Online Marketing Overview: Where to Best Invest

I was contacted by a gentleman in the music industry who wanted advice regarding online marketing for his website. He seemed to have strong old-school marketing ties, but also knew that efforts surrounding social media and search engine optimization were important things to consider.

Should his company put most of its money into SEO efforts to gain search traffic? Or, is social media the place to spend? Should video production be a part of its budget? Does email marketing still matter? These are valid questions, and while the answer is different for every company, there are certain trends and best practices that can serve as a starting point for all ecommerce merchants.

Search Engine Marketing Still the Best

Most ecommerce companies know they should be investing in online marketing, but the big questions revolve around exactly where to spend time and money. I believe online marketing should almost always revolve around search engine optimization, especially for ecommerce sites. Both natural search results and paid results should, in most cases, be the cornerstone of an online marketing campaign. Not only is this a best practice, it is a tendency reflected in the real world. In an survey last year, projected spending in 2009 on search by marketers topped the list.

Why is this the case? Search engines, by definition of their keyword-driven function, deliver focused, pre-screened leads both in the natural and paid results. The results are also, relative to other forms of marketing, easy to track and analyze. Search engines are also the go-to tool that consumers use in researching online purchases.

Consider These Alternative Avenues

However, a well-rounded online marketing effort goes beyond the search engines. As powerful of a traffic driver as it can be, SEO needs to be surrounded with other efforts. Here are some other avenues to keep in mind:

  • Social media and the corresponding digital word of mouth marketing it offers, can be extremely effective, especially for B2C companies.
  • Blogs are often lumped in with social media (and rightfully so), but the blogosphere is huge. Corporate blogging can be a good way not only to get and keep interest in a site, but also generate inbound links and fresh content. Blogs also have SEO value – search engines love fresh content and inbound links.
  • Video – especially in the context of YouTube – is also lumped in with social media. According to one eMarketer survey, more than half of all marketers in the U.S. are focused on online video as a marketing platform in 2009. Despite being a more expensive social media avenue, its popularity with marketers is evidence of its effectiveness.
  • Apps and widgets can be more costly as well, yet when successful, they page huge dividends. They are definitely not for every company, but if your products and services lend themselves to the format, the investment may be worthwhile.
  • Email marketing is still an affordable and effective online marketing method If you have a list of opt-in email addresses, . There is little to worry about in the way of production and, of course, postage expense. You don’t want to be a spammer, but proactive communication with existing prospects, customers, and clients can drive traffic to a website.

The music industry gentlemen, after my conversation with him, resolved to invest in two primary areas: SEO because his site had extremely limited presence in the search engines, and social media outreach because his products lent themselves to friending sites like Facebook and MySpace. The takeaway here is a fairly simple, two-step process. First, look at general spending in online marketing to determine what the current norms are. Second, with those norms in mind, determine what online marketing avenues truly apply to your products. Contrasting and comparing those sets of facts against one another may bring the best online marketing avenues for your website into focus.

Jeff Muendel
Jeff Muendel
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