What online marketing services do you need: A simple guide for your small business

by | 2 Apr, 2018 | Marketing, Strategy

New marketing tactics are developed everyday. It is hard to keep up! Use our online marketing services guide to help understand what your business needs.

Reading Time: 5 mins

Which online marketing services are best for your business?


By the end of 2016 over three billion people – 43 % of the world’s population – will be using the internet.

In our post on the 7 principles of digital marketing, we answered the question:

Should I use digital marketing?

To summarise, the answer is a definite yes! As the entry price is access to the internet, then your business can afford to do something digital. So then your next question must be:

What digital marketing services do I need?

Let’s start by getting specific about ‘what is digital marketing‘. It is defined as:

Marketing using technology.

You may ask, how is it different from online marketing? Which is defined as:

Marketing using the Internet of Things.

So online marketing is a subset of digital marketing. But often the terms will be used in an interchangeable way. Usually because online marketing makes up so much of what digital marketing is today.

With the increasing convergence of connected technology, the Internet of Things just gets bigger. It will not be long before all technology is connected.

In this post we will focus on defining the categories of online marketing and what they can do for your business.

1. Search Marketing

With rapid changes in technology the understanding and practice of search marketing has evolved. To start with, there is disagreement on the definition of terms. To use a broad definition:

“Search marketing is the process of gaining traffic and visibility from search engines through both paid and unpaid efforts.” Search Engine Land

Therefore, there are two main disciplines in Search Marketing:

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – unpaid efforts
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – paid efforts.

A. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Why does SEO get so much attention? Because:

93% of online experiences begin with a search engine

65% of traffic is through Google and 33% through Bing

67% of all clicks go to the first 5 results

Numbers speak for themselves. If you want traffic to your website, then you need to invest in SEO.

SEO practice has changed much over the years. It used to be all about stuffing as many keywords into a page to get it to rank highly. Now the algorithm is much more complex. See this short video for an explanation of how Google search works.

A contemporary definition of SEO is:

“SEO is the process of optimising your online content so that a search engine likes to show it as a top result for searches of a certain keyword.“ Neil Patel

So, to attract the right type of visitors to convert on your site, then you need SEO.

Right now, people are searching. Employing SEO effectively will allow you to be found. Not for any search term. But one that is relevant to searcher intent and leads them to your relevant offer.

SEO is ideal for generating sustained traffic to your website in the medium to long term.

B. Search Engine Marketing

SEO refers to natural, organic or free listing with a search engine. So SEM has come to mean paid search performance or in other words: purchasing ads on search engines.

Given Google’s search dominance, then Google Adwords is the most popular paid search platform. Others include Bing Ads and Yahoo: Search Ads.

Google AdWords program allows you to set a budget for advertising and only pay when people click on the ads. This is known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising .

The amount paid depends on:

  • the bid (how much are you willing to pay for a click); and
  • relevancy of the ad to the particular keyword.

This video provides a quick summary of how AdWords works.

SEM establishes an immediate presence. So it is suited to generating traffic to your site for short term outcomes or campaigns. It is increasing in popularity for remarketing.

2. Content Marketing

Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Content Marketing Institute

Some think that content marketing arrived with the advent of the internet. Not true! The term has become more popular in the 21st Century. But the use of content to market to an audience is linked to publishers in the 19th Century.

Just see our example of content marketing in the pre-internet age with Magnolia HiFi.

Source: Content Marketing Institute

Content is the fuel that drives ‘context’ and ‘connection’. Every other online marketing service is reliant on content in one way or another.

As Avinash Kaushik, founder of Market Motive defines it as:

“Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.”

It’s necessary ingredient in attracting customers’ attention. But also in building trust to the point that they take actions and develop loyalty. Content marketing is the strategic approach to using content across the buyer journey.

Often content marketing is confused with inbound marketing. The two are intertwined. Inbound marketing is a methodology for attracting visitors. This includes elements of content marketing as well as other online marketing tactics. Read more on the relationship between content and inbound marketing.

So is content marketing for you?

Yes, if you have a strategy that requires a sustained relationship with your audience. Consistent, valuable and relevant content marketing is important to developing a trust-based relationship. So use it along the entire buyer journey, to achieve the desired conversion.

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media is big. But is it for business? Surveys say yes!

The real question is not so much whether your business should use social media. But, how should it be used?

Social media platforms are abundant. Each with their own unique characteristics and audience. The entry price is usually free and the potential reach is in the millions of users.

 Source: accion.org

Users share with their social network valuable and relevant content. This is a gateway to building brand awareness and driving traffic. You can even use it for conversion.

The interactive nature of social media allows engagement rather than just distribution. Users can ask questions, express opinions and post reviews. In return, your business has the opportunity to shows its personal voice.

Important functions available with various social media platforms include:

  • Publishing – distributing content in a format useful to your target audience.
  • Monitoring – identifying trends across the audience.
  • Reporting – analysing the performance of your social media engagement.
  • Advertising – presenting advertisements to your target audience.

Every social media platform is different between the audience, content, format and engagement. Facebook has the biggest audience. Twitter the most regular engagement. LinkedIn is best for B2B. Pinterest has a majority female audience. YouTube is the second most used search engine after google.

Social media marketing is a practical marketing method. It has a low participation cost, large audience access and usually analytics to track performance.

4. Email Marketing

Email marketing is sending a commercial message via e-mail to your target audience. It is the oldest, but most effective online marketing tactic. Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

The rise of social media marketing led to some predictions of the decline of email marketing. Particularly with the improved performance of spam filters.

What has risen in the email marketing discipline is a permission-focused approach. The result is a direct and on-going engagement with the target audience. This is particularly effective with products or services with long lead times and repeat customers.

Improving technology has allowed email marketing to provide an effective platform for nurturing leads. For example, automation allows personalised messages to be sent to a lead after performing a trigger action.

Email marketing is an effective service to be employed in conjunction with other marketing tactics.

5. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing is best described as:

“Using a publisher to help a business by promoting their product, service or site.”

There are three parties to affiliate marketing:

  • The Advertiser – who pays others to sell and promote their product.
  • The Publisher (or affiliate) – that promotes an advertiser’s product or service in exchange for earning a commission.
  • The Consumer (or Visitor) – who interacts with the sees the ad on the publisher’s platform.

At a basic level, it is leveraging the network of the publisher to promote your product or service. This has many benefits for businesses that are starting out or don’t wish to invest in traffic generation.

There are many variations of affiliate marketing. Technology is a massive enabler for affiliate marketing in the way that different networks can be leveraged.

Affiliate marketing can be used for targeted traffic and increasing sales with a low risk approach to cost.


In this post we have covered the five main type of online marketing services:

  1. Search Marketing
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Social Media Marketing
  4. Email Marketing
  5. Affiliate Marketing

No single tactic will deliver on your marketing objectives. So it is important to understand what each service can do. Then build the best strategy to align your marketing efforts towards your business goal.