What is Digital Marketing? The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

Digital marketing is all encompassing and it makes up many of the things we do every single day. From accessing the internet to shopping online, most companies have some form of digital marketing strategy in place to reel you in and get you to purchase their goods and services. 

In this comprehensive guide, I’m covering every detail from A to Z about digital marketing so you can understand what it is and how you may be able to use it in your business. 

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing covers the scope of all strategies and tactics used to promote goods and services through online channels. In a world where the internet is an integral part of daily life, digital marketing has become essential for businesses looking to connect with their target audience.

Using digital marketing allows companies to leverage the online platforms to reach and engage their audience. Methods such as social media, email, content, and SEO are all options that you can use. 

As digital marketing continues to evolve alongside technology and consumer behavior, staying up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices is crucial. 

Types of Digital Marketing

Now let me get a little more specific about the exact types of digital marketing you can use. Keep in mind that while this is an extensive list, it’s not limited. There are many options that could fit under the umbrella of “digital marketing.” 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is one of the fundamental components of digital marketing. It involves enhancing a website’s visibility in the search engines to help increase non-paid or organic traffic to the website. 

SEO professionals use keyword research, on-page optimization, and technical SEO to improve the performance and visibility of the site with the goal of displaying for more search phrases. 

By doing so, websites can rank higher in search results for relevant keywords and phrases. This increased visibility leads to more organic traffic, which can ultimately translate into higher conversion rates and revenue.

SEO involves a wide range of strategies, including keyword research, on-page optimization, off-page optimization (like link building), and technical SEO. It also considers factors like website speed, mobile-friendliness, and user experience, which impact how search engines rank websites.

Effective SEO isn’t just about achieving high rankings; it’s also about providing valuable and relevant content to users. Google and other search engines prioritize websites that offer a great user experience. Therefore, content quality, relevance, and user engagement are vital aspects of successful SEO.

PPC

Pay-per-click advertising is another digital marketing strategy where you can pay for placement in search engines. Unlike the previous SEO example, you’re buying your way to the top now depending on how much you’re willing to pay to get there.

search results 

In the example above, I Googled “relocation company.” The sponsored results at the top are from companies that paid to display for that search result. 

According to Ahrefs, the cost per click for that phrase is approximately $7.00. This means that each time someone clicks that website, it costs them around $7.00. 

Using popular PPC platforms like Google and Bing Ads, advertisers bid on these keywords and the ranking goes to the highest bidder. 

Social Media

Unlike the previous two examples, social media is a more personal and intricate form of digital marketing. Social media marketing requires you to develop a relationship and provide a more vulnerable side of yourself to connect with and engage your audience. 

The main objective of social media isn’t to drive traffic or convert users. Instead, the goal is to build awareness for your brand and foster relationships that can eventually lead to business growth. 

Successful social media marketing begins with a well-defined strategy that considers the unique characteristics of each platform and the preferences of the target audience. It includes creating and sharing engaging content such as text posts, images, videos, and infographics. Paid social advertising, where businesses pay to promote their content to a broader audience, is also a key component.

Community management plays a pivotal role in social media marketing, as it involves responding to comments, addressing customer inquiries, and managing the brand’s online reputation.

Content Marketing 

I see content marketing as a combination of social media marketing and SEO because it requires elements of both. Content marketing involves creating valuable content and distributing it to your audience through your website. 

Most of the time, the content you’re creating is to provide information about something rather than directly sell a product. This creates brand awareness and builds trust which is what you’re trying to do on social media. 

SEO comes into play because you need to understand search engine optimization if you want anyone to see your content. 

Content marketing is a long-term strategy that aims to nurture relationships with potential and existing customers. It can drive organic traffic, enhance brand visibility, and position a business as an industry leader. 

Effective content marketing involves conducting keyword research, optimizing for SEO, and promoting content through various channels, including social media, email marketing, and guest posting.

Don’t expect quick wins with content marketing because it can take months before you see any sort of return on investment

Webinars/Info Products

The info product world has become a little shady in recent years so it’s important to tread lightly here. The goal of webinars and info products is to help teach someone how to do something whether it’s to lose weight, start a business, or get a greener lawn. 

webinars

There are product demonstrations, educational content, and live training involved. Many influencers use this avenue as a way of monetizing their existing audience. 

Keep in mind that it’s hard to start with something like this because people have no reason to trust you. If you have an audience of loyal followers already through your social media, you may be able to sell them various eBooks, online courses, or private masterminds. 

Understanding the Importance of Digital Marketing

The importance of digital marketing cannot be overstated. I’ve worked with a number of companies that boast the power of digital marketing and the growth they’ve seen since they started implementing it. 

The number one thing that makes digital marketing more effective than traditional methods is the fact that everything is driven by data. We have so much data about our audiences that it makes it much easier to give them what they want. Here are a few more reasons why digital marketing is important: 

Broad Spectrum: Digital marketing offers a global reach. According to data from Statista , there were 4.9 billion active internet users as of April 2021. This extensive online audience surpasses the limited reach of traditional media.

More Cost Effective: Digital marketing is often more cost-effective than traditional advertising. A study by eMarketer found that digital advertising spending surpassed traditional advertising in 2019, reflecting the cost-efficiency of online campaigns.

Better Targeting: You’re able to target based on specific demographics and only display that content to that demographic. There aren’t any types of traditional marketing that allow for this level of focus. 

Up to the Second Analytics: Digital marketing provides real-time data and analytics. Tools like Google Analytics offer detailed insights into user behavior, allowing for immediate campaign adjustments to improve performance.

Digital Marketing vs Direct Marketing

These are two common approaches to reaching and engaging your customers. Each of these has its own set of strengths and applications: 

Digital Marketing

This form of marketing takes place in the online realm using websites, social media, and email. You have more potential to reach a larger audience across the globe which makes it a valuable choice for large-scale businesses operating outside their local reach. 

Digital marketing encourages two-way communication, fostering engagement and building relationships with customers. Through comment sections, emails, and live chats – customers can engage with you which is unlike traditional radio, print, and TV advertisements. 

Above all else, it’s driven by data and analytics. You receive up to the second data and information about the people who are interacting with you so you can measure the effectiveness of your language, content, and strategy and make data-driven decisions. 

Direct Marketing 

Direct marketing focuses on one-on-one communication with individual customers or prospects through channels like direct mail, telemarketing, and email. This marketing strategy also allows for highly targeted messaging and offers which makes it a great choice for marketing to specific niches. 

In some cases, direct marketing involves physical materials like brochures, catalogs, and pamphlets. 

While there aren’t as many ways to track the data of direct marketing, you can estimate how many people you’re reaching based on various demographic data points. 

Both approaches have their merits, and the choice between them depends on various factors, including the target audience, marketing goals, and budget. Many businesses today use a combination of digital and direct marketing to create a well-rounded marketing strategy that leverages the benefits of both. 

This hybrid approach allows for broader reach and personalized engagement, helping businesses connect with their audience effectively.

How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

Next, let’s take a look at how you can put together your own digital marketing strategy to help propel your business in the direction you want to go. 

Define Your Audience 

Defining your audience and figuring out who is going to buy from you is the most important first step. Think of this as your compass. You’re trying to figure out who is going to buy from you and why. 

It starts with market research. Analyze demographic data such as age, gender, location, and income, but also delve deeper into psychographic information like interests, values, and pain points. Utilize tools like surveys, social media analytics, and customer feedback to gather insights.

Create Buyer Personas 

As someone who has worked in digital marketing for eight years now, I understand why a buyer persona is so important. You want to literally create an avatar that describes your ideal customer. 

customer avatar

In this example, we’re looking at “Agency Jimmy,” a 40 year old, married man who is the CEO of a digital marketing agency. 

What types of characteristics describe him? What does he like to do? What are his goals or his issues? 

These are all things you should understand because it not only benefits you on the front end when you’re trying to appeal to your customers but it helps you understand them so you know what to expect if you land a sales call with them. This is called “pre-qualifying” your customers. 

Set Goals and KPIs

Setting clear goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a critical step in creating a successful digital marketing strategy. These objectives provide direction and measurement criteria for your campaigns, ensuring that you can track progress and determine the effectiveness of your efforts.

Make sure your goals align with your objective whether that’s to spread awareness, increase revenue, or expand your market. 

Be incredibly specific about these goals. Instead of “increasing website traffic,” set a goal to increase website traffic by [x] percentage in six months. 

I like to use the SMART criteria of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This is how you create goals that are achievable but also challenging enough to require you to put in something extra. 

Choose the Right Marketing Channel

Selecting the right marketing channels is crucial for reaching your target audience effectively. Start by understanding your audience’s preferences and behavior. If your audience is active on social media, platforms like Facebook or Instagram may be ideal. 

For B2B businesses, LinkedIn can be valuable. Email marketing is versatile and effective for nurturing leads. Content marketing through blogs and SEO can drive organic traffic. 

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on Google or Bing can capture immediate leads. Consider your goals, budget, and resources when choosing channels.

That said, don’t limit yourself. There’s no reason why you have to only choose one channel. The main thing to remember is that you need to be where your audience is. 

stats about tiktok

Credit: Exploding Topics

If your audience is under 30 and you’re selling something creative and visual, TikTok might be a great platform.

demographic statistics 

On the other hand, Facebook data according to Statista shows that around 33% of people under the age of 30 are active on Facebook. We know that Facebook is trending as a platform for the older generations so if that’s your audience, you’ll want to go there. 

Create a Content Strategy

Start by establishing clear goals for your content. Are you aiming to increase brand awareness, generate leads, drive sales, or educate your audience? Your objectives will guide your content creation. If you’ve followed along, you should already know this. 

Conduct keyword research to identify the topics and search terms your audience is interested in. Use premium tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to discover relevant keywords to target in your content.

Create a content calendar to plan when and how often you’ll publish content. Consistency is key to building an audience and maintaining engagement.

Develop high-quality, valuable content that addresses your audience’s needs and aligns with your objectives. Ensure your content is well-researched, well-written, and visually appealing. If you’re not an expert on the subject, find someone who is. 

Allocate Budget and Resources

You have your targets, audience, and strategy planned out; the next step is to figure out how much you can afford to spend on all of this. Depending on the current status of your business, you might have a large or small marketing budget. 

One of the best things about digital marketing is that you don’t need a huge budget to get started. The amount of financial investment needed will always align with your current situation and you can grow from there. 

Make sure to budget out for paid advertising, content creation, tools, subscription-based softwares, and outsourcing.

Create a Timeline

Once you’ve figured out how much money you can pour into your venture, you’ll want to set clear timelines for each stage of your digital marketing. 

For example, if your plan is to build out a content marketing calendar, have a deadline for hiring writers, building out topics, and planning out your first couple months worth of content. 

Keep in mind that the timeline doesn’t need to be the “end all be all” – be flexible and willing to adjust your schedule as needed. 

Choosing the Best Digital Marketing Strategy

Earlier on in this guide I explained the different types of digital marketing but now I’d like to narrow it down even further and talk more specifically about digital marketing and the methods of monetization. Let’s get into it. 

Search Engine Optimization

We understand that SEO is one way to increase your website traffic by optimizing the site to rank higher in the search engine. 

SEO focuses on optimizing your website’s content and structure to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). When done effectively, it can lead to a consistent stream of organic (non-paid) traffic. Research by Advanced Web Ranking shows that the first page of Google captures 71% of clicks, making SEO crucial for visibility.

While SEO requires a higher initial cost than some of the other methods, it’s a great long-term strategy because you can attract organic traffic long after you stop pumping money and resources into your strategy. 

Lastly, the biggest benefit I see from SEO compared to other strategies is that you can use this in conjunction with everything else. SEO will benefit your site no matter what other monetization methods you choose. 

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing (SMM) is a highly effective digital marketing strategy that offers a range of significant benefits for businesses and brands. Firstly, it provides a platform for building and nurturing relationships with your target audience. 

By engaging with customers through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can establish a genuine connection, foster trust, and develop brand loyalty.

SMM also offers unparalleled opportunities for audience targeting and segmentation. You can tailor your content and advertisements to reach specific demographics, interests, behaviors, and even location, ensuring that your message resonates with the right people.

While quick wins are possible with social media marketing, I find it more important to take it slow and create and nurture relationships that can develop into future business opportunities.

Affiliate Marketing  

Affiliate marketing is the process of creating content and promoting other people’s products and services in exchange for a commission. Like a lot of the methods in this guide, it can be done in a variety of ways including on a website in the form of content marketing or on social media. 

One of the key advantages of affiliate marketing is its cost-effectiveness. Businesses only pay commissions when desired actions occur, such as a sale or lead generation, making it a low-risk marketing strategy. This aligns incentives for both parties, as affiliates are motivated to drive conversions, and businesses benefit from increased sales without upfront advertising costs.

You could start creating content on social media and trying to build a following while promoting certain products. The more popular you get, the more likely you are to develop brand deals.

The main downside of affiliate marketing is the fact that you’re entirely reliant on the company you’re promoting. In some cases, you only get paid when there’s a sale so the product or service you’re promoting needs to be able to convert traffic otherwise you don’t make any money. 

Blogging/Content Marketing 

This digital marketing strategy goes hand-in-hand with many of the previous ones. A lot of people who do SEO and affiliate marketing also create blogs to promote products and optimize content

Blogs serve as a platform for sharing in-depth articles, insights, and resources that address the needs and interests of your target audience. Consistent, high-quality content not only drives organic traffic to your website but also positions your brand as an authority in your industry.

If your blog becomes popular enough, you can also monetize it using ads. Keep in mind that blogging and content marketing doesn’t only have to be done on your own website. You can create content for social media and monetize that as well with ebooks, white papers, and more. 

Email Marketing 

Did you know that one of the most common forms of content marketing is actually email newsletters? 

Email is a highly effective form of marketing when it’s targeted, personalized, and segmented to deliver only the best and most relevant content to specific groups. 

Again, this is a low and slow method that isn’t going to get you rich overnight. You don’t want to just blast unsolicited emails but instead, work on building an audience. 

The traffic that you drive to your social media and website should have the opportunity to subscribe to your email list. Even if you’re not creating content for it right away, start building a list so you can market to them in the future. 

PPC (pay-per-click)

If there’s one “quick” digital marketing strategy, it’s pay-per-click advertising. PPC is a digital marketing strategy where you display ads on different platforms and pay each time someone clicks on the ad. 

The main advantage is that it offers immediate visibility and traffic. If you have the budget to pay for advertising, you can bid on specific keywords and automatically leap past your competition to the top or bottom of page one depending on how much you pay. 

Also, PPC provides precise audience targeting. Advertisers can tailor their campaigns to reach specific demographics, locations, or even user behaviors, ensuring that their ads are seen by the most relevant audience for their products or services.

Keep in mind that while it’s a quick-win situation, it can become very costly depending on the keywords you’re targeting. You might pay up to $15 per click in some cases for high competition keywords. 

Popular Digital Marketing Tools to Have

You know what digital marketing is but it’s important to understand that you can’t do it alone. Some of these tools are borderline essential in my opinion and I can’t remember a time when I got by without them. 

Ahrefs: Ahrefs is a crucial tool for digital marketing because it offers comprehensive SEO insights. It helps businesses understand their website’s performance, track competitors, and identify opportunities for optimization. 

Ahrefs provides valuable data on keyword rankings, backlinks, and site audits, aiding in crafting effective SEO strategies. With it, marketers can research keywords, monitor site health, and uncover content gaps to improve search engine visibility.

Link Whisper: If you’re doing any sort of content marketing and SEO, you need Link Whisper to help with your internal linking. The tool uses AI to automatically suggest internal links and anchor text for your content. 

link whisper

This tool makes it incredibly easy to add internal links to your blog articles and it even has a content audit tool that allows you to scan your content for broken links so you can fix them quickly and easily. 

Google Ads: Google Ads is a cornerstone of paid advertising in digital marketing. It allows businesses to reach their target audience through ads displayed on Google’s search engine and partner websites. 

With precise audience targeting and customizable budgets, Google Ads ensures efficient ad spend. It also provides detailed analytics, enabling advertisers to measure ROI and adjust campaigns in real-time.

MailChimp: MailChimp is an essential tool for email marketing, offering email automation, list management, and campaign tracking. It helps businesses engage and nurture their leads through personalized email campaigns, increasing customer retention and conversions. Its analytics provide valuable insights into email performance and audience behavior. 

I believe that MailChimp is one of the best beginner-friendly email marketing tools because it helps you organize everything and build out a list. The platform is also scalable because it’s cheap to get started and you can add onto it as you grow. 

Canva: Canva simplifies graphic design, making it accessible to digital marketers with limited design skills. It’s crucial for creating visually appealing content, including social media graphics, infographics, and presentations. 

canva

Canva’s templates and intuitive interface streamline the design process, ensuring that marketing materials are eye-catching and effective. Best of all, it’s completely free. I use Canva all the time to create basic graphics.

RankMath: RankMath is a WordPress plugin that aids in on-page SEO optimization. It helps marketers improve content for search engines, offering features like keyword optimization, schema markup, and SEO analysis. This tool enhances website visibility and search engine ranking, driving organic traffic.

Slack: Slack is a communication and collaboration tool that’s invaluable for digital marketing teams. It streamlines communication, facilitating real-time discussions, file sharing, and project updates. It boosts productivity, ensuring team members stay connected and aligned on marketing initiatives.

ClickUp: ClickUp is a versatile project management tool that keeps digital marketing campaigns organized and on track. It allows teams to create and manage tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. ClickUp fosters collaboration and ensures that marketing projects are executed efficiently and transparently.

While I do think ClickUp is incredibly useful and powerful for creating standard operating procedures, it can be a little daunting for newbies. 

Each of these tools plays a crucial role in streamlining digital marketing processes, whether it’s optimizing website visibility, managing ad campaigns, nurturing leads through emails, creating compelling visuals, optimizing content for SEO, facilitating team collaboration, or efficiently managing marketing projects.

Final Thoughts

So, what is digital marketing to you? At this point I think you should have a very solid understanding of digital marketing, the methods behind it, and how you can get started right away. 

There are numerous options depending on your interests and experience so don’t be afraid to dabble in a little bit of everything. Eventually, you’ll figure out what you’re best at and what is most likely to bring you the results you’re looking for. Good luck! 

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