Digital marketing 101: A beginner’s guide


Any business owner likely has heard the term “digital marketing” before, but how well do you understand it and the opportunities it offers for your business?

The simplest definition of digital marketing is advertising that’s delivered through digital channels. It can take many forms and involve many strategies since the digital channels include at the very least:

  • Social media
  • Search engines
  • Websites
  • Mobile apps
  • Email
  • Smartphones

Why digital marketing? As you can imagine, the size of the audience you can reach through digital marketing can far outnumber and boast better targeting than more traditional forms of advertising for the same cost (think billboards, newspapers and so on).

To be relative and competitive in your industry, you’ll need to embrace at least a few aspects of digital marketing.

The following is a simple breakdown of 12 different methods of digital marketing so that you can best identify where you should start with your own efforts.

Email marketing

Emails are still a huge part of most companies’ digital marketing efforts. Why? The ROI is strong.

In fact, you can check out these 48 statistics that show the value of email marketing.

Emails are typically used to promote content, discounts/sales, events and more. The types of emails you typically would send in an email marketing campaign include (but are not limited to):

  • Welcome emails
  • Follow-up emails to visitors who downloaded something off your website
  • Subscription newsletters
  • Tips or other educational emails to help recipients become paying customers over time

Of course, one of the most important parts of email marketing is landing in the recipient’s inbox, not the spam folder. Check out these nine tips to avoid such a fate and help your email get seen.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is a culmination of all the efforts you can make to boost the ranking of your website in search engine results pages (typically Google). 

Doing so helps increase the amount of organic (or free) website traffic you generate.

There are two types of SEO methods. 

One is on-page SEO, which includes (but is not limited to):

  • Keyword research and usage
  • Meta descriptions
  • Internal linking
  • Headings

On-page SEO involves everything you can do on your website itself. 

Then, there’s off-page SEO, which includes (but is not limited to):

  • Backlinks
  • Domain authority
  • Social media promotion
  • Local listings

In other words, off-page SEO is everything that happens outside of your website that can improve (or not) your search engine rankings.

Learn more about the difference between on-page and off-page SEO. Also, see if you’re already making these 13 common SEO mistakes.

Social media marketing (SMM)

SMM involves promoting your brand and content on social media platforms to increase brand awareness, website traffic and lead generation.

You might think of some of the bigger platforms when you think about social media, but there are many out there, including:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest
  • TikTok

It is important to decide what your goals on social media are and where your target audience mostly is. Need a little help? Check out our guide on how to decide which social media platform to start with.

Also, know that there are opportunities to automate a good portion of your social media posting.

Pay-per-click marketing (PPC)

This is a method of digital marketing where you can drive traffic to your website by paying a publisher every time your ad is clicked. 

One of the more common types of PPC you’ve likely heard of is Google Ads, where you can pay for the top spots on Google’s search engine results pages. The price is per the click you get on your link or links. (This is also known as search engine marketing or SEM.)

PPC is also an option on social media platforms, including (but not limited to):

  • Facebook ads
  • Twitter ads
  • LinkedIn sponsored messages

Text message marketing

While SMS text message marketing started to fall out of style years ago when social media and search engines began showing their power, text messages are back.

They’re simple (160 characters or less) and flaunt a 98 percent open rate.

While 75 percent of consumers are okay with being texted by a brand, the key is that they’ve opted in first.

In fact, SMS text compliance and avoiding carrier violations are a big part of any successful texting campaign. 

Also, you can check out these eight tips on how to write texts that won’t get ignored

Content marketing

This method of digital marketing involves the creation and promotion of content to generate brand awareness, increased website traffic, lead generation and ultimately sales conversions. 

Types of content include (but are not limited to):

  • Blog posts
  • Whitepapers and e-books (educational long-form content)
  • Infographics
  • Videos

Don’t have the budget or resources to create your own content? Consider sharing curated content. Here are four tips.

Native advertising

These paid advertisements are intended to match the look, feel and function of the surrounding media format where they appear. 

For instance, a tire shop could have a native ad on a publication’s website about the top tips to know when it’s time to replace your tires. The article itself is useful information for the reader, but it is sponsored content for that tire shop. 

The goal of native advertising is to build a relationship with the hosting website’s visitors as a trusted expert in your industry. Of course, links back to the advertiser’s website would be included somewhere in the article as well (even if only where the byline is).

Of course, native ads aren’t exclusively on publication websites. You can spot them on social media as well.

Native ads are required to identify themselves as such, but because of their chameleon-style design, many readers likely don’t notice the difference.

Affiliate marketing

This is a type of performance-based advertising, where you can receive commission for promoting someone else’s products or services on your website or elsewhere.

Most commonly, you can post affiliate links on your social media accounts. You also can explore hosting video ads through the YouTube Partner Program.

Sponsored content

This digital marketing method involves paying another company or individual to create and promote content that features your brand, service or product in some way.

Influencer marketing is perhaps the most popular form of sponsored content currently. An influencer is typically a social media or blog personality who has cultivated a large and engaged following.

Through influencer marketing, a company pays an identified influencer relevant to the company’s brand to create and post content for that company.

Before diving head first into influencer marketing, refer to these seven tips first.

Online public relations

Online PR is not always thought of by many small businesses, but it can play a big role in driving business. It involves securing earned online coverage from online publications, blogs and other digital channels outside of your own website or social media.

Specifically, online PR includes (but is not limited to):

  • Reaching out to reporters through social media and developing a relationship that can result in media opportunities for your company
  • Engaging with online reviews of your company (whether they’re good or bad)
  • Submitting press releases via digital channels, such as PR Newswire

Inbound marketing

Sort of a culmination of many of the other digital marketing methods already mentioned, inbound marketing is about attracting, engaging and delighting customers at each stage of the consumer’s journey to becoming a paying customer.

It’s about a customer experience that works with them, not against them. 

It’s about pulling them into your brand almost naturally by way of great content, social media marketing and more. Then, you solve their problem or need. And you then follow up (by survey, for example), making sure their experience with you was up to their expectations.

Marketing automation

Automation can be quite powerful and technically dips into several of the other digital marketing methods. 

There are any number of repetitive tasks that can be automated to save time and be more effective overall, including (but not limited to):

  • Email newsletters
  • Social media posts
  • Onboarding email workflows
  • Campaign tracking and reporting

Here are nine reasons why email automation specifically matters to your marketing.

Clearly, there are a ton of ways you can go when first diving into digital marketing for your business, but you don’t have to do it alone. Schedule your free demo of DailyStory today.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get best practices, recommendations, and tips for digital marketers