What Is Digital Marketing: A Starter Kit To Marketing Online

What is digital marketing? Simply put, it’s your marketing, online. Like traditional marketing, digital marketing is all about reaching, attracting, and then converting customers. And since most customers—past, current, and potential—live almost every aspect of their lives online these days, it means your marketing has to be, too.

Your customers go online for entertainment, human connection, shopping, product research, to learn about brands, read reviews, leave reviews, and make purchases. Digital marketing is all the things you do (SEO, blogs, email newsletters, etc.) to reach your customers online. Looking at the big picture, your digital marketing strategy is how you use digital marketing to guide people along on the journey of becoming—and remaining—your customers. Whew! Sounds like a mouthful, but it’s actually pretty straightforward.

In this introductory guide, we’ll talk about why having a digital marketing strategy will make your online efforts more successful, the different kinds of digital marketing there are, the benefits of digital marketing, and some awesome, free tools to get you started.

Graphic design with fingers over keyboard and icons of popular social media platforms overlaid

Digital Marketing Strategy

When it comes to your online marketing efforts, you probably have social media, sponsored ads, a website. That’s great! These are key ingredients to success. But to really shine, you should consider how each of these digital marketing efforts works along the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is the often zig-zagging path your online customer takes through the four stages of your sales funnel. These four stages include:

Your digital marketing is the ways you touch your customer as they meander through this four part funnel. The journey through the funnel is not always a straight line. Online customers have an almost infinite amount (dare we say a googol) of information at their fingertips at all times. Because of this, your customers will likely bounce back and forth between different phases of the sales funnel before conversion. At each point of their journey, you want to use digital marketing to help move them forward.

Types of Digital Marketing

Just like in traditional advertising, there are many types of digital marketing. When you consider the four main parts of a buyer’s journey (Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Loyalty), you can see that you can use a range of digital marketing methods to skillfully move them along. The neat thing is that most types of digital marketing are multi-functional. For example, social media marketing can touch your customer at every stage of the sales funnel. Here are just some of the many types of digital marketing you can use.

Social media marketing

an ad promoting a hair salon showing a woman from the back with long hair

Social media touches all aspects of a digital marketing strategy. Social media marketing is everything you do on all your social platforms that brings visibility to your brand. It’s all the content, videos, and posts that you create and share across your chosen platforms. It’s sponsored ads and pay per clicks on Instagram and Facebook, it’s the behind-the-scenes IG Stories you share, it’s the articles you write on LinkedIn, it’s the brand-aligned pins you post to Pinterest, and so much more.

Just as important as your content is the engagement you have with your customers. This engagement happens on your pages, in your comments, in your online groups, and beyond. Your social media marketing also includes how you create and put out a cohesive visual identity that allows customers to easily recognize you and build a relationship with your brand.

Content marketing

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Blog posts, YouTube videos, LinkedIn articles, infographics—all these classify as content marketing and they’re crucial pieces of your digital marketing strategy. Your content helps you provide value to your customers at all stages of their buyer’s journey.

You might create a how-to video teaching people unique ways to use your product that you post to your Facebook business page. You might write a thought leadership piece about the small business strategy that you then share on your blog. Or you might write an article about calligraphy’s rising popularity for LinkedIn and then tweet a series of snackable quotes from the piece to Twitter to drive people to LinkedIn. Content can help you in all stages of the sales funnel.


blue graphic design promoting digital marketing

Search engine optimization helps drive organic traffic to your website and social profiles. SEO is the use of key wording (in your written content, in your metadata, and your backlinks) that makes your brand relevant in online searches. SEO lets the search engine algorithms know that you’re what your customers are searching for. Get down with the basics of SEO from Google for a solid start. Need a killer website? Make a free, easy-to-customize landing page here. Hot tip, you can also use SEO for social media profile pages, like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Affiliate marketing

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This is referral marketing where influencers or key customers promote your services for you on their website, social media feeds, or other online platform. The affiliate earns a commission whenever a viewer clicks through to your product or service based on the affiliate’s referral.

For example, you might own a makeup brush company and a beauty vlogger reviews or uses your makeup brush in their YouTube makeup tutorial. Then, they share a link to your product in their post. The beauty vlogger will earn a commission on any sale you receive from a click through from their site. As long as your brands align, everyone wins. Affiliate marketing is about knowing where your audience is, who they are, who they will trust and listen to, and then partnering with that person. Alternatively you can also earn commissions by promoting other people’s goods or services.

Email marketing

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Never underestimate the power of the email. This digital marketing strategy is golden when it comes to securing your customer after the decision stage. You can nurture a long-term relationship with people through email. You can share valuable content in newsletters, make sure customers are satisfied by doing surveys, let them know about new product and offer promotions, and so much more. Email is your ticket to people’s heart. And there are tons of cool, free, customizable templates to get you started.

Native ads and Pay per click

graphic design promoting a gardening app with greenery and a smartphone

Native ads are paid ads that work seamlessly into a website or platform to look ‘natural’ to the setting. Unlike a billboard ad or pop up that jumps out at you, native ads are aesthetically pleasing. For that reason, they’re attractive to customers. In fact, eMarketer reports that in 2019, U.S. advertisers spent $44 billion on native ads—with the majority of that spending in Facebook.

Pay per click ads are digital online ads. It might be Google Ads (ever notice how these ads turn up first in Google search results?), sponsored content sprinkled into your Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter, or banner ads on a website.

To sum it up, these are some of the most popular types of digital marketing. There is more waiting for you! The key is considering what you want to achieve, how you can use different types of digital marketing to achieve it, and then tracking what works and what doesn’t to better hone your strategy.

Perks of digital marketing

brochure in pink, orange, and red promoting digital marketing services

Besides the fact that everyone is online and digital marketing is super effective, it’s also highly quantifiable. You can use insights from social media campaigns to understand exactly who you hit and when. You can use Google analytics to track SEO efforts, email marketing software to track letter open rates, and you can count the number of clicks each ad gets in each platform. With digital marketing, you’re never guessing. You know what works and what’s not working. Even better, you get to interact in real time with your customers to learn what they love, what frustrates them, and what they’d like to see more of.

Tools to get started

Plus, there are tons of tools to have you looking like a digital marketing pro, even if you don’t have one design bone in your body. Check out Adobe’s free, 10-part Creative Fitness Challenge. It’s a series of videos (90 seconds and less, we know you don’t have all day) that teach you how to make fabulous designs on the fly.

Are you ready to ramp up your digital marketing strategies? Be sure to tag #AdobeSpark with your creations for a chance to be featured.