What Is Digital Marketing?

Definition of Digital or Online Marketing

Digital marketing (or online marketing) is a general term that refers to whenever the internet is used as a channel to reach customers for marketing purposes. It still uses marketing concepts like the 4Ps but online instead. The internet is a vast space, and we will delve into the different types of digital marketing shortly.

So why care about digital marketing anyway?

Globally, 4.54 billion people have internet access and internet users spend an average of over 6 hours online.

The number of digital marketers and the presence of internet marketing will only continue to grow.

As the penetration of technology continues, the usage of digital platforms, digital media, smartphones, and e-commerce will also increase. Online marketing is essential to staying connected with audiences.

Benefits of Digital Marketing

Online marketing offers many benefits as it is real-time, for example, a post on social media will immediately be seen by your followers.

Through an online presence, companies can build new customer bases that might have previously been inaccessible. This is especially helpful for small businesses, that may not have the reach or resources to use traditional marketing channels.

Another benefit of digital marketing is that it gives marketers the ability to select target audiences. As compared to a generic billboard on a highway, digital marketing allows you to use data and behavior to choose who sees your ads and when – giving you targetted results!

Types of Digital Marketing

Let’s take a brief look at some of the various types of digital marketing. Click on the links under the terms to find out more.

Content Marketing

If you use any social media, you probably have heard of the term “content creation”. Creating quality content is important in building relationships and trust.

Old school advertising and overt sales pitches no longer work. In fact, 84% of millennials consumers have a negative perception of traditional ads.

Instead of urging consumers to make blind purchases, valuable content educates them on why to start and continue a relationship with your brand.

Types of Content

Content creation is again, a broad field. The content world is your oyster, and there are a variety of mediums that work for different platforms. Here are just a few examples.

Visual Content

Visual content is big on social media and ranges from pictures and graphics, to video content or video marketing. You may have come across infographics on Pinterest or GIFs on forums. Every single one of these is a form of visual content you can use as part of digital marketing efforts.

Written Content

Articles and blog posts form another big aspect of online content.

Informative articles that give solutions to problems or just serve as interesting material will encourage website visits.

Blogging is often a big part of search engine optimization too, which we’ll talk about later.


There are alternative forms of content that do not fit neatly into the above groups. They still offer great opportunities to attract your audience.

These include podcasts, independent research/data, as well as downloadable content.

Check out how to start content marketing and how to measure the performance of your content marketing campaigns.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Google is the biggest player when it comes to searching online, you’ve probably used it yourself.

When online searches are conducted, search engines deliver the relevant websites in the form of search engine results pages (SERPs). A typical user will usually click into results found on the first page.

So if you’re looking to get traffic and reach an audience, you’ll want to make sure your website and landing pages get high up on that first page! This is what SEO is all about.

There are various aspects of SEO. From using the right keywords in your published content to organizing your website, the goal is to achieve high domain authority and relevance.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

In addition to SEO, paid search is another way to increase the visibility of your pages in SERPs. SEO can form the organic part of your SEM strategy.

The paid portion of SEM often involves pay per click (PPC) advertisements. You may have seen these at the top of Google SERPs, with the term “ad” next to the link.

These are part of the Google Ads family, previously known as Google AdWords. Having one’s page links at the top of the search for specific keywords is based on an auctioning system.

In addition to the search network, Google Ads are also found on the display network. You might have seen these on webpages in the form of banner ads and images. These are often based on a user’s previous online activities.

Google Ads can also be found on YouTube as video campaigns. Though the format of the ad is different, these are still PPC advertisements.

Social Media Marketing

Social networks offer digital marketers direct channels to their target audiences.

Platforms we know and regularly use like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all offer vast opportunities for paid and organic marketing.

Previously we mentioned content creation, and social media is a big channel for sharing content. Visual content is especially important on social media platforms. Quality content that engages your customers is an important part of organic reach.

At the same time, paid ads on social media allow you to amplify reach in a crowded space and get your business in front of the right people. Paid ads on social networks are also PPC ads and usually blend aesthetically into the platform. (This forms part of native advertising which we’ll look at in a later section.)

Email marketing

A more traditional, though still very much relevant way of marketing to consumers online is via email.

Email marketing involves collecting contacts (usually in the form of subscriptions or leads) and creating corresponding email lists to stay in touch. Tools like Mailchimp are used to manage email lists.

Though email marketing has existed for a long time, it has definitely evolved! Consumers are more sensitive to spam than ever, and emails need to be well-crafted and timely in order to get read.

Mobile App Marketing

Not to be confused with mobile marketing (which means optimizing ad formats for mobile devices).

Mobile app marketing means promoting your brand’s app online. Google Ads also offers App campaigns for this purpose.

Creating and promoting your mobile app can be very helpful in increasing interaction with your customers, given the extensive adoption of mobile devices. It allows consumers to easily stay connected with your brand and conduct transactions on-the-go.

Furthermore, mobile apps are especially useful for e-commerce businesses to maximize sales and revenue. If you are interested in e-commerce, definitely look at mobile app marketing.

Other Marketing Tactics Across Digital Marketing Channels

Influencer or Affiliate Marketing

Social media has definitely popularized the concept of influencers.  These are individuals whose actions can sway the thoughts and behavior of others; they are often looked upon as experts or inspirations within their niche. (Affiliate marketing is not the same as network marketing).

Influencers become affiliates (to your brand) when they are sponsored to promote a product or service that you own/created. This can be done in a variety of ways, from reviews and recommendations to product placements.

Native Advertising

Native ads are found on various online marketing channels from webpages to social media feeds. They are pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements that blend into the environment they’re in.

This improves the user experience on the site when a page visitor is browsing a blog post or when users are scrolling through a social media feed. As native ads appear more like regular content, this can also improve click-through rates (CTR).

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation brings the above tactics together by managing them through software. It usually involves a platform or tool that helps to control various campaigns from email to social media and paid ads.

This reduces the workload on digital marketers by automating repetitive tasks like sending out weekly newsletters. An added benefit is that data is automatically captured from these campaigns, such as the number of click-throughs on an email ad, allowing you to easily measure the performance of campaigns.

Setting a Digital Marketing Strategy

Creating a digital marketing strategy for your brand or business is an important step that will shape your marketing efforts moving forward. Thus, it’s crucial to put lots of thought into it.

We won’t talk about every single component of a digital marketing strategy but here are some top things consider.

  1. What are your overall objectives?
    • Are you raising awareness for a new product, promoting your brand, or increasing sales?
  2. Who is your target audience?
    • Are you looking at other businesses (B2B) or directly selling to consumers (B2C)?
  3. What are the key selling points of your product or service that you want to communicate?
    • What makes you different?
  4. Understand the sales funnel for your audience
    • Know where and how your potential customers gather will help you to decide which marketing channels to focus on.

These are just a few questions to answer when deciding on an overarching digital marketing strategy.

Outbound or Inbound Marketing

Another big part of your marketing strategy is figuring out your balance of outbound and inbound marketing.

Traditionally, outbound marketing is putting yourself in front of an audience regardless if they are seeking you out or not. This involved activities like telemarketing and advertisements on print or television. This frequently disrupts the user experience and can be annoying.

However, in digital marketing, outbound marketing can be much more targetted and marketers can select who sees the ads – for example, PPC ads on social media platforms can be optimized by interests and demographics.

Inbound marketing focuses more on attracting an audience and avoids the hard-sell. This focuses on creating quality content according to the consumer’s needs and building trust. It also involves making yourself easy to find – this is where SEO comes in.

Creating a strong digital marketing strategy means finding the right balance of modern inbound and outbound marketing.

Creating Marketing Campaigns

How does a digital marketing campaign differ from your strategy?

A campaign is a product of your overall digital marketing strategy; it focuses on meeting incremental goals that contribute to the overarching objectives.

These specific deliverables can be increasing engagements, traffic, or conversions for a specific product or audience group.

A campaign’s performance should always be measured through pre-defined metrics such as:

  • Return on investment (ROI),
  • Cost-per-click (CPC),
  • Click-through rates (CTR),
  • Opt-in rates,
  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA)

These are some major ones that are frequently used by digital marketers in their campaigns. Of course, every campaign is different so be sure to pick and choose the right metrics to get meaningful insights.

A Quick Look at Traditional Marketing

Although we are focusing on digital marketing at Growthority, it’s worth considering traditional marketing channels for a moment. This is especially applicable if part of your business is brick and mortar or located within a specific geographical region.

Traditional media channels like television and print can be helpful in reaching a very wide audience should you have the budget for it.

Ultimately, traditional marketing needs to be evaluated in conjunction with a company’s digital marketing tactics. Overall, they should complement each other and improve the user experience across platforms.

Interactive events that promote shareability and engagement are a great current example of how companies bridge the divide between traditional and digital marketing.