What Is Online Marketing? – Part 1 By Richard Hoy

People use the term “online marketing” to describe so many different things that it is hard for anyone to know exactly what one is talking about when one throws the term around. Moreover, the things often described as “online marketing” are really just tactics, not an overall strategy – which is really the proper definition of the term.

So, online marketing is a strategy – a way to sell or promote something using the Internet.

For the next six weeks, I’m going to try to explain what constitutes a “true” online marketing strategy. I’m going to lay out a plan you can use to sell and/or promote online. This plan is the culmination of 10 years of experience doing online marketing campaigns that ranged from being wildly successful to utter failures, and everything in between.

Here is the honest truth about online marketing – there are no magic bullets. It is doubtful that doing the things I will write about will make a book, or any product, instantly soar to the top of the bestseller list. And it will probably take up to a year of constant work before you start seeing results.

But I can say that committing to this strategy creates a solid foundation on which to build an ongoing, effective online marketing effort.

People who say you can “short-cut” this process are giving you bad advice. Yes, by taking advantage of certain loopholes, you can cheat your way to more exposure. But the benefits are short-lived. And many of them will result in not only damage to your reputation, but also damage to your ability to promote online in the future.

The “Core Truths”

There are really three “core truths” about marketing on the Internet.

1.) The Internet is basically a collection of niches. Just about any subject you can think of has a group of followers. Identifying where those followers hang out online is the first step in any online marketing campaign.

2.) Be a good, honest source of information for the audience you are trying to attract. That garners people’s respect online. You should not give a slick sales pitch about how great you and your product/service are. People hate that. And it is dishonest because nobody can guarantee to solve everyone’s problems.

3.) Never force yourself on anyone. Treat all interaction just like if you were meeting someone in the real world. You wouldn’t start randomly pulling strangers off the street and pitching yourself to them, would you? Likewise, you shouldn’t do that online either.

Now, to answer the “how” question more specifically, I’ve broken the tactics down into five major groups:

A.) Web Site Construction: This is self-explanatory – you need some sort of web site where you can drive people. Or, in other words, a place to “close the sale” – a place that encourages your target audience to perform some action (buy the book, sign up for your mailing list, contact you for more information, etc.).

B.) Search Engine/Directory Registration: These are the tools people use to find things online. There are major tools (like Yahoo and Google), and tools on specific subjects used to organize specific information. You need to make sure whatever web site you have is in the appropriate search engines and directories for the subject matter you are promoting.

C.) Placement On Other Web Sites or in Email Newsletters: You need to place links and articles on other web sites or email-based newsletters that cover the subject, or a related subject, you are promoting. Think of them as online versions of the print newspapers and magazines you might approach in a traditional public relations campaign.

D.) Discussion List/Newsgroup/Web Board Participation: There are groups of people who hold discussions online about specific subjects. You need to identify these groups, and actively participate in them. (This does not mean spamming them, but more on that later in this series.)

E.) Online Advertising: If you have the budget, participate in the multitude of advertising opportunities online.

Next week, I’m going to cover in detail the first tactic – building a web site. You’ll learn why it is more important to focus on the information you put in your web site than how it looks.

See you next week!

Articles In The Series:

Involved in Internet marketing since 1995 (when it officially became a profession), Richard Hoy advises on, and helps execute, Internet marketing efforts for solopreneurs and clients of digital marketing agencies. His current focus is search engine optimization for books on Amazon and for local businesses on Google.