Internet Marketing: The Vehicles
Ian Lurie May 12 2010
I wrote a half-assed attempt at this way back in 2008. This is a bit more comprehensive, I hope.
There are lots of ways to drive an internet marketing campaign. From a strategic viewpoint, you must understand the tools available. I’m not going to go into methods here – I’m going to outline the options, their relative costs and a few other essential factors:
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engines are so dominant now that many internet users think Google is a web browser. They go to www.google.com and type in a web address, then click the first listing. I ain’t lying.
SEO is all about moving up in the unpaid rankings on search engines like Google:
I could throw all sorts of fun statistics at you like “70%+ of people looking for something online start at a search engine,” but you’ve heard all that. Oh, wait, I just did. And most of those 70% click on the unpaid rankings, not the PPC listings (see below).
SEO has some new subcategories: Image search and video search, as well as shopping feeds, are all part of SEO.
SEO takes a long time. It’s a pain in the arse – think months and years. There’s nothing you can do about it, no tricks or secret recipes to speed it up. But the potential is so high only a moron would ignore it.
SEO factors: Keyword-rich content and lots of it. Timeliness of content. Links. Site structure and infrastructure. Persistence. Popularity.
Skip this one: If you’re dumb. Or your boss is insane.
Primary sites: Google. Google. Some more Google. Then Bing and Yahoo!.
Conversion potential: 9/10
In SEO, see how I didn’t include the local business results? Those are the local search results, and they’re driven by a different set of algorithms. Local search optimization is a separate creature: It’s more useful for local businesses (obviously):
Local search results are driven in part by a business’s physical location. So they’re a fantastic opportunity to move up in the rankings without going head-to-head with national or international competitors who are located elsewhere.
Read David Mihm’s excellent local search factors report to get the full picture of what works and what doesn’t.
Local SEO can happen pretty quickly – think weeks or months, not years.
Local search factors: Location. Links. Reviews. Content.
Skip this one: If you don’t have a ‘walk in’ style business, or if you just don’t like people.
Primary sites: Google, Bing, Yahoo!, then a host of specialized sites like Yelp.
Conversion potential: 8/10
Pay per click (PPC)
PPC is fast. You can have a Google Adwords account up and running in 20 minutes. The number of folks who click on the sponsored links is tiny compared to the number that click organic search results. But a ‘tiny bit’ of ‘everyone on earth’ is still a lot.
PPC is also dangerous. You can pour money down a hole in a big hurry, and the search engines will cheerfully take your cash. It requires a lot of attention and real sales instincts.
SEO is a big, happy, lumbering Brachiosaurus. She’s harmless, nice, and can mow down a forest. She can also squash you by accident. PPC is a zippy Velociraptor. Keenly intelligent, fast, and could rip you limb from limb at any moment.
PPC factors: Bid amount. Ad performance. Industry. Account history. Landing page quality.
Skip this one: If you’re low on cash but have lots of time.
Primary sites: Google, Bing, Yahoo! and increasingly Facebook. Also Business.com for the right audience.
Conversion potential: 7/10
Cost: Depends on you, but watch out.
No one likes e-mail marketing any more, but I do. Build a good ‘house’ e-mail list and you’ve got a permanent sales or leads-generating asset.
E-mail can bite you on the heiney, of course, if you send unsolicited messages to lots of people. Even worse, blacklisting services like Spamhaus may block your messages because 20 people forgot they’d ever subscribed and complained. So there’s a lot more to it than just chucking messages out the door.
But it’s worked brilliantly, when done right, for over 13 years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Don’t ignore e-mail. Get a refresher here.
E-mail factors: List quality. Good subject lines. Good content. Great landing pages.
Skip this one: If you can’t build a clean e-mail list.
Primary sites: Yours, of course.
Conversion potential: 4/10
I shudder every time I write the phrase. It’s like hyenas saying ‘Mufasa’. Social media (shudder) isn’t one vehicle. It’s actually thousands of sites, tools and pieces of software that people use to talk to each other, pass around photos of who-knows-what, share videos and/or bookmark interesting sites.
The audience for social media is even larger than the one for search engines. Facebook and Twitter alone have enough members to fill a small planet.
The trick with social media? To sell without selling. Yeah, I know. Good luck with that. If you do social media campaigns assume you’ll have success 1 time out of 20. The rest of the time you’ll be yelling in an empty room, or just chatting about the weather.
Social media factors: Good writing skills. Good manners. Strong audience knowledge. Trust. Patience. I wrote a social media marketing list ages ago that might help.
Skip this one: If you think flyers are still a great advertising medium.
Primary sites: Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Yelp, Flickr, Google Buzz (I guess), Del.icio.us, Digg, Yahoo!, and about 100,000 others.
Conversion potential: 2/10
Note: While these numbers look bad, a successful campaign can generate huge returns. Plus, smart social media work helps you maintain your reputation. It’s still worth doing.
With Apple getting into the mobile advertising game and Google launching the Android mobile operating system, we have to start taking mobile seriously.
Mobile advertising is totally in flux. Google uses a PPC system. Other companies use CPM (price per thousand impressions) formulas. And you can get tricky, inviting people to send SMS messages to a specific address via print display ads or ads in magazines.
Mobile is also a lot of fun. It’s a very creative space. Just don’t get carried away frolicking about while marketing dollars burn to cinders.
Mobile marketing factors: Content. Targeted form factor. Creativity. Careful audience targeting.
Skip this one: If you’re gonna be mad when I tell you you lost $50,000.
Primary sites: Admob, Google Adwords, Bing Mobile, Aditic, others.
Conversion potential: 4/10
Banner ads. They suck, right? Not exactly. A good banner ad may not get clicked as much as you’d like, and the measured ROI may make you want to vomit, but getting your name and offer in front of potential customers makes them more likely to click a search listing, e-mail link or mobile ad later on.
Don’t count out banners. Just assume they’re really expensive, and that they may not always be 100% measurable.
Display advertising factors: Eye-catching art. Clear text. Not having tons of fine print.
Skip this one: If budgets are tight. If brand doesn’t matter.
Primary sites: Anyplace that will sell space. Try Google’s network first, as it’s the easiest to manage and control.
Conversion potential: 1/10
Measurability: Hahahaha you’re kidding, right?
Does in-game advertising count as an internet marketing vehicle? I think so. I know I can’t play World of Warcraft without a web connection. And games like Farmville simply couldn’t exist without the web.
In-game ads are very similar to display ads, but in many cases you can request a specific action on the part of the user. Bing did this by offering Farmville dollars in exchange for Facebook Fan Page signups.
It worked, netting them an unbelievable 400,000 fans in a single day. Your results may vary.
In-game advertising factors: A brilliant strategy. Creativity. A big budget. A targeted, game-playing audience.
Skip this one: If budgets are tight. If your audience isn’t a gaming crowd.
Primary sites: Google, IGA Worldwide, plus a bunch of others.
Conversion potential: 3/10
Cost: Varies widely, but it ain’t cheap
Don’t forget your web site
It’s easy to think, with all of these different vehicles, that your own site matters less. Whenever you start thinking that pinch yourself. Then go back to work on the company web site. All of these vehicles drive more and more folks to you. You need to have a great place for them to arrive. Pouring money into SEO, PPC, etc. when your web site causes people to gouge their own eyes out helps only two parties: The marketers you hired, and the places you buy advertising.
Think big, then focus
Whenever you launch a campaign, keep all of these vehicles in mind. Then limit choices based on budget, time constraints and everyone’s tolerance for risk.
If I missed anything, let me know in the comments below.
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