What is Digital Marketing?: An Overview for Beginners

Digital Marketing Defined for Beginners

What is digital marketing

You know you have to be at par with the times and start leveraging on digital marketing.

You’ve heard digital marketing can do wonders for your business but the trouble is you don’t know where to start.

What is digital marketing? What sets it apart from traditional forms of marketing?

A very simple description would be: digital marketing is marketing involving the use of one or more digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email, and mobile apps.

Now, what makes it edgier than traditional marketing? Well, let me count the ways:

Level playing field

The beauty of digital marketing is that it makes the market an even playing field. As a fairly new environment, big companies do not necessarily have the upper hand here compared to startups. A lot would depend on marketing skills and not just financial prowess. A big company can have millions to spend, but a startup with only three people running it can fair just as well or even better when it comes to digital marketing.

Actual conversions

In any form of marketing, conversion is important. This is the phase where clients go from being aware of your brand or product and actually making the purchase. It’s a hard bridge to cross especially if your methods are not direct or specific enough.

For example, if you throw a billboard (traditional marketing) out in the open, you fish for clients in general. Your message is not always clear. You pray for results.

Digital marketing is less fatalistic. Through social media, you can study the way people talk and how they live. You sit back for as little as two hours just gathering information.

Then you choose your target audience, create content for them, and schedule content publications according to the times they are most likely to see it.

Then, you monitor how they perceive the line you’ve thrown. And then you follow up until you experience conversion.

You are more focused, concise with your actions, and your digital marketing is more interactive than your traditional marketing efforts have ever been.

Easier branding

Back in the 1990s, makeup products like Maybelline dominated the market because they had more airtime. Lesser known makeup brands had no chance to break into the market because they did not have enough money to get a good exposure.

Today, there are many ways for a startup to get just as much airtime. Digital marketing makes it possible, thanks to how integrative online channels are. A Facebook post is effective, but imagine a Facebook post with a link to Youtube video. The Youtube video can be makeup review, comparison, or a demo of the startup’s product.

The key is in choosing the right influencer to endorse you. If your product is good, you will get a fair review from the influencer. Good or bad, your brand will already be out there. You just need to wait for the results.

Targeted marketing

Targeted communications are always more effective than throwing a message into thin air. Digital marketing allows for this customization.

For example, you already know that your Instagram followers behave a certain way. You can post photos that would automatically draw their attention because all the right elements are there. With the right caption and a link through, you might just convert this exposure to sales.

Meanwhile, you communicate differently with existing clients through opt-in emails. You entice them to try out a new product, or tap their shoulder to check if they have are interested in visiting your store again because you are having a sale. Two different channels, two different approaches, and both could lead to sales if done right.

Now that you have an overview of what digital marketing is and have three good reasons why you should start implementing it in your business, another thing is confusing you…

digital marketing vs seo

Digital Marketing and SEO: What’s the Difference?

Let’s cut to the chase: SEO is a subset of digital marketing. While SEO is an integral part of any digital marketing campaign, it is only a part of it.

SEO is a technique that helps digital marketing goals because its main purpose is to drive as much traffic to the website as possible. Digital marketing and SEO are not that different – it’s just that SEO stops at attracting an audience while digital marketing begins with that and ends with converting the exposure to sales as well as maintaining strong relationships with clients.

Digital marketing and SEO are not that different – it’s just that SEO stops at attracting an audience while digital marketing begins with that and ends with converting the exposure to sales as well as maintaining strong relationships with clients.

SEO Specialist vs. Digital Marketing Manager

The reason why you are concerned about the difference between digital marketing and SEO is probably because you’re confused with the labels professionals use in the field these days.

Who should you hire? Someone who calls himself a digital marketing manager, or someone who swears by his prowess as an SEO specialist?

There is no easy answer. Labels are tricky. You need to dig deeper than that. This is because even if digital marketing is a bigger umbrella encompassing SEO, there is no guarantee that the candidate labeled “SEO specialist” knows less than the digital marketing manager. What you should do is ask them the following questions:

What can you do for my website?

  • Is their scope of work/ skills limited to only driving traffic to your website?
  • Or does the package include content production, management,  and scheduling?
  • Do they have a measure for the work they do?

These questions, more than labels, can answer what these professionals actually are.

What projects are you responsible for?

  • Who were your clients?

Expect plenty of name dropping done here. Some of the names will be your rivals.Confirm before hiring, or at least ask discerning questions to confirm their claims.

What about your pricing?

  • Do you expect to be paid monthly? After the end of the project? After the completion of certain stages of the project? After guaranteed results?

Do not just based on the rates alone. Some of these professionals could charge a fortune and still deliver very little in terms of results. Again, you will need to do additional research on these fellows before hiring. Just because someone answers well does not mean they are the right fit for your needs.

So who should you hire? Simply put, you should hire someone who can keep your website relevant and help you sell products and keep customers.

Tall order? Of course. You may spend a little more than you expected for a wide skill set like that, but you can always look at it as a good investment.

It’s safe to say that digital marketing and SEO actually go hand-in-hand because one cannot really yield good results without the other.

Other umbrellas of digital marketing

Content production

This refers to the production of materials which ideally will go viral online to help you establish your reputation. This can be anything from a Youtube video, an infographic, or even a picture. Content production is concerned with non-paid tools used to drive more traffic to your website.

Email marketing

Consider email marketing as your one-on-one communication with your clients. This includes newsletters, follow throughs to subscription, reports, and promotional invitations.

Social media marketing

People are glued to their mobile phones and other devices mostly because of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are currently the top channels to tap if you would like to make your existence known to your target market.

Knowing what content to publish to attract the right people to your website, how frequently to post, and during which times to post to get maximum exposure is the key to an effective social media campaign.

Pay per click advertising

Increasing organic traffic through SEO can be a big task. True players of the game of digital marketing know the power of paid advertising and how it can make them stand out from all the digital noise.

digital marketing strategy

Now that you know what digital marketing is, its difference from SEO, and the areas you can manipulate to make effective digital marketing happen, it’s time for The Plan.

Yep. You can’t really succeed here without a clear cut Digital Marketing Strategy.

Without one, you can be spending a huge amount of money for campaigns that will only give you short spurts.of.success. You need to think about this.

Your customer base

  • Are you putting enough focus on your customers?
  • Do you study your customer enough?
  • What do they need from you and your brand?
  • What are their other options aside from you?
  • Is your Digital Marketing Strategy about your customers or just about you?

Some startup companies might think that digital marketing is only about making a persona from their brand, and making this persona generally likeable. That focus might be inaccurate.

Your brand is actually a persona that corresponds to the needs and wants of your ideal customer. So before you can make a brand persona, it is imperative that you take care of your main customer’s persona first. This just makes everything fall right into place.


This is the anatomy of your digital marketing strategy. If you are imagining diagrams right now, you have it right. You need to be visually clear about how your marketing strategy will affect your business. It is not just about being recognized as a brand anymore. You need to make sure that your plans are going somewhere by providing a clear and steady flow of income your way. You should not stop at brand recognition. You need to think in terms of ROI.

Human interest

When the competition gets too fierce, the tendency is for your digital marketing strategy to run a little dry. No client wants a company who is only concerned about making money and is too obvious about it. If you were pasta, you would be too acidic. It’s time to round out the taste with some sugar. The answer to this problem is adding a pinch of human interest to the mix.

Make your clients see you as more than just an aggressive money sucker. Sit and tell your story in the most grandfatherly way possible. You can include content about how your company started out.

Everyone loves those small beginnings stories. It’s inspiring. Or you can invest in videos about how your employees are when they are not at work, and why they love working for you. What aspects of their job keep them going.

You literally need to forget a little about marketing when you do this, but it is the “sugar” that rounds out the taste of your branding efforts. While counterintuitive, it just might work.

Traffic and SEO

While the intention of your blogging efforts are spot on, what about the way you structured them? Do they look relevant enough to be indexed in search engines? Are they interesting and valuable enough to go viral in social media?

Keywords, headlines and relevant tags are important to make sure your content continues to attract the right kind of people online. It can spell the difference between a mediocre blog that gets 10 visitors a day and a viral blog that gets shared on Facebook across the globe because it has valuable information.

Content and relationships

Aside from driving traffic to your blog, your content says a lot about your relationship with your clients.

For example, if you ran a fashion boutique, content on the latest trends might get them to check out the pieces of clothing on your store but giving them sisterly tips on how to recycle their wardrobe, keep clothes smelling fresh while it’s in the luggage, or packing correctly for unexpected cold weather abroad can score you some priceless brownie points.

These seemingly non-marketing content actually makes your brand top-of-mind because you are more than just a good source of clothes. Suddenly, you are recognized as an expert.

Email marketing vs. Social media

For a more solid digital marketing strategy, you need to learn how to manage your channels well. You need to recognize the power of both your soapbox (loud) campaign channels like the social

You need to recognize the power of both your soapbox (loud) campaign channels like the social media and your quieter, more intimate content channels like the email.  Make sure you conduct yourself well.

Social media websites are like the Time Square. You need to cut through all the noise, so it’s fine to be a little gimmicky.

When it comes to email marketing, however, be respectful. Never disturb a client who has not opted into your mailing list. When you email, personalize so that you do not end up in the spam folder. Take note of the frequency of your emails too. Are you following what you agreed on? Try not to drop in unannounced.

Feedback and metrics

To keep your digital marketing strategy sharp, you must take constructive criticism from your community.

How is your social media doing? This is actually a channel that can give you almost immediate results. The thing is it’s not completely free from trolls, so you also need to take the feedback with a grain of salt.

Invest in solid metrics, like tools to measure traffic-to-sales conversions. Take note of the efforts that yielded good results, and learn to let go of even pet projects that are costing you more money than they’re worth.

Ready to take on the challenging task of digital marketing?

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Gwenn Doria

Founder and Author at Virtual Success Avenue
Hey there, awesome! I started this blog because I understand the challenges of starting out and thriving as a professional working from home. My aim is to empower aspiring and fellow Virtual Assistants by sharing tips, inspiring stories and lessons learned about the Virtual Assistant industry. Get to know me more by visiting the "About Me" page. 🙂 Cheers!

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