Marketing: How To Start an Online Business

Marketing: How to Start an Online Business

Learn all about marketing your online business: reporting, analytics, SEO, lead generation, email marketing, social media, paid advertising, press releases, affiliate programs, and more!

25 minutesEstimated read time


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DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which may provide compensation to us from the service providers at no cost to you if you decide to use their services.

Exciting times! At this point in the process of launching your new online business, your website should be up and running, and now it’s time to tell the world about your new venture. In this article, we’re going to talk about marketing and promoting your business.

We’ll cover many important topics, including reporting, analytics, SEO, lead generation, email marketing, social media, paid advertising, press releases, affiliate programs, and companion apps.

Here we go! 🤪

How to Start an Online Business: Complete Checklist for Beginners
How to Start an Online Business: Complete Checklist for Beginners
A must-have beginner’s guide for starting and launching your online business! Easily track your progress and make sure you don’t miss anything!

This is Step 7 of the 8 steps in your journey to start an online business.

Reporting & Analytics

Before you tell the whole world about your new online business and drive tons of traffic to your site, make sure that your site tracks your visitors and sales!

There are many benefits for tracking and analyzing how your visitors use and navigate your website:

Helps you discover and fix problems on your site.
Helps you find places where visitors abandon your site. By addressing these problem areas, you can potentially greatly increase your conversion rates.
Helps you confirm whether or not the content you’ve created and spent time refining is actually being viewed. It can also give you insight into what new content you should create.
Helps you understand which links your visitors are clicking. This is especially important if you are an affiliate marketer.
Helps you understand how users with different demographics use your site.
Helps you better understand the source of your traffic.
Helps you generate and capture more leads.
Helps you improve your marketing campaigns.
Helps you discover your most popular products and possible trends in sales.

To track this type of data, you’ll want to set up a few tracking and analytic programs on your site.

How do you set up Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a tool that you can integrate into your website that will allow you to track your visitors, report your website traffic, and measure your return on investment (ROI).

To set up Google Analytics for your site, follow these steps:

Create a Google Analytics account if you don’t already have one.
Create a new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property. GA4 is the successor to Google Analytics’ older Universal Analytics (UA) style of tracking.
Add a data stream to your property. For websites, you’ll want to enter the URL of your primary website.
After setting up the items above, find your Google tag for the data stream (it is a measurement ID that starts with “G-“) and add it to your website.
For WordPress sites, you can download a Google Analytics plugin (see list below) that will add the necessary code throughout your website. All you have to do is activate the plugin and then enter your Google tag ID that you got above.
Other CMS platforms follow a similar paradigm as WordPress. Just enter your Google tag ID in the corresponding CMS Google Analytics field or plugin setting.
If you so choose, you can also manually add the Google tag script that begins with <!-- Google tag (gtag.js) --> on any pages on your site or globally after your <head> tag.
Once your Google tag is in place on your site and you’re starting to collect data, you can review the huge collection of reports and charts via your Google Analytics account.

For more details and step-by-step help, check out the official Google Analytics setup instructions.

If you’re using WordPress, you might want to check out this Google Analytics plugin:

Google Analytics WordPress Plugin

Used by over 3 million WordPress sites! Easy Google Analytics setup on your site, and integrated reports within your WordPress dashboard.

Also, if you’re going to use Google Analytics to track your visitors, make sure to add any necessary declarations about your use of Google Analytics and the collection of data to your Privacy Policy page.

How do you set up Google Search Console?

Google’s Search Console is a very helpful tool that will help you understand how your site is performing in Google’s search engine.

Once you verify your site on Search Console, you will be able to see insightful data and access useful tools, such as:

The status of your web pages… whether or not they have been discovered, crawled, and indexed by Google. In other words, you’ll know if your web pages are even searchable on Google.
The performance of your web pages, including search impressions by keyword, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and the average position in search results.
Ability to add a sitemap that helps Google quickly crawl your site and find new pages you add to your site in the future.
Page experience and Core Web Vitals for your site, including mobile usability.
A variety of tools for security, manual actions, internal links, external links, priority indexing, and enhanced search results.

To access all of this neat data, you just need to follow these simple steps:

Add your website as a new property, and then follow the given instructions to verify your ownership.
Once you’ve verified your site, make sure to add your sitemap.

PRO TIP: Be patient! After you set up Search Console, you’ll usually have to wait several days (or even weeks) before Google has a chance to index your site and start showing search data.

What about tracking other search engines?

We’ve been focusing on Google since it represents probably 80-90% or more of all search engine traffic, but don’t forget about the other search engines, like Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex, Baidu, DuckDuckGo, etc.

Most search engines have corresponding webmaster tools that offer insights similar to Google’s Search Console. For example, here is the webmaster site you can use for Bing.

PRO TIP: If you’re using the Rank Math SEO plugin on a WordPress account, the plugin can automatically notify Bing and Yandex (via the new IndexNow API) about any new pages and blog posts you create. 😎

What are Business Intelligence tools?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a general term that refers to the collection, storage, and analysis of all types of business data, such as your customer orders, website traffic, visitor demographics, customer service experiences, accounting, and development issues.

BI software is specially designed to help you aggregate and process large amounts of data from lots of separate platforms. These business insights tools allow you to easily unify, visualize, and explore vast amounts of data through charts, graphs, reports, and dashboards.

Here are some BI systems that you might like to check out:

Business Intelligence Software

A self-service BI and analytics platform used by over 2 million people, including big companies like HP, Hyundai, Suzuki, and Ikea. They integrate with over 500 popular business apps, like Mailchimp, Twitter, Salesforce, QuickBooks, Shopify, etc., and they offer a ton of other business tools beyond analytics.
Very popular BI software with drag-and-drop visualizations, interactive dashboards, and real-time access to data. Used by companies such as Verizon, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Cigna.
Google Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio)
A free BI service with interactive dashboards and over 700 connectors. Please be aware that you might have to pay for each individual partner connector you want to use.
No-code, full-stack BI software that offers integrations with hundreds of data sources. They also offer a free trial.

Search Engine Optimization

One very powerful marketing approach is to attract visitors to your site by using Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

SEO is an invaluable set of techniques that help your web pages rank higher in search results, which can lead to significantly more visitors and sales for your business.

If you want to learn more about SEO, don’t miss our in-depth article all about SEO tools, tips, and tricks.

SEO Tools
SEO Tools: Toolkits, Techniques, Tips, and Tricks
I just led you to this comprehensive article about SEO. Don’t believe me? Let me show you how I used SEO tools to make that happen…

SEO toolkits are all-in-one software packages that provide a variety of SEO tools for market research, competitor analysis, keyword tracking, search engine results pages (SERP) tracking, site audits, paid advertising analysis, and much more!

Here are some popular SEO toolkits you should consider.

SEO Toolkits

A collection of many professional and powerful SEO tools at a competitive price. Unlike most SEO toolkits, they can analyze up to the top 200 results when doing SERP tracking. Used by over 700,000 people, and they offer a 14-day free trial without requiring a credit card. 😍
A large set of business-level SEO tools and features, with integrations for Google Sheets and Google’s Looker Studio. Used by well-known companies such as AT&T, Philips, Shopify, and Lenovo. They offer a free 7-day trial.
A package of easy-to-use professional SEO tools that is especially good for those on a budget. They offer a 10-day free trial.
Tons of premium features. Used by over 10,000,000 people and by big-name companies such as Apple, Samsung, Walmart, Amazon, and Forbes.
Lots of advanced features and robust tools. A very popular SEO toolkit used by high-profile companies such as Adobe, eBay, Facebook, and Pinterest.
SEO Toolkit Comparison Report
SEO Toolkit Comparison Report
In-depth comparison report for 21 of the most popular SEO software toolkits on the market! Tables, metrics, facts, key figures, infographics and more!

In addition to SEO toolkits, if you’re using WordPress, it can be very beneficial to also use an SEO plugin that integrates various SEO tools and recommendations directly into your WordPress editor experience.

SEO WordPress Plugins

Very useful SEO features and tools that integrate into your WordPress dashboard and editors. They offer a free limited plan, as well as premium plans that give you many more features and benefits. Used by over 1.5 million people. This site uses the Rank Math plugin. 😎
In addition to premium plans, they offer a free limited plan so you can try out the plugin before paying. Used by over 250k people and by popular companies such as GoDaddy, Microsoft, and HubSpot.
Used by over 3 million people, this SEO WordPress plugin offers a variety of SEO features and a 14-day money-back guarantee.

Lead Generation

Lead generation is one of the most important components of running a successful online business. It’s a process of collecting contacts and converting them into leads that have the potential to become customers.

It’s a crucial part of any online business, and it involves a variety of marketing strategies and tactics. By using lead generation, you can expand your reach and get more potential customers to your website.

With the right strategies and tactics, lead generation can help you boost your online business and drive more sales.

Lead generation is a two-step process.

Identify potential leads and capture their contact information. This can be done through email marketing, social media, paid advertising, press releases, and affiliate programs.
Nurture those leads and convert them into paying customers. This can be done through email marketing, content marketing, and other tactics.

PRO TIP: An extremely common technique for lead generation is to create highly-optimized landing pages that are specifically designed to funnel visitors down a sales path, without any other distractions on the page, ultimately leading them to take a specific action, such as signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, or creating an account.

Landing pages can be part of an existing website or live on a standalone domain all by itself. Landing pages usually do not include any distracting elements, such as site menus, ads, or links to other articles.

The whole purpose of a landing page is to convert a visitor into a lead or paying customer.

What are the benefits of lead generation?

Lead generation has numerous benefits that can help any online business succeed. Here are some of the key benefits of lead generation:

Increased reach: Lead generation can help you reach a wider audience, which can lead to more leads and more sales.
Increased engagement: Lead generation can help you engage with your leads by providing them with relevant content and offers.
Increased conversions: Lead generation can help you identify and nurture leads that have the potential to become customers.
Cost savings: Lead generation can help you save money on marketing costs since you’re targeting leads that have already expressed an interest in your product or service.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective lead-generation strategies. It involves sending emails to potential leads and nurturing them with relevant content and offers.

Email marketing can help you build relationships with your leads and convert them into customers.

When it comes to email marketing, there are a few key strategies you should consider:

Segment your list of leads into different categories based on their interests and needs. This will help you tailor your emails to each segment and increase your chances of getting more leads.
Create a compelling subject line that will grab your leads’ attention and make them want to open your email.
Use compelling visuals and engaging content in your email to keep your leads engaged.
Include a call-to-action (CTA) at the end of your email to encourage your leads to take action.
Send newsletters. A newsletter is an email sent by businesses to their subscribers, containing updates, news, and curated content related to the topic they signed up for. It is a great way to stay connected with your customers and keep them informed about your brand’s latest products and services.

What are some potential problems of doing email marketing?

Some potential problems of doing email marketing include:

Low Open Rates: If the open rate of your emails is low, it could indicate a problem with your content or design.
High Unsubscribe Rates: High unsubscribe rates could indicate that your emails are not engaging enough or are too frequent.
Mistakes in Email Content: Poorly written or outdated content can lead to confusion and lost customers.
Spam: Commercial emails or “spam” can irritate customers and lead to unsubscribes and complaints, which can lead to networks blacklisting your email address or originating IP address! 😱
Email Delivery Issues: On the content side, poorly designed emails can fail to reach their intended audience. On the technical side, your emails might not be delivered because you are sending out too many emails within a short period of time, or you have reached other similar rate limits.
Data Security: Ensuring customer data is secure is essential for successful email marketing campaigns. Make sure not to accidentally reveal or share sensitive data in email.

PRO TIP: In addition to requiring lots of manual work, being prone to mistakes, and being very tedious, doing mass email marketing by hand from your personal Gmail account is not a good idea!

For all of the reasons above, it’s highly advised to use an email marketing platform to automate the sending of your emails.

Which lead generation and email marketing platform should you use?

Here is a short list of the many lead generation and email marketing tools that allow you to easily capture leads and set up automated follow-up emails.

Some focus primarily on emails and newsletters, while others include a suite of lead generation and marketing tools, such as landing pages, funnel creators, forms, and website builders. And many of these tools offer other marketing and business-related services that might benefit your company. So, take a look around and use their free trials before committing!

Lead Generation & Email Marketing Platforms

Used by over 1.4 million people, they offer email campaigns, automation, and sign-up forms, as well as e-commerce and website tools. They also offer 24/7 support and a free 30-day trial of their premium features.
MailerLite: 30-day free trial
All sorts of marketing tools and automation to help your customers along their journey. Their system can integrate with over 870 other popular tools and platforms, such as WordPress, Zapier, Shopify, Stripe, SalesForce, and more. Used by over 180,000 people.
They’ve been around for over 20 years and have been used by over 1,000,000 small businesses. You get email marketing, landing page builder, email automation, e-commerce tools, and web push notifications. Integrates with Facebook, PayPal, Etsy, WordPress, and hundreds of other popular platforms.
Very popular in the online sales community, they offer all sorts of business and marketing services but are especially well known for their sales funnels and landing pages, as well as their training courses. They offer a free trial.
They deliver over 760 million emails every week! 😲 Lots of easy-to-use tools to build landing pages, automate email campaigns, set up autoresponders, and create sales funnels and popup forms. They also have other marketing, sales, and e-commerce tools and lots of integrations, as well as a free trial of premium features AND a free-forever plan for an ongoing limited set of features! 😍
A robust end-to-end marketing platform, including other business tools such as sales, CRM, merchant services, project management, and workflow automations. Their services are used by over 5.5 million businesses.
An all-in-one sales and marketing platform designed for agencies. They offer a 14-day free trial, as well as white-label services.

Social Media

Regularly posting to social media is another highly-effective marketing strategy. By using social media, you can build relationships with your followers and get more leads.

By social media, I’m referring to almost any platform that has a social component that allows comments or sharing with friends, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, WeChat, etc.

When it comes to social media marketing, there are a few key strategies you should consider.

Create content that’s relevant to your audience and provides them with value. This will help you build relationships with your followers and get more leads.
Engage with your followers by responding to their comments and questions. This will help you build trust and get more leads.
Use relevant hashtags to make it easier for people to find your content.
Include a CTA at the end of your posts to encourage your followers to take action.

Luckily, there are lots of social media tools to help you with your social media campaigns. The tools below can help you create, schedule, and post content across multiple platforms. Some social media tools can even help you find and curate new content to post via your accounts.

Social Media Tools

An all-in-one social media tool for marketers, brands, and agencies. Integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, Canva, VistaCreate, and more. Used by over 80,000 people and companies such as Unilever, New York University, and Decathlon. You can start a 14-day free trial without needing a credit card.
Social media tools to plan, schedule, and report on your social posts. Includes tools to suggest new content and auto-post content from RSS feeds. Used by over 30,000 agencies, marketers, and brand managers, such as Expedia and Texas A&M University. They offer a 14-day free trial and no credit card is required.
Tools to schedule, monitor, and analyze your social posts. Integrates with the gigantic Zoho platform that offers tons of other very popular business tools. They have high Trustpilot and Capterra scores.
Different than the others, this is a content marketing tool that helps promote your social posts to gain social backlinks. Works with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Helps to increase the visibility of your posts and website content. They’ve tracked over 200 million clicks on content promoted through their service.
All-in-one social media management platform used by over 30,000 brands and organizations, such as Subaru, Columbia, Eventbrite, Unicef, Tumi, and Shopify. They have a free trial without needing a credit card.
Social media marketing tools for publishing and analytics. Used by Walmart, ACLU, Carnegie Mellon University, Automattic, and more. They also have a white-label solution. Free 14-day trial.
Used by thousands of marketers, it has been around since 2014. They offer content discovery, research, influencer outreach, and social monitoring.
Helps you create, schedule, publish, and analyze social posts. Integrates with Canva, Unsplash, and GIPHY. They offer a 14-day free trial without needing a credit card.

Paid advertising can greatly increase traffic to your site and brand awareness. By using paid ads, you can reach a wider audience and increase your chances of getting more leads.

Here are a few strategies to consider for paid advertisements:

Create ads that are targeted to your ideal customer. This will help you get more leads that are interested in your product or service. You’ll likely waste a lot of money if you’re targeting the entire world with your ads… so be specific.
Use relevant keywords and visuals in your ads. This can help with identification, discovery, and user experience. You want users to be able to notice your ads, but also have a great experience that matches your ad copy once they arrive at your site.
Track the performance of your ads and adjust them accordingly. It will likely take a lot of time to collect enough ad data that will allow you to make helpful decisions. Therefore, avoid the temptation to change and tweak your ads every day. Most ad platforms auto-adjust the delivery of your ads based on performance anyway… but they first usually need to try out lots of variations to gather some data before being able to refine their delivery.

Realistically, to really get the most out of paid advertising, be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort… and money. You’ll likely need to continuously tweak ads, analyze performance, and test out lots of ad copy variations.

Most social networks like Facebook and Twitter allow you to run ads or promote your posts.

In addition to social networks, search engines provide a huge ad space opportunity. These are ads that appear when people use search engines to try to find something on the Internet. For example, check out Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.

These companies also offer the ability to show ads across a huge network of 3rd-party websites through platforms such as Google AdSense.

If you’re planning on doing paid advertising, definitely make sure to check out the SEO toolkits listed early in this article since most of them have tools that can help you estimate advertising costs for desired keywords, as well as allow you to see the types of ads your competitors are already running.

Press Releases

A press release is a written statement that is distributed to media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines, websites, and radio and television stations. It is a type of digital marketing technique that is used to inform the public about a company’s latest news, products, events, or other information.

Press releases typically contain a headline, a summary of the information being shared, and contact information for the company.

Press releases have been a tried and true method for generating brand awareness and attracting traffic and leads.

You can use them to promote the launch of your new online business, whenever you launch a new service, when you host a major event, or when you hit a major business milestone.

Journalists and bloggers often use press releases as a source for writing new articles. These new articles not only drive new visitors to your site, but they can also provide valuable backlinks to your website, which also can help drive more traffic to your site through better placement in search engine results.

Although it is possible to manually submit a press release one by one to multiple outlets, it is much more efficient and desirable to use a company to distribute your press releases to their media contact lists and via newswire services.

Press Release Services

Press release distribution to over 1.7 million journalists and bloggers, including high-profile destinations like Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, ABC, Los Angeles Times, etc. They’ve been around for decades. I’ve personally used their services in the past with a successful outcome.
They post hundreds of thousands of press releases each year and distribute them to millions of people, including Google News, AP, Yahoo!, CBS, Fox, NBC, etc.

Affiliate Program

An affiliate program is a type of performance-based marketing that allows you to partner with other businesses, bloggers, and influencers to promote your product or service and get more leads. In exchange for promoting your site, you can offer your affiliates a one-time bounty or share of any sales you receive.

By using an affiliate program, you can expand your reach and get more leads.

It’s a win-win-win scenario:

Your business gets a team of marketers. You only pay affiliates when you get more customers and sales.
Affiliates get paid to promote helpful products to their audience, without having to worry about customers, inventory, support, etc.
Visitors to the affiliate site are introduced to high-quality new products and services that are of interest to them, without having to pay any extra fees for the recommendation.

Affiliate programs usually work by giving an affiliate a unique code that they can attach to the end of a URL that links to your website. Then, when a visitor uses that link from an affiliate’s site, you can track that the visitor came from the affiliate, thus allowing you to associate any future sales or signups with that affiliate.

Here are a few ways you can incentivize affiliates to market your products or services on their site:

Provide a small payment for referring new visitors who sign up for your services or get a quote, even if they haven’t purchased anything yet. You’re basically paying for a new lead.
Provide a one-time payment for a sale or service payment. This can either be a fixed amount or a percentage of the sale.
Provide a recurring payment for all future sales or subscription renewals. This is usually a percentage of the amount a customer pays.
Offer affiliates ways of increasing your payments or percentage rates, perhaps by reaching monthly or annual referral or payment goals.
Provide marketing materials, banners, articles, and other promotional materials to help affiliates better market your products or services.

The technology, tracking, and payments required for successful affiliate programs can get a bit tricky, time-consuming, and complicated. Although you could create your own in-house affiliate program to do all of the tracking and payments to affiliates, it is advisable to use an established affiliate program service to take care of all of those details for you.

PRO TIP: When you review affiliate programs to use for your business, some terms can be a bit confusing. To keep things straight, just know that the terms “advertiser” and “merchant” refer to your business, whereas the term “publisher” refers to an affiliate that will publish their own content to advertise your products. Thus, you want to look into creating an advertiser or merchant account for your business via one of these affiliate programs.

Affiliate Program Services

They’ve been around for over 20 years and have over 21,000 merchants and 240,000 publishers. Used by companies such as Etsy, BuzzFeed, Reebok, Honey, and Apogee.
ShareASale for advertisers
With over 10,000 advertisers and over 75,000 publishers, they provide cookieless tracking, real-time reporting, compliance monitoring, shopping cart integration, program management, support, and publisher recruitment.
Used by over 1,000 enterprises. Not only supports affiliate arrangements, but also allows you to work with ambassadors, social influencers, sponsorships, charities, nonprofits, B2B partners, and premium publishers.
Used by over 2,000 clients. Supports recurring commissions, performance bonuses, and API integration. Free trial for 14 days. Lots of integrations with popular plugins and platforms, like Stripe, Shopify, WordPress, WooCommerce, PayPal, etc.
Platform designed for business-to-business (B2B) software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. Used by over 500 B2B SaaS companies, such as Vimeo, Freshworks, and Looka.

Companion Apps

For most online businesses, your website will be your primary focus. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore possible companion apps that you can offer in addition to your website.

Here is a list of some other tools and applications you should consider offering to your customers if it makes sense for your specific business and niche.

Mobile apps that provide a streamlined experience for your customers to purchase and/or use your products and services on a mobile device.
Browser extensions and tools for browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.
Voice apps that allow customers to interact with your website, product, or service using their voice. For example, you could create an Amazon Alexa skill app.
Ebooks and guides to help customers get the most out of your products and services.
Podcasts that provide other ways for people to learn about your brand, products, services, and topics related to your niche.

Move on to the final step!

Good job! With all of this marketing stuff behind you, you’re now ready to move on to the last step in the guide to starting your new online business! 😁

Head on over to the last article that’s all about money matters: making even more income, paying employees and contractors, and taking care of your business taxes.

Money Matters: How to Start an Online Business
Money Matters: How To Start an Online Business
Learn ways to earn extra money from your business and how to navigate the financial side of hiring employees, using freelancers, and business tax reporting.