Online Marketing, The 36 Hour Course

As an internet user and developer, I tend to hear the words “internet marketing” and “online marketing” fairly frequently on social media, forums and on blogs. Obviously, I have a blog and have worked with web analytics, so some of the topics are somewhat familiar to me. However, I never really knew what “online marketing” was besides some of the basics of SEO and web analytics. So, it was with great interest that I started reading “The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Online Marketing” by Lorrie Thomas.

Let me start by giving you my general thoughts before I dig into the book. First, I tend to “dog-ear” pages that I want to return to because they say something interesting or important. I must have done this every 15 pages in a 250 page book. That should tell you how much information is being presented. Also, anyone that has a blog or a website or an online business can benefit from this book in some way because of the breadth of information.

The basic idea is that the book is supposed to give you enough knowledge to know where to look for deeper knowledge. They even provide a way for you to take a test and earn a certificate, which is an interesting direction for the publisher. The book provides an overview of several topics, with each major topic getting its own chapter:

One important note about this book, is that there are a ton of checklists. Because this is an introduction to several topics, this is a great way to convey information without getting into too many details. It is also a helpful way for someone just starting out to get some basic implementations completed that they can learn from.

There were two checklists that really caught my eye. First, there were the five components to a successful site:

  • Credibility: You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.
  • Usability: What makes site viewers stick and click.
  • Sellability: Showcasing case studies, testimonials, and whatever makes your organization different from or better than the competition is imperative.
  • Scalability: Your website must be architected and developed in a way that can accommodate ease of expansion (adding pages, video, content, etc).
  • Visibility: You need a plan to drive traffic to the site.

People often seem to focus on a few of these items, but not all of them. In particular, sellability is ignored because most people are not an ecommerce site. However, on the internet everyone is selling something. On this blog, I am basically selling information. I do not have any eBooks or fee-based communities yet, but the information on this site is valuable to some people. Obviously, by having a blog at all, I want people to read it, and anyone with a web site wants at least some attention.

The other checklist that I wanted to highlight was Joe Pulizzi’s “Five Pillars of Content Marketing – The Ultimate Definition”:

  • Editorial-based (or long form) content: It must tell a relevant, valuable story.
  • Marketing-backed: Content has underlying marketing and sales objectives that an organization is trying to accomplish.
  • Behavior-driven: Seeks out to maintain or alter the recipient’s behavior.
  • Multi-platform: Print, digital, audio, video and events.
  • Targeted toward a specific audience: If you can’t name the audience, it’s not content marketing.

In many cases, the target audience is often forgotten. For a blog, the audience may evolve over time, and this is true for many web sites. However, you should keep in mind one important note from the book:

Can you visualize the ideal customer (gender, age, income, etc)? It will help you craft effective marketing messages. What would cause someone to want or need to buy what you sell in the first place? These are called trigger points.

If you can not figure out who you are writing for, then why are you writing? If your target audience is too broad, your writing may not fit any audience. If you are just writing without a target audience, then you have a prayer-based initiative, meaning you are writing and then praying that someone will read it.

For web analytics, Lorrie recommends setting up a service like Google Analytics, but also making sure you are using it correctly. Use tools like SiteScan to ensure you have implemented the tags correctly. Use Google’s URL Builder to track “marketing initiatives by tagging your online ad URLs with specific information like campaign, medium, and source so that GA can show you which activities are paying off.”

Advertising, marketing and public relations are a big part of the book. Granted this is an online marketing book, so it should not be a surprise. One of my favorite bits of advice was regarding advertising:

“Which types of ads work best? Tested Ones. Online advertising success varies per product, service, goal and industry. In order to find your optimal equation for success, you need to test everything. Ideas are created then implemented, but without commitment to managing, monitoring, and optimizing new efforts, success may never be fully achieved.”

Whether you are buying advertising on different sites, or displaying advertising on your own site, testing these advertisements is hugely important. The same is true of other types of advertising. Even though everyone seems to be involved with social media like Facebook and Twitter, sometimes the basics are still the best way to go. E-Mail marketing works, and Lorrie provides some excellent statistics like “e-mail marketing generated an ROI of $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009. The expected figure for 2010 is $42.08.” Obviously, e-mail marketing still rocks if you are not completely spammy. Even though the ROI is very high, you will need to test your e-mail marketing as well.

On the public relations side, the SEO Press Release Checklist contains an extensive list of items that ensure your press release is SEO friendly. This is great information for people not entirely familiar with the PR industry, which will be most people setting up new websites. Granted, the checklist will not make you an instant PR professional, but it is definitely helpful for a PR newbie.

The last chapter, “Managing Multitasking Web Marketing”, includes daily activities that help you use all of the knowledge in the book. In particular, Days 11, 12 and 13 help you put together the PR, SEO, custom landing pages and social media campaigns, so that your launch can be truly successful.

Obviously, I did like the book and would recommend it to people with a startup, a new website or even a small blog. There is a lot that you can learn from the book because of the breadth of knowledge that you need to master online marketing. One caveat to this recommendation is that if you are looking for deep knowledge on any one topic, this is not the book for you. As an example, there is good information on web analytics, but it is basic introductory knowledge as is appropriate for a general overview of many topics. If you are looking to become a web analytics professional, there are books that provide the deep knowledge you require. However, for online marketing as a whole this is a great introduction.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of the book from the publisher, but that did not affect the tone of this post. I was not compensated in any other way by the author or the publisher.

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