Online marketing

Since its advent during the mid-1990’s, online marketing has become a vital part of the overall marketing strategies of most major American companies. The growth of online marketing has overtaken that of traditional marketing. Tens of billions of dollars are spent annually on online marketing.

Advertising on the Internet;marketingInternet started simply with companies developing Web sites and posting advertising (webvertising) in the form of banner advertisements on other Web sites. This leveraged two of the most important advantages of online marketing: the inexpensive nature of placing advertisements on the Internet compared with the cost of traditional media advertisements and the ability to reach a global market instantly.Marketing;online

Online marketing differs from online advertising in that it also includes design, development, and sales as well as incorporating the electronic management of customer data and customer relationships. It grew naturally out of a combination of traditional marketing and online advertising when businesses started to take advantage of many aspects of the Internet including e-mail, blogs, and cookies (a small parcel of text placed on a machine by a Web server). Strategies using these technologies were combined and used to focus a business’s effort on specific target markets.


The benefits of online marketing over traditional marketing are varied and numerous. One of the largest benefits is the ability to provide a one-on-one approach to marketing because advertisements can be targeted to specific behaviors or interests rather than reaching out to a broad demographic, as traditional marketing does. Online marketing can do this more easily because it is much simpler to keep track of user activity through the use of cookies and through the ease of accessing statistics from Web servers. On the average, thousands of pieces of data are collected monthly about each user as the person visits Web sites. Most Web servers have built-in software that can analyze the stored data so that nearly all aspects of a marketing campaign can be measured quickly. The effectiveness of a campaign can be checked constantly, and the campaign can be altered on the fly to take advantage of indicated trends. Traditional marketing results take months to collect and analyze.

Online marketing has become ubiquitous as technology continues to spread, a phenomenon that further increases its effectiveness. It can include other wireless media such as cell phones and smart phones. Most companies now include their Web site on the products that they sell, and retailers commonly place their Web site information on receipts and in-store literature.


Web 2.0 technologies have brought an even more personal approach to online marketing. Companies can be found on social networking sites and added as a “friend.” Customers can be constantly provided information on products in which they are interested by reading a company’s blog or subscribing to an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed that supplies them with information about a company or new product as soon as it is released.

Search engine marketing (SEM) has allowed companies to reach their target audience much more quickly than before. Billions of dollars are spent annually on SEM, and it is growing faster than traditional marketing and other online strategies. Once the target audience is identified, experts use a variety of techniques to get their company listed toward the top of Web searches so that consumers looking for a specific product are directed to their company. Advertisements on Web sites can also be targeted to a specific user who is browsing the site by accessing the user’s browsing history.

Online marketing is also much more fluid than traditional marketing. The costs associated with traditional advertising on radio and television and in print do not allow for an easy change in the marketing campaign, so it is usually run until the cost for the campaign is recouped. Online marketing allows companies to test market much more effectively, and changes to the campaign can be made at little or no cost. Unlike print advertisements, online media have no permanence and allow for fast changes in corporate image and sweeping strategy changes because the Web site code is very easy to alter.

There are some drawbacks that companies must be aware of when implementing an online marketing strategy. E-mail campaigns can be seen as spam, so most companies offer consumers the chance to opt out, or to no longer receive the company’s e-mails. There are also concerns about privacy. Many consumers have an aversion to their browsing habits being tracked and analyzed online. The issues associated with online marketing are regulated in part, and many watchdog groups make sure abuses do not go unnoticed. Those with little access to technology are left out of many campaigns unless there is an intensive effort to coordinate an online campaign with an offline marketing effort.

Tens of billions of dollars are spent every year by businesses of all sizes on online marketing. This medium is growing much faster than marketing in other media by a large percentage and has transformed some industries by taking them almost wholly online, from marketing to product distribution. Online marketing may become necessary for a company to remain competitive.

Further Reading

  • Chaffey, Dave. Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation, and Practice. 3d ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2006. A comprehensive guide to how organizations can use the Internet to support their marketing activities.
  • Hanson, Ward A., and Kirthi Kalyanam. Internet Marketing and E-Commerce. Mason, Ohio: Thomson/South-Western, 2007. Covers marketing strategies, technologies, and practices as well as application of individual online behaviors.
  • Meyerson, Mitch, and Mary Eule Scarborough. Mastering Online Marketing. Irvine, Calif.: Entrepreneur Press, 2008. A practical guide to online marketing covering the best practices and the pitfalls to be avoided.
  • Roberts, Mary Lou. Internet Marketing: Integrating Online and Offline Strategies. Boston, Mass.: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2003. Uses extant marketing theory and applies it to the field of online marketing so that marketers can successfully use the Internet for marketing.
  • Scott, David Meerman. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing, and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Stresses the use of some of the more advanced technologies that can be used in the field of online marketing with real-world examples.

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