In 1995, the Internet finally opened up to commercial content: the World Wide Web ecosystem really began to develop and expand. Since then we have witnessed with amazement the profound impact that the Web has had at all levels. This impact, like all emerging technologies, has not been linear, but has experienced different speeds of development. Some companies immediately embarked on the creation of new business models, taking advantage of the benefits offered by the Web, while others, more traditional, resisted the Internet earthquake and saw the new medium as a threat to their dominant status in the market. Today, no economic sector escapes the influence of this network of networks that was born from the accumulation of different technologies, and the success or failure of an increasing number of companies depends increasingly on the mastery of the new medium.

Indeed, the World Wide Web ecosystem – a spider’s web as wide as the world – is, like many other great advances of mankind, the culmination of a series of technologies that began at the very moment when the primitive North American communications network called ARPANET implemented the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol communication protocols or, in other words, the familiar TCP/IP. These protocols for the transmission of information packets between different networks (inter-networking) became a standard in 1982 and allowed the interconnection of different communication networks in various countries, which eventually led to the development of what we know today as the Internet.

But it would take almost ten years for a researcher from the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) -Tim Berners-Lee- to develop a new language -Hyper Text Markup Language: the now popular HTML-, a new communications protocol -hyper text transfer protocol or http, with which all Web addresses begin-, a new way of relating information – hyperlinks- and a new way of consulting content -the browser- of which Mosaic was the forerunner. He had put the potential of the Internet within everyone’s reach: the Web was born.

Just like companies, users and consumers have been integrating the Internet into our lives in an unequal way: the cost of access to the Net in the first place, the progressive but unequal geographical expansion of access through broadband connections and the learning curve of the different functionalities of the Web for the different age and educational segments of the population have contributed to create a very heterogeneous Internet user profile in its early stages. Today, however, the Internet is the medium par excellence for reaching all types of users regardless of age, gender, education, geographic location or purchasing power.

Internet penetration has increased even more with access from mobile terminals, the wide acceptance of social networks and the adaptation of content to the user’s local environment. This is the trend that has come to be known as SoLoMo -Social, Local and Mobile- and where the greatest growth is expected in the immediate future.

Indeed, the Internet is, first and foremost, evolution at breakneck speed. Trends follow one after another and users rapidly change their usage habits, favoring or denigrating this or that domain, this or that brand, this or that technology, causing dizzying changes in the valuation of companies and deciding in a matter of months whether an idea will succeed or fail.

There are enough examples that speak of the importance of choosing the right moment to launch a new online project. Both the pioneering companies that got too far ahead of the habits of the general public and those that resisted change paid dearly for their mistake. The great dotcom crisis of 2000 showed that not all virtual businesses were guaranteed success. Especially if, as was often the case, they put the quick profit of the shareholder before the creation of customer value. The fall in the stock market of stocks associated with online businesses acted, however, as a revulsive: large investment funds, business angels and venture capitalists recovered the more traditional analysis of the viability of an online project: market size, analysis of competition, profitability threshold, profit margin… Despite being a new medium, the Internet economy was, as we discovered most painfully, subject to the same laws and principles as in the real world.

More than ten years have passed but many companies have not yet discovered the potential that the Internet holds for their sector, for their business. Today it is a fact that the presence of a company on the Internet is much more than an online storefront universally accessible 24 hours a day: it is a business unit in which it is necessary to invest numerous resources -money, time, effort-, to which we must entrust certain objectives and from which we can expect a return on investment (ROI).

And yet, there are still many companies that believe that “being on the Internet” is limited to having a website hosted on their own domain, having corporate profiles on social networks and exchanging e-mails with customers and suppliers. They update the design of their sites every two or three years, neglecting aspects such as search engine optimization, usability, conversion, traffic analysis or customer loyalty (not to mention any approximation of an ROI calculation). They do not realize that, in reality, when a website is finished and published online, in the offline world this is equivalent to the moment when the masons have finished the renovation of the premises where we are going to install our store. From that moment on is when the real work begins: we will have to fill the store with merchandise, decide what to put in the window, what products are specially offered, promote the store in the neighborhood where it is located through mailings and radio spots, deal with complaints and product changes, change the window for the sales, waste kindness and personalized attention to build customer loyalty, change the window for the new season ….
All this, which any experienced marketer does almost intuitively without the need to draw up a marketing plan, in many cases does not translate to the online world. There is a gap that makes it difficult for companies or professionals who are experts in a given sector to take advantage of that experience and transfer it optimally to their online presence.

The main objective of this book is to eliminate, or at least reduce, this gap and help companies, professionals and entrepreneurs to understand the peculiarities of the Internet as a medium, so that they can draw their own online marketing plan and thus identify, take advantage of or create as soon as possible all the possibilities of the Internet for their business. Opportunities such as opening new sales channels, probing alternative markets, finding partners, listening to and serving their customers, or exploring different business avenues in an environment where the deep crisis we are going through has not yet had such a devastating effect as in the traditional economy.

The ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) sector – I am reluctant to call them new technologies – is emerging as the most realistic alternative to an economy that is heavily dependent on construction, manufacturing and low value-added services. The Internet could be the engine that brings us back into a new cycle of expansion.

Undoubtedly, the Internet today represents an enormous opportunity. Companies that have learned to take advantage of the multiple possibilities it opens up have already experienced improvements in competitiveness, the possibility of reaching new markets, establishing partnerships and joint ventures and taking advantage of a myriad of synergies that affect all elements of the value chain. We want your company to be one of them. And this is something that starts even before having a website, at the very beginning of its development, and includes all aspects of its design, publication, promotion, exploitation, analysis and continuous improvement.

What will you find in this book?

The following pages are intended to provide a simple methodology to guide the reader on how to plan a company’s global online presence, with a website functioning as a business unit perfectly aligned with the company’s business strategy and acting as a centralizing node for its various social profiles. A coordinated and focused online presence in which certain resources will have to be invested in order to achieve certain objectives and which will generate certain benefits.

First of all, we will address those aspects to be taken into account in the creation of a high-performance website: identification of user profiles, selection of functionalities and contents, information architecture and usability, accessibility and compatibility, indexability, conversion orientation…

Next, we will review some of the ways to promote the Web site once it is published: how to attract quality traffic through natural search engine positioning or by managing sponsored link campaigns; how to measure and improve the conversion of that traffic into profitable customers with proper landing page management; strategies to build customer loyalty through e-mail marketing; and how to take advantage of social networks to develop a closer relationship with our customers and opinion leaders by leveraging the viral dynamics of social media as a sounding board for the company’s virtues and favoring the involvement -engagement- of our most loyal customers in the value chain. There are more strategies in online marketing, but perhaps those mentioned above are the most widely used by freelancers and SMEs, which make up the majority of the business fabric and are finding it more difficult to adapt to these promotional media that are already the present.

We will also address the integration of online media with offline media, that is, with promotion in traditional media. What synergies can be created through cross-media marketing and what is the smartest way to decide how to allocate resources in each of the media.

The control of results is an essential point in any marketing plan. We will look at how to track key metrics through Web analytics and market analysis, and how to leverage these metrics to make decisions that will continually improve the return on your online investment.

Finally, we will look out the window of the future to glimpse what other opportunities are on the ever-surprising horizon of the Internet.

Who is this book aimed at?

We intend the following pages to act as a bridge between the tangle of acronyms and technological jargon that frequently saturates Internet-related texts, and the world of marketing and business management. Using a methodology with which freelancers, entrepreneurs and executives are familiar – the marketing plan – we will go through the main strategies that make up online marketing to clarify how objectives are established, how resources are allocated, how problems are diagnosed, what is the appropriate strategy in each case depending on the objectives pursued and how success is measured.

You will find this book useful:

  • Managers of managerial positions.
  • Marketing managers.
  • Advertising managers.
  • Web site owners and managers.
  • Advertising and Marketing Agencies.
  • Entrepreneurs.
  • Programmers and Web site developers.
  • Online product managers.

However, we hope that this book will be a starting point for any reader, which can function as a first contact with subjects such as natural positioning in search engines, usability or Web analytics, providing references of proven quality to deepen the knowledge of each of these fields. And that, within this wide range of strategies and tools, it plays a structuring role that facilitates the translation of traditional marketing concepts to the Internet environment in a natural, didactic and intuitive way.