What is Digital Marketing?

Introduction to digital marketing

Remember when you were five years old and learning to ride a bike? You had training wheels, a massively oversized helmet, and the balance of a newborn giraffe. Now fast forward twenty years. You’re a cycling machine with the trendy racing tires, an aerodynamic bike, and skin-tight spandex, with sponsors who don’t really sponsor you. You’ve made it.

That’s what digital marketing feels like. We finally made it, and it’s just the beginning. Digital marketing came along and turned traditional marketing into shiny, fancy, awesome marketing that changed the way we communicate with customers. It’s quickly become the go-to strategy for most marketing directors, departments, and agencies. Let’s take a look at how to define digital marketing below.

According to Wikipedia, “Digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.”

Ugh, that sounds so boring, doesn’t it? We like to think of Digital Marketing as the next-generation of marketing that reaches people in new and exciting ways. The world of technology is always changing, and digital marketing helps pave the way for marketers to adapt to that technology. From mobile advertising to social media, digital advertising is the new frontier, and we’ve only just scratched the surface.

Below, we’ll walk you through the purpose of digital marketing, the components of digital marketing that exist, who should be using it, the benefits, the trends, and finally, we’ll provide some additional hand-picked resources.


The purpose of digital marketing

The goal of digital marketing is similar to that of marketing, with a digital twist. In a nutshell, the use of digital marketing is “to attract, communicate, and/or deliver value to customers or clients through digital technology.” Simply, it’s traditional marketing on steroids (the technology kind). And it’s only just the beginning.

Technology is changing faster than anyone can keep up. Take the online shopping giant Amazon.com for example. Only a few years ago, Amazon was a tiny online shop where you could buy books. Now it’s one of the largest online retailers with over 95 million Amazon Prime members in the united states who spend $1.4K on average each year (source: mediakix.com).

Digital marketing aims to tackle the technology shift. But how you might ask? By utilizing new platforms, unique ways to communicate, and giving people the power of super-charged marketing in the form of mobile devices. Pretty soon we’ll be tweeting from our airpods (this might actually already be a thing) and emailing with our Google Glasses.

Now that we’ve covered the general purpose of digital marketing let’s outline some of the specific tasks that you may encounter on a day-to-day basis.

Brand awareness

When you need to fix something, do you visit Home Depot or Lowes? How about when you need a cup of coffee? Are you a Starbucks or Peets addict? Brand awareness is the elusive but highly powerful concept of getting your brand in front of people, engaging them, and converting them into advocates.

Tell Your Story

When was the last time you heard a great story? Not a good story, but something remarkable? Stories are a way into a reader (or customers’) soul. They provide an engaging and meaningful connection. Digital marketing can be a purposeful way to tell your story and reach your audience in a new way.

Lead Generation

If you’re in the world of business, you know that in many ways, the bottom line can be all that matters. In marketing, lead generation is the catalyst for sales-driven organizations. Digital marketing has unleashed a whole new series of lead generation opportunities. And the list of digital marketing lead generation tactics is growing by the minute.

Sell Products

Another purpose of digital marketing comes from the world of e-commerce, or electronic commerce (online shopping if you’re a little slow on the uptake). Selling product has never been so easy or effective. Some businesses rely solely on selling online, and therefore the entire purpose of their digital marketing revolves around their shopping websites.

Education

Remember the days when training was sitting in a stuffy room and listening to lectures (well, technically that still exists)? Now, you can sign for an online class – better yet, you can grab an online college degree! Thanks to the world-wide-web, marketers can now offer education in a variety of consumable formats. Take Lynda.com for example. They’re one of the largest online course websites which was just recently purchased by LinkedIn. Not a bad payday huh?


Digital marketing tactics and examples

Just like it’s ugly sister traditional marketing (ok, that’s a little dramatic), digital marketing has many different components that serve different purposes. Below, we’ll outline the various elements and give you a little insight into what makes them useful.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization commonly referred to as “SEO,” is one of the pioneers of digital marketing. At its core, SEO is the optimization of how search engines rank websites. Businesses utilize search engine optimization to rank higher in search results which helps drive more traffic to their sites.

To understand SEO, you must first understand how search engines work. Search engines use “bots” to search through the world-wide-web and crawl websites. After a website has been crawled, the search engine uses a proprietary (and highly guarded), complex algorithm to assign a ranking to websites. The website is then shown to users based on “keyword searches” in prioritized order according to the search engine algorithm.

Here is a quick video to help explain SEO:

The practice of search engine optimization started when people wanted popular search engines to display their websites higher in the organic (non-paid) listings. At a high level, search engine optimization aims to build authority for a site by optimizing on-site and off-site. The goal is to help search engines not only crawl your website but assign higher, so they see your website as valuable.

Search engine optimization examples:

  • Optimizing your website (on-site) for search engines
  • Asking other sites to link to your website (off-site)
  • Optimizing your Google local listing(s)

Search engine marketing (SEM)

Back in the old days, search engine marketing included SEO, PPC (pay-per-click), and other acronyms. So what’s the difference between SEO and SEM? Today, search engine marketing includes digital marketing techniques like paid search ads, paid search advertising, PPC ads, CPC ads, CPM ads, and other SEM-related activities.

While Google is the most popular SEM platform, there are a variety of other platforms like Bing, Yahoo, and others. According to Wikipedia, “Search engine marketing is a form of Internet marketing that involved the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) through optimization and advertising.” (source: Hubspot).

Search engine marketing examples:

  • Displaying a banner advertisement on a website or app
  • Boosting a paid social media post
  • Running an online advertising campaign

Content marketing

Content marketing is one of the fastest growing digital marketing tactics. When you think of content marketing, think of attracting bees with honey. You build informative, helpful content to attract people to your web assets. Content marketing fits into “inbound marketing” which means you are pulling people into your marketing rather than pushing your marketing onto them – also known as “outbound marketing.”

Content marketing examples:

  • Blogging
  • Social Content
  • Infographics
  • Whitepapers
  • eBooks
  • Case Studies
  • Checklists
  • Interviews
  • Videos

One of the most important parts of content marketing is providing users with “value.” Whether you give the content freely or you charge a nominal fee, the end user must attribute value to the content you are providing. The idea is that the content attracts them, and then you can work on converting them into a client or customer.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Our friend Neil Patel defines social media marketing as “Social media marketing is the process of creating content that you have tailored to the context of each individual social media platform to drive user engagement and sharing.” There is also a “viral” nature to social media that really uncovers its’ true marketing value. When a user sees something worth sharing, that’s the golden ticket. It’s sorta like multi-level marketing – but without the shady sales pitch.

With over 200 social networks, the world of social media marketing has drastically changed. We’ve seen networks like MySpace explode and die while Facebook and Twitter have been steadfast in their maturity. One of the hardest (and most frustrating) parts of social media marketing for businesses is that everything is always changing. One day you sign up for Google+, and the next day they’re shutting down the network (no seriously, they’re shutting down Google+ as we write this article).

Social media marketing examples:

  • Setting up your social media profiles
  • Postings regularly to your channels
  • Increasing your followers and engagement

Email marketing

Simply, email marketing is the use of email to reach your audience. Whether it’s new customers, existing customers, partners, or internal marketing outreach. It’s used to quickly communicate your message with people, cultivate relationships, and increase brand awareness.

While email marketing has been around for a while, it’s still growing and has become one of the most effective digital marketing tactics. According to Campaign Monitor, one of the industries leading email marketing platforms, “With Facebook boasting over 1 billion active users and Twitter boasting 255 million, it’s tempting to believe that social media is the most effective way to reach the masses. These are impressive numbers, but what isn’t so frequently shared are the statistics on email usage. The total number of worldwide email accounts was 3.9 billion in 2013, and projected to reach 4.9 billion by 2017.”

Email marketing examples:

  • Emails to prospective clients
  • Emails to existing clients and partners
  • Email sign up lists on your website assets

Video marketing

Video is easily one of the fastest growing and most engaging digital marketing techniques. With over 78% of people watching online videos every week, it’s no wonder why digital marketers and flocking to use video in their marketing strategies.

According to a recent HubSpot Research report, “four of the top six channels on which global consumers watch video are social channels. Also, a Facebook executive recently predicted that the platform will be all video in less than five years”. That’s a compelling statistic.

Video marketing examples:

  • Promotional video
  • Company culture video
  • Testimonial/interview videos

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the early digital marketing tactics that people used to earn passive income. The concept is actually pretty simple. You promote other people’s products and/or services in exchange for a fee. The magic of affiliate marketing is when you can set it up and let us run.

Here is an excellent definition of affiliate marketing: “It’s based on revenue sharing. If you have a product and want to sell more, you can offer promoters a financial incentive through an affiliate program. If you have no product and want to make money, then you can promote a product that you feel has value and earn an income from it as an affiliate marketer” (source: Neil Patel).

Affiliate marketing examples:

  • Generate a list of partner websites
  • Setup partner website relationships
  • Create ads for affiliates or vice versa (offer ad space)

The benefits of digital marketing

There are many benefits to using digital marketing but why write a bunch of boring reasons when we can show you a fancy infographic? Check out this informative infographic from MyTasker which breaks the benefits of using digital marketing.


Digital marketing trends

So what’s next on the digital marketing frontier? We’ve seen a massive shift to mobile, video, and automation the past few years. While we expect that shift to continue to gain traction, we also see a few additional trends on the horizon. Below are a few upcoming digital marketing trends sure to rock your world soon.

Chatbots

We’ve all heard about chat support right? Digital marketing has taken it a step further and added real-time automation. We’re now seeing “chatbots” which rely on automation and artificial intelligence to serve customers. As chatbots become smarter and more widely accepted, we think they’ll play a pivotal role in the future of digital marketing.

Voice search

“Hey, Alexa, order dog food.” Voice search might be the most significant digital marketing trend nobody is really talking about. As consumers, how we shop and consume information is changing. Google’s search engine was one of the first digital marketing tactics to shift the balance. Now, we’re seeing services like Amazon and Google pivot to voice search. We expect an inflection point soon for this trend.


Conclusion

At the end of the day, we’re all searching for the best ways to communicate with our customers and clients. Whether it’s social media, advertising, or voice search – digital marketing enables us to interact and interface in new and exciting ways. Half of the battle is keeping up with all of the technological changes and new opportunities. Check out our blog to stay up-to-date on all things digital marketing. That’s it for now, time for you to get after it!


Other digital marketing resources