With its growing popularity, more businesses are creating content on a business blog or website, satisfied to be executing a modern day Internet marketing program. They're not.  Creating content online to ultimately drive leads and business outcomes is, more importantly, the critical fuel for powering every single piece of the Internet marketing engine.  So while it's not Internet marketing, it's content marketing; the lynchpin foundation for all well constructed web marketing campaigns.

Internet marketing is confusing to most small businesses because they are primarily experts in their own businesses and industries, and lastly in getting themselves discovered on the web.  It’s not a very difficult concept to master if someone is willing to carve out enough time to develop general web expertise, oversee program execution, and optimize the activity.  There are lots of good companies selling subscription and software solutions in lead management, visitor tracking, conversion optimization, analytic insight, site construction, and more. Without enough prospects (web traffic) feeding into these web campaign tools, most businesses lose interest and abandon their commitments to integrated Internet marketing before any meaningful results are produced.

Internet Marketing Guidelines
The best way to insure the right Internet marketing commitment is to understand the general process guidelines from the outset.

Attract Proprietary Traffic: A business needs a strategy for creating enough of the right content so prospects using related keywords in Google searches can predictably and regularly discover the company in organic search returns, or SERPs. Driving consumers to a blog or website by discovering content organically is the best kind of traffic.  It’s proprietary traffic. It's the opposite of advertising on another site or paying for a click on a search engine that uses their own content to aggregate audiences. Having consumers come to your site because of your content offers the highest business conversion opportunity.

Measure Visitor Conversion Patterns: If specific Google searches returning a business' unique content is the "virtual fueling station" for the campaign, then the next step is making sure web visitors are directed and well cared for upon arrival.  Are visitors directed to pages on blogs and websites that align with their information need and the company's lead conversion objective?  Are offers aligned with visitors needs? Are there groups of visitors that have a higher propensity to convert to leads than others?  Are certain visitor paths providing a combination that produces higher lead conversion?  These are all tracking requirements and critical questions for effective business Internet marketing.

Optimize: Over time, businesses learn that certain pages and topics are most popular, and web visitors generated through them can offer the highest rate of lead conversion.  Soon it becomes obvious that different visitor navigation paths through a website/blog, all the way to inquiry stage, create varying degrees of lead quality.  It's time to fine tune offers, traffic paths, site construction, follow up, and lead nurturing strategies.

Content, Internet, and Physical Marketing

The entire process is logical. It's not too different than traditional ways of thinking about visitor paths through the front doors and around physical showrooms or stores.  First and foremost, the front door has to be swinging open with regularity. Businesses are doomed to failure without the right physical prospect traffic, no matter how well the showroom, product mix, and sales process is designed. Creating customer flow around logical product styles and categories inside physical showrooms and retail stores to trigger or maximize purchase behavior is second nature. Providing the right product knowledge, offer, sales expertise, and follow up is also a reflexive physical business process.  Finally, resetting aisles, displays, and showroom vignettes to optimize purchase is simply the final offline equivalent to the optimization of an Internet marketing campaign.

Publishing content to get the right prospects to walk through the front door of a website is the online sibling to offline advertising, signage, promotional, word of mouth, and image marketing. Together, they are the lifeblood of both offline and online marketing campaigns. While they offer foundation, they ought not masquerade as the entire marketing process.  Since creating regular web content on a blog is the best way to drive lots of high conversion traffic to business' web sites, it’s easy to understand why companies are getting more focused on using content and social marketing to get discovered and drive leads.  Mistakes start when businesses confuse content marketing with Internet marketing, instead of as the program's starting point and foundation.

Chris Vaughn is the Content Marketing Director for DigitalSherpa, the world's largest content marketing provider for small businesses. With the recent acquisition of SocialTract, DigitalSherpa is thrilled to welcome the HVAC community in to our client family. Learn more about content marketing and check out our free e-books and whitepapers at http://digitalsherpa.com. Connect with Chris and the DigitalSherpa team on Facebook and Twitter or e-mail Chris directly at cvaughn@digitalsherpa.com.