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In today’s competitive business landscape, you need effective ways to target your audience and maximize sales. Enter online marketing, a powerful way to reach potential customers and promote your brand. 

We’ll explore the fundamentals of online marketing and its benefits, challenges and best practices. 

Online marketing: The basics

Online marketing (also called internet marketing, digital marketing or electronic marketing) involves the use of web-based mediums to promote a brand and its products or services to potential customers. These mediums include social media, email, websites and search engines.

So, why does online marketing matter, and why should your business take it seriously?

There are over 5.18 billion active internet users worldwide, which accounts for almost 65% of the global population. Moreover, the average internet user spends about six and a half hours online daily.

Some of these people could be your ideal customers. And reaching and engaging even a small fraction of them through online marketing could transform your business. 

How online marketing differs from traditional marketing

Online marketing vs traditional marketing

The biggest difference between online and traditional marketing lies in the mediums employed. Traditional marketing relies on offline, historical mediums (like radio, television, billboards, magazines and newspapers) to promote products and services. 

In contrast, online marketing uses web-based channels (like social media, websites, search engines and email).

Despite their differences, online and traditional marketing share the same objectives — to drive sales and boost revenue. 

Types of online marketing

Types of online marketing

Here are some of the most common types of online marketing and how they work:

Social media marketing

Social media marketing involves creating or publishing content and engaging in discussions on social media to create brand awareness, drive traffic and generate leads.

With almost 60% of the world’s population active on social media channels, using these platforms to market your brand can yield significant benefits.

While there are myriad social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are some of the most popular, making them perfect for internet marketing.  

Search engine optimization (SEO )

SEO aims to increase website traffic through organic search engine results. It involves improving your website or online content to enhance its visibility for relevant searches.

For example, say you have an eCommerce store that sells running shoes. The goal of SEO would be for search engines to display your webpage among the top results when users search for terms like “where to buy running shoes,” “running shoe prices” or “best running shoes.” 

The greater the visibility of your website in search results, the more exposure your business will get.

Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing

PPC marketing is a type of search engine marketing (SEM) you can use to drive traffic to your website.

Here, you publish an ad on search engines (like Google or Microsoft Bing) and pay a fee every time a user clicks on the ad. These ads usually appear at the top of search results pages (SERPs) for more visibility.

The cost per click (CPC) is typically determined using a flat-rate model or a bid-based process. Currently, the average CPC on Google Ads is between $1 and $2. Microsoft Advertising charges an average CPC of $0.84.

Example of PPC marketing on Google Search

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based type of marketing strategy. You reward affiliates for each customer, referral or sale brought in through their marketing efforts. 

Affiliates can be individuals or other businesses that promote your products or services through various digital channels, including social media, blogs or even official affiliate websites.

Through affiliate marketing, you can tap into niche markets and segments you might not reach through traditional or even other online channels.

Influencer marketing

Example of influencer marketing on Instagram

An influencer is a digital creator with a large and active audience on social media whose voice or opinion is valued or trusted by this audience. Influencer marketing involves collaborating with such figures to leverage their influence and popularity. 

You can do this in several ways: 

  • Product reviews: Paying an influencer to review your product or share a demonstration on social media.
  • Sponsored posts: Paying an influencer to publish posts that promote your offerings.
  • Competitions and giveaways: Hosting a competition or giveaway that rewards an influencer’s followers for taking specific actions, such as sharing a post or following your brand.
  • Influencer takeover: Having an influencer temporarily take over your social media accounts and share content on your behalf.

Email marketing

Email marketing provides a low-cost and direct means of establishing and nurturing customer relationships via personalized, targeted communication. It can help you build brand awareness, promote your products or services, drive web traffic and create and nurture leads. 

You can send several types of marketing emails:

  • Promotional emails: Encourage recipients to purchase a specific product or service or take advantage of a special offer. 
  • Welcome emails: Introduce new customers or subscribers to your brand and offerings.
  • Newsletter emails: Provide regular updates, news and info about your business.
  • Abandoned cart emails: Encourage the recipient to complete a transaction.
  • Post-purchase or follow-up emails: Thank customers for their purchase and try to generate repeat business and encourage loyalty. 

Content marketing

Content marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves creating valuable, informative and captivating content. Popular formats include blog posts, videos, podcasts, white papers, case studies, webinars and infographics.

Rather than pushing direct sales pitches, content marketing aims to provide prospects and customers with beneficial insights and engaging material. The goal is to cultivate trust and establish credibility among a devoted following who’ll eventually take a desired action, like making a purchase.

Native advertising

Example of native advertising on Facebook.

Native advertising is marketing in disguise. It involves creating ads that blend into the surrounding content and may not appear as ads at first glance. They match the style and format of organic content, making them less disruptive.

Like other forms of online marketing, native advertising is more targeted and intentional. For example, it will consider a customer’s profile, browsing behavior and habits and only show ads that are relevant to them. 

Sponsored posts on Instagram and Facebook are perfect examples of native advertising.

Benefits of online marketing

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Global reach
  • Audience targeting
  • Measurable results
  • Personalization
  • Flexibility
  • Faster and more convenient
  • Better customer engagement
  • High-quality leads


Online marketing is more affordable than traditional marketing. This cost-effectiveness levels the playing field for all businesses regardless of size or marketing budget. 

What’s more, some forms of online marketing, such as PPC and affiliate marketing, let you set your marketing budget and only pay for desired actions, such as clicks and conversions. This translates to a higher return on investment (ROI).

Global reach

Online marketing allows you to transcend geographical boundaries. With the internet connecting people worldwide, these strategies can help you find global markets, boosting your revenue potential.

Audience targeting

Online marketing enables you to segment your audience based on interests, demographics and behaviors. For example, you can tailor your marketing campaigns to specific audiences based on gender, age, location and income. 

Using data analytics and user profiling, you can create a campaign that only targets your ideal customers, ultimately increasing your conversion rate

Measurable results

Online marketing provides data analytics tools to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. For example, if you’re running a marketing campaign on social media, you can track the exact number of people who’ve made a purchase as a direct result of your campaign. 

By measuring campaign performance accurately, you can make data-driven decisions, optimize your marketing strategies and maximize your ROI. 


Another great benefit is that you can personalize your online marketing efforts. For instance, you can deliver personalized content and recommendations to each customer based on data you’ve collected, such as browsing history, past purchases and demographics. 

If done right, personalization can boost engagement, conversions and brand loyalty. 


Online marketing is highly flexible and adaptable. You can quickly respond to changes in customer needs and market trends. You can also track campaign performance and refine your marketing approaches based on real-time data, such as impressions and conversion rates. 

This flexibility can help you capitalize on emerging opportunities and stay ahead of the competition.

Faster and more convenient conversions

Most online marketing tools allow customers to take immediate action after they view your message. For example, you can insert a link in a blog post or email that will take clients to an order page.

Better customer engagement

Online marketing channels like social media and email provide a direct line of communication between businesses and customers. This allows for personalized, one-on-one interactions. 

For example, you can respond quickly to clients’ feedback, concerns or inquiries, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

High-quality leads

Online marketing strategies like SEO and PPC help you attract high-quality leads. For example, targeted keywords ensure your marketing efforts only reach individuals actively searching for your products or services. This results in a higher likelihood of conversion.

Challenges of online marketing 

While online marketing has many benefits, there are also several challenges you must be aware of before investing in it.


Planning and implementing an effective online marketing campaign can be time-consuming. For example, defining your target audience and creating relevant marketing content can take a lot of effort. 

This time commitment could divert your attention from other important tasks.

Skill requirements 

Certain types of online marketing require special knowledge and skills. For instance, SEO and PPC marketing demand digital marketing expertise and continuous learning. 

You might struggle to achieve optimal results if you don’t have the skills or budget to outsource these tasks.

High competition

Online advertising allows businesses to reach global audiences. While this can be a good thing, it also presents a challenge. In addition to local companies, you have to compete with global firms that have access to your local market, thanks to the internet.

Feedback visibility 

The open nature of the internet means any feedback about your business — both positive and negative — is visible to everyone. To meet this challenge, try to exceed customer expectations. 

And if you do encounter negative feedback, addressing it carefully can show you care about your customers. 

Privacy issues

The collection and use of customer data to inform your marketing campaigns may violate privacy laws, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). 

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the relevant laws in your sales area to avoid legal problems.

Best practices for online marketing success

Best practices for online marketing success.

      The following practices can help ensure your online marketing campaigns are successful.

      Know your audience

      Before launching an online marketing campaign, take time to know and understand your audience.

      You can gain insight into their needs, behaviors and preferences by analyzing available data or doing market research yourself (or outsourcing it from a digital marketing professional). This knowledge will help you tailor your digital marketing efforts to the right audience.

      Focus on providing value

      Consumers are bombarded with countless marketing messages every day. Separate yourself from the noise and provide real value to your audience. In other words, your marketing content must address your audience’s pain points.

      Maintain consistency with your brand values

      Ensure your online marketing campaigns align with your overall brand values. This consistency will foster trust and recognition among your existing and potential customers.

      The digital landscape is dynamic, with new marketing trends and technologies emerging regularly. Join industry forums, attend webinars and conferences, and follow relevant blogs and influencers to stay in the loop.

      Final thoughts: What is online marketing, and why does it matter?

      An effective online marketing strategy is crucial to the success of any business in today’s fast-paced, internet-driven world.

      By harnessing the power of web-based tools — such as websites, emails, search engines and social media — you can target and reach global audiences and convert them into customers at low costs.

      If you need help developing and implementing a winning online marketing strategy to boost customer engagement and drive sales, request a consultation with Bluehost’s digital marketing professionals today.

      FAQs about online marketing

        Is it easy to learn online marketing?

        Learning online marketing isn’t necessarily hard but requires time, effort and dedication. You can quickly learn some aspects, like setting up social media accounts and running basic ad campaigns. Others, like data analytics and keyword research, need more time and continuous learning.

        But with abundant free online resources, business owners and entrepreneurs can easily acquire the skills and knowledge to succeed in this discipline.

        Who can do online marketing?

        Any firm can use online marketing to promote itself to target audiences.

        These tactics could be particularly beneficial for small and medium businesses with limited marketing budgets that want to reach broader audiences. Startups can also use online marketing to establish their brand presence and fast-track market share acquisition.

        Which social media platform is best for online marketing?

        The best social media platform for online marketing depends on your target audience, niche and marketing goals.

        Facebook has the highest number of users and most extensive reach. Instagram can be perfect for visually driven industries like fashion, beauty and travel.

        LinkedIn could be ideal if your target audience consists of professionals. With its fast-paced nature, Twitter is suitable for engaging with prospects on trending topics.

        • Minal Agarwal

          Minal is the Director of Brand Marketing at Bluehost. With over 15 years of business experience in the technology industry, she strives to create solutions and content that fulfill a customer's needs. She is a dog mom and a stickler for calendaring.

          Masters in Marketing Management
          Previous Experience
          Strategic Partnerships, Customer Success, Events and Community
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