Mar 22, 2022

What Is Digital Marketing?

Written by Clodagh O’Brien

You may know the basics of digital marketing or have even set up a social media campaign. But there are many elements to digital marketing and all of them move at a rapid pace, which makes it hard to know everything you need to carve out a digital marketing career.

So what is digital marketing? Digital marketing encompasses all of your marketing activities that take place online. Its influence to engage customers grows every year as more people use the internet to browse, connect and buy.

According to Digital 2022: Global Overview Report, the number of people using the internet is 4.95 billion. That’s nearly 63 percent of the world’s population! The increase in mobile use also continues, as 5.31 billion people now use their phones to access the internet.  

That’s a lot of potential customers to reach online and it's the job of digital marketers to devise and execute digital campaigns that do just that.

To make it easy for you, we’ve divided this blog into sections so you can easily find what you need, and if you aren’t sure of a term have a look at our comprehensive glossary of digital marketing terms

What are the digital marketing channels?

The place to start when talking about digital marketing is the variety of digital channels available. There are seven main digital marketing channels you can use to drive traffic, engage prospects and convert.

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC)
  3. Social Media Marketing
  4. Content Marketing
  5. Email Marketing
  6. Mobile Marketing
  7. Affiliate Marketing

Be aware, that while these are the most common digital marketing channels, the evolving digital landscape means that there could be more than these. Use our channel performance tracker if you’re looking for a simple way to monitor those you use in one place. So, let’s dive in and find out more about each channel. 

SEO marketing or website marketing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a huge role in digital marketing. After all, it determines how and where your content, product or service gets found online.

But what is SEO in digital marketing? SEO consists of many elements, and knowing what they are and how they work is key to understanding SEO’s importance. The elements to include in your marketing are:

  • Keywords - Non-branded and branded keywords with high search rates and low competition
  • Local SEO - Locally focused content (directories) and keywords
  • Off-page SEO - External and third-party backlinks
  • Content - Keywords and internal links peppered through content
  • Search engine marketing - Paid marketing campaigns e.g. Google Ads, PPC, etc.

It’s crucial to include these SEO elements in your digital marketing strategy to increase visibility for your site and drive traffic.

Tip: If you’re an SME looking to improve your SEO, then check out our ‘A Guide to SEO for Small Business’ ebook

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is all about optimizing your paid search advertising - unlike SEO which focuses on organic traffic. 

SEM and SEO are a match made in heaven as they complement each other by ensuring your brand has a presence on search engines and spreading your budget across organic and paid channels.

While the marketing techniques for SEO and SEM are different, they both need to work together. Remember that both rely on keywords to drive traffic and will become more important as a good UX is ranked positively by Google, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has more of a role in content and search activities.

PPC Advertising

You may have heard the term PPC many times, but do you know what it means? It stands for Pay-Per-Click and is a targeted way of advertising online in which you pay for each click from an ad to your website or landing page.

As your PPC campaign directs prospects to your website or landing page, ensure those pages are optimized in advance. You also need to select a bidding strategy, research keywords, and set a budget.

This comprehensive PPC guide explains everything you need to know if you’re just getting started. You can also use our handy PPC for eCommerce tracker to keep an eye on the budget and targets for your paid campaigns.

Content Marketing

The term content marketing makes this part of digital marketing self-explanatory, but it’s an area that can be difficult to get right. It’s easy to create tons of content to distribute online, but the key is creating great digital content that performs.

Content marketing encompasses a wide range of formats such as video, blogs, emails, webinars, social media posts, and eBooks which can be used at all stages of the sales funnel. The benefits of content marketing done well are increased web traffic, a spike in subscribers, boosted sales, and loyal customers.

If you want to hear more about content marketing, check out our TeamTalk video. 

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Influencer Marketing or Sponsored Content

Influencer marketing came into the spotlight a few years ago and it’s now an important part of the digital marketing landscape. In a nutshell, it’s when a brand collaborates with an influencer, celebrity or industry leader on social media to endorse or sponsor a product or service.

The statistics speak for themselves as to how powerful it can be, with nearly half of consumers depending on influencers for recommendations. The real benefit of an influencer is when the collaboration makes sense to an audience.

Take Travis Scott and McDonald’s. Through a collaboration known as #cactusjack, the rapper created a limited edition menu of choice for the fast-food giant alongside selling merchandise such as hoodies and t-shirts.

You probably don’t have the budget for a celebrity of that level, but micro-influencers can be a great way to promote your brand without a huge budget. Influencer marketing also includes native advertising (sponsored content/advertorial) or online PR, so bear that in mind when devising your influencer marketing strategy and use this toolkit to keep track of your influencers so you know how appropriate they are to your brand and audience.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a structured, systematic process to deliver marketing messages to targeted subscribers. Email is the oldest form of online communication and is still very effective at bringing customers through the sales funnel and driving conversions.

With the death of third-party cookies on Google, email will become more important. As a first-party data channel (i.e., information collected straight from customers), companies will become more reliant on email to communicate and convert.

As a way to connect with your prospects and customers it’s an invaluable channel, so take some time to clean up your databases, tweak your email marketing strategy, and drive subscribers.

Learn more about the power of email marketing here:

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Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is an essential part of any modern marketer’s toolkit. It offers exciting and effective ways to connect with customers through various forms of content.

While there were once a limited number of social channels, the networks on offer are growing and attract new users every day. This offers great opportunities for marketers: just think about the viral possibilities on TikTok or the live stream features on WeChat.

It’s a bit of a playground when it comes to social media marketing, so do your research and choose your channels wisely. It’s not about being on every channel, but about being on the right ones for your brand and audience. It's also about being on-trends and piggybacking on topical issues, check out the 2022 social media calendar to see if you can find any event of interest.   

Have a look at our social media marketing resources if you’re trying to figure out where to start or need more info on a specific platform. 

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing has been around for decades, but many marketers are still unsure how to take advantage of it. What is affiliate marketing? Basically, it’s when a company endorses another company’s products and gets paid for a click, lead or sale (depending on the deal arranged).

It works as a cycle by tracking the affiliate link, so it can be tied back to a sale that’s then credited to the affiliate. Amazon uses this tactic regularly to drive customers to its products through third-party sites, to great effect.

This strategy is commonly used by influencers, bloggers, large publishers or companies that include ads in their emails. It can be very useful for brands that want to plug into the rising number of customers looking for third-party or influencer recommendations before purchasing.

Video Marketing

81 percent of marketers feel that video marketing has a direct and positive impact on sales according to Wyzowl 2022 Research. That’s a steady growth in video’s role in generating sales since 2016 and video continues to be a huge trend in 2022.


Video is one of the most popular content formats around and the growth of TikTok and Instagram’s recent focus on video content has cemented its role in audience engagement and lead generation.

Video is important because it offers customers a way to be educated and informed in an engaging way. It’s a core part of social media marketing but can also help to increase engagement on your website and landing pages or be used to offer live webinars to capture email data. 

SMS Marketing

SMS (or short message service) marketing is an effective way to send promotional campaigns or transactional messages to customers that have given prior consent.

Juniper Research found that in 2020, global mobile business messaging traffic hit 2.7 trillion, up 10% from the year before, driven by an increase in online retail. This channel can be used by marketers to communicate with customers, provide support, promote products, and send transactional messages.

Instant Messaging Marketing

Instant messaging marketing is when two people take part in a conversation via messaging apps. It can be text-based or used to share images and videos between parties.

This channel has come into its own over the past two years and has been used by people across the globe to communicate with friends, family and brands. When Facebook acquired the platform WhatsApp, it became obvious that this was a channel with great marketing potential

It offers marketers the opportunity to connect directly with customers without the noise of social media or search engines. Brands such as KLM and Santander are already using it effectively to enable queries or updates. This is a channel to look into if you’re not already using it.

Omnichannel Marketing

Digital marketing is no longer just about digital. It’s about integrated marketing across channels working with traditional marketing, not in competition with it.

As the customer journey continues to evolve and more touchpoints are introduced, businesses must use an omnichannel approach in their marketing. The goal is to create an integrated experience so if a customer uses an event coupon or clicks on a social media post, they will have a relevant and easy online journey through your omnichannel ecommerce campaign.

Take the Starbucks Rewards app as an example. The app enables customers to add money that will allow purchases but also the option to check and reload the card via a mobile, website, in-store, or in-app. If you make any changes to the account or add money, this will be updated in real-time across all channels. It’s a great way to build customer loyalty and provide a seamless experience.


It makes no sense to operate in traditional and digital marketing silos. Streamline your marketing processes with the customer at the center using an omnichannel approach for B2B and B2C companies.

What are the benefits of digital marketing?

As we’ve already said, the wonderful thing about digital marketing is that it allows you to engage customers across multiple touchpoints.

This means you and your brand can make connections with prospects and customers in a way that builds meaningful and hopefully long-lasting relationships. Let’s look at the key benefits of digital marketing in detail.  

Reach new audiences

You already know about the billions of people you can engage with and influence online. But did you realize there are no boundaries when it comes to digital?

Unlike traditional marketing, the possibilities to engage are limitless, as your social media post or blog article can be read by anyone across the globe at any time. Time differences don’t matter online and with scheduling and automation, you can reach people on the right days and at the right times.

You can also create interesting content to reach new audiences. So if you’re struggling to engage a particular audience, create a targeted campaign that just reaches that group across relevant digital channels.

Enable Hyper-Targeting - location, demographics & psychographics

Digital marketing gives you the ability to target specific audiences through segmentation. What this means is that you can target individuals based on their location, demographic (e.g. gender, age, job role) or psychographics (goals, desires, interests) in your online marketing campaigns.

But before you target anyone, you need to know who you want to connect with. The way to do that is to define a buyer persona. Put simply, a buyer persona is your ideal customer. That doesn’t mean it’s just one individual, you can have a few personas to reflect your diverse audience.

Understanding your audience means that you can tailor content and reach out on the channels that are relevant to that persona. If you want some help developing personas, just download our buyer persona template.

Become cost-efficient

Forget about putting an ad in a magazine or paper and wondering who reads it, or handing out flyers in a busy shopping mall wondering if anyone uses the discount. A huge benefit to digital marketing campaigns is that they are trackable and cost-efficient.

Across your campaigns, whether it’s paid search or display advertising or social media, you can put a cap on spending to keep track of costs. This means you can set a daily, weekly or even monthly budget so you stick to what was agreed on and never overspend.

The best way to do this is to plan your budgets from the outset and work out your limit for a certain period.

Tip: Download our digital marketing budget toolkit if you want a practical resource for planning and calculating your budgets. 

Get measurable results

Along with being cost-efficient, digital marketing is measurable. You can easily choose Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and track them across digital channels.

The secret to KPIs is to focus on the metrics that matter. Avoid vanity metrics such as likes or comments on social media channels. Instead, you need to set clear, action-orientated KPIs that show measurable results like conversion rates, sales, and revenue - things that matter to the bottom line.

Download our targets and KPIs toolkit if you need help tracking your analytics.

Personalize & customize campaigns

It’s no surprise that campaigns that are relevant and personalized perform better. HubSpot’s State of Marketing 2021 report found that message personalization is the top tactic used by email marketers and improves engagement rates by 20 percent.

This is the same across digital channels. Just think of your Twitter feed for example: would you click on an ad that had no relation to your interests? Or when you browse a website, are you coming across relatable content in your journey? Check out the video below to see the importance of personalization in communication and user experience (UX).

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To cut through the online noise, marketers need to create content that is relevant and timely. Inject personalization into your marketing strategy to ensure you reach out to your personas but also engage them with content they have an interest in.   

Easy to adapt or quickly change strategy

Digital is fast. That means that you can adapt and change content or campaigns quickly. This can be a huge benefit when you realize that one of your social media campaigns isn’t performing. You can narrow the audience, change the location or tweak the messaging to see if that makes a difference.

There’s also the benefit of being able to test campaigns or copy. A/B testing is invaluable to many marketing teams as they can try out two campaigns at a time to see which one resonates.

This avoids spending time and money on a campaign that will never work as from the outset you’ve learned the best route to go. If you’re new to A/B testing, just watch our expert video or download our toolkit to see what’s involved.

Engage audiences at different stages of the funnel

If you’ve been reading about marketing, you’ll have heard of the marketing and sales funnel. There are a few parts to the funnel that offer a way for marketers to create tailored content that brings a prospect on a journey with the goal of conversion.

The funnel has four stages as outlined in the image below:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Decision
  • Purchase

The funnel is important as each stage requires nurturing in a way that matches the customer’s level of intent. For example, a person at the awareness stage is just browsing, so they may want more information about your product or sector. While a person at the decision-making stage needs credibility and reassurance in the form of something like customer testimonials or reviews.  

Level out the playing field for big and small brands

Global brands benefit from digital marketing, but the same goes for small brands too. The great thing about digital is that it levels the playing field and offers the same opportunities to organizations of all sizes.

You have access to social media networks that can deliver personalized messaging and can use customer relationship management platforms to streamline your email marketing. Your organization can also cap budgets for display ads and search marketing to make sure you stick to what you can afford. 

Sure, a big brand may have a greater budget and a larger marketing team. But if you understand your personas, have identified the key digital channels to use, and know what content works, your small business is on the way to online success.

You can also consider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to engage customers on issues that matter to society such as the environment or racism. Look at 16 brands doing CSR successfully to get inspiration.

What is a digital marketing strategy?

A good digital marketing strategy lies at the heart of any successful organization. It aims to guide all your marketing activities so make sure you make time to research and plan from the start.

What makes a good digital marketing strategy?

What makes a good digital marketing strategy?

There are several steps that can help you create a powerful digital marketing strategy:

  1. Set your SMART goals - It’s crucial to know your goals, establish realistic KPIs, and create a plan to get there.
  2. Clarify your audience - Know who your target audience is and build personas to pin down their pain points. Don’t try to target everyone!
  3. Conduct an analysis - Understand what marketing activities were successful and unsuccessful in the past.
  4. Choose your channels - It can be hard to know the right channels for your brand. Do some research to identify channels that suit your business and audience.
  5. Keep an eye on the next big marketing trends - It’s often early adopters that benefit from new technologies and trends. Make sure you know what’s happening to gain a first-mover advantage. 
  6. Determine a budget - From the outset, figure out what marketing budget you have and plan activities based on it.

If you follow those six steps, you’ll be well on your way to having a comprehensive strategy for your business.  

What is lead generation in digital marketing?

The ultimate goal in digital marketing is to generate leads - a process of attracting and nurturing prospects with the aim of converting them into customers. The more leads you have, the more opportunity you have to convert them into sales.

The key to driving leads is knowing your audience. If you target the right people at the right time, you’re more likely to persuade them to give you their contact details. That’s why it’s essential to plan out your customer journey.

Do you know where your prospects are coming from? Are they active on Facebook or LinkedIn? What makes them provide their information - is it an eBook, free trial or discount?

Often the best way to figure this out is to create a customer journey map that covers all touchpoints. Once you understand your customer, you can tailor content and campaigns to drive lead generation.

Inbound vs outbound in digital marketing

Inbound and outbound marketing are important parts of your marketing strategy. It can be beneficial to do both to drive brand awareness and engage prospects.

Outbound marketing is about pushing information out to a prospect through marketing activities such as events, TV commercials, and cold calling. In contrast, inbound marketing is about pulling people in, drawing them to your website through activities such as social media posts, display ads, and blogs. 

But what are the pros and cons of each? Let’s find out.

What Is Digital Marketing?
What Is Digital Marketing?

B2B vs. B2C digital marketing

There are two distinct types of buyers in marketing - Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) - and they require different marketing strategies.  

The main difference between B2B and B2C is their behavior. B2B customers want to work with other businesses and are driven by logic for their purchasing decisions. Whereas B2C customers are more about emotion and are looking to purchase something for themselves.  

As you can see from the illustration below, the types behave differently in the marketing funnel. Typically, it takes longer to close a B2B deal due to the number of stakeholders involved and nurturing required, but the rewards are usually higher due to the value of the business. B2B leads take a shorter time to close but is usually of lower value so volume is crucial for any B2C business.


Check out our B2B marketing guide to find out more about how to target this cohort.

What are good examples of digital marketing?

There are many great digital marketing campaigns out there to take inspiration from. Brands - big and small - are using digital channels in new and innovative ways to connect with people.

For example, take the 2022 Super Bowl. With an audience of nearly 113 million people, the competition for advertising slots is fierce amongst brands and if you do get a slot, it’s crucial to stand out. Look at Lays and its celebrity stars Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen or Uber Eats featuring actress, Jennifer Coolidge.

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On a smaller scale, there are a lot of companies making waves by taking a stand on social issues across social media such as lifestyle brand, Patagonia. Or some brands are banking on their customers posting User-Generated Content that costs very little and can do wonders for brand awareness.  

Your digital marketing campaigns don’t have to be big-budget affairs. Think about what your audience is interested in and engage them on social media or reach out via email. Ultimately it’s about getting your brand out there for the right reasons.

How do you do digital marketing?

If you’re interested in having a career in digital marketing, there are many roles out there to choose from. The first step is usually becoming a digital marketer. In this role, you will be responsible for generating leads and building brand awareness using a variety of digital marketing channels. 

When it comes to advancing your career, the key thing is to think about where your interests lie. Are you more about being an all-rounder who deals with many marketing activities, or do you want to specialize in a specific area?

To help you figure that out, we’ll look at the different digital marketing roles.

1. Do content marketing

Content marketing is an important part of digital marketing. It’s how your audience sees your brand and engages. There’s no such thing as a typical day as there are so many content requirements in a business/ Let’s look at what a content marketer does.

  • Written content - This includes blogs, emails and website copy
  • Video content - As a format that drives high engagement, videos are key across organic and paid channels
  • Social media - Driving traffic and leads can be done successfully through content posted on social media networks
  • Gated content - This type of content drives leads as users need to provide their information to get it. Examples include eBooks or whitepapers  

A key part of this role is also creating an editorial or content calendar and schedule so you’re constantly creating original content. You will also need to analyze data to see what content is working and what’s not.

2. Manage social media

Social media is crucial for any business as billions of people across the globe log in to use one or more social platforms each day. This is where social media management comes in as a lot of work is required to update and share content on platforms, whether it’s Twitter or Instagram, Facebook or TikTok.

Being a core way to drive engagement, there are a lot of skills required to manage social media networks. These include content creation or dissemination, analytics, research, strategy development, SEO, and customer service.

If you’re interested in becoming a Social Media Manager just check out our eBook.

3. Manage SEO activities

For your brand and content to get found, you need to use SEO. Using the right keywords means that your content will be seen by the right people and drive your content up the rankings on search engines.

But what does an SEO Manager do? There are many key tasks when you manage SEO:

  • Website, social media, and content optimization
  • Website content management
  • Keyword research
  • Negotiating backlinks
  • Strategy
  • Campaign organization and planning
  • Website monitoring and user analysis

If SEO is where your interest lies, get yourself familiar with the lingo with our A to Z of SEO.

4. Do PPC campaigns

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising campaigns are used by B2B and B2B brands to generate leads. A PPC specialist is a core part of any marketing team so let’s look at what a PPC specialist does on a daily basis.

  • Design landing pages - There’s no point in putting effort into PPC ads that drive people to an irrelevant and badly designed landing page. A PPC specialist knows what makes a good landing page that converts.
  • Research keywords - Just like an SEO specialist, keywords are crucial in PPC. It’s the job of a PPC specialist to research the right keywords and integrate them into campaigns.
  • Algorithm watcher - Search engines like Google often tweak and update their algorithms and it’s crucial to account for those changes to ensure your PPC ads are seen.    

5. Do search engine marketing

As we mentioned before, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is about optimizing your paid campaigns. But what does an SEM Specialist do to achieve this?

There are a few skills required to manage SEM such as data analysis, writing, SEO, A/B testing, and strategy. These all feed into driving an understanding of search engines and rankings.

Ultimately, this role is about getting all paid campaigns in front of the right people on the right channels. 

How do you get into digital marketing?

Digital marketing is an exciting and fast-moving industry with loads of opportunities for driven and passionate people. If this is a career for you, there are a few things you can do to break into the industry to land your first digital marketing job:

Hopefully, these steps will help you to build your personal brand and make connections that lead you to a great job in digital marketing.

Kickstart Your Digital Marketing Career Today!

A career in digital marketing is rewarding and the best way to land your first job is to have the skills employers want. DMI’s Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing will give you the knowledge and core skills required to stand out from your peers. You’ll know how to plan, execute, and analyze campaigns that drive brand awareness and generate leads.

Clodagh O’Brien
Clodagh O’Brien

Clodagh O'Brien is a content creator and strategist. Over the last 12 years, she has created and managed content for many SMEs and global brands. She's passionate about digital marketing and the impact of technology on culture and society. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.  

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