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What Exactly is Internet Marketing?

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The internet, like every other field, has a language all its own. And when it comes to marketing on the internet, the labels proliferate rapidly. Can you tell “search engine marketing” from “search engine optimization?” How about “website promotion” from “online promotion?”

Can you tell your Yahoo Yellow Pages from your Yahoo Local? Or “pay-per-click,” from “pay for performance,” not forgetting “paid inclusion?” Is it any wonder people are confused? Adding to the confusion, many of these phrases are shortened to acronyms (SEO, PPC, SEM, to name a few). Next week, at a seminar for professional marketers, participants will wrestle with the issue of SEM for SMEs. This rapidly growing field is in dire need of simplification and organization. As a starting point, it would be good to just have a name for all of it. And that’s where the term “internet marketing” comes in.

Consider this: twice in the past week I have seen an online press release turn into an offline publicity placement. In the first instance, an online press release about an antiques-related website was picked up by a leading consumer magazine, who wanted to use images from the client’s website in an upcoming article. Full credit, of course, goes to the client and their website. In the second instance, an online press release about marketing was picked up by a writer for an offline business magazine. The writer wants to interview the creator of the press release for an article about the migration of local print advertising onto the internet. I especially love the irony of the second one – an online release is picked up by an offline magazine for a story about how advertising is moving from the offline to the online space.

But are these example of traditional P.R? Or is it online P.R? Perhaps it’s website promotion? The answer, of course, is that in this amazing new world of interconnectivity, a P.R. campaign can be any of these things, often more than one thing, and it can frequently morph into something unexpected. That’s the beauty of the internet. And because the internet is the cause of this phenomenon, the most obvious choice for an umbrella term, under which a growing variety of promtional techniques can be organized, is “internet marketing”.

The term “internet marketing” is still somewhat slippery, and may mean different things to different people. But as an umbrella phrase it is very useful because it’s so comprehensive. It is clear that a broad new discipline is emerging, one which crosses media lines in many directions. As this broad discipline emerges, its various subsets – “search engine optimization,” for example, or the rather ambiguous “search engine marketing” – should be seen as tools within the larger framework, components to be utilized, with or without other components, depending on the marketing needs of each project.

A working definition is that internet marketing is any kind of marketing that begins on the internet and promotes something. (Usually it will promote a website, as a destination in itself or a gateway to further interaction, but it doesn’t have to follow that route.) And of course, just because a promotion begins on the internet, it doesn’t mean it will end there. Under the umbrella term “internet marketing,” exists a wide array of options: search engine optimization, pay-per-click, paid-inclusion, search engine submissions, directory submissions, link campaigns, online press releases, website copywriting, internet yellow pages, email campaigns, newsletters and ezines, and recently, blogging and RSS feeds. The list is by no means exhaustive. These promotional methods all fit under the broad umbrella term, internet marketing.

How does this help a typical marketer? To illustrate, let’s use the case of a client whose website is languishing on the web – it needs more traffic. Should the website owner go directly to a search engine optimization specialist? Not necessarily. Search engine optimization may not be the answer at all. The client is better served by having the project assessed by a company with a broad approach to internet marketing, rather than to a niche specialist. The work may involve an email campaign, or development of a newsletter, or an RSS solution, or an IYP ad, or whatever the solution may be – and frequently the solution involves a combination of activities. It all depends on the the nature of the website, and how that site may best be marketed. Every client is unique, and every project has a unique solution. This is not to say that the search engine optimization specialist is irrrelevant. Far from it. But the initial assessment is best made from the broadest perspective.

Today, the field of internet marketing is a crazy patchwork quilt of competing claims and shrill promises. This is not good for anybody. As the internet matures, a true framework will emerge giving structure and definition to the new discipline of internet marketing. This will help to build the trust of advertisers, and the process will eventually weed out the fly-by-night outfits who are muddying the waters today. In the end, for business and consumers alike, that’s a very good thing.

Neil Street is co-founder of Small Business Online, an internet
marketing and web design company
, based in Norwalk, CT. Email href="mailto:neil@smallbusinessonline.net">Neil at Small Business Online
or call him at 203.299.0889

What Exactly is Internet Marketing?
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