What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a term that has been around for quite awhile but hasn’t been very well defined, encompassing things like banner advertising, search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click. Yet, this is too narrow of a definition. What about email, RSS, voice broadcast, fax broadcast, blogging, podcasting, video streams, wireless text messaging, and instant messaging? You get the idea.

To clearly define what digital marketing is let’s talk about what it is not. For starters, it does not include more traditional forms of marketing such as radio, TV, billboard and print because they do not offer instant feedback and report. Sure, some people may respond to a call to action from an advertisement in one of these mediums but there is no way to know the exact number of people who saw or heard it. Such data is collected (and still then just educated guesses) long after the initial ad impression is made. Yes, convergence has made television at bit more interactive, with devices such as TiVo able to record viewer statistics like those for Web sites, but there is still a long way to go. With digital marketing, however, we’re already there.

At its heart, digital marketing centers around the Internet, which has become both a communication vehicle and a very powerful marketing medium as the recent Doubleclick acquisition by Google demonstrated. The Internet can be used both to push a message to someone like email, IM, RSS, or voice broadcast, as well to “pull” content serving a banner ad and Pay Per Click search terms. Digital marketing, therefore, can be thought of as the combination of push and pull Internet technologies to execute marketing campaigns.

Because it is digital, a reporting engine can be layered within a campaign allowing the organization see in real-time how that campaign is performing, such as what is being viewed, how often, how long, as well as other actions such as responses rates and purchases made. Please note that each digital marketing technology is different and they cannot all provide the same types of reports. Also, digital marketing is constantly evolving and new technologies are being created all of the time.

To help promote this new concept of digital marketing, we recently updated the Wikipedia entry for the term and did our best to not only define digital marketing but to explain what it is as well as the players in this space. In the true collaborative spirit of Wikipedia, we invite you to add your own thoughts and ideas, as we too are still adding and editing. Currently our definition is:

Digital Marketing is the pratice of promoting products and services using database-driven online distribution channels to reach consumers in a timely, relevant, personal and cost-effective manner.

Broadband Internet, WiFi and phone Web access are also spurring growth worldwide. A recent report showed that Web usage increased 10% from last January to this January globally. Not surprisingly, billions of marketing dollars spent on traditional channels is already starting to shift to digital marketing campaigns and this will continue to increase as the Web matures. As a marketer, I am very excited about the future and what digital marketing will look like in the years ahead. I mean, we just got to Web 2.0 so who knows what will be coming next? If you haven’t already started, you need to build a database of customers or potential customers and find out how they wish to be reached. You can do this through the digital marketing technologies I’ve mentioned in this article and then use these systems to market your products and services. Make sure you are ready to take full advantage of digital marketing and watch your revenues soar.

Jared Reitzin
mobileStorm Inc.
Start Small Business Blog


50 Responses

  1. Howard Scott says:

    hi Jared. I've re-edited the wikipedia article from your amendment, to try and make it fit in more with what I originally wanted to start (as a discussion) when I first created the entry.

    For me, the main thing that I'd disagree with in your amendment is the use of the word "online" in the initial description. This word itself sets digital marketing too much in line with Internet marketing, of which there is now a lengthy ongoing discussion on wikipedia.

    Digital marketing, IMHO, goes beyond Internet or online marketing, certainly for now, because it includes devices and channels which do not involve The Internet or World Wide Web – such as mobile phones.

    This fact alone means it needs to be broader than Internet or Online and why it needs to have it's own category. I think some people on wikipedia have it wrong – they want to roll digital marketing into internet marketing, but I think for me it's almost easier to do it the other way around.

    I'd like to add that this probably won't always be the case, as IP networks will begin to seep into all these digital channels and replace the proprietary ones so that every does get distributed or accessed via the internet, but whilst we remain disconnected at times this definition needs to remain in place.

    Thanks for helping with the article, much appreciated and, as you point out that's all part of the collaborative spirit.

    • Jared Reitzin says:

      But mobile phones are now part of the Internet and eventually we will be accessing the Internet maybe as much 50% of the time on our portable devices.

  2. COO says:

    Howard. Good point about the online mention. You are right in that digital marketing does extend beyond connections to the Internet, especially re: mobile marketing. We're also on the same page that digital marketing definitely isn't a portion of Internet marketing but rather an entirely difference concept altogether.

    Truth be told, the whole philosophy around digital marketing changes on a seemingly daily basis so I'm glad to see that there are others out there like us to try to nail down what it all means.

  3. Bithika says:

    Hello Jared

    Your article helped clarify my concept of 'Digital marketing'.

    One question which arise at this moment is,
    does Digital marketing operate on the same methodologies as traditional marketing?


  4. COO says:

    Bithika —

    Glad you found the article useful. Not quite sure what you mean in terms of the difference in methodologies between digital and traditional marketing. Can you be a bit more specific so we can answer the question? In general, though, digital marketing certainly adheres to some general principles, such as determining your audience, giving them a Call to Action, and adjusting your message based on initial response/feedback.

    The main difference is that, unlike traditional marketing, digital marketing gives you almost instant analysis and many more tools to personally monitor your campaign's effectiveness. Again, if you can provide a bit more information as to what you are seeking, we will be able to better answer your queries.

  5. Dave Chaffey says:

    This is a useful summary of the scope of digital marketing.

    I would agree with the importance of blending push and pull communications, particularly when you cover customer acquisition, conversion and retention separately.

    It's definitely more than SEO as many seem to think and now we have social media as well.

    Dr Dave Chaffey
    Author: Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implmentation and Practice

  6. […] What Is Digital Marketing: In which we welcome newbies to the […]

  7. Hi all – great article and interesting comments. Howard, I would love to know more about what you said: "IP networks will begin to seep into all these digital channels and replace the proprietary ones so that every [one] does get distributed or accessed via the internet"

    Other channels that seem to fall into digital marketing so far are telecommunications (cell/mobile phones and voice broadcasting) and digital billboards. It sounds like what you see happening in the future with these is the Internet replacing telecommunications and even computer network infrastructures so that all these channels, as you wrote, are fed by the Internet.

    I wonder what this means for a sparsely populated and spread out country like Australia. Some of our more remote communities won't be getting the upgrade to the broadband internet infrastructure that the rest of the country is getting. So if you're sick of being bombarded by digital marketing, I suppose you'll just have to move out to a country town somewhere!

  8. Mildred says:

    Hi Jared,

    Quite an interesting piece.

    Your definition of digital marketing as it takes into cognisance the "push and pull" while providing real time feedback on campaign effectiveness is quite true. It is quite important that as marketeers, we constantly carry out an evaluation of all activities with respect to real time impact.

    I am glad that we are all beginning to think up new solutions that will replace the more traditional media.


  9. motevasu says:

    This i great content and understandable thanks for sharing nice information about digital marketing

  10. Brian Lee says:

    Digital marketing has really evolved over the last few years. I love it because of its efficiency and measurability.

    • Real time is where its at. How can we continue to even have offline marketing activities like direct mail makes no sense to me.

      • Bruce Stover says:

        No doubt real-time on line marketing provides instant or close to instant, feedback and results. However, prospects do not all respond to the same types of campaigns. Hard to believe as it may be, the vast majority of people in the world who occupy the C-level suites, control the companies and approve purchases were in the workforce before the Internet existed.

        Marketers who only focus on only one delivery method of marketing severely limit the results their company will achieve. It makes as much sense as saying that TV, Radio, Print or Direct Mail is the only way to go. Those methods are all "off line" and when properly utilized, very effective ways to deliver marketing messages. CBS just announced that even before the first week of the NFL season is complete their inventory (priced higher than ever this year) is almost completely sold out. $3mill for a thirty second spot tells me that on line is not the only game in town.

        Unless you are working for yourself, you owe it to your company to put together a multi pronged approach and be more open minded to other delivery methods.

  11. chirag says:

    i want to pursue digital marketing
    and was just searching …
    find this really great
    anyone can plz help me in the matter…

  12. maddy says:

    In the 20th century, internet marketing is leading the web. Daily a tons of marketing is running over the web, all the leading searching engines and the social networking site earn billions of $ on this digital and internet marketing.
    Well said about the use of digital marketing and its importance.

  13. Jdabhishek says:

    I have a little doubt…Do we include TV,Radio in the same? because the above explanation says it does not were as in the Wiki, you can see them included in the definition itself. Any thoughts?

  14. FCaroline Fuentes says:

    This is very understandable, very good.

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  16. I am still trying to understand what the 1,600 people were supposed to be doing? They can't all become "useless" as a result of a change in strategy! Surely to grow digital, requires people to derive the digital strategy and deliver on it.

  17. Thank you Matt. Really appreciate the feedback.

  18. Thanks Roger. Like everything else there has to be a good strategy.

  19. Wilfred your are welcome. Its definitely not easy. We are shaping it though.

  20. Kathryn, what 1,600 people are you referring to?

  21. sam says:

    so is there a difference between internet marketing and digital marketing?

  22. Web Design says:

    Thanks Jared for publishing such a great topic….Sometimes we do the things but without knowing the terms..You have explained very good..Thanks for it.

  23. Digital marketing is the best way to target your consumer base because a marketing campaign can be created with specific industry keywords that are associated with your target market.

  24. muhammad azam khan says:

    i have just registered for a course in digital marketing as an entirely new career and certainly after reading the blog it is raising my hopes that this may a very good choice , i hope that the predictions at least for this field are not mere optimism , in such a case due credit shall go to Mr. Jared reitzen for strengthening my resolve , i am glad i read this blog !

  25. very good. thanks for sharing nice information about digital marketing

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  27. Ad Agency says:

    why do we need RSS..what are the benefits??

  28. Brad says:

    It will be interesting to see what digital technology falls by the wayside and how this will impact on marketing, if at all? We may see 'old technology' like fax machines become redundant and their is current talk of email being replaced as well.

  29. La Shawn Shackelford says:

    Thanks for your post. I found it very interesting. I am currently seeking a degree in Internet Marketing and will often do research on the topic just for fun. I found your article to be direct and informative. Digital Marketing is to a company what TV and newspaper ads once were but so much better. Digital Marketing is not only cost effective, but it's also interactive. It puts a face on the company and allows them to engage with customers. Until recently, companies have not been able to easily develop relationships with consumers. Digital Marketing is a new arena for marketing people, a new language to learn, and new playing field to conquer. Digital Marketing is the new TV ad that cost less, produces measurable results and if done correctly, can work far better than a TV and newspaper ad put together.

  30. yogesh sharma says:


  31. digitalmarketingscho says:

    Interesting contect. Anyone who wants to capatilize should read about getting a degree in digital marketing.


  32. GProsoft says:

    Thanks for sharing this topic, very interesting on this topics. i have some clarification about what is the RSS feeds & Podcast marketing and how can we start it.

  33. Great to know about digital marking. I have heard this word from different people and I thinks it is similar to SEO.

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  37. You have explained very good thank you so much

  38. IM Guru PLR says:

    I found it very interesting

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