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Online Marketing Basics - Part 1

The sales process in online marketing looks pretty straightforward on the surface. A visitor goes to a website and clicks on a link and buys something.

The details of the process are a bit more complicated.

A potential customer has many choices online these days. There's potentially hundreds of websites that can solve their problem — perhaps thousands. So what motivates a person to choose one website over an other?

Paradigm Shift

For more information and videos about online marketing visit this page.

The Search Engine Factor

Certainly most people do their searching online using a Search Engine. Google is by far the most popular and, along with Yahoo and Bing, accounts for the vast majority of searching that goes on.

But what are people searching for?

Most people are looking for solutions to problems. Now that problem can be a simple "I need information" problem or it may be a "I need a particular product" problem. But whatever it is, the Search Engines are in the business of helping their "customers" solve their searching problems.

Of course this is just the beginning of the process.

That searcher may visit many different sites in search of a "solution" before they actually find one that meets their needs. But the important point is they raised their hands to say "I have a problem and this is what it is." They indicated this by the keyword phrase they used to search.

This is the beauty of online marketing!

The customer actually tells you exactly what they need, and if you happen to have the "solution" they will beat a path to your door. And the Search Engines are the brokers in this process. So understanding how Search Engines work is critical for success online. Period. End of story.

But What About Social Media

In the last few years Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others have changed the face of online marketing. Facebook has become the most visited website on the planet... with more page views than Google.

So how does this effect your online marketing strategy?

The fact is, people use Google and Facebook for different reasons. Google is typically used to search for solutions to problems. Facebook is where people go to socialize.

People's intentions are very different on each of these sites. As an online marketer you want to find "buying intention". You want to find people who are ready to spend money to solve their problems. You also want to find people who are further along on the buying cycle (learn more about the buying cycle here). The further along the cycle they are the higher your conversion ratio will be.

In general you will find prospects who are further along the buying cycle on Google than you will on Facebook. So the moral is...

Sell on Google. Network on Facebook.

I prefer to call Social Media sites Social Networking sites. The same rules as in offline networking apply to online networking. Before anyone will buy your solution you must create credibility and trust. Your main role on Social Networking sites is to provide free, helpful information that creates that credibility and trust.

So use your time on Facebook and other sites to create visibility for your brand, make connections and to gently introduce your solution.

We discuss more details of how to use Social Networking sites on other parts of this site.

Learning How The Search Engines Work

Because the SEs must meet their customers needs to survive they work hard to provide the best results for their customer's searches. They need to know which websites offer the best solutions for their customers. Those are the sites that they will list on their Search Engine Results Page (SERP) in the top positions.

To detemine the best sites to display in their SERPs the Search Engines send out a web crawler, or "spider", that analyzes every website using something called an algorithm to determine exactly what content is on that website. The pages with the best content for a particular keyword then get added to their "index" and ranked as highly relevant to the search term that was used.

As you can imagine this is a very complicated job and the SEs constantly tweak their algorithms to make sure their results are the most accurate and display the "best" websites.

As a webmaster, the site owner's job is to convince the Search Engines that their site is the best and has the most relevant and valuable content for that search term. This process is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

Search Engine Optimization

Convincing the Search Engines that your site is worthy of being displayed high on their SERP is both a science and an art. No one really knows how Google decides what sites it chooses to rank highly (it's a closely held trade secret) but many people are in the business of trying to guess.

Of course even though the details are a secret, Google is open to helping webmasters determine how best to optimize their sites to get good rankings. They even offer several pages on their site to help.

» Webmaster Guidelines

» Search Engine Optimization Guidelines (click to download this PDF file)

Here's some points we've learned from their suggestions. These are the major factors that effect the Search Engine rankings.

Understanding Keywords

Ultimately the key to understanding online marketing is not only understanding the role keyword phrases play in the Search Engines but also understanding how keywords indicate buyer intention.

Certainly the keywords used at the SEs start the process of someone finding your website but they also imply exactly what the searcher needs. If you can meet that need then you may have a customer, or at least have their attention. How long you have their attention depends on how well you've synchronized your web site with that implied need.

If you can't convince them you have what they are looking for in the first few critical seconds they will be off to find someone who does.

Buyer Intention

The keyword a searcher uses implies intention. If they use a general keyword they may only require basic information (or may be early in the sales cycle). If they use a "buying keyword" they may be ready to purchase something and already have their credit card out. Understanding the difference can effect whether your site makes money or not. And it certainly effect whether your optimization attracts qualified customers or just "tire clickers."

For example...

If someone types "golf" into Google there is no way to know if the searcher wants to buy something. They could just be looking for very general information about golf.

However if they type in "golf clubs" you know a little bit more (but not much). Yes they have an interest in golf clubs but you don't know if they want to learn about the history of golf clubs or are getting ready to actually buy something.

But if they type in "best deal on TaylorMade R9 driver" the intention is clear and we know they are close to making a purchase. At least you know they are far down the sales cycle. Your job at this point is to move them the rest of the way by giving them what they need next.

Your visitor has a "conversation going on inside their head." If you can join that conversation by providing the information they need and "meeting them where they are now," you may win their trust. But first you must convince them you understand that need or problem. You must convince them you may be able to create the trust and credibility required to get them to give you your Most Wanted Response (MWR).

Your MWR could be many things including...

 

» Go to Part 2 of Online Marketing Basics