Marketing is all about convincing people to buy your products or services. And these days, the easiest place to reach those potential customers is on the internet. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 85% of Americans go online daily, including 31% who report being online “almost constantly.” But the internet is big, so where exactly can businesses find their target audience or the people most likely to want their product? This calls for an internet marketing strategy.
What is internet marketing?
Internet marketing—also known as digital marketing, web marketing, or online marketing—is an umbrella term for all marketing that takes place on the internet. This includes, but is not limited to, social media, email, content marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO), a process that makes it easier for search engines to find your website. Because so many people spend a significant amount of time online, internet marketing is a valuable method for businesses to engage their audience and attract new customers.
Types of internet marketing
An effective online marketing strategy includes efforts across multiple platforms. Here are a few different types of internet marketing to consider:
Social media marketing
According to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center, 72% of US adults are on social media, up from just 5% in 2005. And while younger Americans are heavier users, nearly half of adults over 65 are on at least one platform. This means that no matter your target audience, you’ll be able to reach your customers on social media, whether they’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or another platform. Depending on your goals and budget, there are a couple of different ways to approach social media marketing:
- Organic. Organic social media marketing is anything you can do on the platform for free—your in-feed posts on Instagram, for example. Organic posts on social media are a cost-effective way to engage with your customers and shape your brand’s identity.
- Paid. Paid advertising on social media—think promoted posts with demographic targeting—can help you reach more potential customers and target a particular demographic.
When making purchasing decisions, people tend to trust other people more than they trust advertisements, even if they don’t personally know them. Partnering with an influencer, whether they be a celebrity or someone with a smaller following that matches your target audience, can be part of an effective internet marketing strategy. Influencer marketing can happen on various platforms:
- Social media. Social media is the most common way brands engage with influencers, who are especially prolific (and powerful) on Instagram and, increasingly, TikTok.
- Blogs. While social media might now be the more dominant form of influencer marketing, bloggers still have a lot of sway with many demographics. An added bonus is that many bloggers typically maintain social media accounts with a heavy following, meaning that brands who engage with bloggers have the potential to get more exposure across multiple platforms. Lifestyle industries, in particular, are where blogs are especially powerful marketing tools, such as fashion, travel, cooking, and parenting.
Affiliate marketing is similar to influencer marketing but has a different payment model. While influencers are typically paid at a flat rate for a post, affiliates (usually blogs or mainstream magazines that can include links in their content) that feature your product are paid by sales or by clicks when they refer customers to your site.
Most online marketing strategies involve some type of email marketing. When customers share their email with a brand, that allows the company to solicit them for future marketing campaigns, including but not limited to:
- Welcoming new customers
- Advertising new products or services
- Sending discount codes or promotional offers
- Promoting new blog content
- Following up on an abandoned shopping cart
- Soliciting product feedback
Content marketing is a marketing plan that includes the creation and distribution of valuable content online with the goal of attracting and engaging potential customers. This can include social media, but more often refers to a brand’s in-house blog, where they can share stories related to their products, industry, or other topics their customers may be interested in. Content marketing can be an effective tool for educating and engaging with your customers, and it can attract a larger audience to your site when paired with a strong SEO strategy.
SEO is a set of practices designed to make your website more easily found by search engines, including Google. Some steps toward improving SEO are:
- Using relevant keywords for the topic
- Adding title or header tags
- Linking to relevant pages, both internally and externally
- Offering a positive user experience, which can come down to a faster download speed and pleasing web design for both desktop and mobile devices
Search engines like Google and social media platforms like Facebook offer paid advertising to reach more of your target market:
- Pay-per-click. One of the many benefits of web advertising is that it typically allows you to track performance better than other platforms. In some cases, the payment model will reflect this. Many search engines and websites bill you based on how many clicks your ad placement gets.
- Search engines. Advertising on search engines essentially buys your way to the top of search results. This tactic can be helpful when your website is new or you have a lot of competition for market share, as these conditions make it hard to earn a high ranking organically.
- Website. A variety of websites, including news sites, magazines, and blogs, offer pay-per-click banner ads.
- Paid social media posts. These give you the option to target potential customers based on demographics, interests, and behaviors, so you can reach those who will be interested in your products or services.
How to develop an internet marketing strategy in 4 steps
The internet is vast, and with so many different types of internet marketing to explore, getting started can feel intimidating. Before diving into every platform at once, take time to consider what might work best for your business.
1. Identify goals and set metrics
Consider what you want out of internet marketing and how you will measure your success. Will you focus on increasing sales? If so, conversion rate—the percentage of website visits or ad clicks that result in a sale—is a valuable metric for measuring success.
Other goals, such as improving brand awareness, may offer less tangible results but can pay off in the long term. In these cases, increasing social media followers, overall website traffic, and customer engagement can indicate success.
A solid internet marketing strategy will often include efforts in both areas, so it can be useful to prioritize different metrics for different campaigns to reflect your goals.
2. Define the target audience
If you know who your target audience is, you can meet them where they are. For example, according to the Pew Research Center, older internet users are more active on Facebook, while younger people are more likely to be found on Instagram. Knowing this kind of information can help you reach your potential customers.
3. Devise a marketing plan
Once you know what your goals are, you can map out a plan to accomplish them. For example, a small business that sells sustainably sourced baby clothes and wants to increase its brand awareness might focus on campaign strategies that help it reach its target audience: new parents who have expressed interest in environmentalism and sustainable fashion. This could be achieved with targeted Instagram ads or by partnering with a prominent parent blogger who shares their target audience’s values.
A good marketing plan is complete with a budget and timeline. Answer these questions before you set out:
- How much am I willing to spend on this initiative?
- How quickly do I expect to see results?
4. Execute and monitor
As you implement your internet marketing strategy, it’s helpful to track the rate of growth of key metrics, such as followers, engagement, site traffic, conversion rate, and sales. Use this data to experiment with what is most effective with your audience on each different platform.
For example, if you notice that email campaigns that promote your blog content result in higher click-through rates, you might plan to invest more in the blog in the future or figure out how to distribute the content effectively on other platforms. On the other hand, if you notice a certain type of subject line seems to result in a poor open rate, you can experiment with a different approach.
But you won't learn anything until you get started. It’s time to get to work.