What Is Digital Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

Sakshi GuptaSakshi Gupta | 13 minute read | June 10, 2022
what is digital marketing

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Whether you think it’s innovative or annoying, the fact is that digital marketing has become the most effective way to sell a product or service. Digital marketing meets customers where they spend their time: in digital spaces. And it’s not just major corporations that use digital marketing. Today, companies of all sizes leverage digital platforms to reach a wider audience, grow their business, and drive sales.

While an ad in your Instagram feed may seem like the most visible example of digital marketing, it’s hardly the only one. In fact, digital marketing encompasses many different disciplines, from video marketing to search engine optimization (SEO).

Want to learn more about digital marketing, and how brands can use digital channels to drive sales? Then read on. 

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the promotion of a product, service, or brand through online platforms.  

There are two main types of online marketing: paid and organic. Paid marketing includes digital advertising such as pay-per-click (PPC) through channels like Google, Facebook, and YouTube.  

On the other hand, organic marketing—which includes content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO)—focuses on building an audience online without spending on ads.

How Can Digital Marketing Help Businesses?

Online marketing enables businesses to develop and convert more leads. With traditional marketing channels, you might miss a billboard on the side of the road. But with digital marketing campaigns, especially targeted ads, you have to either scroll away from the ad or interact with it.

Let’s break down some of the benefits of a digital marketing strategy for businesses big and small.

what is digital marketing

More Cost-Effective

In many ways, digital marketing campaigns are much more cost-effective than traditional marketing channels. It’s both cheaper to produce, and cheaper to implement. For example, in PPC advertising, you pay only when someone clicks on your ad—which is more cost-effective than traditional marketing, where you pay just for posting the ad and no results are guaranteed. 

Email marketing is considered one of the most cost-effective digital channels because of its substantial return on investment. Businesses average a return of $36 for every dollar spent on email marketing campaigns.

Better Brand Recognition

Better brand recognition is central to any marketing initiative, as brand recognition produces more leads, which will hopefully translate to more customers. Digital marketing offers an unprecedented number of opportunities to make this happen. Let’s look at some of the channels brands can use to accomplish this: 

Social Media

Internet users typically spend more than two hours each day on social media accounts, which provides brands with ample opportunities to engage with their target audience online. This can be done through posts or paid ads, and is a great way to build brand recognition, especially if you’re targeting a niche audience. 

Influencers

Like a recommendation from a trusted friend, people are more likely to buy a product that’s been recommended by an influencer they follow. Influencers help brands build both credibility and recognition, the two things needed to convent a lead into a customer 

Video Marketing

Because of its rapidly increasing popularity, video marketing has become an invaluable tool for digital marketers looking to increase a brand’s recognition. A video doesn’t have to advertise a specific product to be successful. Simply by informing or entertaining potential customers with engaging content, you can increase awareness of your brand. 

More Options to Reach Customers

Digital marketing channels allow you to target prospective customers with specific demographics and interests. So it’s particularly useful for selling niche products or services. 

With targeted ads, you can specify the demographics that match the profile of your target customers. For example, to draw customers who are interested in technology, you can see who is searching with keywords like “tech,” “computers,” or “mobile device.” Targeted ads allow you to then show these people your ads, which will hopefully result in higher quality leads. 

Easier to Build a Community

With digital marketing technologies, you can reach more people through social media, which helps build a community around your product or service. Creating a community increases trust in your brand and builds customer loyalty. 

When you engage with your customers on social media channels and answer their questions, they develop trust in you, which means you can ultimately gain higher-quality, longer-term customers. As you build and nurture this community and actively demonstrate support for your customers, they’re more likely to recommend your product or service to other people.

Types of Digital Marketing

There are many different types of digital marketing tactics, and each has the potential to grow your brand. Let’s break down some of these specialties. 

SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a type of organic internet marketing. The goal of SEO is to boost your website’s ranking on search engine results pages so that prospective customers can easily find your site. Here are some common SEO strategies:

  • Use keywords strategically and effectively in your online content. 
  • Use relevant images and graphics.
  • Use appropriate descriptions for images.
Organic search appears right below the paid ads

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a form of internet marketing in which a customer finds you, rather than you targeting them. This is often done through producing content that’s valuable to your target audience, which helps brands develop a relationship with those consumers.

Inbound marketing is a valuable tool, especially if you’re trying to build a personal brand. You can attract new clients just by showcasing your work on social media platforms, for example. Newsletters, videos, and downloadable e-books or guides are all possible ways that you can draw the attention of buyers by sharing useful information that interests them.

If you want to get started with inbound marketing, you need to focus on putting out various types of content to showcase your knowledge. Since this is a method of organic internet marketing, the process can be slow, but the quality of the community you’ll create with this strategic approach will be high—so you’re likely to gain top-quality customers in the long run.

PPC Marketing

With pay-per-click marketing, you pay a search engine or social media platform to showcase your content or product as an advertisement. As the term suggests, you pay only when someone clicks on your ad link. It’s a strategic approach to digital advertising that allows businesses to target a specific audience and track how well the ads perform.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the use of social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to promote products or services. 

Related Read: What Does a Social Media Marketer Do? and Digital Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing

A food chain like Wendy’s, for example, has used social media marketing campaigns to offer promotional content, polls, and jokes as a means of interacting with its audience and drawing the attention of buyers. In addition to the fast-food industry, fashion and tech businesses have seen significant success using social media platforms to boost their online presence.

Digital PR

Digital PR is the use of the press, individual bloggers, or content creators to promote your products and services. Brands reach out to these people, let them use their products, and ask them to promote the products to their audience.

You might have noticed in some YouTube videos, for example, that the content creator mentions the sponsor of the video. This is a type of digital PR in which the video creator is paid for mentioning the brand.

Digital PR is also utilized in blog posts or podcasts that help promote the product or service in the context of the main topic being discussed. It sometimes involves working with influencers to promote your brand, which can be valuable if they have a sizable following.

The returns for this type of marketing have the potential to be very high when you work with reputable content creators who agree to promote only products or services that are trusted. The audience of a content creator can be quite large—promoting a poor product would risk losing the trust of their audience. 

Content Marketing

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Content marketing is the creation of compelling, high-quality content that will appeal to your target audience. This can be done through blogs, websites, or social media channels.

Content marketing helps the reader or viewer by providing information that doesn’t necessarily aim to sell the company’s product or service. This helps the consumer gain more trust in the company and also helps you widen your reach.

Clothing retailer ModCloth, for example, practices content marketing by actively posting on its blog to engage with its audience and address style and fashion topics that potential customers are likely to care about.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the practice of promoting your product or service through an email campaign. It can be mixed with content marketing, where valuable information is sent through an email newsletter—like a weekly digest—to subscribers.

Retailers and businesses in the hospitality industry are among those that can benefit greatly from the use of email marketing, thanks to the ability to automate mailing campaigns and track results to see how well a campaign converted into sales.

The practice can also be mixed with digital PR, where your business might reach out to content creators who can potentially feature your product in their own newsletter to share with their audience.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is when a creator is compensated for promoting a brand’s product or service. 

Amazon is one of the most popular affiliate platforms. You can generate affiliate links for any product you like, and Amazon will give you a cut for leading the customer to buy it. Other companies give content creators private access to their affiliate programs. This means that only selected creators are allowed to be an affiliate of the company. This limits the number of people who can take advantage, but these selected creators are paid well for their quality audience.

Video Marketing

Video marketing is when a brand posts a video that provides useful information about its product or service. Videos can offer educational content, provide instructions for using a specific product, or help customers to troubleshoot a product.

Many businesses create YouTube channels for the purpose of video marketing. These videos provide value to the consumer in the form of education or entertainment. Dollar Shave Club gained notoriety and a sizable following through the use of humor in its video marketing—its marketing messages are not only fun, but they also speak to every customer’s desire to have easy access to a product that’s both well made and affordable.

Digital Marketing Examples

Now, let’s look at a few examples of successful digital marketing efforts. 

Slack

what is digital marketing

This is a digital advertising campaign from Slack, the popular work management software company. The first thing you likely noticed is that the ad has a catchy background color and image. It’s a smart practice to make your ad campaign look attractive with visual graphics but without being overwhelming.

You probably also quickly noticed the title of the campaign: “What it feels like to sit in 25% fewer meetings.” It identifies a common problem—most people don’t like to attend meetings—and provides a solution right in the title. It also mentions a metric (25%), offering viewers a concrete number that they can trust.

The rest of the copy is pretty straightforward, explaining how Slack can help you work better. At the end of the campaign body, a call to action (CTA) link is provided to help you learn more and let you sign up for free.

Domino’s

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This Domino’s Pizza ad campaign has excellent editing, demonstrating how effective your marketing videos can be when you emphasize production quality. The ad focuses on how people love eating pizza and how it plays a role in happy moments of their lives.

At the end of the campaign, you can see a CTA that promotes Domino’s mobile app and also provides the phone number if you want to learn more or place an order.

ASOS

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This video ad campaign from ASOS also utilizes excellent editing and does a good job of catching the viewer’s attention. The ad focuses on how people relate to the product and take their fashion seriously. ASOS demonstrates that its products bring a smile to the customer’s face. It also mixes in sports footage to demonstrate that the company sells sportswear among its other offerings.

Airbnb

This tweet from Airbnb is a good example of organic marketing where the company simply addresses its audience to give customers a feel for the experience of trying out Airbnb.

The tweet aims to attract potential customers to these quality places. Notice that high-quality images are incorporated with some good editing to ensure the photos look attractive. Quality content is paramount when you’re trying to attract customers. In this example, specific location details are also provided so that consumers can search on Airbnb to book a visit.

Uniqlo

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The above is a promotional video for Uniqlo’s “Wake Up” app, which is used to wake you up using calm music. Notice how calm the video is. It’s minimalistic but peaceful to your ears—exactly what the business is aiming for with this digital advertising campaign.

When you create a video for your product, make sure you properly explain how the product works and how it stands out from your competition. This video does an excellent job of telling customers why they should use the Uniqlo app.

What About Digital Marketers?

What Do Digital Marketers Do?

Digital marketers are responsible for creating and maintaining different digital marketing channels. In the case of organic marketing, a digital marketer is responsible for managing social media accounts and posting optimized content to reach as many people as possible on social networks without spending on ads.

With paid marketing, a digital marketer is responsible for using the proper settings and keywords and optimizing ads so they reach the right target audience. They give the advertisement a hook, prompting potential buyers with a reason to click.

With video marketing, email marketing, and SEO, a marketing team ensures that the content is optimized so that it gets ranked highly by Google and other search engines. Marketers incorporate relevant keywords, among other current industry practices, so that people can easily find the content when they search online.

How Can You Get Into Digital Marketing?

You can learn about internet marketing in a few ways. You can pursue a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing, which can help you get an advantage over other applicants for open positions. You can also learn more by enrolling in online courses to earn a certification.

There are many ways you can develop online marketing skills and gain experience. You can start a blog and experiment with SEO, or you can create a YouTube channel and produce videos, experimenting with content types and editing styles. You could also apply to be a digital marketing intern, where you can learn basic internet marketing skills and work on some real projects to gain valuable experience.

As you build your skills, you can apply for a digital marketing job or work as a freelancer, helping other businesses grow their online presence.

The History of Digital Marketing

The advent of digital marketing coincides with the advent of the internet. Given that digital advertising is more affordable and more targeted than television advertising, it’s a much more efficient way of reaching your target customer. 

With the rise of search engines, SEO marketing also emerged. Bloggers and news websites started incorporating SEO practices to get their sites discovered online by a broader audience.

The wide range of social media platforms has likewise expanded the possibilities of online marketing. Businesses began providing value in the form of educational content and entertainment to their audience and turning this audience into customers. With social media platforms also came PPC advertising, a form of marketing that produced faster results.

With the rise of digital platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, a lot of brands used video marketing to showcase their products in a more interactive way, leading to more sales. Video marketing also enabled content creators to form communities that helped them gain the trust of their audience.

Digital Marketing FAQs

Is Digital Marketing Easy?

The more you learn about internet marketing, the easier it gets. If you take advantage of courses and other tutorials, you can build your digital marketing skills to become a savvy and successful marketer.

Is Digital Marketing Expensive?

Not all digital marketing methods are equally expensive. The expenses associated with producing marketing videos, for example, will likely cost your business more than the resources you invest in email marketing campaigns. Social media platforms usually have a low rate for PPC ads because they have no external costs for setting up an ad and they aren’t responsible for the safety of their users. In digital PR, content creators are more likely to check the product thoroughly before promoting it on their social media channels.

Is Digital Marketing Worth Investing in?

If you want to engage your customers on social networks and other online platforms, you should absolutely invest in digital marketing channels.

Is Digital Marketing a Good Career?

Absolutely! The ubiquitous nature of the internet means that practically every business is focused on some form of digital marketing strategy, so this is a role that’s in high demand—and typically, you can enjoy the freedom of working remotely. There are a lot of highly paid digital marketers in the U.S.—salaries can range from about $45,000 for entry-level roles to $100,000 for senior positions—so you should definitely consider starting a career in digital marketing.

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Sakshi Gupta

About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Senior Associate Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer and has experience working in the Indian and US markets.