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An Overview of Digital Marketing: Categories, Challenges, and Essential Competencies

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing encompasses the utilization of digital platforms for promoting goods and services to consumers. Websites, mobile devices, social media, search engines, and other channels with a similar function are used in this kind of marketing. The rise of the internet in the 1990s marked the onset of digital marketing’s widespread adoption.

Digital marketing shares several fundamental principles with traditional marketing and is viewed as an additional avenue for companies to engage with consumers and gain insights into their behavior. Many businesses integrate both traditional and digital marketing approaches into their strategies. However, digital marketing presents its own unique challenges, one of which is implicit bias.

How Digital Marketing Works

Marketing is the term used to describe the actions a business engages in to advertise its goods and services and increase its market share. Achieving success in marketing necessitates a blend of expertise in advertising, sales, and efficient product delivery to consumers. Marketers, whether employed within companies or by external marketing agencies, are the individuals responsible for carrying out these functions.

Traditionally, businesses concentrated their marketing efforts on print, television, and radio. These options are still available, but the Internet has caused a change in how businesses interact with their customers. This shift gave rise to digital marketing, which encompasses the utilization of websites, social media, search engines, and applications—essentially, any platform that enables marketing alongside customer engagement or a two-way interaction between the company and its customers.

traditional marketing

Companies were driven to alter their marketing tactics by emerging technology and trends. In the early years of digital marketing, email became a common marketing technique. The focus switched to search engines like Netscape at that point, which enabled companies to tag and keyword products to stand out. Companies are now able to collect data and respond to consumer trends because of the growth of platforms like Facebook.

Today, smartphones and various digital gadgets have simplified the process for businesses to promote their brand and offerings to consumers. Research indicates a strong inclination among people to use their smartphones for online activities. In fact, as per a study by the Pew Research Center, more than 75% of adults in the United States typically use their phones for shopping purchases.

Sources and Receivers

Advertisers are often denoted as ‘sources,’ while the recipients of targeted advertisements are referred to as ‘receivers.’ In this context, sources commonly aim their efforts at very particular and clearly defined groups, much like how McDonald’s targeted shift workers and travelers.

McDonald’s opted for digital advertising due to its awareness that these individuals frequently utilized digital devices and constituted a significant portion of its late-night customer base. The company encouraged them to download the Restaurant Finder app, employing ads strategically positioned at ATMs, gas stations, and websites frequented by its customer demographic.

Types of Digital Marketing Channels

digital marketing channels


As previously mentioned, print (newspapers and magazines) and broadcast (TV and radio) advertisements were traditional marketing channels. These channels are still in use today and still exist. However, digital marketing channels have undergone evolution and continue to evolve. The eight most popular digital channels that businesses may use to strengthen their marketing efforts are listed below. Remember that some businesses could employ many channels in their endeavors.

Website Marketing

All digital marketing efforts revolve around a website. It is a very effective channel on its own, but it also serves as the platform for a number of different online marketing efforts. A website should effectively convey the essence of a brand, product, or service in a distinct and memorable manner. It must also prioritize speed, mobile compatibility, and user-friendliness.

Paid-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising allows marketers to connect with online audiences across various digital platforms by using paid advertisements. Marketers can establish PPC campaigns on platforms such as Google, Bing, LinkedIn, X platform (formerly Twitter), Pinterest, and Facebook, displaying their ads to individuals searching for terms associated with their products or services.

These ads can target users specifically based on their hobbies or locations, or segment users based on demographic traits (including age or gender). The two most widely used PPC platforms are Google Ads and Facebook Ads.

Content Marketing

The objective of content marketing is to engage prospective customers by delivering content that captivates their interest. Typically, this content is posted on a website and subsequently promoted through various channels like social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, and even pay-per-click campaigns. The arsenal of content marketing comprises resources such as blogs, ebooks, online courses, infographics, podcasts, and webinars.

Email Marketing

Email marketing remains a highly potent tool within the digital marketing landscape. It’s important to distinguish email marketing from spam email messages, as they are not synonymous. Email marketing enables companies to connect with prospective customers and individuals genuinely interested in their brands and products.

Numerous digital marketers employ various digital marketing channels to acquire leads for their email lists. Subsequently, through email marketing, they construct customer acquisition pathways to convert these leads into loyal customers.

Social Media Marketing

The main objectives of a social media marketing campaign are to increase brand recognition and foster interpersonal trust. As you delve further into the realm of social media marketing, it can also serve as a means to generate leads and function as a direct avenue for marketing and sales. Examples of social media marketing tactics include promoted posts and tweets.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the earliest types of marketing, and the internet has given it new life. In affiliate marketing, influencers endorse products from others and earn a commission for each sale or lead they generate. Prominent companies, such as Amazon, have affiliate programs that distribute substantial monthly payouts to websites marketing their products.

Video Marketing

YouTube stands out as one of the globe’s most widely used search engines. Numerous internet users consult YouTube prior to making purchasing choices, whether to gain knowledge, seek reviews, or simply unwind.

Marketers have various video marketing platforms at their disposal, such as Facebook Videos, Instagram, and TikTok, for orchestrating video marketing initiatives. Businesses achieve optimal results with video marketing when they seamlessly integrate it into their SEO, content marketing, and overarching social media marketing strategies.

SMS Messaging

Businesses and nonprofit entities leverage text messages, formally referred to as SMS (short message service), to disseminate updates about their latest promotions or extend opportunities to interested customers. Political candidates seeking office similarly employ SMS campaigns to disseminate favorable information about their platforms. With technological progress, numerous text-to-give initiatives now enable customers to make payments or donations directly through a straightforward text message.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in Digital Marketing

It’s important to keep in mind that key performance indicators (KPIs) are used by digital marketers just like they are by traditional marketers. These KPIs are measurable metrics that companies utilize to assess their marketing performance over the long term and gauge how they stack up against their competitors. The areas of assessment encompass corporate strategies, financial objectives and accomplishments, operational activities, and even the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.


Here are some of the most commonly used Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that marketers can employ to assist companies in achieving their objectives:

  • Blog articles: This KPI may be used by marketers to determine how frequently a business publishes blog articles each month.
  • Clickthrough rates: Businesses may use this KPI to determine how many email deliveries result in clicks. This covers the number of recipients who open emails and click links to complete transactions.
  • Conversion rate: This metric concentrates on call-to-action marketing campaigns. These initiatives solicit people to take certain activities, such as making a purchase before the end of a promotional period. The conversion rate is calculated by dividing successful engagements by the total number of requests.
  • Social media traffic: This KPI tracks the level of interaction with a company’s social media pages, encompassing metrics like likes, follows, views, shares, and other measurable actions.
  • Website traffic: Marketers may monitor how many people visit a company’s website using this indicator. This data may be used by corporate management to determine if the layout and style of the website influence sales.

Challenges in Digital Marketing

Digital marketing presents distinct hurdles for its practitioners. The landscape of digital channels evolves rapidly, necessitating digital marketers to stay abreast of their functionality and how recipients engage with them. Marketers must possess the knowledge of leveraging these channels effectively to promote their products or services.

Gaining the attention of recipients has become increasingly daunting due to the deluge of competing advertisements. Additionally, digital marketers grapple with the intricate task of processing vast volumes of data they collect and harnessing this information for fresh marketing endeavors.

This challenge underscores the imperative of a consumer behavior-centric approach in digital marketing. For instance, companies might need to employ various methods, such as website heatmaps, to gain deeper insights into the customer journey and emerging consumer behaviors.

Implicit Bias in Digital Marketing

Implicit Bias


Implicit bias can subtly infiltrate the realm of digital marketing, despite the best efforts of marketers and companies to prevent it. Implicit bias encompasses automatic attitudes and stereotypes that operate without conscious awareness.

Algorithms form a fundamental component of digital marketing and hold significant importance in shaping companies’ marketing strategies. These algorithms are typically designed with the aim of impartiality. Nevertheless, there can be a disconnect between intention and outcome.

This occurs because various individuals, including engineers, developers, data scientists, and marketers, all of whom may harbor implicit biases, collaborate in the creation of algorithms. As a result, unintended bias could inadvertently be introduced during the programming, data input, and modification phases.

Even the inclusion of stock images or videos in a campaign can inadvertently introduce unconscious bias. Companies may inadvertently select photographs and videos primarily featuring heterosexual White individuals while overlooking the representation of Black people, Native Americans, individuals of different ethnicities, as well as people with diverse body shapes and abilities.

What Is a Digital Marketing Agency?

A digital marketing agency is a company that specializes in promoting products or services to consumers using digital platforms. This involves the development and implementation of marketing campaigns for corporate clients across various digital channels, such as social media, pay-per-click advertising, videos, websites, and more.

What Is SEO in Digital Marketing?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a technique employed by companies to enhance website traffic, aiming to elevate their websites and brand visibility to the uppermost positions on search engine results pages. This can be achieved through both organic and editorial search results. When companies effectively integrate SEO into their digital marketing strategies, their brand names and websites gain greater exposure to a broader audience.

What Is Internet Marketing?

Internet marketing refers to marketing activities that exclusively occur on the internet, specifically on websites. It should be distinguished from digital marketing, which encompasses internet marketing alongside marketing activities on social media platforms, mobile apps, and various digital devices. These marketing campaigns can be conducted through smartphones and various digital platforms.

How Can I Become a Digital Marketer?

Professionals in digital marketing should possess solid writing abilities in addition to proficiency in data analytics and social media management. Typically, a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for most roles in digital marketing, often in fields like marketing or related areas such as communications. Supplementary training, such as digital marketing courses or bootcamps, can also be beneficial. Furthermore, gaining practical experience through internships during your academic years can be advantageous. While a master’s degree in digital marketing can offer value, it is not mandatory for entering the digital marketing field.


digital marketers

What Competencies Are Required for Digital Marketing?

Essential skills for this role include content writing, as well as effective communication to convey your product’s narrative to your customer audience. Proficiency in data analytics is crucial for assessing the performance of your marketing initiatives and identifying areas for enhancement. Moreover, a solid grasp of social media and other online competencies is imperative.

The Bottom Line

Some of the most iconic advertising campaigns in the world were traditionally executed. However, shifts in media consumption habits prompted companies to adapt. Today, digital marketing has become as influential, if not more so, than traditional advertising and marketing methods.

It’s important to note that implicit bias can manifest in digital marketing, similar to other areas. The key takeaway is that as technology continues to evolve, so will the landscape of digital marketing.