What Is Digital Marketing? Definition, Types, Best Practices with Examples


Digital marketing is defined as a marketing approach that primarily relies on the internet to connect with the target audience through various digital media channels and platforms.

In this article, we will look at the concept of digital marketing, the key digital marketing channels, the best practices to ensure you succeed in your digital marketing efforts, and how digital marketing can benefit your brand. We’ll also look at some evergreen digital marketing success stories to inspire you. Let’s begin!

Table of Contents


What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is an all-encompassing term that consists of digital channels, such as content marketingOpens a new window , SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, mobile marketing and so on, to create elaborate strategies to reach and connect with prospects and customers.

An average user consumes content via the television, computer, tablet, smartphone, radio, and other traditional media. This constant exposure to various types of media has led to information overload, further complicating the buyer’s journey. Digital marketing has allowed brands to stay relevant by making themselves visible through different channels and touchpoints.

Apart from traditional marketing channels, such as television, newspapers, billboards, and so on, marketers use these digital channels to guide prospects through their purchase journey and keep in touch with their existing customers.  

Types of Digital Marketing Channels

Before we delve into other aspects of digital marketing, let’s quickly review the top eleven types of digital marketing channels:

1. Website

The website is often the home to your digital marketing efforts. Brands and organizations use websites to host content while using other mediums to distribute it. Most of your digital marketing activities will link back to your website, where an action is expected to take place, and the conversions are tracked. For example, the download of a file, booking of a product or a service, and so on.

2. Content Marketing

Content creation is the spine of your entire digital marketing strategyOpens a new window . Whether you’ve got a documented content marketing strategy or not, you’re creating content to inform, entertain, inspire, or persuade your buyers through other channels. Some of the most common formats of content include text (blog posts), videos, images, infographics, podcasts, slide decks, and ebooks.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO acts as a jetpack for your content marketing efforts. SEO consists of on-page and off-page activities to boost your website’s visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) for your preferred keywords. Earlier, SEO was primarily text-based, but in recent years voice search has gained prominence as well, which is why your SEO activities need to have a conversational approach.

4. Digital Advertising

Digital advertising is an umbrella term for various online advertising strategies. The typical pricing/bidding strategies for digital advertising are cost-per-click (CPC)Opens a new window and cost-per-mille (CPM)Opens a new window , i.e., per thousand impressions. Common formats of digital advertising are search engine marketing (SEM), display advertising, native advertising, social media advertising, and programmatic advertising.

5. Email Marketing

Email marketingOpens a new window is the process of maintaining a database of cold and warm contacts and sending them email alerts about your brand, products and services. It is an effective channel to communicate with your audience on an ongoing basis. Email marketing is useful to build your subscriber base, onboard new customers, retain existing ones, promote discounts and offers, and distribute content.

6. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketingOpens a new window ensure you are present on the platforms your users are spending the most time on. These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Instagram, where you can distribute content through both – organic and paid channels. Social media has also played a vital role in propagating video marketing and the ephemeral content wave. It enables two-way communication and your fans and followers can interact with you on your content through likes, comments, direct messages, or by posting on your official pages.

7. Affiliate Marketing

The concept of affiliate marketing is similar to commission-based sales. Organizations provide custom links to their affiliates. Affiliates earn a specific cut/commission every time someone buys through their custom link. Influence marketing could be considered a modern and evolved spin-off of affiliate marketing.

8. Mobile Marketing

The number of smartphone users across the world is expected to grow to 3.5 billion in 2020. To bank on this opportunity, brands connect with their users on their smartphones through mobile apps, emails, mobile-friendly websites, and social media. By connecting with users on the go, brands have been able to optimize their marketing strategies and send timely messages.

9. Online PR

Online Public Relations is a type of earned mediaOpens a new window . This is when a member of the press (journalist or online publication) mentions your brand through their stories, interviews, and so on. Product reviews by customers and bloggers and Influencers mentioning your brand or products whether paid or organic also contribute to your online PR.

10. Conversational AI

The rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have paved the way for more evolved marketing strategies such as conversational AI. As the adoption of voice search, chatbots, and digital assistants becomes prevalent, conversational AI becomes vital to digital marketing.

11. Web Analytics

Web analytics is the practice of collecting, measuring, analyzing, and reporting data. This is commonly tracked through Google Analytics, but websites could also build their analytical tools. The data collected could be quantitative or qualitative. Web analytics helps marketers understand the sources of traffic, what’s working and what’s not, the return on investments (ROI), and how they can enhance their digital marketing efforts.

Learn More: Top 20 Content Marketing Strategies for Your 2020 PlanOpens a new window  

5 Best Practices for Digital Marketing in 2020

Here are five best practices to help you win at digital marketing in 2020:

1. Go Omnichannel

Successful organizations have adopted the omnichannel marketingOpens a new window approach to guide their prospects through the funnel. Omnichannel marketing is an evolved form of multichannel marketing that helps you provide a holistic shopping experience to your buyers. It’s about delivering the right message at the right time on the right marketing channel.

Being omnichannel means delivering a consistent experience throughout the buyer’s journey. This means your strategy should revolve around the customer rather than specific channels. To build an omnichannel strategy, create a consistent brand voice across different channels. A cohesive omnichannel marketing strategy should take into account all digital marketing channels and map their utility at each stage of the buyer’s journey and work on the messaging accordingly.

Example: Starbucks is known for leveraging digital media to improve customer experience (CX). In this particular instance, the Starbucks app lets users find stores, order through the app, pay using the phone, track Stars and Rewards. Users also get reward points for ordering through the phone and with their collaboration with Spotify, users can also identify the songs playing in their stores.

Learn More: 

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Marketing: Key Differences and SimilaritiesOpens a new window


Image source: EmarsysOpens a new window

Starbucks’ Omnichannel Marketing Experience Through Its App

2. Leverage AI in Digital Marketing

AI and ML have enabled marketers to reach out to their target audience with precision like never before. Using AI and ML-powered applications, you can connect with your buyers in the following ways:

  • Conversational AI: Conversational AI such as digital assistants and chatbots have become ubiquitous to communicate with prospects and customers. They are capable of delivering content, gathering customer requirements, providing customer support, helping customers buy an item or make a reservation, and keeping them updated on their orders.
    For example, the Wall Street Journal has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to deliver content right into subscribers’ inboxes.


The Wall Street Journal Uses Messenger Chatbot to Deliver News

  • Personalization: The success of omnichannel marketing depends on how well you personalize CX, and AI can help you do that. AI-based tools are capable of understanding and predicting user behavior. This can further help you deliver a personalized experience by creating segments of users that share similar characteristics.


3. Don’t Ignore Email

Email marketing is still a potent digital marketing channel. If you have a sizable subscriber base, you can communicate a message to your subscribers without spending a penny! You can use email marketing to send drip campaigns, onboard new users/customers/subscribers, promote new content, offer exclusive discounts and offers, ask for feedback through surveys, and so on.

For successful email marketing initiatives in 2020, use user-generated and interactive content to generate engagement, keep your emails mobile-friendly, and build an exclusive email community that can act as your tribe. 

4. Emphasize on Video Marketing

According to the State of Video Marketing 2020 survey by Wyzowl, 85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. People prefer videos as they make it easy to comprehend information, and they’re an effective medium to tell stories.

Use videos in your content marketing initiatives to boost engagement and widen your reach. A great way to achieve that is to create videos in diverse formats. For instance, most social media platforms allow you to put ephemeral/short-lived video content. So, while you’re creating standard video content, experiment with ephemeral, vertical, and live videos to see what generates engagement and double-down on that.

Example: Moz has a weekly instructional video series called Whiteboard Friday that delves into the various aspects of SEO.

Moz’s Whiteboard Friday Video Series Covers Different SEO Topics

5. Create a Cohesive Content Experience

Apart from running ongoing digital ad campaigns and other activities, creating cohesive content experiences can help you get the eyes on your brand. Creating cohesive content experiences means diversifying your content marketing efforts. Create content in as many formats as you can. Dabble into text, podcasts, infographics, videos, gated content, and so on. Each content piece you create should support each other, and that’s where content repurposing comes into the picture.

You can turbocharge the content strategy by supporting it with a smart distribution strategy. If you’ve written a 2000-word blog post, convert it into an infographic, create a podcast episode, and record a whiteboard video. When you do this, you are diversifying your presence across different platforms and creating content according to the user’s convenience.

Example: Leadpages has created a cohesive content experience strategy that covers various content formats.

Leadpages’ Diversified Content Experience Strategy


3 Benefits of Digital Marketing for Businesses

Digital marketing combines the best of inbound and outbound marketing, i.e., push and pull strategies. Here are three key benefits of using digital marketing for business growth:

1. Measurability

When you launch a marketing campaign via traditional means, it’s impossible to gauge its impact unless you’re providing some sort of coupon code, which will be reflected in the sales figures. On the other hand, pick any digital marketing avenue, and you’ll get a sophisticated analytics capability.

You can measure the impact through impressions, clicks, traffic, and sales. Depending on the attribution model you’ve implemented, you can also understand how each touchpoint has contributed to the sales. This measurability allows marketers to understand what’s working and fix what’s not working.

2. Sophisticated Targeting

Traditional media follows the carpet-bombing approach, in which everyone gets the same message. Modern marketing avenues allow you to tweak the message depending on the audience persona. Digital marketing channels allow you to target your ideal buyers precisely. Digital marketing also allows your ideal buyers to find you. Through content marketing and SEO efforts, a prospect will enter a query in a search engine to find you.

With digital advertising, you can target users based on their gender, age group, interests, education, location, psychographics, etc. You can zero in as much as you want, or you can keep it diverse and target a larger group depending on your goals.

3. Refine on the Go

There’s no space for course correction when it comes to traditional marketing. Once your ad is printed in the newspaper, it is out. With digital marketing, you can tweak things on the fly.

If you don’t see a particular ad copy not bringing the results, you can tweak it or you can re-allocate the budget according to what’s happening at that moment. This flexibility ensures that your digital marketing efforts are always managed efficiently.

Top 4 Evergreen Digital Marketing Success Stories

Some individuals and organizations have built their clout using various digital marketing avenues. Let’s look at the four evergreen digital marketing success stories.

1. Gary Vaynerchuk – Video Marketing

Gary Vaynerchuk is a polarizing personality. His fans admire him for someone who wears his heart on his sleeve persona, while others find him loud and obnoxious to the point where Seth Godin, the marketing guru, almost walked out from his show. Regardless, Gary Vaynerchuk is someone who has managed to crack the code of video by working for more than a decade.

Besides being an investor in Silicon Valley startups such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, Vaynerchuk found success through his first YouTube channel called WineLibraryTV. Vaynerchuk founded VaynerMedia, a digital agency, and launched his YouTube channel called GaryVee. His video channel became popular due to his talk show #AskGaryVee and other theme-based video content. Vaynerchuk’s success also stems from his ability to experiment. Being an early adopter, he has always got the first mover’s advantage on YouTube, Snapchat, and other platforms.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Fierce Video Content Creation Strategy

2. Domino’s – Creative Digital Marketing Campaigns

Domino’s has always been an early adopter of new trends in the digital marketing space. With its focus on delivering awe-inducing digital experiences, let’s look at a few examples of how Domino’s has leveraged digital marketing through the years.

In the 2000s, Domino’s had become notorious for its lousy pizzas. To solve this problem, Domino’s came up with the idea that involved renovating their pizza recipes, getting them reviewed by a focus group and experts. They documented this process and released a video under Oh Yes We Did campaign.

The Video Talks About the Process of How Domino’s Renovated Its Pizza Recipes

A more recent example is DOM The Pizza Bot, a chatbot that let users order pizza through Facebook Messenger. Today, Domino’s allows users to place pizza orders through Google Home, Alexa, Slack, Messenger, Text, Twitter, and other IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

Image source: EconsultancyOpens a new window

DOM The Pizza Bot to Let Users Order Pizza Through Facebook Messenger

3. Grammarly – Email Marketing

The adage “Build and they’ll come” is certainly not true in this age. One of the biggest challenges for any martech company is to ensure that the product is sticky enough for the user to keep coming back to it. For this, marketers use push notifications, email newsletters, and other outreach techniques to remind users to use the product.

Grammarly, a writing tool, encourages users to use the tool through email marketing by sending updates on their product usage. Grammarly uses subject lines such as Last week was your best vocabulary week yet, You’re a writing machine, You’ve been prolifically productive, etc. to entice users to open the mail. Each email consists of the user’s writing streak, productivity, accuracy, vocabulary, etc. along with the top mistakes and three articles to help the user improve their skills.

Grammarly Sends Weekly Update to Help Users Understand Their Progress

4. Wendy’s – Social Media Marketing

The US-based fast-food chain Wendy’s has a Twitter following of over 3.5 million users for one reason – Wendy’s has developed a knack for replying to funny tweets with friendly roasts and mild burns. This strategy works out for them because their primary target market primarily consists of millennials. Besides the friendly banters, Wendy’s is also prompt when it comes to responding to customer queries and complaints.

But one example that stands out is when Carter Wilkerson tweeted to Wendy’s asking, “how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” Wendy’s responded by asking for 18 million retweets. This blew up unexpectedly and started a hashtag called #NuggsforCarter to help Wilkerson get 18 million for free chicken nuggets. The tweet has garnered 3.4 million retweets so far.

HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS pic.twitter.com/4SrfHmEMo3Opens a new window

— Carter Wilkerson (@carterjwm) April 6, 2017Opens a new window

Carter Wilkerson Tweet to Wendy’s for a Free Supply of Chicken Nuggets

Learn More: 20 Winning Social Media Campaign Ideas for 2020Opens a new window  

Closing Thoughts

Digital marketing is a vast discipline. You need to integrate digital marketing into your strategy piece by piece. If you’re short on ad budgets, you can start with organic content, SEO, and social media.

Or if you’re looking for quick results and are willing to spend a large sum of money, digital advertising is your go-to channel. If you’ve already implemented digital marketing, find how you can improve your current strategy. It all depends on your requirements, your resource pool, and budget.

Do you have any questions regarding digital marketing? Ask us on LinkedInOpens a new window , FacebookOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window