This article introduces and reviews the most popular ways to do internet marketing, including through search engines and social media.
Here’s a quick list of the topics you’ll find in this quick reference guide intended to give you an overview of what channels and resources are available to internet marketers.
The internet has become by far the most efficient way of doing marketing. Compared to more traditional methods of reaching an audience, including television, radio, billboards, mail campaigns, etc., the ability of the internet to quickly reach a targeted group of people who are interested in your message or idea or who want to buy your product is nothing short of miraculous.
I’m going to share with you in this Internet Marketing Reference Guide the most commonly used platforms and channels for people, organizations, and businesses to connect with their audiences. For each of these avenues of doing internet marketing, I will also recommend to you resources you can use to develop your skills in using that platform to promote whatever it is that you want to share with the world using the internet.
The internet marketing opportunities and the information I present here focus on the English-speaking world (since that’s the language I know best, English-speakers are my target audience, and that’s what most of the world is most familiar with) and especially the United States of America. For those who want to target other geographies and/or languages, it’s important to understand that there are equivalents to many of these that use the same concepts in a different part of the world and in a different language. For instance, in China, Baidu is the major search engine.
Search Engines (Google)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (more commonly known as SEO) is my favorite of the internet marketing strategies I’ve employed over my years of running businesses. SEO involves publishing web pages that a search engine can find, place into the database from which it draws its search results, and then show to those you want to connect with. To use SEO, you’ll need to have a website on which you can publish pages, things like blog articles, informational pages, product listings, or whatever else you’re trying to promote.
Because Google is by far the largest search engine in the world, most SEO is done in view of what Google is doing, including algorithm updates they make on a regular basis.
Traffic that you receive to your website from unpaid search referrals is referred to as organic traffic. You’ll hear this phrase
These are the most critical elements of search engine optimization:
- Doing research to find out what people are searching for related to your idea or product(s)
- Writing and publishing useful content that can be found and indexed by Google
- Optimizing your content to induce Google to be inclined to show it in search results
- Building backlinks to the pages on your website so that your content is prioritized above competitors
For businesses that are oriented towards a local market area (such as a restaurant) or service area (like a plumber or carpet cleaner), SEO is done quite a bit differently from general SEO. Local SEO focuses on maps-oriented activities, such as making sure that your business exists on Google Maps and that you have claimed it through Google MyBusiness.
There is an entire industry dedicated to doing local SEO for local-oriented businesses.
Coursera has a section of its search engine optimization course dedicated to learning about local SEO.
Continuing with the search engine theme, Google Shopping is one of the most popular places on the internet for people to find products to purchase. If you’re selling a product or have a product catalog you want to promote, you should consider using Google Shopping, using the Google Merchant Center for ecommerce businesses, to market your products.
The video below should be a good start for you to understand how marketers can use Google Shopping and how to get started.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) can get traffic and exposure for your business quickly, but it tends to also be expensive. More people fail at achieving their desired ROI using PPC than succeed at it. That is especially the case when PPC is not understood well by the company publishing paid ad campaigns, and when they outsource it to agencies who are known to blow through ad budget quickly.
Google’s PPC platform is called AdWords. You can set up an account for free, but then you’ll need to enter your credit card information to begin getting sponsored clicks from Google to your website.
Google provides a free learning course on how to get started using AdWords. They also have more advanced courses you can use to become an expert at AdWords. It’s important to learn this information well if you want to use PPC with Google AdWords. Otherwise, you will just be wasting a lot of money trading $1 for $5 by doing sponsored advertising on Google.
There are other PPC opportunities through search engines besides Google, where the traffic is less, but the cost is so much less that it is often worth trying those. Bing, DuckDuckGo, and other small search engines are not nearly as competitive, so you’ll likely not pay nearly as much per click as you would with Google AdWords.
Google also has a series of video tutorials on YouTube that you can follow along with to learn how to use PPC to market your business or other idea.
Amazon.com is the worldwide king of retail, and has grown so much over the past decade that it’s almost impossible for online retailers of products to ignore the opportunity to sell on Amazon.
Amazon charges a $40/month fee to be a professional seller. They also charge fees (normally at least 15% of your sales price) for transactions for your products on their website.
Amazon allows you to either fulfill the orders you receive from them on your own (seller fulfilled), or you can send in your products to Amazon’s warehouse and let them warehousing handle shipping.
If you sell products, it’s a good idea to at least take a look at how you can use Amazon to get that inventory turning over more quickly by exposing them to Amazon’s 300-million-plus user base.
Amazon has a quick start introduction to selling on their platform.
There are definitely pros and cons to selling on Amazon. The video below addresses the fundamentals to marketing and selling products on Amazon and describes the benefits and risks of using the world’s largest online retail website.
Facebook has almost 2.5 billion users, so it makes sense for most marketers to think about how to use this social media behemoth to attract attention. As with other the venues mentioned here for doing internet marketing, Facebook can be used to get organic and paid exposure for your business.
Because of platform’s sheer number of users, most companies and organizations can find some segment of their target audience on Facebook. However, people who are using
Over the past six years, Facebook marketers have given up a lot of ground on their ability to get “free” (you have to have built an audience for it, so it’s not technically free, but once you have built a following, getting their attention through unsponsored posts is essentially free) traffic and exposure by simply posting engaging content to their pages and groups. Now, Facebook marketing requires having a lot more technical know-how to ensure that you’re getting an ROI on your product and accomplishing your goals without spending too much money. Facebook marketing is now done usually as a blend of the organic and paid approaches. Facebook marketing usually involves building an audience that you can use for getting free exposure along with understanding that audience well enough to pay for sponsored posts that will target the sweet spots of your audience.
I’ll talk more about both approaches to Facebook marketing (organic reach and paid ads) next.
If you’re interested in jumping into a course on organic and paid Facebook marketing, you might try HubSpot’s Facebook Marketing Course.
Organic Facebook Marketing
In its earlier years (prior to 2014), it was much easier to market to a Facebook following (people who like your page) you had built over time. However, marketers attempting to share their message for free to their Facebook following have seen it plummet from about 16% in 2013 to less than 2% now.
Despite that trend in diminishing organic reach for Facebook marketers, there is still a lot of opportunity to get your message or product out to people through Facebook.
The video below gives some great, updated advice about how to increase your organic reach both by adding followers and by posting content that Facebook tends to share with your followers.
Paid Facebook Marketing
As I mentioned above, Facebook has intentionally limited how much free exposure marketers can get out of their Facebook followings. Facebook knows that companies and organizations feel like they have to get in on the opportunity that exists with the huge Facebook audience, including having to pay to share their message with the users of that social media platform.
As with other paid marketing opportunities, you need to make sure that you know what you’re doing and have a well-defined goal with Facebook Ads. Otherwise, you can quickly blow through a budget with little to no value.
Marketers are successful when they use Facebook Ads if they understand their target personas well, and if they are willing to spend enough time and money to iterate towards their objective. This includes doing your best to understand the value of activities that can be accomplished through Facebook Ads, from having people watch a video that promotes your product to having people fill out a form with their pre-filled phone number and email address so that you can contact them. If you understand the value of those activities, you can compare how much you’re paying and the results you’re getting with your target objectives. If you aren’t meeting those objectives (especially your cost per action or CPA), then you need to adjust something about your campaign (your defined audience, advertisement, product price, etc.) until you meet your target objectives.
The Facebook Ads intro video below will give you a good foundation on the world of Facebook Ads.
Instagram is owned by Facebook, which allows you to develop both audiences at the same time. However, Instagram is driven primarily by pictures that are uploaded to the platform via the Instagram app on a smart phone. Marketing on Instagram has been shown to be most effective with businesses and organization that are highly visual in nature, including for online retailers who use Instagram to feature their products. If your business isn’t naturally suited for Instagram but you want to take advantage of the 1 billion plus users on Instagram, you’ll likely need to dig a little deeper on creativity.
Like the other internet marketing platforms, Instagram also has an organic reach component as well as a paid side.
Expanding organic reach on Instagram can be done using lots of different strategies, including:
- posting pictures regularly to keep your audience engaged
- following and interacting with other similar and complementary Instagram accounts
- doing product giveaways and having “follow” or other requirements for people to be entered in the giveaway (this works for product-focused businesses as well as those with goals outside of online retail
Here’s a quick intro to Instagram marketing that will help you get your feet wet with that platform.
YouTube is the second most popular search engine, second only to Google. YouTube is owned by Google, so it makes sense that YouTube would also be well known as a search engine.
Videos published on YouTube reach over 2 billion people each year. With YouTube, you have the opportunity to connect with your segment of that audience to share how-tos, product demonstrations, commentary, or almost anything else you might want to put on a video.
If your company has any inclination and ability to make and publish videos, you can carve out a niche on YouTube, which is often less competitive than Google for many niches, but which also serves as a complementary tool for getting traffic from Google. For instance, it’s common to publish pages that are designed to rank well for a keyword phrase on Google, and include with that content a video that supplements your webpage.
For instance, several years ago when I started a medical devices company, I was selling a handheld dynamometer called a MicroFET 2. That product serves a pretty narrow niche. Physical therapists and medical professionals use the device to do muscle strength testing. There is not a high search volume for the product’s name and similar search terms, but I make good margins on it, and I’m happy to sell 30 or so per month . To promote the product, I created a highly optimized webpage for the product. Then I created a video (not even a very professional one) that describes the features of the product. I published the video on YouTube, and I also embedded the video into my MicroFET 2 product page. The end result was lots of sales, many coming from Google searches, where both my webpage and my video ranked in the top 5 results for “microfet 2”, and some also coming from the YouTube video, which referred highly-targeted video-related traffic to my website.
I hope that example gives you a taste of the power and efficiency that can be gained by going after the combination of organic traffic on Google and YouTube.
Because its primary function is a search engine, getting organic exposure to your audience from YouTube is easier than with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. In order to stay at the top of the search world, Google and YouTube are naturally required to provide the best search results, a condition that Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter don’t have.
Differing slightly from Google, ranking in YouTube (and in YouTube video results shown in Google searches) has some dependence upon social signals, including up votes, video watch duration, subscribers to a channel, and others. (Google’s formula does have parallels for most of those user input signals.)
Naturally, to introduce you to the fundamentals of YouTube marketing, I’ll share with you this YouTube Marketing in 2020 intro video.
Similar to Google AdWords, YouTube also has a paid version of marketing to an audience. If you want to pay for sponsored ads on YouTube, you don’t even need a video, although using videos has been proven more effective than just still images.
The video below is a long and thorough introduction to using YouTube ads to reach an audience with your message. If you want to get a good feel of whether you should be using paid YouTube marketing as part of your approach to the internet, this video will provide a good foundation for you.
Pinterest is much smaller than the largest social media platforms, with a mere 350 million+ monthly users. However, thousands of marketers use Pinterest to promote their businesses, especially product-type businesses that cater to women.
Like the other social media platforms, Pinterest has an organic and paid component to it. Building an organic following takes effort and consistency, but for people and businesses whose messages tend to be very visual in nature, Pinterest can be a very efficient way of attracting the right people.
Especially for the visual product-based companies I’ve been associated with, I’ve noticed that Pinterest is a great source of organic websites visits from people who are in shopping mode, which increases the value of that traffic from Pinterest.
The Pinterest marketing intro video below has actionable steps you can take to get started getting attention from people who use Pinterest.
Pinterest Promoted Pins
If you’re interested in doing paid Pinterest marketing, referred to by Pinterest as Promoted Pins, here’s a quick intro that shows you how to get clicks to your website for as little as $0.10 each.
Email marketing has been around for decades. Despite the experts thinking that email would fade and give way to other technologies, it simply hasn’t.
The world continues to use email as the primary form of communicating, with more than have the planet’s population having email accounts. I wrote this article to help you understand how to use the internet tools with the most opportunities and with well-established protocols for marketing to the audiences represented by the various segments of the internet.
Email should certainly be near the top of any marketers list of priorities.
To take advantage of email marketing, you’ll need a list of email addresses representing people who want to hear from you and your organization. Here are some of the ways marketers gain access to email lists.
- Build your own email list: This is the best way to do email marketing. Your current customer list is the best place to start with email marketing. The people who already know your brand are the ones who are most likely to open and respond to your messages. Having your own email list that you’ve built through opt-ins on your website or through other email collection techniques is highly valuable for any marketing team.
- Purchase a list of email addresses segmented to match your target persona(s): This can be somewhat effective, but the interaction will be much lower than if you built your own list. Also, regulations have been put into place in many areas of the world prohibiting sending unsolicited emails to anyone who hasn’t specifically opted in to your list. The most commonly used email marketing software requires you (though often they aren’t able to enforce it) to be compliant with regulations restricting which email addresses you’re able to use for mass email campaigns.
- Rent a list of email addresses segmented to match your target persona(s): Renting a list is usually done for a one-time marketing campaign. This method of reaching out to potential customers and others using email has limitations similar to those associated with purchased lists.
Affiliate marketing allows you to partner with other people who have a presence on the internet, paying them to essentially share their audiences with you so that you both win.
Affiliate marketing is most popular for product niches, including physical products, information products, and digital software subscriptions, but it can also be used for other types of industries. The transactional nature of affiliate marketing (i.e. an affiliate refers a visitor to your website, that person purchases an item, and you pay your affiliate a commission) makes is highly appealing for products, especially those with high margins, where a high commission (10%+) can be given out to affiliates without severely affecting margins.
To get started with affiliate marketing, it’s easiest to join an affiliate broker. For smaller businesses just getting started with affiliates, ShareASale is a good one. For larger ones with a bigger budget, a larger broker like Commission Junction can give you more exposure to high producing affiliate partners. If you sell digital products, ClickBank is a great resource.
W3 Consulting held a webinar in 2018 in which they explain how small businesses can create and develop successful affiliate programs. This video is about an hour long. It covers the details of getting started with an affiliate marketing program.
LinkedIn is designed for business professionals. LinkedIn has an audience of over 700 million users, which makes the social media platform worth considering for companies and organizations who want to connect with people and develop their brands among working professionals.
As with other social media websites, it is possible to do effective marketing using both organic and paid strategies, and it makes sense to use one to complement the other.
By publishing well-written, targeted posts regularly on a LinkedIn business page or by having people associated with a business post regularly and develop their LinkedIn networks, organizations can build significant followings that they can use for promoting their products and services. In doing this, it’s important not to be too overly promotional, and that you respect the give versus take balance that LinkedIn users can often seem sensitive to. For instance, I am happy to connect with people on LinkedIn, and I have thousands of connections in my network. However, when someone sends me a message saying they want to connect because we share common interests, then immediately begins sending me sales offers for things that don’t apply to me, it’s obvious that that person is simply looking for a sale and not for a mutually beneficial connection. It’s a major turnoff, and often causes me to disconnect from them, sometimes even blocking them.
The video below has some useful tips for growing your LinkedIn audience and being more effective at using the organic side of LinkedIn effectively.
LinkedIn Paid Marketing
LinkedIn allows users to run paid marketing campaigns that operate somewhat similar to Facebook Ads in terms of audience segmenting. Within the LinkedIn Ads Campaign Manager console, you have the ability to target people whose interests, demographics, and behavior on LinkedIn can be used to create a narrowed and focused audience that is more likely to be interested in your product, service, or idea. As with other paid marketing opportunities, spending money on LinkedIn Ads should be done within a mature marketing strategy that has been thought out, where clear ROI objectives exist, and where those objectives can be measured against results.
It should be expected that LinkedIn PPC campaigns will need attention after the initial setup, and that feedback from the ads will need to be used for further iterations to optimize the campaigns.
If you’d like to learn how to become a successful LinkedIn marketer, you can start with this video from Crystal King at HubSpot, who shares tips and tricks with LinkedIn Ads users to help them make the most out of their LinkedIn sponsored ads budget.
Twitter allows people and businesses to interact at the speed of light. Twitter’s audience of 330 million give it enough of a user base to make it worth considering, although it’s not a great option to spend lots of time or money on for most small businesses.
For most people and businesses, I’d recommend at least having a Twitter account and using it regularly. There are opportunities for reaching people through Twitter (since that’s the preferred medium of communication for many people, and communicating with those people is more open compared to trying to find their email address or phone number) who you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.
If you’re interested in building a following on Twitter and getting organic exposure on the microblogging platform, here are some recommendations from DropsHelp.com.
Twitter Paid Marketing
I’ve tried to do Twitter sponsored ads without success, but I don’t feel like I have given the platform a legitimate chance. I ran some product ads for a couple of the ecommerce companies I own (a clothing store called SweatshirtStation.com and a home decor business called CustomVinylDecor), but I didn’t spend the time that’s required (I know, that’s hypocritical) to spend my Twitter marketing budget wisely, nor did I feed the results of my ads back into my campaign to make it better, potentially getting it over the ROI threshold so that it would be productive.
Twitter for Business has a getting started video that you can follow along with if you’d like to see how it works and try it out.
Which One(s) Should You Use?
Possibly the biggest challenge facing online marketers is being paralyzed by too many choices. With all of the options out there, the most prominent of which I have shared on this post, it can be a tough job scrapping some in favor of others.
To decide which of the internet marketing opportunities you want to pursue for yourself or for your company, I’d suggest taking a look at the specific objectives you want to accomplish and making an intelligence guess about how you can best reach that audience through this multitude of choices. If you don’t have a ton of resources, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Instead, focus on one or two narrowed approaches and become very good at using them to accomplish your objectives, or, if you find out after giving them enough budget and opportunity, that they’re not doing what you need, you can pivot to something else.
For Prosperopedia.com, I am focused on getting organic search traffic (which is likely how you ended up here) that I can monetize by displaying ads and through affiliate relationships. Doing SEO and getting lots of free search referrals has allowed me to make millions of dollars on ecommerce businesses over the past couple of decades, so I know that strategy works.
In my roles working for and consulting technology companies, small businesses, non-profits, and people who just want to be work from home entrepreneurs, I have found it useful to implement strategies that are comprised of some mix of the internet marketing venues I’ve described above as well as other more specific, targeted strategies that didn’t have anything to do with those.
If you have enough education on how each of these work, you can make a good decision for your own business or for the people you work for.
I hope I’ve given you a good overview. If you know of an internet marketing opportunity I’ve missed that has widespread application and appeal, feel free to share it with me.