With the rise of social media and the growing trend for young businesses to be directly involved in their advertising campaigns, more small and medium enterprises are turning to online marketing.

Online marketing is the promotion of products, services or ideas, primarily using the Internet. It is also known as online/ interactive/ web/ digital marketing and was even known as e-marketing in the 1990s.

How can online marketing benefit you? There are six main types of online marketing:

  • Display advertising

This is the use of graphics-based advertisements on websites. This includes banner ads, rich media (ads that you can rollover and interact with) and video advertising.

  • Text advertising

This involves the use of text-based advertisements on websites, mostly search engines. It is also known as Search Engine Marketing or Pay Per Click advertising.

  • Search engine optimisation

This method uses techniques to improve the traffic arriving at your site from search engines. This is also known as Natural Search Optimisation, or Organic Search Optimisation.

  • Affiliate marketing

It involves paying other sites to drive traffic to your site, usually by paying a “bounty” for a certain actions that you want to track. This is also known as Pay-For-Performance or Performance Marketing, and is often managed through networks.

  • Classifieds/Platforms

With this, you can promote your products or services on another site, set up specifically for sales. Common examples are e-commerce platforms, classifieds sites and shopping comparison sites.

  • E-mail marketing

You can use this to distribute your advertisement to a known database of potential customers via e-mail. This can be either a list of your own customers or a list from a third party.

In addition to these, two up-and-coming online marketing-related channels are social media marketing and mobile advertising.

These new channels typically incorporate a combination of the above-mentioned channels, for example putting up display ads on social networking websites or smartphones. Like other online marketing channels, both social media and mobile advertising are strongly driven by analytics.

The top three advantages of using online marketing are:

* Measurable, actionable data: The amount of data that you can track and take action upon is incredible. In fact, the danger is being swamped by too much data. The solution to managing this information overload is to focus on certain key metrics and then optimise.

* Cost-effective: Compared to other offline marketing channels, the results from most online marketing channels can be measured and tied more effectively to costs.

* Available expertise: It is far easier to get knowledgeable help on online marketing, through reading articles online or hiring a specialist agency, than it is for most offline marketing channels.

Key differences

Unlike traditional marketing, online marketing is more about data analysis, than about creativity. Of course, creativity plays a big role as well.

However with online marketing, it is easier to show the direct linkage of consumers’ actions to the marketing ideas, compared to traditional marketing, for example, a television advertisement.

This tends to mean that businesses which deal with online marketing are less focused on a “never-before-seen” marketing campaign, and more on analysing what part of the marketing campaign works and improving on it.

Another key difference with online marketing is that there is a lot more testing involved, while you run the online marketing campaign. In traditional marketing, it is common to test the advertisement many times before letting the marketing campaign go “live”.

With online marketing, businesses tend to run the campaign, see what works well, and then change it to better meet the marketing objectives. In addition, Internet marketing is predominantly about driving some form of action (such as a sale or e-mail sign-up).

This is very different to traditional marketing, which focuses more on building up the company’s and products’ branding.

Benefits

In today’s high-speed, high-technology environment, any business that is in the e-commerce space should explore online marketing.

Some businesses, such as those in the web technology space may be considered more ripe for online marketing. However, contrary to common expectations, even the traditional brick and mortar industries can benefit significantly from online marketing.

For example, in the United States, one of the highest Pay per Click rates are for the law firms! So realistically any business that is looking to optimise their marketing strategy should consider online marketing. 

As the Internet continues to play a more pervasive role in the growth of businesses worldwide, we can expect to see online marketing rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance.