4 Types of Online Marketing … and How We Can Help

EarthLink Web Hosting is designed not only to help businesses easily get a professional website online, but also to help them market their website and their business.

That’s why each of our web hosting and ecommerce hosting plans includes free online marketing tools.

In this post, we’ll highlight four types of online marketing – content marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing and email marketing – that are important for businesses to master and the EarthLink Web Hosting tools that can help you do just that.

1. Content marketing: Content marketing is a hot term these days, but it’s not always well understood – because it’s a very broad term. Wikipedia gives this definition of content marketing:

Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.”

The content marketing you are likely most familiar with is a business blog with regular text posts. But content marketing can take many other forms and formats, including videos, photos, PowerPoint presentations, infographics, white papers, case studies, webinars, podcasts and more.

What distinguishes content marketing from the more direct online marketing you do on your business website is that it focuses primarily on communicating with customers/readers/viewers rather than selling to them directly and overtly. Content marketing done well can generate awareness for your business, consideration of your products and services, and increased loyalty from current customers. Sometimes you’ll get direct sales from content marketing, but it’s usually a two-step (or more) process.

Content marketing can also help you with some of your other marketing efforts. Blog content can often be very helpful for your website SEO, part of your overall search engine marketing (SEM) efforts. It can also aid your social media marketing by giving you valuable original content to share with your social network followers. And it can likewise filter into your email marketing by giving you some non-sales content to include in email newsletters.

WordPress blogging software makes it easy to publish your first blog post

How EarthLink Web Hosting helps with content marketing: Our Web Hosting Control Center offers a simple WordPress installer to make it simple to add a WordPress blog to your EarthLink-hosted website. WordPress is the #1 blogging platform in the world. Your blog can then be the bedrock of all your content marketing efforts. See how to install a WordPress blog on your website and how to publish your first blog post using WordPress for help getting started.

2. Social media marketing: Let’s head back to Wikipedia for a quick definition of social media marketing:

“Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.”

Typically it looks like this: businesses establish a presence on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ in order to engage their online audience, build a following, and drive traffic back to their website and/or blog. You’ve bee a part of social media marketing if you’ve Liked a company on Facebook, retweeted a company tweet, or downloaded an online coupon from another social network.

As we noted above with content marketing, success with social media marketing (SMM) can aid in other online marketing efforts. Social network sharing is an effective way to promote your content marketing efforts. Every new blog post, white paper, infographic or other form of content you create should be shared with your social networks. Social media activity can also help you with your search engine marketing’s SEO efforts. Though the major search engines haven’t specified just how much it matters, they’ve all said that social media “signals” factor into the search algorithms that translate into search engine rankings. In other words, if there’s a lot of social network activity around your brand, you’ll be more likely to rank high for relevant terms.

social media integration with SocialStream and EarthLink Web HostingHow EarthLink Web Hosting helps with social media marketing: All of our Web Hosting services include a free tool, found in the Web Hosting Control Center, called SocialStream, that can help you simplify and streamline your social media marketing. SocialStream gives you one easy-to-use dashboard to manage your social networks and lets you post to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn simultaneously. See our Social Media Made Simple for help getting started.

3. Search engine marketing: There are two main forms of search engine marketing (SEM): PPC, which stands for Pay Per Click and SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization.

When you do a Google search, you see results based on both PPC and SEO. Typically at the top of the search results page and along the right side of the page, you see sponsored ads. Businesses have used Google AdWords program to bid on this search engine placement and will pay money to Google for each ad that gets clicked on, which is why it’s called Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising.

All the other search results in the middle of the page are considered “organic” or unpaid results based on Google’s perception of how relevant those results are for the search. That’s where SEO comes in. SEO techniques can make it more likely that Google ranks your site higher in these organic search results.

basic-seo-easy-website-optimizerHow EarthLink Web Hosting helps with search engine marketing: While EarthLink Web Hosting doesn’t directly offer a PPC tool (you have to work with and pay Google or Bing directly), our website builder and other tools that help you build and maintain a quality website ultimately help you with PPC. Because you have to have high-quality website pages to link to from your AdWords and other PPC ads.

We do offer free SEO tools that help you submit your website to 60+ search engines and online directories, and SEO tools that help you optimize your individual website pages for search engines. See our SEO Basics posts to see how to use EasySiteOptimizer for SEO, how to create sitemaps and submit to search engines, and how to do code validation for SEO.

4. Email marketing: Because it’s been around for such a long time, email marketing doesn’t have the buzz associated with the marketing techniques above. But it’s been around such a long time because it works. As we reported in this previous blog post about email marketing:

    • People who buy products marketed through email spend 138% more than people who don’t receive email offers
    • 44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a marketing email

Email marketing can include customer newsletters, product offers, coupons, or more informational updates. Regardless of what type or types of email marketing you want to do, having an email marketing platform can streamline and simplify your efforts, and help you track your success.

How EarthLink Web Hosting helps with email marketing: All EarthLink Web Hosting plans include free access to our Announcer Pro email marketing tool. With Announcer Pro you can create graphic-rich emails, manage contact lists of email addresses, send email emails to these lists, as well as track and report the results. See this post for help getting started creating and sending your first marketing email with Announcer Pro.

Good luck with all your online marketing efforts. And let us know how you’re doing.

Content Marketing: Step by Step

content marketing, step by stepLast week we provided an overview of 15 types of content marketing that can help your business website succeed.

Though the specifics of how you get started with each content marketing type will vary depending on what you choose, there will be common general steps or stages you’ll go through during your content marketing efforts. Make sure you are ready for this process before you start and you’ll be more likely to be successful with your content marketing.

Step 1: Set Your Content Marketing Goals

It’s a catchy slogan, but I wouldn’t advise you to “just do it” when it comes to content marketing. Since this does require time and effort, you want to make sure you know what you’re doing it for. Be as specific as you can with your content marketing goals. Are you looking for 2x your incoming links? Do you want to move a product page up from page 2 to page 1 in the SERPs (search engine result pages)? Do you want to increase website traffic by 20%? Increase leads by 25%? Conversions? Think through what your goals because they can shape which efforts you take, your content strategies, and ultimately what you’ll be tracking.

Step 2. Choose Your Content Marketing Mix

After you have your goals, try to choose content marketing tactics that will help you move towards your goals. You will, of course, need to be realistic about which things you will be able to pursue (based on your time, expertise, budget, etc.). And you’ll need to keep your audience in mind. Not all tactics work for all audiences equally. A whitepaper can be an effective business website marketing tool but not for consumer websites. The opposite is true for games. If your customers skew very young, email newsletter may not work since the youngest consumers favor texting and other forms of communication over email.

Step 3: Produce Your Content

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. You need to decide who is doing what (unless you are a solo act) and create an editorial calendar (or more general content production calendar) to map out what will be produced when for the next 3 or 4 months. Think about topics/content ideas that will resonate with your audience. Think about topics that will further your goals. If you are looking for traffic from a blog, do some keyword research to make sure you are blogging about popular topics and using the words your customers use. And remember, if you’re blogging, you want to be able to do it regularly and consistently to be effective. Here are some of our previous posts that may help you with your blog: How to Generate Ideas for your blog, 8 Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners, How to Publish a WordPress Blog on Your Website, Common Blogging Mistakes.

Step 4: Promote Your Content

It’s not just content. Don’t forget to put some marketing in your content marketing. Because if you produce your content and don’t promote it at all, it will be like the proverbial tree that falls in the woods that no one hears. So, think about all the ways you can promote your content.

Social media is a good place to start. You should have a Twitter account, and when you produce some content, send out a tweet about it. It’s OK to send out multiple tweets about the same content, but space them out and vary the tweet a bit so you don’t turn off your Twitter followers. Facebook, Google +, and other social networks are also good to spread the word about your content. Depending on the nature of your business, LinkedIn can also be good, especially if you are in groups there.

But don’t expect social to do all the work. If you are promoting a blog, make sure it’s prominently featured on your website so you get some traffic from current customers. If you send out a regular email to customers, link to your content. And don’t forget about all the traditional marketing ways to drive traffic.

Step 5: Track Your Success

Remember, you started this process with goals. So you want to have a way to confirm that your content marketing achieved its goals or not (in which case you re-evaluate and try again). EarthLink Web Hosting and professional web design customers have website tracking available within their Web Hosting Control Panel. Google Analytics is a free analytics solution you can sign up for. You’ll probably want to monitor traffic, engagement (time on site or on a specific page), return visitors, leads, conversions, and conversions. If your conversions are offline (like by phone) you’ll want to track that as well.

What Is Content Marketing? 15 Kinds of Content Marketing

You may have heard of the term “content marketing.” If you have, you’ve probably also heard that it’s important for online businesses. And it’s true.

But you may not be sure what it is.

Content marketing, according to Wikipedia, is

“an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

I’ve bolded the headline characteristics, the creation and sharing of content. But it’s important not to lose sight of the objectives and goals behind this content generation and sharing: attracting, acquiring, or engaging customers and driving profitable customer action.

Creating and sharing content in and of itself is not content marketing if it’s not done to achieve these customer-focused goals. It’s also not content marketing if your “content” is really just marketing, promotion, or sales.

Consider these scenarios:

It’s not content marketing if you write a few poems and send them out to a group of your friends. It is content marketing if you are a poet and you create a small, limited-edition ebook of your poems and let fans who subscribe to your mailing list download the ebook.

It’s not content marketing if you have a camera store online and you send out an email to your customer base with all your current promotions. It is content marketing if you create an email with your to 10 tips to help your customers take the best holiday photos.

It’s not content marketing if you’re a car company and you air a commercial on TV (or post it online). It is content marketing if you create a series of short films featuring your cars, as BMW did with its film series called The Hire. (BMW called it “branded content” but it was clearly content marketing of the highest order.)

BMW Films "The Hire" - content marketing, branded content

Content marketing is often an important part of most company’s SEO strategies since web content gives you more things for search engines to index and more opportunities to get inbound links, which will help your web pages rank higher.

Content marketing will also intersect with your social media strategy since when you create content on your website you’ll want to promote it on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. And the sharing of your content on social sites will help support your SEO as well as your initial content marketing objectives.

 Here are 15 popular forms of content marketing:

  1. Blogs: You can blog in just about any style and with any content focus (how to generate ideas for your small business blog). Just make sure you are trying to add value with your content and not just sell your products or promote your business. Blogging can overlap with other items on this list, such as videos, photos, and infographics.
  2. Videos: Video content marketing could be how-tos, interviews, documentaries, humor or other entertainment. You can post videos on your blog, in a video section of your website, and social media sites like Facebook. You can even start your own channel, like this one for EarthLink Business on YouTube.
  3. Photos: You can post photos on your blog, create a special photos section of your website, and post photos to social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook.
  4. Podcasts: Show off your expertise by creating one or a series of podcasts on any subject (think of it as an audio blog).
  5. Webcasts & webinars: A webcast is typically live, streaming video of an event. Webinar takes its name from Web + seminar and should therefore be educational/instructional in nature. Hold periodic webinars to teach others what you know and increase your online authority. Both webinars and webcasts may be live originally but have long-term content marketing value when integrated into your website.
  6. Online communities/forums: Create an online forum or other form of online community to position your business as a leader in your field. (Last week we showed you how to get started by installing PhpBB forums on your website.)
  7. Email newsletters: Create a weekly or monthly newsletter that shows off your knowledge; offers tips, advice, and support; links to related resources, and more. You may include some promotion, but keep the newsletter focused on content or it will be viewed as spam. (Here’s how EarthLink Web Hosting customers can get started with email newsletters using Announcer Pro.) The eLink newsletter that we send to our dial-up, DSL, and cable Internet access members fits into this category.
  8. Infographics: Infographics are a fun and shareable way to get across numbers and statistics related to your business.
  9. Whitepapers: Whitepapers are more typically found on B-to-B websites rather than consumer-focused websites. They are typically longer and perhaps more technical and researched-based than most blog posts, but the two do overlap and you can repurpose one for the other easily. See how EarthLink Business uses whitepapers (and webinars) in its Industry Insights educational series.
  10. Ebooks: Ebooks are the next step beyond blog post or whitepaper, but you can often put together an ebook based on several blog posts or whitepapers; you may need a designer to help you with this one.
  11. Slideshows/presentations: Think “public PowerPoint.” You can use presentations to show your expertise and passion for your subject, to educate or entertain. Slideshare.com is the #1 site for online presentation sharing. Since you may have already created a PowerPoint, you may be able to repurpose it for content marketing with a minimal amount of tweaking.
  12. Games: Creating a branded game that’s related to your business can be effective, though it’s not something you can typically do yourself. And even with a professional game builder helping you, success can be tricky.
  13. Apps: Branded apps that are helpful may be more likely to catch on than game apps and more likely to support your brand; but like games, they do require professional development that may not get much attention if buried below hundreds of other competing apps in the big app stores.
  14. Microsites: Microsites are just websites, but they’re not traditional business websites with product listings and other company info; instead they are websites designed to educate, entertain, or build community around a topic of interest, e.g., Proctor & Gamble’s Home Made Simple microsite.
  15. Custom magazines (print & online): If you’re an AAA member, you’re probably familiar with their monthly magazine about cars and travel. My son is a big fan of the Red Bulletin print magazine (which focuses on extreme sports and edgy culture) from energy drink maker Red Bull. They’ve also made the magazine available as a free iPad app.

We’ll be following up with some more in depth tips on content marketing in the upcoming weeks. Until then, good luck.

And, as always, let us know what you’re experience has been. Any content marketing successes? Failures? We’d love to know what you’ve learned.

Common Blogging Mistakes That Can Sink a Small Business Blog – Part 2

Don't sink your blog by making these writing mistakesLast week, we started a three-part series Common Blogging Mistakes That Can Sink a Small Business Blog. Part one focused on mistakes in setting up your blog.

Today, in Part 2, we’re going to cover writing mistakes that often hinder the success of small business blogs.

We hope we can help you avoid making these common writing mistakes and give your blog the best chance for success.

Blog Writing Mistakes

1.     Writing is too promotional

Yes, you are writing your blog, ultimately, to promote yourself or your business.

But your blog won’t succeed in that mission if you don’t build and maintain an audience of readers. And you won’t do that by writing an endless stream of promotional material.

When writing your blog, you need to educate. You need to entertain. You need to help. You need to inspire.

You don’t need to sell, sell, sell.

The magic of your blog is that if you do all those things well, you will also sell. Because people will like you and respect you and want to do business with you.

 2.     Not focusing your writing on your audience

This second mistake often happens because you’re making the #1 writing mistake: being too promotional.

You can, of course, weave your products or service into your posts when relevant. But focusing largely or exclusively on yourself and your products is a turn-off to blog readers.

Focus, instead, on your audience (your readers and your customers) and good things will happen for you.

Write about the topics you know they are most interested in (and if you don’t know what they are interested in, ask them).

Write to help them solve problems. Write to answer their questions. Write to save them money.

Make your customers’ lives easier somehow and they’ll make it easier for you to succeed online.

 3.     Writing blog posts that are hard to scan

The first two writing mistakes were about content, or what you should write about. This one is about the structure, or how you should write.

You may have heard…people are busy. They are rushed and distracted, their attention is divided and hard to focus.

So you have to make it easy on them.

Especially on the Web, big blocks of copy scare people off. Readers online like to scan through copy quickly and your writing needs to facilitate that.

Yes, you will need to write some long posts to tackle tricky subjects or to establish yourself as an authority. And being too brief can lead people to think you aren’t an expert.

But be as concise as possible while achieving your goal of establishing authority.

Also, break up long posts into sections with headers to help readers visually navigate your post.

Keep paragraphs short. No more than a sentence or two.

Take advantage of bulleted lists or numbered steps. They are very easy to scan and are a more visually appealing way to present your copy.

4.     Headlines aren’t clear enough

Headlines are vitally important to your blog.

First, many people will only read the headlines. It is your job to make sure that your headline gets as many as possible to move on and read the blog post itself.

But many won’t start reading and will abandon your blog if you don’t make it clear what you are offering them for their time.

Headlines that are trying to be clever or mysterious are often simply dismissed by readers. Most don’t have the time or patience to give you the benefit of the doubt and start reading a post when they don’t know what it’s about.

Clarity in your headlines is also especially important for social sharing and SEO.

When people share your post, it’s typically the headline that others will see. And when your post appears in search engine results, it’s the headline that will be the link searchers see first.

Your headline also works to tell search engines what your blog post is about and therefore what keywords the post should rank for.

So a focused and clear headline that features relevant keywords will help your SEO efforts.

 5.     Too many mistakes: grammar, punctuation, spelling & facts

Don’t let this one intimidate you if you’re one of the many non-writers who are writing blogs for their businesses.

Mistakes happen…and you will make them. Just work to minimize them.

While online readers are pretty forgiving about certain kinds of grammar mistakes (especially if they seem to be part of the writer’s voice and contribute to the energy of the writing), a post that is riddled with mistakes will turn readers away and damage your brand.

How to you minimize writing mistakes?

First, know your weaknesses. You probably know certain words you spell wrong all the time. Keep a list and double-check those words in your posts.

Use spell-checkers, but don’t trust them 100%. They are good at spotting certain kinds of spelling errors, but if you misspell one word and your misspelling is another word, it may not be flagged. They’re also not as good if you’re writing about a field with many technical terms or jargon.

Read your posts out loud, slowly, to make sure they sound right. Keep a grammar guide handy to check any issues you aren’t sure of.

If possible, get someone else to read and/or proof your posts. It’s typically harder to catch your own mistakes than to spot them in someone else’s writing.

Also, be very careful to fact-check your posts.

You certainly don’t want to damage your credibility, tarnish your brand, and loose readers and customers by posting inaccurate information.

 6.     Not writing substantial enough posts encourage links & shares

You will have many goals for your blog, but many of them will be harder to achieve if you don’t write posts of substance.

You won’t succeed if all you’re posting are brief “me too” responses to other bloggers, one-sentence intros that link to content on other sites, or posts that are too shallow to really add value to the subject you’re writing about.

While you want to be as concise as possible, make sure you take the time to write thoughtfully and show that you know what you’re talking about.

Substantial content will not only help your brand, but it will also help you generate links to your site (which will then help your SEO) and encourage readers to share your blog post via social media or other referral methods.

People want to be confident that if they share your post, the people they share it with will be impressed with your content.

If you hit the right topic or right tone, a short post can definitely generate links and sharing, but you’ll be safer if you mix in longer, more authoritative posts as well.

 7.     Not writing frequently enough

It’s hard to build up your readership if you don’t write enough.

Quality is, of course, very important, but if there’s not enough quantity to keep people coming back, they won’t.

More frequent blogging will generally mean more traffic to your site.

But there is no magic number for how often you should post to your blog.

The right amount will depend on the type of posts you are writing, the length of the posts (mostly short posts should mean more frequent posts), your audience, and your business goals.

Whatever the frequency is, it’s good to try to be consistent. If you are trying to post once per day, having lots of multi-day gaps can be problematic for building up readership.

People want to know what to expect. You should get them into the habit of checking for posts at certain intervals. Habits are your friend, so you need to post frequently enough that you can get people in the habit of reading your blog.

Blogging frequently also helps the many people who will randomly check out your blog, because it means they’ll be seeing fresh and timely content.

It even helps SEO. Search engines like sites with fresh content. And frequent posts mean you’ll generate more content for search engines to index.

So post, post, post. Every day if you can. Every few days, or weekly, if that’s all you can do. Some business blogs do post monthly, but it’s rare.

It may be hard to achieve your blog’s goals if you can’t post at least once a week. But do your best!

We hope you’ll come back for part three, which will cover promotion and optimization mistakes.