The benefits and types of online marketing

Woman learns about online marketing on her tablet.

Whether it’s for search engines, social media, or video, more people are online than ever before. Commerce is also growing on the internet, which is why it’s never been more important to market your business online.

Your business might have a solid traditional marketing setup, but even then, it might not bring many customers through your door. Going forward, businesses need to expand their efforts to online channels. It’s the best way to reduce marketing costs while increasing sales.

Online marketing is a vast and ever-changing landscape, and it can be tough to keep up with the latest trends and techniques. With so many different platforms and options available for implementing online marketing, marketers need to decide which strategies are best for their businesses.

In this guide, we’ll share several examples of online marketing and tips to help executives and marketing leaders refine their current online marketing strategy. At the end of this guide, you’ll understand what online marketing is, its benefits, what it entails, and the various forms it takes.

This post will explain:

What is online marketing?

Online marketing is the process of promoting a business through digital channels. Also known as “internet marketing,” online marketing encompasses all of the different strategies and tactics businesses use to promote themselves to their target audience via the internet. This includes social media, email, influencer marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click ads, videos, and much more.

Overall, online marketing is a great way for businesses to reach a large audience quickly and easily. Since so much is online, it’s also incredibly easy for businesses to measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

Online marketing is so popular that it’s projected to continue growing by 9% every year from 2020 to 2026. Businesses are factoring the growing popularity of online marketing into their budgeting decisions too, spending more on paid ads, content creation, and software going forward.

Online marketing shares some characteristics with traditional marketing, but they’re two separate strategies that work in tandem to deliver results for businesses. They both have the same core goal — reaching customers where they are for the purpose of promoting a product or service.

However, online marketing capitalizes on the unique benefits of online platforms that traditional marketing media, like billboards and print, just can’t offer. Traditional marketing can work, but it generates 50% fewer customer interactions, which is why many businesses primarily invest in online marketing strategies to boost engagement.

While the differences between traditional and online marketing are pretty clear, it’s important to understand that online marketing isn’t the same as digital marketing either. Digital marketing is broader than online marketing. It isn’t limited just to the internet — it can include strategies like TV ads and video billboards. Online marketing, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on strategies and approaches carried out via the internet, such as email, social media, content marketing, and affiliate marketing.

A graphic shows the growth of online marketing.

The benefits of online marketing

The biggest benefit of online marketing is that it drives traffic to your website, which can help generate leads or sales. Some of the main benefits of online marketing include global reach, effective targeting, quick and easy testing, and inexpensive advertising channels. Additionally, online marketing provides businesses with instant analytics, making it easier than traditional marketing to see what’s working.

It also has the following benefits:

Types of online marketing

Online marketing can help businesses stand out to more potential customers online. There are many ways a business can connect with shoppers via the internet, but these seven types of online marketing are the most common.

Email marketing

Email marketing is the process of reaching out to customers through an email marketing platform. Many businesses use email marketing to promote sales or exclusive offers, while other businesses use it to share content marketing resources or customer testimonials.

This type is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways for businesses and organizations to communicate directly with their customers. While it does take time and effort, it can prove lucrative if done well. Email marketing can be a great online marketing channel for reaching customers at all stages of the funnel. It can help acquire new customers, recover abandoned baskets, or generate brand loyalty.

Email marketing can be done in a variety of ways:

Email marketing is a low-cost, high-return channel for many online businesses. If you can find a way to grow a high-quality list, email will likely be one of your best-performing channels.

A graphic shows that email generates 42x more revenue than is spent on it as an example of online marketing.

To make the most of email marketing, businesses should think about:

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is the process that businesses follow to promote their brand, products, or services on popular social media platforms. The most common social media platforms are:

Social media can be an incredibly effective online marketing channel for businesses looking to maximize their reach, engage customers, and convert sales.

If you have a limited budget, your business can invest in organic social media to connect with more people. With an organic strategy, businesses don’t pay social platforms to boost their content — they rely instead solely on follower interest and engagement. It’s important to have a solid organic social strategy and keep your brand profile pages up to date. This can help provide a sense of credibility to prospects and customers.

While an organic strategy is more cost-efficient, paid social media strategies can get businesses more immediate results. Paid social is perhaps a stronger channel for raising awareness and driving site traffic and sales. Many social media platforms have a range of ad objectives and targeting capabilities available to advertisers, which makes paid social a suitable option for nearly all businesses.

Social platforms’ versatile paid offerings make this option popular with businesses. If you want to run a top-of-funnel awareness campaign, you can upload a video to the Facebook Ads Manager and serve ads across most Meta properties on a CPM basis. If you want a tailored campaign for previous site visitors optimized for conversions at the bottom of the marketing funnel, add the Twitter pixel to your site and set up a campaign focused on that objective. It’s about understanding your proposition, understanding your audience, and determining which channels and messages are appropriate.

The major positive point of social media marketing is the sheer global reach that’s available to businesses striving to acquire new customers. The fact that you can target a specific audience, as well as segments within that audience, is a big advantage.

However, social media platform popularity can wane. For example, Instagram’s reach dwindled when TikTok rose to fame. Plus, what works on one platform won’t always work on another, so businesses have to craft individual social media marketing strategies for each platform. This can take more time and effort, but it’s the best way to ensure businesses get results from either organic or paid social media.

Investing in online marketing strategies like email, social media, SEO, SEM, PPC, and affiliates can help businesses gain a competitive edge while reducing costs.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

The objective of search engine optimization is to increase a website’s position in search engines. The idea is the higher your website’s ranking, the more people will see it and click through, and the more organic traffic and sales you’ll get. Businesses can do this through a variety of methods, but it generally comes down to on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

With on-page SEO, businesses try to boost their site’s authority by creating relevant, high-quality content on a consistent basis. This also includes technical upgrades to their websites, like optimizing their site structure, crawlability, and page speed. It’s best for people with IT or coding experience to handle technical SEO because when handled incorrectly, it can hurt your rankings or even take your site offline.

With off-page SEO, businesses boost their ranking in the search engines by collecting quality backlinks to their site. This can be done through guest blogging, podcasting, earning industry awards, or sponsoring local charities. By earning more quality backlinks to your website, you can steadily increase your website’s authority and trustworthiness, which can help your rank increase over time. It’s common for businesses to hire experts to handle their off-page SEO because it requires near-constant outreach, as well as a careful link-building strategy, to see quality results.

Having a strong organic search presence has various benefits for a business. It’s possible to receive a high volume of zero-cost traffic for keywords and search queries that are relevant to your brand. Since organic SEO brings relevant traffic to your site for free, it’s a powerful asset for any brand. Plus, SEO can work well with paid strategies too. You can align the keywords you rank well for organically with PPC and look to make your budget stretch further.

However, SEO is a long-term part of your online marketing strategy. It can take months to see a positive change in your search engine rankings. Since SEO is more of a technical skill, it’s important for businesses to hire SEO experts to manage both on-page and off-page strategies.

Search engine marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing is a type of paid advertising that can put businesses at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM is the paid version of SEO. Instead of optimizing your content and promoting it in the hopes of organic rankings, you can pay for a top spot on search engines for certain keywords.

Google Ads is the most common way businesses invest in SEM. You can typically choose from several types of search engine ads, which include both display ads and SERP ads. Done well, SEM can help put your business in some of the top spots on the SERP. Since the first three listings on the SERP gain more than 50% of total click-throughs, SEM can significantly boost website traffic.

Because SEM is a paid marketing strategy, it’s only effective if businesses offer a paid product or service. For example, if you’re trying to build a website where content is the product, you’ll likely spend more on ads than you’ll earn from readers.

You have to look carefully at the return on ad spend (ROAS) to determine if SEM is a fit for your business. It isn’t unusual for effective campaigns to generate as much as a 200% ROAS. If your business invests in SEO, it should also invest in SEM. Combining these two strategies can boost organic traffic by 30% while reducing ad spend by 35%.

The pro of SEM is that it puts your business at the top of the SERP, which can help you earn more paid traffic and on-site engagement. However, SEM is expensive — not only are you paying for clicks, but you also pay for impressions. Not all clicks are valuable, either, so you risk paying for clicks that don’t convert into paying customers. The key is to target high-intent paid keywords that increase the odds of converting a site visitor into a paying customer.

A graphic states that online marketing generates more leads and costs less than other marketing methods.

Content marketing

Content marketing is a broad term. But at its core, it’s all about developing and promoting content that answers the questions your audience has and helps your target audience make informed decisions. There’s a variety of different ways businesses can do content marketing, but some of the most popular options include blog posts, videos, reports, podcasts, eBooks, or infographics.

Managed correctly, an effective content marketing strategy can help attract consumers at the top of the funnel or help them with mid-funnel decision-making. Content marketing is more educational in nature than other online marketing campaigns, like PPC or social media ads. Doing content marketing well can help position your brand as an authority in a particular space. If your business is attempting to solve a difficult issue, enter a new market, or validate an idea, establishing a strong content marketing plan is the way to go.

By offering high-quality, expert content, you can improve your organic SEO rankings while building a following of dedicated readers — and potential customers. The upside of content marketing is that it helps businesses build authority with both search engines and readers.

Understanding your audience’s questions and answering them in an engaging way is a great opportunity to position your brand as an expert in the space. Answering your audience’s questions is also a useful way to advance them along the buying cycle.

Content marketing can be very cost-effective, especially if you start out with affordable media, like blog posts or articles. Even multimedia, like video content, is affordable to shoot, film, edit, and share if you have a smartphone.

The downside to content marketing is that it can become expensive, depending on the amount and type of content you create. For example, hiring a professional graphic designer or video editor can cost much more than commissioning a simple blog post. Unless you’re using a multitouch attribution solution offered on systems like Adobe Marketo Engage, it might be tough to calculate an exact ROI from content marketing too.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

Pay-per-click advertising is frequently regarded as one of the essential online marketing channels because of its flexibility and ability to target visitors with purchasing intent. Paid search significantly increases the odds that your target audience will see your brand when they make a relevant search.

While it shares some similarities with SEM, PPC is a separate online marketing strategy. With SEM, businesses focus solely on search engine results. But with PPC, brands can pay to show ads to users on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Google and Facebook are the top two platforms for paid advertisements, but other platforms are valuable as long as your audience uses them.

Like SEM, businesses need to carefully consider their budget before investing in PPC advertising. It’s best to work with a seasoned marketing professional or vendor to make better decisions regarding:

PPC ads can generate as much as $2 for every $1 spent, although the ROAS you’ll see will depend on factors such as your platform of choice, targeting options, messaging, creative, and budget. It’s often useful to plan your paid search campaigns while reviewing your positions in organic search too. It may be possible to spread your budget further by strategically not bidding on keywords that you rank well for organically.

The biggest benefit of PPC online marketing is that it puts your message in front of the right audience at the right time. However, the biggest drawback is usually the cost. The costs add up quickly, especially if you’re bidding on generic, mid-funnel keywords with high volume but high costs per click (CPC). If you serve a niche audience, PPC might offer finite search volumes that might not lead to a lot of traffic.

Also known as “internet marketing,” online marketing encompasses all of the different strategies and tactics businesses use to promote themselves to their target audience via the internet.

Affiliate marketing

Businesses use affiliate marketing by paying affiliates a commission when they refer new customers to the business. Since you only pay when a referred customer makes a purchase, affiliate marketing is a low-risk online marketing method for generating sales.

Businesses use affiliate marketing when they want other websites, social media accounts, or influencers to promote their products or services. In exchange for making sales on the business’s behalf, affiliates make money for every product or service they sell.

Affiliate marketing is a simple way to reach more people and encourage more users to visit your website (including comparison websites). It also allows you to capitalize on high-profile influencers and people with a large audience, so you don’t have to do the hard work of finding customers yourself.

To get started with affiliate marketing, it’s best to work with an affiliate network. Affiliate networks serve as the liaison between advertisers and publishers. They help businesses source affiliates, manage affiliate relationships at scale, and pay affiliates in one simple dashboard.

Through the affiliate network, you can source affiliates to act as a ready-made salesforce for your business. They promote your products and services through blog posts, videos, and social media posts to their followers. Every time one of their followers makes a purchase, you compensate the affiliate either a flat-rate finder’s fee or a percentage as commission.

The biggest upside to affiliate marketing is the fact that businesses only need to compensate affiliates when they encourage someone to make a purchase. In this way, affiliate marketing is a very low risk to businesses. However, the “pay for results” paradigm can make it difficult for less well-known businesses to get exposure. Affiliates will favor safer bets from well-known companies with in-demand products, so it can be difficult to break into affiliate marketing if you’re a small business.

Research tools to help you with online marketing

The internet is a vast and vital space for commerce. It affords so many opportunities for your brand to put its products or services in front of the right audience at the right time. Investing in online marketing strategies like email, social media, SEO, SEM, content, PPC, and affiliates can help businesses gain a competitive edge while reducing costs.

When you’re ready to get started, identify your company’s audience and business goals to see if online marketing will help you reach your target audience. Then, see if your marketing software can manage online campaigns across the channels you’ll use.

Your business doesn’t need to do online marketing manually. Solutions like Adobe Campaign and Adobe Marketo Engage can help you scale up your online marketing initiatives in less time.

Campaign allows you to see the entire customer journey on a single screen, giving you a better view of your customers across all of your online marketing platforms. With Campaign, you can use rich customer data to create, coordinate, and deliver dynamic campaigns that customers actually want — through email, mobile, offline channels, and more.

Watch the Adobe Campaign demo video to learn more.

Managing marketing campaigns across multiple online platforms at scale can feel challenging. Adobe Marketo Engage provides all the tools necessary to manage your different online marketing channels and track and analyze customer behavior across them. Build engaging, personalized experiences at scale and prove impact with Marketo Engage.

Learn how Marketo Engage can help your business grow with online marketing. Watch the overview video now.