Once upon a time, having a website was quite sufficient when it came to establishing an online presence. However, with almost every company now sporting its own website, often augmented with a wider online presence, the art of making your site stand out from its competitors has become a lucrative global industry.
This is where the relatively new phenomenon of internet marketing comes in. The World Wide Web requires specific techniques when it comes to promoting websites or developing an online following, and a variety of internet marketing courses have been developed to help everyone from entrepreneurs to established marketing executives optimise their company’s digital marketing and online presence.
The centrepiece of most internet marketing courses involves Search Engine Optimisation. More commonly known as SEO, this essentially relates to the number of times key phrases are used on each website and sub-page. The more frequently a term appears, the higher that page will be ranked in the list of results by search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. For instance, a cheese wholesaler would want their website to mention cheese as often as possible, so that anyone wanting to buy cheese or ask a question about cheese would find their cheese site on page one of the search results.
One of the hardest parts of SEO is striking a balance between appealing to search engines, and appealing to people. In the example above, the word cheese recurs five times in one sentence, which will simultaneously attract search engines and discourage potential customers. Maximising SEO while maintaining readability is one of the key skills students can expect to learn on internet marketing courses.
Get your site right
It’s worth noting that SEO is not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to getting your website to the top of search engine rankings. Other pertinent factors include how long the site has been active, how many other websites link to it, the number of unique visitors it receives, and how frequently content gets updated. Equally, there are many methods of promoting websites besides SEO, and common topics on internet marketing courses will include:
1. Advertising through search engines. The biggest search engine advertising forum is Google Adwords, where a bewildering matrix of options is available for determining when, where and how frequently adverts should appear alongside individual search engine results. Users can set a wide variety of budgets and parameters, including a list of keywords adverts should appear in response to. Going back to our hypothetical cheesemonger, keywords for this industry would include obvious search terms like ‘Brie’ and ‘Stilton’, as well as more technical titles like ‘roundels’, and even loosely-related words such as ‘dairy’ or ‘port’.
2. Social media marketing. There are currently four giants of social media:
c) LinkedIn, and
Effective online marketing can involve creating content for any (or all) of these sites, and many courses will look at how these forums can complement a company’s online presence, driving traffic to a main website while building brand awareness and customer loyalty among the online community.
3. Internet presence. The importance of a good website address can’t be overstated. If it hadn’t already been purchased by one of the industry giants, ‘www.cheese.co.uk’ would be the perfect address for a new purveyor of fermented dairy produce. Some courses will consider how issues like low traffic volumes, limited content or dead links (weblinks to pages that no longer exist) can hinder online marketing efforts. Some courses may even analyse a company’s existing online presence, before providing bespoke feedback and recommendations.
4. Market research. Once again, Google dominates this sector with its eponymous Analytics package, but other research tools exist as well. In essence, they tell you where traffic to your website comes from, and what attracts it, allowing companies to focus their marketing efforts on drumming up more custom. If a cheesemonger discovered half its web traffic was coming from websites selling mousetraps, they might wish to target other business sectors like catering companies, to avoid over-reliance on a single industry. Alternatively, they may decide to start booking advertising space on pest control websites…
5. Pay-per-click advertising. A unique characteristic of online advertising is the PPC option. Rather than placing a conventional advert with no way of recording how many people notice it (or what level of response it generates), PPC means you only pay for web adverts when someone clicks on the ad for more information – typically taking them directly to your website’s homepage. Although the concept of only paying for adverts that yield results sounds appealing, PPC can be costly and minimum budget limits may apply, so choosing the right places to advertise is crucial. This in turn links back to market research – if half a company’s business comes from one market sector, this may be a key industry to target with future advertising.
By Neil Cumins