Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all of your online marketing efforts. Businesses leverage digital channels such as Google search, social media, email, and their websites to connect with their current and prospective customers.
The reality is, people spend twice as much time online as they used to 12 years ago. And while we say it a lot, the way people shop and buy really has changed, meaning offline marketing isn’t as effective as it used to be.
Marketing has always been about connecting with your audience in the right place and at the right time. Today, that means that you need to meet them where they are already spending time: on the internet.
Enter digital marketing -- in other words, any form of marketing that exists online.
So What Exactly is Digital Marketing?
From your website itself to your online branding assets -- digital advertising, email marketing, online brochures, and beyond -- there’s a huge spectrum of tactics and assets that fall under the umbrella of digital marketing. And the best digital marketers have a clear picture of how each asset or tactic supports their overarching goals.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common assets and tactics:
- your website
- blog posts
- ebook and white papers
- Interactive tools
- Social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
Earned online coverage (PR, social media, and reviews)
Online brochures and lookbooks
Branding assets (logos, fonts, etc.)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The process of optimizing your website to ‘rank’ higher in search engine results pages, therefore increasing the amount of organic (or free) traffic that your website receives.
The creation and promotion of content assets for the purpose of generating brand awareness, traffic growth, lead generation, or customers.
Inbound marketing refers to the ‘full-funnel’ approach to attracting, converting, closing, and delighting customers using online content.
Social Media Marketing
The practice of promoting your brand and your content on social media channels to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads for your business.
A method of driving traffic to your website by paying a publisher every time your ad is clicked. One of the most common types of PPC is Google AdWords.
A type of performance-based advertising where you receive commission for promoting someone else’s products or services on your website.
Native advertising refers to advertisements that are primarily content-led and featured on a platform alongside other, non-paid content. BuzzFeed sponsored posts are a good example, but many people also consider social media advertising to be ‘native’ -- for example, Facebook advertising and Instagram advertising.
Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions.
Companies use email marketing as a way of communicating with their audiences. Email is often used to promote content, discounts and events, as well as to direct people towards the business’ website.
Online PR is the practice of securing earned online coverage with digital publications, blogs, and other content-based websites. It’s much like traditional PR, but in the online space.
What’s the Difference Between Digital Marketing and Inbound Marketing?
On the surface, the two seem similar: Both occur primarily online, and both focus on creating digital content for people to consume. So what’s the difference?
The term ‘digital marketing’ doesn’t differentiate between push and pull marketing tactics (or what we might now refer to as ‘inbound’ and ‘outbound’ methods). Both can still fall under the umbrella of digital marketing.
Digital outbound tactics aim to put a marketing message directly in front of as many people as possible in the online space -- regardless of whether it’s relevant or welcomed. For example, the garish banner ads you see at the top of many websites try to push a product or promotion onto people who aren’t necessarily ready to receive it.
On the other hand, marketers who employ digital inbound tactics use online content to attract their target customers onto their websites by providing assets that are helpful to them. One of the simplest yet most powerful inbound digital marketing assets is a blog, which allows your website to capitalize on the terms which your ideal customers are searching for.
Ultimately, inbound marketing is a methodology that uses digital marketing assets to attract, convert, close, and delight customers online. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is simply an umbrella term to describe online marketing tactics of any kind, regardless of whether they’re considered inbound or outbound.
What Are the Main Benefits of Digital Marketing?
Unlike most offline marketing efforts, digital marketing allows marketers to see accurate results in real time. If you’ve ever put an advert in a newspaper, you’ll know how difficult it is to estimate how many people actually flipped to that page and paid attention to your ad. There’s no surefire way to know if that ad was responsible for any sales at all.
On the other hand, with digital marketing, you can measure the ROI of pretty much any aspect of your marketing efforts.
Here are some examples:
With digital marketing, you can see the exact number of people who have viewed your website’s homepage in real time by using digital analytics software like HubSpot. You can also see how many pages they visited, what device they were using, and where they came from, amongst other digital analytics data.
This intelligence helps you to prioritize which marketing channels to spend more or less time on, based on the number of people those channels are driving to your website. For example, if only 10% of your traffic is coming from organic search, you know that you probably need to spend some time on SEO to increase that percentage.
With offline marketing, it’s very difficult to tell how people are interacting with your brand before they have an interaction with a salesperson or make a purchase. With digital marketing, you can identify trends and patterns in people’s behavior before they’ve reached the final stage in their buyer’s journey, meaning you can make more informed decisions about how to attract them to your website right at the top of the marketing funnel.
Content Performance and Lead Generation
Imagine you’ve created a product brochure and posted it through people’s letterboxes -- that brochure is a form of content, albeit offline. The problem is that you have no idea how many people opened your brochure or how many people threw it straight into the trash.
Now imagine you had that brochure on your website instead. You can measure exactly how many people viewed the page where it’s hosted, and you can collect the contact details of those who download it by using forms. Not only can you measure how many people are engaging with your content, but you’re also generating qualified leads when people download it.
An effective digital marketing strategy combined with the right tools and technologies allows you to trace all of your sales back to a customer’s first digital touchpoint with your business. We call this attribution modeling, and it allows you to identify trends in the way people research and buy your product, helping you to make more informed decisions about what parts of your marketing strategy deserve more attention, and what parts of your sales cycle need refining.
Connecting the dots between marketing and sales is hugely important -- according to Aberdeen Group, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate, compared to a 4% decline in revenue for companies with poor alignment. If you can improve your customer's’ journey through the buying cycle by using digital technologies, then it’s likely to reflect positively on your business’s bottom line.