What Is Online Marketing?

The Definitive Guide to Online Marketing: Step-by-Step

“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” — Milan Kundera

To most people, online marketing is a convoluted world filled with intricacies and nuances that are simply too much to grasp or consume. In fact, those people are kind of right. From the outside looking in, online marketing is confusing. It’s complex and perplexing at the same time.

Yet, as confusing as it might seem or be, without a clear understanding of what online marketing is and what it isn’t, significant progress can’t be made on the web. In fact, if you’ve struggled to get the proverbial word out regarding your business, then you likely know just how frustrating it can be to market or sell anything on the internet.

Not only is the industry itself so vast and cluttered with a never-ending demand of aptly-diverse skill sets that need to be mastered to achieve success, but it’s also overwhelming. To put it bluntly, online marketing is scary. Yes. Absolutely scary. In fact, I used to be frightened by the daunting thought of having to go it alone.

I know that I’m not alone in this feeling. Most people out there, especially those who are busy building up their businesses, are intimidated by online marketing. With all the facets involved, and just how pressed most of us are for time on any given day, it’s easy to see why most people tend to feel that way.

However, online marketing, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t have to be that overwhelming. In fact, anyone can master the art of marketing anything on the internet as long as they adhere to a few fundamental principles. In this guide, not only am I going to convey those principles to you, but I’m also going to give you an in-depth look at what makes the industry tick.

Still, before even diving into anything like that, you’ve likely come to this page, not just to learn about this often-confusing field, but also to digest and understand it, able to wield a variety of disciplines to get the word out. This isn’t just about driving more traffic to your website. Traffic is great. But once traffic arrives, if you don’t know what to do with it, your efforts will be largely wasted.

 

Definition

Online marketing is simply any form of advertising done on the internet. It can take on many shapes and forms. It can be done organically for free. Or it can be paid for. Either approach features a number of effective strategies and methods to move the proverbial needle in the right direction.

The term online marketing is often confused with digital marketing. While at first glance they might seem to be one and the same, digital marketing also refers to display advertising and other digital means that might not be directly connected to the internet.

 

Overview

Online marketing covers a variety of topics. In particular, there are seven distinct segments that comprise the online marketing industry. Search engine optimization (SEO), is one such organic method for boosting your visibility on search engines like Google. In turn, leveraging an ad platform such as Adwords, on the same search engine, would be another way to target identical keywords through paid advertising means, also known as search engine marketing (SEM).

Another form of marketing on the internet is known as, content marketing. Content is marketed by spreading your message through a variety of layers (i.e. articles, infographics, social, etc) but requires some level of expertise and precision throughout the execution of the strategy. As simple or straightforward as it might sound, if it’s not done the right way, it’s largely a waste of your time.

All of these are means to the same end. The goal? Get the word out. Get people informed about whatever product, service or information you’re offering. And, ultimately, boost your visibility. Whether you’re ranking or advertising on search engines, or you’re leveraging the power of social media marketing through platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it’s all for the purpose of achieving the same results.

Today, online marketers mostly salivate over organic traffic and building large followers on social media platforms. Or, similarly, creating a massive following on video platforms like YouTube. Clearly, we all know why it’s such a big draw. This type of marketing is free and unfettered, not costing you a single red cent.

What does cost you, however, is the time in executing any of these tactics. We all know that SEO is hard. But when it comes to online marketing, that sweat equity pays off over time. When traffic is coming unencumbered to your website in the form of thousands of free and highly-targeted visitors per day, you ultimately realize that all those long hours you put in were worth something.

Now, if you’re the type of person that’s acutely interested in placing ads, and you’re well aware of how the ad networks operate, you could opt to market your business online through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Every time your ad is clicked on, you get charged a fee, also known as your bid. Bids can range anywhere from a few cents upwards to $5, $10 or even $50 dollars and higher for some of the more competitive keyword searches.

Another form of online marketing is what we call affiliate marketing. Affiliates generally don’t market products of their own, instead opting to market products for other companies or individuals, either directly on their website or through some means of email marketing.

Affiliates receive a commission for every product they sell and sometimes for every lead that they send towards a company. However, affiliate marketing is no easy measure. Unless you have a massive following or a big list, succeeding as an affiliate marketer is downright difficult.

Clearly, when it comes to email marketing, unless you’ve already built a substantial and very targeted list, you’re faced with major hurdles and difficulties. Even if you attempt to build your list through solo-ad providers, you’ll likely find the costs for any semblance of quality to be exorbitant.

For those that have built a large subscriber base over the years, the money most certainly is in the list.

 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One of the most important segments of online marketing is SEO. However, SEO is a behemoth on its own. The fact is that it takes a considerable amount of effort to understand just what’s involved in SEO. The fact that there are over 200 different ranking factors that go into Google’s current search algorithm certainly don’t make things easy whatsoever.

Still, SEO can be better understood by breaking it down into its three fundamental components based on the core concept of trust. Trust is at the heart of SEO. If Google doesn’t already trust you, then no matter what you do, you’re going to find it difficult to rank.

The question then becomes, how do you build Google’s trust…?

We’re talking about Google because it has such an enormous share of the search market. According to one study, it dominates at nearly 80% of the search share in the United States. That’s enormous. Around the world? We’re talking more like 70%, which is still huge.

So when it comes to SEO, we need to worry about building up Google’s trust. But how does that work?

Google’s trust is founded on three separate concepts and over 200+ ranking algorithm factors (rules) that are divvied up into those three separate concepts.

Google's Three Trust Components

In the image, you’ll notice that trust is equal to the age, authority and content of a website or webpage. I say website or webpage since this trust factor is evaluated against both webpages and websites. So you have a website’s total aggregate trust and also a webpage’s standalone trust.

This is important when attempting to understand the rank and position of authority content. Authority content is simply content that’s created away from your website, whereas anchor content is content that’s created directly on your website or blog.

 

Age Factor

The age of your website doesn’t refer to the date it was originally registered. We’re talking about the indexed age, or the date that Google first found or indexed your site. The age of a webpage itself is a little bit different as it refers to the freshness of the content. If the content is outdated, it will rank lower. If the content is what we call evergreen content, that page will rank a little bit higher depending on its age.

However, don’t get me wrong. If Google simply found your website a few years back and you did nothing with it since then, it won’t help you much. Indexed age is also rolled into what happened during that period between the first indexing and now. This relates to things like link velocity and content curation over time. It’s highly complex and involved.

I’ve seen many people dispute the fact that age has something to do with ranking. Well, it does. But it’s not just the indexed age; it’s what happened since the indexing. Be sure to keep that in mind. You can’t simply work on a blog or website for a couple of months, then forget about it and expect to rank very high. Google demands constant attention to your content when related to the indexed age.

Yes, it can seem confusing at first, but think about a regular business for a moment. If a business opens a store, then simply forgets to update things like its prices or product descriptions or anything else related to its core business, it wouldn’t be so reliable would it? If it changed its hours and forgot to tell customers, people arriving at specific times might get upset.

 

Authority Factor

Authority relates to the importance of a website. Plain and simple. But not so simple, in fact. What makes a website important? Is it the quantity of the links? Is it the amount of content?

Well, it is, in fact, derived from a number of factors. But here is the basis of how it works.

Authority is derived not only from the quantity of the links, but also the quality of the links. Where are the links coming from? Are they coming from relevant content? Are the links coming through organically or are they being paid for? Paying for links is a huge violation of Google’s rules and you absolutely should never do that.

Another thing to consider about a site’s authority is not only the quality and quantity of the links, nor just how relevant the content is that they’re coming from, but also the velocity and diversity of those links. Are they constantly coming from the same websites or blogs, or is there a wide variety? And just how quickly are those links being created (aka what’s the velocity)?

When Google sees natural and organic links being created quickly, and that number is increasing month to month, then the velocity is rising. This healthy garnering of links doesn’t happen by itself. You need great content if you want the links to keep coming in. But you also want links coming in from everywhere. This is called IP diversification.

Google knows that links coming in from all over the world means that the content is very good. If links are naturally being created from relevant content and this is happening in countries everywhere, it means you have amazing content and your authority will naturally rise over time. Not overnight. Nothing happens overnight with Google.

When we talk about authority websites, we’re talking about websites that have high authority. This can be quantified. Google’s core original algorithm for quantifying the importance of any webpage is called PageRank. However, other companies have stepped in and performed their own analyses.

One example is MozBar, which was created by a leading SEO company called Moz, provides a nifty search tool that analyzes both the Domain Authority (DA) and the Page Authority (PA). You can download the free Chrome extension here or the FireFox plugin here.

The original PageRank formula was ranked out of 10 with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. The MozBar DA and PA ranking factors are ranked out of 100, with 0 being the lowest and 100 being the highest. Either way you look at it, none of these factors are completely transparent or indicative of the current rank. They are simply estimations by “forecasters.”

They might be close to the actual number, but you should never assume that the number is concrete. When you run a test a of a search while turning on the MozBar for example, you’ll get a small toolbar that appears beneath each search along with a link that you can click to check a deeper link analysis of the factors related to each item.

Page Authority Using MozBar

 

The search you see in the image is actually for the term “make money online,” which is arguably one of the most competitive search terms on the internet. You’ll notice that my article for Forbes ranks #1 here. However, you’ll notice that, although the DA outranks the listing #2 and #3, the PA does not. So how is that my result outranks the others?

That has very much to do with the quality of the content and the value that it delivers, which is the next component of trust that we’ll discuss here briefly. I would suggest looking at the article to determine just how it differs from the other results that appear beneath it.

This is similar to the SEOQuake toolbar that I used to recommend using. It gives you a sort of x-ray lens into Google’s search results, allowing you to see something similar to what those hungry search spiders are seeing when they crawl around the web and organize the world’s information.

SEO Quake Tool

 

If you take a close look at the search done for “daily goal setting” with SEOQuake being active, you’ll notice that I rank #1 for this search. However, where authority is somewhat skewed is that SEOQuake doesn’t recognize a whole lot of links for my site. In fact, only 200 total as opposed to Life Hack’s (#2 on the list) 134k links. That’s a fairly wide difference.

Yet, I still rank #1, effectively outranking a very popular authority site like Life Hack. That goes to show you that while authority does count, there are other factors when it comes to online marketing that are weighted more heavily for this result set to be achieved. So don’t instantly think you won’t be able to rank in the #1 sport without massive amounts of authority.

 

Content Factor

Content is king. It always has been and it always will be. For those that have mastered the art of content curation and storytelling, the online marketing world truly is their oyster. In fact, the world’s most talented digital sleuths know precisely how to slay with a story, effectively driving massive amounts of leads and sales.

When it comes to optimizing content, there are loads of rules to follow. Today, you need to build your content more for human visitors than for search engines. Don’t concern yourself with a specific keyword density or ensuring that you’ve stuff the right keywords into your article. It doesn’t quite work that way anymore.

Today, your content needs to be good. Very good. Excellent, in fact. It needs to be engaging enough so that your audience is compelled to share it. And it needs to deliver an enormous value-punch so that you quite literally knock the socks off both the search engines and the humans visiting your page.

It sounds complex. How are you supposed to setup your content to optimize it to rank at the top of Google? Well, for starters, it can’t be thin. If you’re serious about ranking #1 on Google, go all out with your content. Ensure it’s well-researched and that your sources are all cited, relevantly linking to external URLs that make sense.

The more time you take with your content, the more likely you’ll be to rank at the top of a particular keyword search.

 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing offers up a stark contrast to its counterpart, search engine optimization. Unlike SEO where the focus is on ranking organically, SEM revolves around paid advertising. However, it’s also important to note that SEM can incorporate SEO into its fold, but it’s primarily done for the purposes of placing paid ads.

For example, a professional SEM might do some keyword research and competitive analysis using tools like Adwords, Ahrefs, SEMRush, but it would mainly be for the purposes of checking out the best keywords to place ads for and also seeing just what the competition is doing.

However, if you’re not a big spender on Adwords, don’t expect to get detailed and accurate results on search volumes when searching through keywords to bid on. Google has since obfuscated much of those results for the newcomers in an effort to blur the waters for those looking for a competitive edge.

Every time you conduct a search on Google, you’ll see ads that display along the top. They used to display on the side and on the top, but Google has since altered that strategy, moving them solely to the top of its SERPs. Those ads can cost anywhere from 5 cents to upwards of $50.

Google Search Ads Example

 

The image displayed above is for the same search, make money online, but displaying the top results that appear through paid marketing before the organic results begin. If you have the budget, this is a great way to get exposure fast for whatever it is that you’re offering, but it needs to be done the right way.

If you aren’t tracking your conversions using conversion pixels, then you’re largely wasting your time. Both Facebook and Google provide you with the opportunity to really understand your search traffic and to find out there they dropped off or what leads resulted in sales, which are important parts of the equation when you’re spending money to drive traffic.

With Facebook, their conversion pixels will help you to, not only track conversions of sales, but also can help with other events related to actions done on your website. Here are the events you can use to track your visitors from Facebook using the Facebook pixel with event tracking:

  • Content views: used to track who viewed your content
  • Site searches: used to track the searches conducted on your site
  • Add to shopping cart: used to track what products were added to users’ shopping carts
  • Add to wishlist: used to track what products were added to users’ wishlists
  • Initiate checkout: used to track the users that initiate a checkout sequence
  • Add payment info: used to track users that add their payment info during a checkout sequence
  • Make purchase: used to track successful purchases (i.e. can be placed on thank you or confirmation pages)
  • Lead submission: used to track leads submitted through your site
  • Registration completion: used for tracking successful registrations on your website

Can you see how useful this information can be for both segmenting and discovering what your advertising traffic is doing once it arrives to your website? Google also offers conversion tracking through its Adwords system with a somewhat similar event tracking. However, Google calls this “include in conversions.”

 

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a behemoth. It’s one of the more involved types of marketing that you can do online and it actually serves to compliment your SEO strategies and tactics. Content marketing is also my go-to strategy when it comes to ranking anything on Google. Literally anything.

The way that content marketing works is rather straightforward, but the implementation is far more difficult. Why? It takes a considerable amount of sweat equity to wield this strategy. Not only do you need to write unique anchor content on your website or blog, but you need to write unique content to market that anchor content via authority sites.

It’s not easy whatsoever. I have spent well over a thousand hours engaged in content marketing. It’s not pretty whatsoever, especially when you’re pressed for time and have a million other things to do. But it’s a necessary evil. That single strategy has helped me drive the most traffic to my websites over time.

How does it work?

I discuss this strategy in one of my SEO courses, which I would highly suggest you checking out if you’re serious about learning how SEO and content marketing truly works. But here’s the breakdown for you. In the image below, you’ll see two types of content marketing. You have the single-tier strategy and the double-tier strategy.

Content Marketing Strategy

 

When you’re pressed for time, the single-tier strategy is still effective. But it’s not as powerful as the double-tier strategy. Here’s a breakdown of how this works:

Step #1: Create Anchor Content

The first step is to create the anchor content on your website. It has to be keyword-centric but not keyword-stuffed. It has to be engaging and relevant to your audience as well. Further, it can’t be what we call thin content. Thin content is content that’s basically filler content, which doesn’t actually engage your audience.

What does engaging mean? It means that people spend time actually reading the content. Google knows the difference between engaging content and content that’s thin or simply veers off onto tangents because people that read engaging content stay on the page long enough to read the whole thing.

When they stay there for that long, it means that your average time on the page is very high. That’s important to Google. It’s also important to be engaging because whoever reads that content will want to share it. Shares and engagement levels play a big role in your ability to rank on search engines like Google.

Average Shares by Content Length

 

In the image by Noah Kagan of OkDork, you’ll see the average shares by content length. Longer content, especially the type of longer content that’s useful, gets shared more often. Those shares are important. They build authority and increase your level of trust with Google.

When it comes to content marketing, your content has to be lengthy. Especially the anchor content, which is the content that resides on your site or blog. You have to put a considerable amount of time into it. Make sure there are no errors in spelling or grammar, and ensure that there are high-quality images and videos that help to further explain your point or arguments.

You also need to cite your sources. If you find a study somewhere, be sure to link to it and give credit. Don’t simply mention a study without linking to it. People are keenly interested in this type of data so don’t hold back. In the following image by serpIQ, you’ll also notice that lengthier content ranks better and is far more likely to be in the top few results.

Average Content Length

 

Step #2: Create Authority Content

The second step in content marketing is to create authority content. That authority content needs to be similar to the original piece of content in question, but must also be absolutely unique. You should draw unique conclusions in the authority content and approach the topic from a unique perspective.

However, in the authority site content, ensure that you link to the original piece of content with a relevant keyword. All you need is that single keyword, which creates the bridge between the two pieces of content. The authority site content needs to be engaging as well.

You can use sites like Medium.com, Quora.com, LinkedIn’s publishing platform, YouTube and other sites to create this kind of content. It’s a process and it takes time. You simply have to put in the work. If you’re serious about leveraging content marketing, then you need to do this process repeatedly.

For example, the more authority site content that directly links to your primary anchor content, the better. If I do a post on Wanderlust Worker, then I link to it from several authority sites with great content, each one of those drives up the visibility and authority of the primary anchor content.

 

Step #3: Create Authority Content

The third step in the content marketing cycle is to share the authority site content. Why the authority site content? Simply put, it’s because of the power of juice transferal theory. Juice, which effectively refers to the power of links, is what makes content marketing so viable and effective.

Juice Transferal Theory

Because authority sites are so popular, you’re essentially getting all the link-juice built up from those sites over time when there’s a link back to your relevant webpage. Now, even though the page you create is new, there’s still link-juice there from the root domain of the authority site, but it’s not the same thing as a page on that site that already exists, has age and lots of authority independent of the root domain.

That’s why it’s important to share the authority site content using second-tiered shares or social signals. For example, post that authority site content (which already has a link to your site because you’ve content marketed it) on Facebook, Twitter and share it on LinkedIn or Google Plus.

Those shares are important. All it takes is a little push and you can jumpstart the link-juice on the authority site page. Those shares count for a lot and are more effective when done to the authority site content because there’s far more trust to the root domain in Google’s eyes.

 

Social Media Marketing

Another form of online marketing is social media marketing. If you’re a social superstar, you can command vast audiences on popular platforms like Instagram or YouTube. This is important because not only does your audience help to share whatever it is that you’re doing or working on, but you get high levels of engagements as well.

Social media is growing at an astounding rate. But I don’t need to tell you that. But I do need to tell you that growing your influence across social media can have a significant impact on your bottom line. The most important thing to do? Simply just show up and post regularly.

Clearly, you don’t want to spam. But you want to ensure that you’re in front of hungry eyes on all types of social media channels. One great person to learn from is Gary Vaynerchuck, who’s built a colossal empire through his social media influence and has skyrocketed his net worth and his social media company, Vayner Media, in the process.

Considering that social media helps to feed the discovery of new content anywhere online such as a blog or a website (i.e. your anchor content), having a large following is a good way to drive some traffic to your offers and your posts. The best part? By becoming an influencer on social media, you can drive traffic in droves.

Okay, okay. It’s not easy becoming an influencer. In fact, I’ve interviewed several influencers for articles that I’ve written for Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine and I’ve really uncovered what it takes to build up a large profile. Here’s advice from some of the biggest influencers in the marketplace:

  1. Deliver massive value
  2. Inspire or motivate
  3. Stay consistent
  4. Engage with others
  5. Compliment and follow

 

Pay-per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Pay-per-click advertising, which is a form of SEM, is the art of paying for each click when it comes to advertising on a variety of platforms. From social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, to search engines like Google and Bing, PPC has become the norm. The other form of advertising, which isn’t as widely accepted, is cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM).

PPC is used by professional marketers to quickly scale out their offers. However, if you lack the knowledge about things like lead magnets, squeeze pages, and cost-per acquisitions (CPAs), then PPC advertising is a waste of your money. For the most part, PPC advertising doesn’t pay off on the front-end offer.

For PPC to pay off, there needs to usually be a tripwire, an order-form bump (up-sell) or a one-time offer (OTO) that appears once a tripwire is triggered. Now, I know what you’re thinking. What are all these terms? If you’re asking yourself that question, then it’s all the more reason to stay away from PPC for the time being.

However, PPC is a great way to scale an existing offer that you’ve calculated your CPA for. In example, if you have a $200 product that you’re trying to sell, chances are, especially if you’re an unknown brand, even if you drive loads of traffic to your product page, you’re not going to get many sales. In other words, your CPA will be incredibly high.

Instead, if you push people to a free offer or a lead magnet or even a tripwire (an offer that’s so good and irresistible that people can’t pass it up), you’re more likely to get a sale. The truth is that once someone gets something from you for free, or even if they pay a very small, incremental amount for a tripwire (like $7 for example), they’re more likely to buy something else from you.

Even if it happens during the same ordering sequence. It’s because they’ve made the decision, mentally, to purchase something tiny from you, that they’re going to be more likely to buy an OTO or upgrade their product or service through the up-sell offer (order-form bump).

If you were to drive 200 clicks to your product offer that cost consumers $200, you’d be lucky to get one sale. If those clicks cost you $1 each, you would actually need one sale to break even. On the other hand, if you offered a tripwire in the form of a scaled down product or some other incredible deal, and you offered that for say $7, you would likely get more like a 5% conversion.

5% of 200 people would be 10 orders. 10 orders at $7 is $70. But you’re not done there. A large majority of the people that order the tripwire are going to upgrade during the order process. Let’s just say only 1 in 5 of the people that ordered the tripwire actually order the product (which is below average for a tripwire up-sell), then you’ll clinch two added sales at $200 per piece.

That would bring you up to $470 on a $200 spend. As long as your structure and your offer is carefully setup, you’ll succeed far better with PPC when you understand your CPA and you’ve setup a really good tripwire or lead magnet.

 

Affiliate Marketing

Another form of online marketing is affiliate marketing. This involves the art of selling other peoples’ products or services or even information for that matter. Affiliate marketers come in all shapes and sizes and the reason why it’s so attractive to so many people is because you don’t need to setup many of the business systems or even have any employees to actually make money online in this fashion.

However, unless you have a massive email list or substantial website traffic, succeeding as an affiliate marketer is difficult. Without the audience, you need to investment a significant amount of money running ads that might end up costing more than you can recoup.

Still, this doesn’t seem to dissuade most people from attempting to succeed as affiliate marketers. Since you’re just referring people to a specific product or service, marketing online as an affiliate doesn’t take much effort and it can be done easily on the side while working a full-time job.

Most people that start marketing affiliate products or services usually have a blog with some semblance of an audience. If you don’t have a blog, or you’re looking to create one, you can learn more about what it takes to start a blog here. Keep in mind, as an affiliate, you’ll also need to decide whether you want to incorporate a new business or simply operate under your name. There are pros and cons to both of those routes.

If you’re looking for more details about affiliate marketing, head over to sites like LinkShare or Impact Radius or Commission Junction to preview the offers available to you. You’ll need to go through an application process and be approved, but once approved, you can begin marketing those affiliate products almost right away.

 

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the hottest mediums for selling just about anything, and you can see why it’s the draw of internet marketers everywhere. However, building up a sizable list takes time. It isn’t easy by any measure. Plus, truly understand sales funnels and drip-fed marketing takes a considerable amount of work itself.

However, email marketing is enormous. It’s far from dead, I can assure you of that. It is, in fact, one of the biggest drivers of sales. It’s a captivated audience of people looking for your advice and your knowledge. It takes time to build and it requires the right lead magnet or offer to ensure that you get people into your list, but it’s well worth it.

Use automated marketing systems such as ConvertKit, Aweber or MailChimp to build up your list. Then, ensure that you configure your sales funnels the right way with the offers placed in the right sections. I would highly recommend checking out Click Funnels if you’re serious about learning more about internet marketing.