Last Updated: December 1, 2020

The Internet has fundamentally changed nearly every aspect of our lives. From how we interact with friends, family, coworkers, and businesses, a technology that was in its infancy just 20 years ago is now considered indispensable to many people.

Companies understand the value that the Internet offers to them, providing interactive opportunities to connect with current customers and attract new consumers. As the Internet evolves, businesses will continue to refine their online marketing efforts, reaching a greater number of potential buyers than before.

What is web marketing?

Web marketing refers to a broad category of advertising that takes many different forms, but generally involves any marketing activity conducted online.

Marketers have shifted their efforts online because it tends to be significantly less expensive. Many online advertising spaces are free to use. Companies can upload videos to Youtube or start a blog for no cost at all. Other outlets like official websites or paid search marketing cost a fraction of what a major television advertising campaign would.

The web also presents exciting new opportunities for companies to profile their customers. The interactive space of the Internet simplifies a company’s ability to track, store, and analyze data about a customer’s demographics, personal preferences, and online behavior. This data allows the advertiser to provide a more personalized and relevant ad experience for the customer. (See also Behavioral Marketing)

Types of web marketing

  • Display Advertising – The use of banner ads and other graphical advertisements to market products online.
  • Search Engine Marketing – Using search engines to help connect users with the products and services they are most interested in. Companies can pay to receive preferential ranking in a list of search results.
  • Search Engine Optimization – A free and organic way for companies to improve their visibility on search engines.
  • Social Media Marketing – Using sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers.
  • Email Marketing – Communicating with customers through the use of carefully designed emails.
  • Referral Marketing – Using internet channels to encourage consumers to recommend products to their friends and families.
  • Affiliate Marketing – Working with other businesses to make it easier for consumers to shop for products online.
  • Inbound Marketing – Boosting the value of a company’s web presence by adding unique content like blogs, games, and tutorial videos.
  • Video Marketing – Using web videos for promotional purposes.

Organic Search

Companies invest a significant percentage of their marketing budgets trying to improve their ranking in search results. In some cases, they will pay to improve their ranking. In other cases, they will rework the content on their site to get a better ranking. The chart below, based on data from a MarketingSherpa survey, shows how important it is for a company’s website to receive a high ranking. As much as 60% of web traffic goes to the first three sites listed on the results page. Contrast this with the less than 2% of users who click on sponsored ads and the need for a positive ranking becomes clear.

Who implements web marketing campaigns?

Most businesses today have developed some kind of online presence. Free templates make it simple to develop a professional looking website, and social networking profiles are free and are accessible to millions.

Companies that sell products on a national or international level have the most to gain from web marketing. Imagine a local auto body shop. They have no incentive to try and connect with customers on the other side of the country. A simple website with their hours of operation and customer testimonials may be all the web presence they need (See also Consumer-Generated Marketing). However, major retailers within the global market must use web marketing aggressively. The easiest way to connect with a scattered customer base in a cost effective manner is to engage with users on the Internet.

Innovative Examples of Web Marketing

  • Absolut – The liquor maker designed two music making robots and posted an interface on their website that allowed users to control the robots. The site received hundreds of thousands of hits over the duration of the campaign.
  • Sony – Sony created an interface which allowed visitors to their website to control the lighting in an office building. Video recorded the building as the color and pattern of the lights changed. The promotion was tied into ads for a new Sony TV and generated record traffic for the site.
  • Axe – The men’s grooming company began offering wake up calls through their website. The service was both helpful and an effective way to create a brand image.
  • Sixt – The German car rental company came up with an innovative use for Google ads; the small, two line ads that appear along with search results. Rather than use text, they used characters to create little pictures of cars.
  • Burger King – The fast food chain offered users a free burger if they would send in the email addresses of ten friends.
  • John Deere – The company made a series of videos in which their iconic tractor brand was redesigned. The videos were watched hundreds of thousands of times.

How is a web marketing plan developed?

Web marketing combines a wide range of marketing strategies, requiring traditional marketing comprehension and an understanding of emerging technologies. Marketers must understand the strengths and weaknesses of various online marketing efforts as they develop their marketing strategy, analyzing these aspects by creating a marketing plan.

The marketer must understand what they are selling and who their target customer is. Different advertising strategies appeal to different segments of the population. Social media, for instance, is widely used by young people, while older Internet users are more dependent on email. An extensive analysis of market research reveals telling information about what customers want and where they gather.

Once the company has determined their target audienace and general strategy, they should start developing their online presence. This can involve everything from producing videos to creating entire websites. The technological infrastructure behind web marketing is just as important as its message and aesthetic. Companies must ensure that their marketing messages are accessible to everyone regardless of the technology they are using.

After the ads appear online, the company tracks how big of an impression they are making. Web marketing makes it easy for companies to track how successful their websites are. Every time a banner ad is clicked or a video is watched, that information is sent to the marketer. If the goals of the website are met, the campaign can be considered a success. If the target numbers are falling short, the company will need to refine their advertising strategy.

Consider the example of Zoka coffee, a small, Pacific Northwest chain. They had a Facebook profile but very few followers. In order to increase the impact of their social media efforts, they created a new eye-catching profile picture and page design. Zoka coffee then identified trend setters in the world of coffee, and started targeting them with Twitter and Facebook posts to spread the word about their brand. The company also used online contests and promotions to create incentives for followers, eventually leading to an 800% increase in traffic. (See also Facebook Marketing)

Careers in web marketing

Social Media Marketing Manager

What do they do?

Average Salaries of Web Marketers

  • Social Media Marketing Manager
    entry level – $50,000-$70,000
    after 10 years – $80,000-$120,000
  • Digital Marketer
    entry level – $40,000-$70,000
    after 10 years – $100,000-$170,000
  • SEO Specialist
    entry level – $30,000-$50,000
    after 10 years – $70,000-$110,000


Social media marketing managers plan and supervise the way that companies use social media. They will direct marketing campaigns using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social networking tools. Their job will be to maximize the potential of current technologies while scouting for the promising new technologies of the future.

Education and Skills

Most social media marketing managers have a degree in marketing with a specific focus on digital and new media marketing. They will need to understand the unique conversation that takes place over social media and tailor their marketing strategies accordingly. Extensive personal experience using social media is mandatory.

Digital Marketer

What do they do?

Digital marketer is a catch all term that refers to any advertiser who directs their focus online. They will be responsible for everything from sending Tweets, to designing banner ads, and driving traffic towards online videos. These experienced web marketers use any and all online tools to promote a company’s message.

Education and Skills

Digital marketers will need to have a bachelor’s degree in marketing. More experienced professionals often have advanced degrees in specialized areas of web marketing. Anyone working in this field will need to be an expert in both the technology and the culture of the web.

SEO Specialist

What do they do?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO specialists maximize the chance that a company’s products and services will be found by users doing internet searches. They understand the algorithms that guide search results and how to manipulate them to a company’s advantage. Their duties require both creative and technical proficiency.

Education and Skills

SEO specialists aren’t required to have degrees in marketing, but they can be very helpful. Most of their responsibilities involve raising awareness just like any traditional marketer. Some professionals enter the field after receiving degrees in English or communications. SEO specialists must understand the unique and ever changing nature of online search engines.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Most of the dominant strategies used in web marketing were only created in the last decade. Online advertising has been in an almost constant state of change and evolution. Carrying out a successful web marketing campaign depends on marketers who can adapt and grow with the Internet. The most equipped marketers will have a bachelor’s degree in marketing from a four-year college.

As more and more advertising has shifted online, marketing departments have evolved their curriculum to reflect all the newest trends. A focus on digital and new media marketing will be standard as part of any marketing program. Students will learn both the fundamentals of advertising and their application for new forms of marketing. This kind of balanced marketer is exactly what today’s companies are looking for. A marketing degree will give students the foundation and the vision that they need to make a real impression online.