What began largely as an information and research platform has evolved rapidly to an engine of commerce, though it is still an important information source. Your customers are no longer restricted by opening hours and are now able sit down at their convenience at the end of their work day or on their lunch-break, to learn more about and purchase your products and services. Given this incredible reach, we’ve put our heads together to write this article about how marketing on the web works.

Chances are your customers will use the Internet to do some initial research on a new product regardless of how they eventually choose to buy the product. High street shops are learning that many of their consumers will research a product online before travelling to their nearest branch, if at all, and even then, they will probably be more inclined to look for a leading retailer that allows online purchases.

In today’s information age, customers are often more hungry for information about a product and will not make a decision until they feel they have gathered all pertinent information so it is important to be open and make information easily available to customers as information is no longer something that is “nice to have”- it is expected. This is a stark reversal to how we used to live in a world of 30-second commercials that only provided information that companies wanted their audience to know, consumers now demand more, and they will always find the information they need. The trick is to use your customer’s need for information as part of your online marketing strategy.

The problem many companies face making marketing on the web work is that they don’t perceive sales, marketing, media and SEO as aspects of one all-encompassing strategic process, they’ll generally try to address these various tactics as separate entities and as a result they’re often left with a disjointed mess that leads a lot of companies to question the validity of online marketing in general.

Many businesses see content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization as three different things – as if each is a tactic alone is a recipe for success while the best way to practice effective online marketing is to treat social media and search engine results as aspects of a comprehensive, integrated strategy that centers on compelling content.

In other words, in a socially-driven online world, content, social media, and SEO are the three primary aspects of the online marketing process and though content has become a necessity, it is still only a part of a three-pronged content marketing process.

Firstly, content serves as the foundation for your online marketing strategy. Your initial goal should be to create valuable information uniquely tailored for your target audience that addresses both the problems and desires that this audience expresses. It should alleviate their fears, and encourage their desires but above all else, it must inspire and challenge them to transform their business from its current state to the potential new experience that your solution provides.

Content marketers have been successfully doing this for over a century and because they’re experts at persuading people to want what they’re selling they realise that this persuasive content is what will be shared by the right people on social media.

Luckily, or perhaps inevitably, that’s what social networks revolve around; people want to share content and sharing on social media provides signals to Google about which content is high quality; but more than that, social media provides networked, word-of-mouth publicity.

If you create content that your target audience loves your audience will prove their love by sharing your content on social networks and linking to it to their own blogs and websites. Google understands that you’ve created something that users might want to find when searching and picks up on these signals.

Still, no matter how much people love your content and provide signals to indicate as such, it’s up to you to continually tweak your content so that Google can correctly interpret which users might want to find that content when searching.

The biggest benefit of using content as a marketing tool is that you build an audience rather than constantly having to wrestle with conventional online lead generation, that way your audience puts your business into an entirely different space within your industry; you become a source of information as well as provider of goods or services. In this way you will no longer be buying access to an audience from the media because as you build and maintain an increasingly powerful and valuable website that produces unique and compelling content, your company then becomes the media.

Ultimately this is only skimming the service but in our experience this is a solid foundation for properly understanding how marketing on the web works.