Online marketing, SEO and ecommerce: how do they differ?

Online marketing, SEO and ecommerce: how do they differ?

Working as web consultant for over a decade, I have been given the opportunity to work different kinds of clients in different industries. In the old days, being able to deliver a properly working sites which were aesthetically pleasing was more than enough to make clients happy.

Nowadays, businesses have become more aware that having great looking websites is just not enough. With every competitor also owning a website, it takes more beyond good development for this particular digital channel to be able to contribute to the business. It needs to be discoverable, incorporates interesting content to make potential customers or clients stay and browse, and ultimately have proper call-to-action elements to convert them.

The work after a website is launched is much harder and requires more dedication to achieve the targets. While all those elements above were already considered during design and development phases, it is almost impossible to create the right formula without field tests and make data driven decisions based on the site’s analytics results.

All these lead to 3 components in general: online marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and e-commerce strategy. The first problem to tackle is, most people (read: clients) may not be aware of the differences and consider them as the same. They might come to you and mention any of the terms and expect it covers everything.

Web Marketing

Different agencies or professionals may have different interpretations to give explanation of each of those. Some just want to make the client’s life easier by not bothering about technical definitions and just provide a “full digital service”. These are really smart guys. However there are times when you really need to draw lines regarding each of these services to define scope of work and priorities between them.

Online marketing

I consider it as a marketing effort if you need to create an outline to be done in order to generate traffic to the website. Usually involving consistent actions over a course of time period.

In general, I classify online marketing into 4 categories:

  1. Organic or non-paid online marketing
    This is done by promoting the website through different networks to gain some backlinks. Few examples:

    • Posting links to landing pages or blog posts on online discussions/forums
    • Notifying bloggers to review or feature a product or service offered on the website
    • Offline promotion (word of mouth) to lead customers to the website
  2. Social media
    No company these days will be able to generate massive inbound traffic without the help of social media. By setting up a good social media profiles and consistently posting latest news and updates through these channels, it would increase the brand awareness faster than any other channel.
  3. Email marketing
    Still one of the most effective channel. Never ever take this one out from your online marketing strategy, unless no ones literally uses email anymore.
  4. Paid online marketing
    This can be done by creating ads on multiple networks, such as search engines and social media. My favorites, because of the ease of use, effectiveness, and popularity, are Google AdWords, Facebook Ads and AdRoll. Although keep in mind that every industry may have different niche and types of market, so you need to select carefully and always be ready to try different ones in order to get the best result.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Unlike online marketing which requires financial investment in order to run, SEO is the organic solution. It is also the most difficult and complex to get positive results. The challenge is, you need to compete with billions of other websites and make the search engines to see your website as the most relevant when someone is searching with a particular keyword or key phrase.

The copy of your content is still the most relevant factor. However other technical elements such as site speed, URL format, page structure, sitemaps, they all weigh into the overall score. If your site is bloated and slow to load, it will probably end in lower search ranks compared to other sites with similar content.

It is not possible to break down everything about SEO in a single post. But to keep it short, when you work on your site’s SEO, it means trying to make it as friendly as possible to the search engines and ensure the content is relevant to your target audience.


In case your website does not actually sell anything online, we can also refer it as Conversion Rate Optimization. Every website has a function: to generate sales or leads, business branding, as marketing tool, etc. While the first two’s primary purpose is to drive people into the website, e-commerce or conversion optimization goals are to create a better experience to the users and ultimately increase the conversion rates.

There are many ways to achieve those, depending on the your set goals. For example, if it is an online store, then it will be to sale as many items as possible. This can be achieved by implementing these:

  1. Very clear call-to-action (Buy) buttons
  2. Product recommendations to cross-sell
  3. Product bundles to up-sell
  4. Free shipping offer
  5. Special promotions
  6. Featured products

In order to have a successful website, aside from having a well designed website, you need to consider all components mentioned above to ensure the online channel of your business is getting the results you expected.

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