Online Marketing Dictionary

Online Marketing


The Semantics of Online Marketing.

The Online Marketing Dictionary

The Semantics of Online Marketing

When it comes to marketing, I believe there should be a process and procedure for everything. This is true whether speaking about traditional or online marketing. When it comes to definitions, especially marketing definitions, I like when words are organized into meaningful phrases. I often resist new wording when I consider those words to be used incorrectly. Online marketing is a phrase that is often used incorrectly by many. This isn't the only category I find fault with. I feel the same about digital marketing as well, as you will soon discover.

Sometime early in my career, someone referred to what I was doing as "digital marketing." I had heard this one other time when someone was impressed how I had achieved so much on the world wide web in such a short amount of time. That person said how good I was at "digital marketing." Since I was also a media professional, doing some work in radio, and in the studio, I did not feel comfortable using the term "digital" to refer to a concept. In those day (this was around 1998), "digital" referred to the format in which media was produced. So, if a recording was digital, instead of analog, it was "digital recording." Digital media was in reference to any media produced and distributed digitally.

I resisted such labels; I was just a "marketing guy." When I marketed things online, I referred to that as "online marketing." or "internet marketing." Personally, I preferred using online marketing over internet marketing simply because it sounded better. It seemed simple enough... I hadn't ever heard others using "online marketing," (though I am sure there were others... there had to be). But I considered it online marketing / internet marketing. As I said, to me it was simple. You had traditional marketing, which was everything regarding marketing a business, brochures, flyers, concepts, ideas, whatever, offline. Then you had online marketing, which was web design, advertising, web logs, forums, IRC, and any other place online in which you promoted a business, product, service, or even an idea... It was online marketing.

The funny thing is, in terms of the general public, websites were not considered a part of marketing in the 90’s… Maybe not even until the late 90’s. By 1998, more people started to catch on. In the early days however, when I discussed websites as a marketing function, some people acted like that was crazy, and that websites were part of the IT department. I used to offer consulting to businesses and the first thing I would get pushback on was when I would suggest that their website should be run by their marketing department. At several companies that I worked with, it was the engineers and IT departments that controlled the company message online. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

On all my early websites, I presented marketing something online as, "online marketing." This is also how Make it Active's website was done in the mid to late 2000's. I liked everything neat and clean. Online marketing was everything from web design, SEO, SEM, etc. Marketing was tradeshow coordination, lead generation, etc. On a side note, I could go off on a tangent about tradeshow vs trade show, but perhaps I’ll save that for another post... Design was graphic design and collateral design. I liked being clear by breaking things down into their correct category. See for yourself, and check out our 2008 version of our website.

Eventually, the semantics of online marketing started changing. I have rarely ever seen the term used very often, even back in the later part of the 2000's. However, when it was, it started being used more to describe SEM (search engine marketing). SEM was an accurate description, because you were marketing your website to search engines. That makes sense. But search engine marketing was used interchangeably with online marketing, and that where I started seem these terms almost dumbed down; mainly by people who were not marketers, but were starting their career in marketing solely online. As such, they made up their own terminology, or used what was the popular phrase at the time. At least, that's what I think, but who knows... It may have been some IT professor.

Now, after all these years, SEM and online marketing are still used interchangeably, and digital marketing has become the all encompassing term to describe the entire field of what I call online marketing. If I had it my way, the term "digital marketing" would not be used at all, but, unfortunately, it is. Because SEO is so important, I have to use the phrases in which people are searching for our services, so that includes the popular, albeit incorrect usage of "digital marketing." Since various digital media is used when it comes to marketing, and it's not simply on the internet, I could see some uses for the term digital marketing (such as a billboard), but wouldn't that simply be digital advertising? Anyway, I could go around in circles on this...

Who would have ever thought you would get a history lesson and a lecture about the ills of online marketing terminology from some marketing guy?

TL;DR: Here's how I see the definitions for the following terms:

Online Marketing Dictionary: The Definitions

  • Marketing: Using a process, including concepts, to promote a product, service, or idea to the general public.
  • Digital Marketing: A useless term used to describe everything being defined below. I don't believe the term is at all useful.
  • Online Marketing: The same as marketing, but done online.
  • Website Design: The creation of online marketing pages to promote a product, service, or idea. Also called "web design" or "website development;" which are, for the most part, the same thing.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The practice of optimizing your website for search engines. On a side note; this has led to many bad practices (and bad “digital marketing” agencies). SEO itself is a positive thing if done correctly, but many in the industry use it negatively. Think about all the backlink schemes, and keyword stuffing (putting a bunch of keywords at the bottom of your website in a list). I was so sickened to see so many companies do that, especially between 2003-2014. It looked tacky, and unprofessional, but they listened to the advice of somebody who had no idea what they were doing. Some even do it today, or use even worse tactics to get ahead. When it comes to marketing, ALL marketing should be consumer-driven; so, you should always optimize your websites for consumers first. Real SEO professionals know the difference between these spammy practices, and actual optimization. This is why you want a marketing expert doing your SEO, and not someone who doesn't understand marketing. I don't mean to get off topic here, and it's not done in order to sell our SEO services. I'm genuinely frustrated by the state of SEO right now. Just make sure you find an SEO company that knows what they're doing.
  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing): Marketing your website on search engines through digital advertising.
Ok, seems simple enough. If you disagree, or would like to add a comment, feel free to use the form below.


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