What draws consumers to a website? How do you entice them to visit your business above all others, and how can you secure their loyalty once they arrive? When it comes to digital marketing, there are a variety of methods employed by business owners to increase and improve customer retention: organic search, pay per click (PPC), social media and email marketing. There's an ongoing debate, however, about which ones are the most useful. Here are the four biggest techniques of 2014: Which is the most effective? Which should you be courting for bigger sales and better statistics? The answer may not be the one you'd think, because according to Monetate's Ecommerce Quarterly Report, email marketing is the surest way to convert customers. Email enjoyed a 3.19 percent success rate, soundly beating the next biggest contender, organic searches, which came in at 1.95 percent. Social media lagged all the way behind at 0.75 percent. Why is email so successful where other conversion methods fail? Let's examine the ways email marketing has been quietly chugging along and ensnaring customers where even Facebook's 1.4 billion userscan't.

1: Forging Real Bonds

In a crowded marketplace, email marketing is a surefire way to grab attention. It's also an economical one: It takes much less effort to maintain an ongoing connection with a customer than to forge new bonds every time. Email marketing also establishes an immediate personal connection with your potential buyer. Unlike ads that can be ignored and keywords that may or may not lead back to you, a message sent straight to their inbox is something they'll notice every time. You'll cut right through the general cacophony of the Internet and force them to focus on you. In addition, periodic emails will help you build an ongoing relationship with the customer, something desperately needed in today's age of anonymity and faceless corporations. The entire psychology of conversion is built on feelings of kinship and loyalty, and you can tap into those as you put yourself on the "ground floor" of customer allegiance. This relationship to your brand can seriously pay off when the customer has need of your services, even if that need doesn't appear right away. For example, let's say you're running a furniture business with an online catalogue. Your email may not interest someone who doesn't need a dinner set at that very minute, but the next time their family moves, youradvertisement will be the one sitting in their mailbox. If you plant a seed, it will eventually bear fruit.

2: Building Credibility

Another plus of email marketing is the way it builds trust over time. Some people can be wary of buying from a strange business over the Internet, but if you've been sending them regular emails with sales, discounts and general updates, your brand will become a familiar one. They'll trust you because they know you. "Email is all about segmentation and personalized messaging," explains Blair Lyon, the vice president of marketing at Monetate. He further advises the formation of "relevant messaging that is appropriate to the individual person" in order to secure sales. Returning to your fictional furniture company, this means turning every email into an affirmation of faith and a reminder of the personal connection you share. To accomplish this, you'll first need to establish yourself as an expert in the world of furniture, someone whose claims they believe and whose words they trust. Try sending out regular emails filled with facts, figures and statistics, like the rising cost of cedarwood or the number of Australian homeowners who don't have a couch. Once you've established credibility as a furniture salesman, you can start working on building your legitimacy as a retailer. You want them to know that you'rethe one who can fulfill their needs, the one who offers low prices, excellent customer service and exclusive email-only deals just for them. Brand loyalty is a very real thing. Don't be fooled by the common misconception that they need to be an active, existing customer in order to prefer your company over others. All it takes to secure their fidelity is recognition and trust.

3: Staying Relevant

Let's return to your furniture company one more time. Your customers havedecided to move! Congratulations! They're now scouring the Internet looking for chairs and bed frames.

Are they going to think of you?

Email marketing allows you to stay relevant in the customer's mind even if they aren't ready to buy at first contact. When they do decide to take the plunge, you want your company to be at the very top of their shortlist. It might not be an easy task: 17 percent of online users spend only four seconds looking at any given page and the remainder only spend an average of eight seconds. Your company needs to go the extra mile to stay fresh in their minds, especially in terms of what products you offer and what services they might enjoy. If they don't have any ideas, give them some! Send them an email every time you slash prices or reduce shipping costs. Notify them of major news stories that relate back to industry-specific topics. Offer things like design tips, home decorating ideas, refurbishment options, additional housewares available for purchase, et cetera. Email marketing gives you the unique opportunity to plant new ideas in the hearts and minds of your customers. If you aren't taking advantage of this platform, you could be costing yourself thousands in lost revenue. Is email marketing really the most effective means of courting customers and increasing your web traffic? You may not have thought so, but all the research says yes. When it comes to good online advertising, the kind that drives traffic and hikes sales, email marketing is the uncontested champion. If you want to improve your profits, increase conversions and boost overall customer satisfaction, it's time to start working on your newsletters.