Online Internet Digital Web Marketing: Introduction to Inbound and Outbound Marketing

This piece begins a series to explain the different options and techniques available now and the advantages and disadvantages of each. We are calling this “Online Internet Digital Web Marketing” which sounds confusing. Why does it sound confusing? Because it IS confusing! For the purposes of this article, “online marketing”, “internet marketing”, “digital marketing”, and “web marketing” are used interchangeably. Different agencies use these different terms but mostly, they mean the same thing. If one term is good, then more is better! Thus, the all-encompassing term “Online Internet Digital Web Marketing.”

You have a great website. It looks good and has a compelling message for your potential customers. The website accurately describes the products or services provided by your company. Your pricing is competitive and your offerings are in demand in the market. If only people could find your website!

How to get those interested in your goods and services to your website? There are several methods available, but I like to divide them into inbound and outbound.

Outbound sales and marketing work on the premise that the people who need or want your products are out there and if you reach out intelligently or with enough volume, you will find them and then direct them to your website. This is the “see what sticks” approach. Just send out ads, more ads, and then more ads after that and see who responds. Examples of outbound marketing include email blasts and internet advertising and perhaps radio/TV/print ads that direct people to your website. This was once the only way to sell.

Email blasts are email messages sent in bulk to a list. The people on the list may or may not have requested to be contacted by your company. One guaranteed way to turn people off is to send them unsolicited email. And yet, this unsolicited email (aka “spam”) continues to plague all those who use email. Why? Because it is relatively cheap and making just one sale as a result of this type of campaign can make it profitable.

Nowadays, we can be more selective as far as who receives our emails. We can target people of a certain demographic; by location, age, gender, economic bracket, hobby, or any other metric. Social media makes this easy because those who use it often give all this information and more and give it freely.

Online ads are another outbound sales and marketing method. Based on a user’s browsing history, websites can show ads more relevant to the user’s interests. And, just as in targeted email blasts, ads can be directed to users based on a number of factors.

Back in the old days of the internet, a site could get monetized (supported by third-party outside advertisers) by looking for advertisers who would pay for advertisements on their site. It was a painful way to get advertisers. Now, an advertiser can just subscribe to an ad service and their ads will be placed strategically on relevant websites. Website owners are paid for the ads that they allow on their sites. Most of the time, site owners do not really have much control over what is advertised on their site. The idea is that they want advertisers and the advertisers want places to advertise. Like bagels and cream cheese, it’s a perfect match.

But this matchmaking still only produces a shotgun approach to marketing… shoot enough ads out there and you are bound to hit something.

Now let’s shift our focus to inbound sales and marketing. In this method, the initiative is on the part of the customer. There are customers out there that are searching for your goods and services. So rather than advertise to everyone, make your ads or website appear only when someone is searching for them. While outbound marketing goes out searching for customers, inbound marketing makes your business easier to find by interested customers.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are the inbound marketing tools of choice. Some companies use one or the other; some use both.
When you search in Google for an item or service, Google goes through its massive databases and comes up with the search engine results pages (SERP). In the old days, we might have enjoyed the hunt of going 25-50 pages deep into the results. But now, we assume that what we are looking for is on the first few pages. And if not, then we assume that either we are searching incorrectly, or it is not available. Companies pay good money to appear on those first few pages. Of course, Page 1 is prime real estate, but it is a big internet out there and there is only one Page 1 per search. In some cases, the competition for Page 1 can be fierce.

There are many techniques that can be used to convince Google that your site belongs at the top of page 1. The easiest way, no surprise, is cash. You can pay Google to put you at the top of Page 1 for searches using specific keywords. For example, even if your site has nothing to do with tires or automotive anything, you can be the top-placed ad on Page 1 if you pay Google enough when someone searches for “all-weather radial tires.” This is called “pay-per-click” because as an advertiser, you pay when someone clicks on your ad and visits your site. If your ad appears in a SERP but the user does not click on it, then Google makes no money and your site does not get the customer to visit it. PPC fees will vary month to month based on the number of clicks your ad receives. A well-managed PPC campaign will monitor your clicks and not allow your site to be visible only at the beginning of the month; it will spread the anticipated clicks out over the entire month.

Some users do not trust sponsored listing in the Google search results. When they see the telltale “Ad” symbol next to a listing, they automatically go on to the first entry that is not an ad. If your inbound marketing campaign relies solely on PPC, then you are excluding a large segment of those searching for your services.

Enter SEO. Search engine optimization is a complicated process that tries to convince Google and other search engines that your site is the most relevant site for a specific set of keywords. SEO is a long-term proposition. While PPC can get you on Page 1 tomorrow, SEO might take 6-12 months to do the same. Those who claim they can do it in less time are not giving you the whole story. Remember, it’s a big world and a big internet out there. Unless you sell services that nobody else sells, chances are you will have competition. If yours is a national or global business, then you will be competing for customer on a global basis. If you are more of a local business, then your SEO efforts can be limited to your local geography.

For example, if you have a home cleaning business in New Jersey, there is no need to get on Page 1 in Google for someone in Colorado who is searching for someone to clean their house. In fact, you probably would not want to spend the money required to get on Page 1 in Colorado if all your customers are in NJ.

The big difference between inbound and outbound marketing is that with outbound, you are trying to find potential customers and with inbound, you are trying to make your business easy to find by potential customers. The technical details of each will be explored in later entries of this series.