Internet Marketing Basics: The Players
Ian Lurie Jun 6 2008
It’s Friday. I’m burnt out on Web x.0, Moo! and all the other drama du jour.
So I’m heading back to internet marketing basics. If you’re a beginner at all this, or need a refresher, read on.
What are the big vehicles in internet marketing these days? Where can you get traffic? What should you ignore?
Here’s my list:
Unpaid (Organic) Search Engine Results
Depending on who you ask, search engines generate anywhere from 60-75% of all traffic online. I’m willing to bet lunch that it’s closer to 85%.
Stop 10 random people on the street. Ask them how they start looking for something online. At least 8 will say “a search engine”. And at least 7 of those will say “Google”.
And most of those will say they ignore all those ‘sponsored links’ down the right-hand side and across the top.
Go ahead and follow your programmer’s search engine optimization advice if you want to. But turning your back on 75% of your audience seems utterly moronic to me.
Blatant plug: Hire a smart SEO. Or at least sign up for SEOMoz, for heaven’s sake. Ignore the organic search results and you will never be competitive.
For starters, pay attention to: Title tags, description tags (not for ranking but for clickthru), semantic markup and smart site structure.
Fire anyone who tells you to work with: Keyword tags, link farms or any other pre-1999 SEO tactics.
Paid Search Engine Results (PPC)
I know, I said most folks ignore the sponsored links. But in terms of search engine traffic, the leftovers after ‘most’ are a hell of a lot of people.
To get into these results, you bid on a keyword or phrase in an auction-style free-for-all. The more you bid, the better your chance of getting a high ranking.
Note I said ‘the better your chance’. That’s because Google and Yahoo! now use quality scoring algorithms to help determine your paid search ranking. Lousy pages can spend with abandon and still never rank well.
Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is a great tool, if you know how to use it. If you don’t, it’ll cost you a fortune.
For starters, pay attention to: Small bids, small keyword lists and tons of testing.
Fire anyone who tells you to work with: Purely automated bid management, bidding ‘systems’ or anything that sounds like a way to beat the house in Las Vegas.
E-mail (the house list)
E-mail gets a tough rap. Spam, etc. blah blah blah. If you build a house list – an e-mail list that only has signups from your own web site – you’ll get the best conversion rate of any vehicle.
Put a signup on your web site. Don’t get cute. Slowly grow your list. We see conversion rates of 25% and higher on our clients’ house lists. While we’re pretty damned good, most of that’s because the house lists are solely comprised of folks who want to hear from us.
For starters, pay attention to: Opt-in e-mail signup, good creative, easy unsubscribe and CAN SPAM compliance.
Fire anyone who tells you to work with: Rented lists (they’re crap), pre-checking the ‘please sign me up’ box for e-mail list signup or anything other tactics that, if you were the consumer, would make you want to rip the sender’s lungs out.
This is the only thing receiving more hype than Barack Obama right now, so it’s easy to dismiss it. And there are plenty of half-brained old-school agency types trying to say ‘yes, we do that!’, so you need to be careful.
But social media – blogs, microblogs, bookmark sites, Flickr and similar – is a great way to launch or grow your brand and your sales/leads/traffic.
Just don’t expect it to be easy. Every nitwit (see above) and their cousin is out there spamming every blog and bookmarking service. You need to put your back into it.
For starters, pay attention to: Starting a good conversation with relevant bloggers, connecting with folks via Twitter, contributing your own thoughts via a blog.
Fire anyone who tells you to work with: Comment bots, Digg spam or anything else that makes you feel like you haven’t showered in a month.
Display Advertising (banners)
They suck for traffic generation. But they’re pretty darned good branding tools.
My advice, though: Skip ’em. If you spend $1,000 on pay per click ads, you’ll get more opportunities to strengthen your brand through great service and building customer relationships than if you spend $10,000 on a banner that shows up once every 1,000 pageviews on Martha Stewart’s web site.
If you’re the Nike of your industry though, by all means, go for it. It will pay off down the road.
Also, buying display ads in a publisher’s e-mail can deliver amazing results for just about anyone.
For starters, pay attention to: CPM, good creative and ad delivery rates. Hint: Many major publishers will lie to you and/or underdeliver if you don’t keep an eye on them.
Fire anyone who tells you to work with: Display ads instead of PPC. They’re drunk, recovering from a head injury, or just plain stupid.
Is the biggest fraud perpetrated on Madison Avenue since Enron. Skip it.
Those are the vehicles to target, in priority order, in your internet marketing strategy. There are others, but put them all together and they won’t even be a pimple on the face of organic search, paid search or e-mail.
Stick to the basics. When you’ve fully exploited all these, then you can move on to other stuff like SMS, embedded video or whatever other trendy gadget someone’s pushing on you.
Oh, also: When you’ve fully exploited all these, call me and I’ll hire you for $250,000 a year. Because in 13 years I’ve never seen any company manage squeeze every drop of income out of these 5. The internet is just too big…
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More