So what is digital marketing (DM)? This term has taken the business world by storm over the past few years. If you are a traditional marketer, you really need to know.

Do you own or manage a small business? Are you losing market share to new competitors? Are you failing to gain new customers through the internet and through new modern marketing methods?

Today’s post defines DM and creates a foundation upon which you can start the process of shifting from traditional marketing methods to those that embrace the power of digital marketing.

What is digital marketing?

DM Defined

Wikipedia tells us that digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.

But I think we can do better than that.

Defining Digital Marketing

As we go about defining digital marketing (versus traditional marketing), you will find most processes belong clearly in one camp versus the other. There are some gray areas here to understand as well.

One great example of digital marketing that is also a traditional marketing channel is newspapers. Is there anything more traditional than advertising in a newspaper?

Well for most newspapers today, when you advertise in the paper, you are also advertising in their digital edition. I am a proponent of deploying a sound marketing plan, one that includes digital marketing as well as traditional methods, so long as everything is monitored, tested and improved.


Digital marketing appears in many forms, and you will do well to study each form to determine its fit and application for your business and industry. The following section identifies many forms of digital marketing. The structure and several points were paraphrased from an excellent article written by Susanna Gebauer on the Social MS Blog.


It is cheap and easy to promote products and services on numerous social media platforms and websites with specialized widgets (tools). Social media is great for engagement with current and potential customers. It acts like the old-fashioned word of mouth (on steroids) in helping an organization ‘get the word out’.

So what is digital marketing? DM is social media marketing.


Have you ever started reading an article in a magazine only to realize after several paragraphs that it is an ad? That’s just one example of content marketing.

Online, content marketing looks like a news article or an opinion piece, or a video that provides valuable information a potential client is looking for but may not explicitly ask for their business.

The best content marketing plan starts by understanding the needs of your customers, the questions that they will have and then reverse engineers the sales process by luring them with answers to their most important questions.

It is the hope of content marketers to demonstrate expertise in order to earn the right to do business with the information-seeking prospective customers that are moving towards a purchase decision.

So what is digital marketing? DM is off-site content marketing.


Many consumers begin the process of buying a product or service with extensive research. They want to know everything about the product or service and they want to learn more about how others have undertaken a similar endeavor. While in the past, a customer was willing to start the process of buying by talking to a salesperson, today, most shoppers start online using a search engine like Google. They type the keywords that will lead them to the answers they seek.

So what is digital marketing? DM is SEO.

On-site SEO

Since the buying process now starts online, it’s important for your business to have a website that provides the information that your prospective customer is seeking. SEO is all about optimizing your website so that your business is first in the search results.

A simple Google search of ‘SEO techniques’ will take you to scores of articles online. A website optimized to attract the right visitors is like having money in the bank.

Think of SEO as building a website the way search engines would prefer it built and you’ll already be ahead of your competition who invariably think a website is merely a billboard on the information superhighway. SEO gathers ‘organic’ (FREE) traffic to the content on your website.

So what is digital marketing? DM is on-site SEO.

Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO describes the tactics that you use outside of your own website in order to enhance your rankings with search engines. The best method to use online to enhance your reputation is to actually mirror what you do offline for the same purpose.

You should seek out people or organizations to champion your cause and then ensure your customers see all these high-quality endorsements. The way we mirror this online is by getting reputable websites, people and social media personas linking to or promoting our website, effectively vouching for the quality of our content.

While nobody outside of Google knows its well-guarded algorithm, most organizations that make their living providing guidance on SEO factors tell us that off-site SEO is critical. Some suggest that off-site SEO is more important than the quality of your content because Google views most incoming links as an endorsement to the quality of your content.

Once your company website is up and running and you have some high-quality content, it is prudent to begin educating yourself on how you plan to support your site with an off-site SEO plan.

Take your time and do your homework, as there are many techniques that Google considers overly aggressive that you will want to avoid. When in doubt, do some more research before implementing a technique that Google, now or in the future, will frown upon.

So what is digital marketing? DM is off-site SEO.

Local Marketing With NAP

NAP stands for name, address, phone number. NAP is a very important step in the off-site SEO process, as it reaffirms for search engines the physical location of your business.

With all the bogus information available online, NAP is a process that search engines rely on to rank the different small (and large) businesses in every market area. For example, it’s incredibly unlikely that a fraudulent website is going to have a physical address offline, still less that it will post consistent NAP information on websites ranging from local directories and Google to the Internet Yellow Pages.

The more local citations you can build up with consistent NAP information, the better, as it sets you apart from websites that pose as local businesses. Local marketing with NAP is simply the process of registering your business name, address and phone number (exactly the same way) on some key websites and directories across the internet.

It is critical that you decide upfront what your NAP will be and make sure it is correctly recorded at each location (for example, is your address 2066 Thomasville Road or 2066 Thomasville Rd?).

There are many applications online that an organization can use to add, modify or remove NAP information on the sites most favored by search engines (Google, Facebook, Apple, Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, MapQuest, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, Citysearch, Manta, Switchboard and Superpages to name just a few).

Of course, you could do this manually, but it’s much simpler to use a local rankings booster app (BrightLocal and Moz Local are two examples) to do this in bulk and to help you monitor progress.

So what is digital marketing? DM is local marketing with NAP.


Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the way to pay for traffic to your site. The majority of internet users use Google, thus Google Adwords is a great starting point for an SEM plan.

Ideally, you want to get a heavy flow of traffic from your SEO, but SEM can immediately bring in traffic in heavy volume so long as you have a good budget and processes on your website that convert visitors to leads or customers.

The most common form of SEM is pay per click (PPC) advertising. PPC advertising is a method where a business places advertisements on other websites across the internet. Each time someone clicks the ad, a small fee is charged to the business.

Beyond search engines, there are far more opportunities available to you when it comes to using PPC. For example, a real estate company can run ads on real estate related websites with the hope of reaching a target-rich environment and a better quality click than might be gained from a generic search engine.

So what is digital marketing? DM is PPC.


Wouldn’t it be great if you could focus a portion of your advertising budget on people who already know your brand and thus might be more likely to respond to your advertisements? Well, there is a way to do that with Google, Facebook, and others, and it is known as remarketing or retargeting.

Here’s how remarketing works on Google: first, you add a snippet of code (a pixel) provided by Google, to your website. This code adds a ‘cookie’ to each visitor’s browser that will be seen by Google when your visitor leaves your website and goes to other websites that serve Google Ads.

You can customize multiple pixels and use them on specific products or service pages on your site and then when you run a remarketing ad with Google, the ad only shows to those visitors that have triggered that specific pixel on your website. It is likely that you have already experienced remarketing as a consumer.

For example, let’s say you have been shopping online for running shoes. Maybe you purchase a pair, or perhaps you do not. The next time you go online, you start noticing different advertisements for running shoes. That is not a coincidence!

You are being served remarketing ads because of your recent interest in running shoes. Remarketing is a very powerful tool as it allows you to narrowly target your ad spend to people who very likely are interested in your products or services.

Once you have gained a good amount of traffic to your company website, you should allocate a portion of your advertising budget to remarketing, as it will likely produce a higher conversion rate than will your new traffic.

So what is digital marketing? DM is remarketing.


Think of affiliate marketing as outsourcing to a small degree. Unlike SEM and PPC where an organization pays regardless of the outcome, affiliate marketing typically generates a fee when a sale is made, or in some cases when traffic is delivered.

If you have ever been on a website and seen embedded links in the content (and clicked and found yourself on a sales page), then there is likely an affiliate marketer helping to promote the product or service you were reading about.

One company that does exceptionally well with affiliate marketing is Amazon. I suspect at some point in your online surfing you’ve clicked on a link in an article and found yourself on the Amazon product page. Well, if you purchased the product from Amazon, Amazon paid a commission to the content writer who sent you there.

One thing to remember if you deploy an affiliate marketing program on your website is that it is only going to help bring traffic to your website; you are in charge of turning that traffic into conversions. This is why you need to have excellent landing pages with well-tested, successful calls to action (CTA).

If you want a profitable affiliate marketing program, then you must commit to finding as many affiliate marketers as possible to promote your product and services. Be mindful that quality trumps quantity, as there is an unlimited number of un-trafficked websites that will promise to promote your product, but the key is finding the influential ones that will deliver traffic that converts.

So what is digital marketing? DM is affiliate marketing.


The purpose of your content marketing is to attract potential consumers. The highest converting method of engagement is likely to email. Regardless of your digital marketing platform, the goal is to gather contact information from people who are likely in need of your product or service.

A well-structured email campaign can help you grow engagement and move consumers towards a purchase. The bulk of your long-term follow-up with prospective buyers will be through email, as it is cost-effective and most people today have learned not to answer the phone when called by an unfamiliar number. So what is digital marketing? The answer is that it includes your email marketing systems.

So what is digital marketing? DM is email marketing.


One traditional method of communicating with your pool of customers and prospective customers that will work very nicely in a digital marketing plan is the newsletter.

An electronic version of the traditional newsletter is even better, as it can be used to drive customers back to the company website. I have been using an email newsletter in my real estate business for more than ten years, and it has allowed me to grow my reputation as well as my sales vortex beyond the boundaries of my small, Tallahassee real estate market.

For most businesses, an electronic newsletter can provide a great way to communicate with the very people that the company plans on engaging in business, so establishing a newsletter early on is wise.

So what is digital marketing? DM is email newsletters.

What To Do Next

So what is digital marketing? DM includes all those things listed above, packaged together to form a marketing plan for an organization.

The list above is by no means complete, rather it serves to demonstrate the many forms of digital marketing available to your organization. The goal of every marketer should be to evaluate each form and decide through testing which works best for their business model and industry.