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I think it’s important, every now and then, to take a step back and investigate the entire field of marketing, if for nothing else than to respect it for the immense, multi-headed creature that it is. It’s strange to think that online marketing, which is itself a niche of marketing, is an extremely wide field that can be divvied up into numerous other large-yet-manageable fields of expertise.

Consider, for a moment, what goes into a successful online marketing campaign. First, you must have a presence online, which itself means building a website at minimum and likely also developing presences on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Then, you must decide what mix of advertising and word-of-mouth marketing you want to engage in. Online, word-of-mouth is performed through a mix of social media engagement and search engine optimization, while advertising is performed through paid ads on various websites. Finally, you must tie your online presence to your real-world presence through branding efforts and real-world advertisement of your website. Nowadays, just about anybody who has a business card has their website on it somewhere!

I think that sometimes online marketers see the first step as a check in the box. Do you have a website? Okay, good, we can just go straight to promoting it. This is problematic, however, because it assumes that the website is going to be able to convert the visitors that it receives. An online presence is often essential to getting new customers, but if this presence doesn’t generate consumer interest, a company is going to lose big if they attempt to market it. To quote David Ogilvy, “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” In the online marketing world, though, the product is actually your online presence, not whatever it is you are selling!

Now, you could say that your website is a part of online marketing and therefore it is part of an overall marketing approach for your product that you sell, and be perfectly correct. However, what I am getting at here is specifically what the goal of online marketing is. The goal of online marketing is to drive people to a website in the hopes that those who go there buy something from those who operate the website. In this case, the website is therefore the product, because the action we desire when we build links and buy ad space on the web is to get people to look at the website. If our online marketing efforts increase the number of hits on a company website, then those efforts have succeeded.

Thus, a website that is pulling in tons of visits has an extremely successful online marketing program attached to it. If the company is struggling to stay afloat, or has very low numbers of people calling from off of the website, there is an entirely different problem: The website isn’t successfully conveying the value proposition to convert online interest into real-world action.

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