To recap, these efforts are steps any website owner or administrator can take to try and get their site seen as far up in search results as possible -- with the first entry on the first page being the brass ring, so to speak.
While SEO/website optimization primarily refers to "organic" efforts, internet marketing typically involves paid efforts. Organic in the web world, especially in terms of SEO, typically refers to non-paid activities -- such as including meta tags, titles and descriptions, keywords, updating content, etc.
Internet marketing is usually approached as a campaign -- identifying targeted markets/customers and keywords and desired action (buy MyGREATProduct, for instance). The activities include pay-per-click advertising, banneradvertising, link building, email marketing, and content building, along with some kind of reporting/analytics on the campaign. Internet marketing is typically done in tandem with SEO efforts. The following is an overview of common internet marketing activities.
Internet marketing typically includes an element of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising - this is targeted advertising that appears, usually on the right hand side of the page, after a user enters a search query that matches the company's desired focus. Just think of a little "cha-ching" every time you click on one of the right hand, sponsored links.
Banner ads usually appear at top of the page -- although they now come in all kind of shapes, places and behaviors (pop-ups and such).
Interstitial ads are the ads that appear before you get to the page that is linked to the results -- they usually include a "skip this ad" option.
One area of heated discussion is "link building (or "link baiting" ) is a hotly contested activity since it has been an important measure by the search engines. In fact, this is one reasons for the rise in "viral campaigns" -- getting lots of people excited about something they see on the internet that they pass on, which ends up exponentially building to a climax for a website -- and sparking a website that was little known to top placement.
This is also where the term "content farms" come in. There are companies that now specialize in writing huge quantities of rather generic articles typically written by freelancers that get paid by the article. Bottom line -- the content is more about getting high rankings than returning good, useful information, and is why Google has upped its efforts to filter out content farms. The issue is that when a person interested in a subject, take internet marketing again as an example, the first page or several pages are filled with content farm generated results, pushing the higher quality content, containing much more insightful and trusted expertise farther down in the results. This just gets searchers frustrated with the whole process, and what gives SEO and internet marketing in general a bad name. Content farms are also big business. Demand Media, one of the biggest of the content farm companies, will soon be publishing 1 million items a month, and according to Wikipedia, is the equivalent of four English-language Wikipedias a year.
Good content is key to the whole SEO/internet marketing "magic." This is content that contains information, and keywords, that your target audience is looking for. For instance, if you what to attract the attention of someone searching for information on "internet marketing," having good, frequently updated information about internet marketing would be key.
Email marketing is typically another activity that is included in discussion of internet marketing. These emails are typically online newsletters with lots of links back to a website, again, increasing the popularity of the site via incoming links. So, if you've noticed that you are getting lots more email newsletters over the last two years, this is one of the reasons -- to garner increased exposure and popularity of the website, as well as provide insightful information to existing and potential customers. These email newsletters include opt-out features so if recipients are not interested, they can just turn off the delivery.
Search Engine Marketing
Another term you may hear along with internet marketing is search engine marketing (SEM). SEM is actually a subset of internet marketing. It's focus is all about impacting search engine results (where the scope of internet marketing includes advertising on other sites, email marketing and more). So many of the tactics noted above could also be considered a form of SEM as well.
Sophisticated Technology But Beware of Cash, Flash & Dash
These technologies of course, do come with a price -- starting in the hundreds per month to thousands per month. For many businesses these costs are justified customer acquisition expenses, in fact, many claim the ROI is much more effective than traditional advertising.
Internet marketing continues to leverage advance technologies that can make a significant impact on the way users interact with the web. The more advanced (and thus more costly) companies also have very sophisticated technologies that can trace user behavior that provides "event-driven" targeting -- the capability to literally create content on the fly based on the user and the way they surf the web. Along with the content generation technologies, there are myriad of choices for analytical research.
Not surprisingly, big dollars also draws a lot of new players to the market. So companies looking to obtain the services of an internet marketing company are well advised to do some research before buying into a good sales pitch. Asking for references and talking to other customers is always one of the best ways to ensure you are getting "the real thing."
Again, what sells on the internet is content, content, content -- but not just any content. Content farms may seem like an easy way to get hits, but it also can alienate potential customers, and is getting increased attention from the search engines looking to filter results from these sites. You are much better served by using your own subject matter experts (the folks that work in the biz day in and day out) and spending money to edit their input as required, or inviting guest editorial/input by those that are known experts in the field.
No matter what approach you take, it is important that you understand that internet marketing needs to align with a company's long term strategy and business goals. Just like running your business, you need to think in terms of an internet/online marketing plan. A good internet marketing company will want to start here.
If you are looking for sophisticated technology and detailed analytics, and have the budget to go with it, internet marketing can be quite effective. However, many small businesses just can't afford the price, even when considering the cost of customer acquisition, which is often part of the pitch from these firms. I typically recommend for small businesses to start with organic SEO and work up from there. You can supplement these efforts with some of the pay-per-click campaigns from the major search engines and might see enough in return just from these efforts. The biggest challenge for a small organization in trying to manage seo/web optimization efforts on their own is just keeping up with the tremendous volume of information and fast evolution.
That's it for this time…below are links I trust for more information on the subject.