What is Digital Marketing?

Learn the basics of digital marketing and how it can help your company reach its goals.

The Importance of Digital Marketing

It’s a big, complicated world in digital marketing these days, full of changing technologies, rising customer expectations, and omnipresent pressure to both grow and innovate. Consumers live online, and the battle for their attention–and their loyalty–has never been fiercer. 80% of marketers agree that customer experiences are the key differentiating factor, which puts tremendous pressure on marketing teams to deliver the best ones.

Where those experiences are happening has changed, too. Businesses used to reach customers exclusively through ads on billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio, or television. Now, businesses can connect with the 92% of Americans who use the internet through digital channels that include social media, news websites, mobile and email.

Let’s break down the core tenets of implementing a digital marketing strategy the right way.

Digital Marketing Guide: Table of Contents

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is any marketing action that occurs on digital platforms, regardless of whether the device is connected to the internet. Under the umbrella of digital marketing is online marketing, which includes email marketing, paid ads on social media platforms, and search engine optimisation (SEO).

The terms “digital marketing” and “online marketing” are often used interchangeably, but marketers should be aware of the difference. “Digital marketing” describes all marketing strategies that use digital services (like social media or television ads), while “online marketing” describes marketing strategies that are executed via the internet. While the line between them can become blurry, the current understanding of these terms defines online marketing as a type of digital marketing.

The Benefits of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is crucial for business growth in today's technology-driven world. Consumers spend many hours every day online checking email, using social media, reading news, and shopping.

Using digital marketing can expand revenue potential and growth.

Unlike old-school tactics like billboards and radio ads, digital marketing helps organisations carefully target their ideal audiences, which results in a higher return on investment (ROI) than traditional, offline marketing methods.

In addition to reaching a targeted audience, there are other benefits of digital marketing, including:

  • It’s cost-effective: Small and midsize businesses often struggle to compete with big brands. Digital marketing helps even the playing field. With a clear digital marketing strategy, even a small budget can help drive leads and customers to your website, app, or in-person store.
  • It’s easy to measure: Some marketing campaigns generate decent ROI, but it’s hard to attribute a sale to a specific ad or see clear success metrics. Using an integrated digital marketing strategy, you can track users across the entire buying cycle to better understand what works — and what could be improved. In fact, 72% of high-performing marketing teams analyse performance in real time.
  • It drives engagement: With digital marketing, brands can interact with customers wherever they are in the customer journey. For example, you can educate, answer questions, even provide customer service all from one platform.
  • It’s personalised to customers: Digital marketing allows for segmenting customers based on their interests and engagement history to create personalised experiences at scale. This gives businesses the opportunity to impress customers at every step of their journey.
  • It’s possible to update and optimise: Once a direct mailer is in transit or a billboard goes up, you can't make changes. With digital marketing, brands can test different headlines, fix typos, and tweak ads with the click of a few buttons, and changes appear immediately.

What Are the Different Types of Digital Marketing?

There are dozens of digital marketing channels you can use to carry out your strategy, including social media sites, SMS, and more. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming.

Below are explanations of four basic types of digital marketing: social media marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC), and email marketing. Remember, digital marketing is customisable and easy to change. If a strategy isn’t as successful as you’d like, rethink your plan, change platforms or tactics, and try something new.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing leverages platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Instagram to build connections with potential customers and drive leads or sales.

There are two main types of social media marketing:

  • Inbound social media: Posting educational information, sharing resources, using paid ads (such as those promoting a lead gen campaign), even sharing funny memes, all of which helps you build a relationship with your audience.
  • Outbound social media: Commenting on other social media profiles or participating in hashtag conversations are modern takes on the classic “interruption” style of outbound marketing that help with brand awareness and brand building.

Nearly every type of business, from a small ecommerce business to large enterprise organisations, can use social media to drive customer engagement, leads, and sales.

These are the main benefits of social media marketing:

  • Detailed targeting: Most platforms allow marketing teams to target ideal customer profiles based on demographics, interests, location, and language. This prevents wasting ad spend to reach audiences who aren't interested in your campaign.
  • Build brand awareness and trust: Consumers don't generally make a purchase the first time they hear about a brand. With social media, you can reach your audience multiple times as they move through the sales funnel.
  • It’s affordable: Social media marketing can be done with little to no budget. While you do have to pay for ads, brands can post and interact with consumers for free through brand accounts.
  • Easy-to-monitor results: Social media platforms and third-party tools offer analytics and tracking dashboards so you can monitor results, track interactions, and better understand your audience.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation is a digital marketing strategy to help a website appear in results when users look up a word or phrase in search engines like Google and Bing. SEO is effective and imperative for all organisations, including small local companies, online-only brands, and enterprises.

Why does SEO matter? When consumers look for a solution to a challenge, whether that challenge is what to eat for dinner or which payment processor to use for their business, they head to a search engine. There, they’ll read reviews, ask technical questions, and perform other searches that tie into where they are in their customer journey.

There are nearly 5.9 million Google searches every dayopens in a new window. SEO helps your business show up when users search terms related to your business.

There are several types of SEO. These include:

  • Local: A subsection of SEO that helps businesses, such as a family-owned restaurant, show up in local search results.
  • Technical: Technical optimisation of websites to improve search engine crawlers’ ability to crawl and index web pages, often performed by a developer or professional SEO developer and can involve changes to the code for the site.
  • On-page SEO: Optimisation techniques applied to pages on your website that are visible to viewers, such as adding internal links, optimising blog posts for SEO, or using key terms in title tags.
  • Off-page SEO: Optimisation techniques that happen off your website, such as building backlinks, using PR and news announcements, or using social media to drive SEO results.

Pay per Click (PPC)

PPC refers to the use of paid ads to reach a highly targeted audience. For example, you could create an ad campaign that targets your potential customers who visit your favourite news site. You can also use Google Ads to target users who search for a specific term like “buy a new [brand name] laptop.”

Unlike billboard or radio ads, where businesses pay upfront, with PPC you only pay if a user actually clicks on your ads. Some platforms do charge by impression or view, but that is less common.

Considering PPC? Here are four benefits to keep in mind:

  • Track your traffic: Using Urchin Tracking Modules (UTM) parameters allows you to see where traffic from your ads go — and how often they convert.
  • Make changes quickly: Did you make a mistake or want to test a new marketing approach? With PPC, you can change and relaunch ads in minutes.
  • Reach a targeted audience: With paid ad platforms like Google Ads and Bing, you can choose exactly who you want to reach based on your internal email address list, current customers, specific demographics, or onsite behaviour.
  • Expand your reach: If you’re launching a new product or want to expand to a new market, PPC can help your business reach a wider audience.

Whether you want to launch a new brand or bring back past customers, PPC can help you reach your marketing goals. Learn more about Google Ads, Google‘s PPC platform, here.opens in a new window

Email Marketing

Email marketing, or campaigns for your business sent via email messages, is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies because nearly every consumer in the U.S., and most of the consumers in the world, have an email address. In 2022, email accounted for 80% of all outbound marketing messaging.

More benefits to email marketing include:

  • Complete control: Unlike SEO or social media, where other companies (Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter) control your connection and reach, email marketing lets you connect directly with consumers. You do have to optimise to ensure your email metrics stay healthy, and there are email marketing best practices to follow just for that reason.
  • Audience segmentation and personalisation: Email marketing software makes sending different emails to different audiences or personalising marketing strategies to each subscriber possible.
  • High ROI: Email marketing has a high ROI, making it one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies.
  • AI Friendly: Email marketing is uniquely suited to benefit from AI technology, including Predictive AI that optimises send times or Generative AI to help personalise subject lines and content.

Additionally, email marketing can be used at each stage of the marketing funnel, and continuing after the purchase. For example, you can drive traffic to your blog, launch a new product, promote your Black Friday sale, remind users to complete a purchase after abandoning their cart, and ask for reviews post-sale.

The first steps in email marketing are building an email list and finding the right email marketing platform. Then, follow these email marketing tips to build a successful email marketing campaign.

How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

A core benefit of digital marketing is the ability to make changes on the go. Don't be afraid to test your strategy and then switch to another if you don't see the results you expect after a few weeks.

Here's a seven-step guide to help you create an effective digital marketing strategy for your business.

  1. Outline your goals: What do you want to accomplish? For example, do you want to increase traffic to your website, get more leads, increase sales by 20%, or launch a new product next quarter? Use the SMART framework and V2MOM to create actionable goals.
  2. Define your target audience: Who do you want to reach? How old are they, where do they live, and what are their interests? B2B companies should consider their target account’s company size, industry, and income.
  3. Choose the right digital marketing channel: Use your goals and target audience to decide on the most effective channel. For example, a B2B company that wants to reach chief marketing officers will have more success on LinkedIn than TikTok. However, email marketing can be effective for most marketing goals and businesses and should be part of an integrated marketing campaign.
  4. Set key performance indicators or KPIs: How do you determine if a campaign meets your goals? KPIs help marketers turn data into actionable insights. For example, if your goal is to drive traffic to a blog through an email campaign, you could use traffic acquisition on your blog or email click-through rates to see how effective your strategies and campaigns are.
  5. Create a launch plan: Determine what you need to implement your campaign, who needs to be involved, and what everyone needs to do. Consider the resources, such as writers and designers, needed to launch your campaign. Create a launch calendar to keep everyone on track.
  6. Track metrics: Are your ads driving sales? Are you ranking for targeted keywords and terms? Tracking and reviewing metrics with the help of marketing analytics software will provide answers to these questions.
  7. Optimise your strategy: Track metrics for a few weeks. Is the campaign reaching your goals? If not, adjust your strategy. Test new ad copy, headlines, subject lines, optimise blog post titles and landing pages, or test new keywords.

How to Budget for Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is effective, and a portion of your overall marketing budget should be set aside for it. Your industry, target audience, and strategy will impact your budget decisions.

Small businesses can follow these four steps to hone in on a baseline digital marketing budget.

  1. Align your budget with your strategy: Make sure the money you spend goes toward reaching your target audience. Spreading your marketing budget thinly over a range of demographics won’t move the needle if your marketing strategy is focused on reaching a specific target audience.
  2. Audit your current spend: Look at what you already spend on marketing each month, quarter, and year, and divide that budget among your current marketing initiatives.
  3. Measure and evaluate: It’s hard to determine success if you’re not keeping score. Track your marketing ROI by tracking key analytics across each channel. Use the KPIs you created as part of your marketing strategy, and set up some dashboards to make it easy.
  4. Tighten up your spending: Take a look at all current marketing efforts and hit the brakes on any that are stagnant, or even generating negative ROI. Cut costs by negotiating with vendors and eliminating unnecessary budget items.

Follow these steps and you’ll wind up with a lean, baseline budget, and a streamlined view of your core marketing strategy. Look at the channels that perform well for you, and generate new campaigns and priorities based on the data.

Building a Digital Marketing Team

Having a digital marketing team is an important piece to success. The good news is that you can customise your digital marketing team to fit your specific needs, budget, and goals.

First, decide whether an in-house team or an external agency best fits your needs. An in-house team may understand your business better and implement changes faster, as no project onboarding is required. Agencies often have more resources and specialised skill sets, which can deliver results faster.

Here are three steps to building your digital marketing team.

  1. Identify the overall goals and strategy that you want to implement. It’s hard to find the right team if you don't know if you need a content marketer first or an SEO manager.
  2. Choose a team based on their skill set and relevant experience. If you’re building an in-house team, also consider their personal interests and ability to learn. Digital marketing changes fast, so a willingness to learn and stay updated on current tactics is crucial.
  3. Create a plan for long-term success. Check in with the team regularly to see if they need additional resources, training, or tools.

If your business is just getting started with digital marketing, consider a hybrid in-house and outsourced approach. For example, have team members write blogs, but hire an external SEO team to optimise your website.

Digital marketing can help grow your business, open up new revenue channels, find leads, and drive sales. However, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy that works for every brand.

Start small. Choose one platform or channel where your audience spends a great deal of time. Create helpful content for your target audience. And remember, digital marketing helps make sales, but it’s all about building relationships with your customers.

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