. Or mathematics.
Google, Bing and Yahoo! are examples of search engines.
People use search engines constantly. Without them the web would be fairly useless. Who could possibly sort through the trillions of web pages out there? We need something to help us instantly find what we’re looking for.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is the use of search engines to ensure your product or service is easily found by the people searching for it. For example, if someone typed in “car seats” or “best car seats” (as my wife recently did), they are going to get a bunch of results on Google. Search engine marketing uses a technical understanding of search engines to ensure that my wife finds one particular car seat instead of a different one.
There are two types of search engine marketing: paid and organic. Paid search is where you pay Google to rank your website at the top of the page in a special advertising section. Organic search is where you legitimately rank highly for free because you fit Google’s criteria best. Why is it called “organic” search? Collins defines “organic” as “developing naturally.” There you go.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the work done on a website to help it rank well in the search engines. There is a whole world of information about this which is best left to experts or to people who want to drive themselves insane.
The basic gist of SEO is that search engines like Bing and Google have certain criteria they use to decide who ranks at the top and who doesn’t. Being at the top of the search engines is a highly-coveted spot as, statistically, you get WAY more visitors to your site than if you’re at the bottom.
SEO requires technical knowledge and is an unpredictable field because it depends on the current rules of Google and other search engines (which change constantly). The basic idea is that if you know what they’re looking for, you can help get your page to the top of the rankings.
SEO definitely has its uses, but probably shouldn’t be your main focus.
Local search is a relatively new development. With the advancement of computer technology, search engines like Google can pinpoint your real-world geographic location and provide you with results tailor-made to your city or neighborhood. This is particularly helpful when it’s cold and you’ve got your phone out in downtown Chicago, standing on Michigan Avenue looking for a nearby restaurant, so that Google doesn’t give you the best pizza place in New York City.
Local search is a huge deal for small businesses like restaurants, chiropractors, dentists, coffee shops, etc. When you search for a dentist, you aren’t looking for one simply located somewhere in the U.S. (You know—Philly, D.C., Tampa—it’s all good.) No, you probably want one in your city. Same goes for a haircut, a drycleaner or an auto mechanic.
The fact that search engines are now customizing the results they give you based on your location has created a revolution in marketing for certain industries. If you are a small business owner, you definitely need to learn all about this.
Email marketing is simply the use of email to market a product or service. Businesses build lists of email addresses—sometimes very big—and regularly send out information. This can be done correctly or incorrectly. Incorrect email marketing frustrates the person receiving it, makes them delete it and results in them buying nothing. Correctly done email marketing results in people finding things they’re interested in, staying on your list and eventually buying stuff from you.
Ahhhhhh. The conversion: the storied and sought-after goal of internet marketing. This is the carrot. The weenie. The Maltese Falcon.
In internet marketing, a “conversion” is when a person you’re marketing to, like a website visitor, does the thing you were trying to get them to do. This can mean that they bought something, they entered their email address in order to sign up for you newsletter, they downloaded free information…whatever. It just means that they “converted” into a person who actually did something.
This is the goal of all internet marketing: to get conversions. This is how you make sales. This is how you get leads.
Conversions are good.
Content is anything and everything that you publish in the course of internet marketing. This includes all pictures and words on your website, articles on your blog, videos you created, funny pictures with words on them that get shared—anything. Content is king. People share content. People are looking for content.
On the Internet, people want information. In fact, it’s kind of the whole point. When they go on Facebook, they’re sharing and reading information. When they visit your website, they’re looking at information.
In order to be successful on the Internet people need content, because that’s what the Internet is: a method of sharing and broadcasting content to others.
Ok, we learned a bunch of words. Yay. Now what?
Now that we understand our tools, we can learn to use them. We’ll take up each subject: social media, blogging, etc., and how they’re actually applied in internet marketing.
Next, let’s get the proper mindset down. Let’s get oriented. Let’s get tracking.
Let’s learn the basics of internet marketing strategy.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series: Basic Strategy of Internet Marketing.