A Guide to Online Marketing – Part 1

This is part 1 in a series of online marketing tactics, with more to follow. If you’re a small business owner looking to expand into the online arena, then this series is for you.

This series has what some could say are controversial statements and are based off of my personal experience across various brands, campaigns, companies, industries, and projects, working with some of the best and brightest and some of the dumb and darkest social media experts around. Through cookie-cutter methods, half-assed plans, and poor followthrough, too many businesses look into online marketing in all the wrong places.

For this first segment, we’ll talk about basic online marketing principles, establish a base level of knowledge, and set up for future installments. Armed with the insight throughout the course, you’ll be ready to handle the onslaught of “Social Media Gurus” that overcrowd our inboxes – they’re not what you, your business, or the world needs. Instead, what the world needs now is love, sweet love (it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of).

Now that we’ve got the Burt Bacharach reference out of the way, let me clarify that having a real online marketer is a good thing, and a solid online presence is an absolute necessity in today’s world. It’s a matter of finding a real marketer, someone who cares about you, your brand, and your growth – the unicorn of the industry.

The Perfect Social Media Marketing Plan

I’ll start this series as bluntly as possible – when it comes to online marketing, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach that’s a guaranteed success. It’s such a shot in the dark that the exact same plan applied to a similar company has polar opposite results. This has generated a general mistrust of online marketing to a lot of small businesses and old school professionals, paving the way for the “Social Media Guru”, a teeth-grinding self-assigned title that promises expertise but instead further saturates the markets with mistakes, with bad experiences, and with mass misinformation.

In case you couldn’t tell already, I’m not a fan of that title for a variety of reasons, boiled down to a simple point: their goal is not to expand your business. Instead, their goal is to provide you with numbers that you believe lead to growth – a plan designed to fail.

To help demonstrate the difference, we’ll take a few example scenarios I’ve witnessed with my own eyes, including actual figures and real consequences – the only changed detail is the client name… But first, let’s get some terminology down.

Getting Hip with the Lingo

There are dozens of sites that give you exhaustive lists of every term you might hear from a marketer, and while they’re an interesting read, most of it is irrelevant for this series. Instead, let’s go over some of the most commonly used terms used to accurately measure online performance:

Typically synonymous with Google Analytics, this is any online marketer’s best friend. From tracking user behavior, drop-off points, and inbound traffic, it can provide you with all of the information you could possibly want to know, and knowing is half the battle!
A backlink is simply when an external site links to your site. While typically this is good (you may hear the term “backlink structure”, be careful with the $5-$20 scams on Fiverr that claim to give you a strong backlink setup – if you’re associated with junk, you might be marked as junk. Read further for more information here.
Click Through / Click Through Rate (CTR)
The percent of users who clicked through to your site after being presented with your marketing materials.
Conversion / Conversion Rate
A single conversion is when a user completes the desired action – be it signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, or watching a video. Therefore, the conversion rate is the percent of visitors that complete the action.
Funnels & Drop Offs
Technically two terms, they go hand in hand. A funnel is the desired course of action that you want a user to take. For example, your online store’s funnel could look something like this:
View Ad > Click through to Product Page > Adding Product to Cart > Purchase.
Drop Offs are weak parts of your funnel where users can bail on the process.
Google Panda, Google Penguin, and Google Hummingbird
Each of these were major changes to Google’s search algorithm to help better content become more visible, and essentially break ‘marketing hacks’ and tricks that allowed crap content to float to the top. In specific:

  • Google Panda was released on February 23, 2011. Its primary goal was to judge the quality of your site as a whole, putting less importance on keywords and phrases and the value of the content.
  • Google Penguin was released on April 24, 2012. It aggressively went after sites that abused backlink pyramid structures – paying to have links to their sites on hundreds of crappy sites to improve search rank. Backlinks are still a good thing, but they need to be real – this is where Fiverr gigs can kill you.
  • Google Hummingbird was released circa August 2013. It was a total overhaul of Google’s core algorithm.

All three initiatives are still live and running today – imagine Hummingbird being the central algorithm, with Panda and Penguin additional searches and filters.

There’s an excellent, full description that you can read about each algorithm here.

The amount of times your website was loaded in someone’s browser.
A single impression is when someone sees your advertisement (or more realistically, when your advertisement is displayed).
Page Rank
A Google-assigned number from 1 to 10 that ‘grades’ your site’s linkability and performance. I mention page rank because you’ll undoubtedly hear about it, but simply put, ignore it. There’s no practical or easy way to improving rank, and actively trying could have a negative impact, as having a “too perfect” site in Google’s algorithm can (and will) backfire. Just don’t worry about your Page Rank.
Return on Investment (ROI)
A typical business term – this is how much of a profit you made based off of how much was spent. If your marketing campaign cost $1000 to run and you made $1600 from that campaign, your ROI would be 60%. Conversely, if you only made $400 from that campaign, your ROI would be -60%, a loss.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A loaded, bloated term that doesn’t quite have a solid definition, but can best be described as improving the amount of traffic sent to your site from web searches.
Social Media Marketing
Yet another loaded term, this is any marketing done on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. We’ll get into this in future bits.
The users coming through your site.
That was a long list of definitions, but it’s done for now.

The Sample Setup

Of course, I have to practice what I preach. So, this series is actually going to follow me in the course of developing a little side hustle project I’ve been sitting on since I was in seventh grade – creating an online store where I can sell my own hand-made movie, tv, game, and nerd props and replicas. I’ll elaborate more on the business in the next article of the series, but here’s a little teaser for you Fallout fans:

Nuka-Cola Caps

The best beverage this side of the wasteland.



Don’t think you’re off the hook! We’re in this together. As I continue writing, it’s up to you to get a few essentials hooked up to your website and make sure it’s ready to go.

  1. Get a website to play with. If you have an existing shop then you can make edits to the live version, but it’s always good to have a playground site where it’s okay to break things and still keep your blood pressure under control.
  2. If you don’t have an existing business model, think of one. Retail and physical sales will be the most beneficial, but whatever your offer is it can work.
  3. Hook up Google Analytics and play around with it. I have no plans on going into “How to read your Analytics Results”, but we will be referencing them often – Google offers great, free online resources for you to use.
  4. Fill out the information below. By subscribing to my newsletter, you’ll be notified the instant a new article in the series goes up – in fact, it’ll head straight to your inbox. You can opt out any time.

That’s all for now folks, but stay tuned, and be sure to sign up for the newsletter so we can get into the good stuff soon!

Have any questions or comments about this article, or ways you think it can be improved?
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