What is digital marketing and why does it matter?

what is digital marketing

In today’s digital age, you might think these are strange questions to be asking. You’d be surprised at how many small business owners don’t really ‘get’ what digital marketing is all about and why it’s important to their success. In this article, I thought we’d go back to basics and take a good look at what digital marketing involves and why you need to be doing it if you’re serious about growing your business online.

To provide the simplest definition, digital marketing (also known as online marketing) is an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies. One of the things that separates digital from traditional marketing is the capabilities of modern technology. Online marketers are focused primarily on targeted, measurable activities.

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.

Digital marketing’s development since the 1990s and 2000s has changed the way brands and businesses use technology for marketing. As digital platforms are increasingly incorporated into marketing plans and everyday life, and as people use digital devices instead of visiting physical shops, digital marketing campaigns are becoming more prevalent and efficient.1

Development of digital marketing

As you’d expect, the rise of digital marketing has increased in line with advances in technology. For example, 20 years ago, most people browsed the internet using a PC or laptop. These days, more than 70% of website visits are made using a smartphone – an increase of 20% in the last decade2.

Why online marketing matters

What’s more, as the web becomes more accessible, people are spending more money in response to online advertising. In 2018, consumer spending as a result of digital marketing accounted for 63.6% of total media advertising spend – a figure that’s expected to increase to 73.5% for 20193.

All of the above statistics pretty much answer this question. You might like to check out these facts and figures, too2:

  • 64% of UK adults say the internet is an essential part of their life
  • On average, people are online for around 24 hours a week – twice as long as 10 years ago
  • 19% of people spend more than 40 hours a week online – an entire working week!

If your business doesn’t have a strong online presence and a robust digital marketing strategy, you’re missing out on the best chance to reach your target audience – and generating those all-important leads, conversions and sales – it’s essential to reach out effectively online.

Digital marketing is all about social media … right?

Wrong! If I had a penny for every person who thinks this, I’d be able to retire today. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met at networking events who assume my role as a digital marketer means I manage social media accounts and nothing else. In fact, as you can see from the definition provided above, it has a much broader reach.

Yes, social media is important. After all, 45 million people in the UK use social media and spend an average of 1 hour 50 minutes it every day4. Still, it’s only one string to your bow when it comes to digital marketing. There are lots of other tactics you can take advantage of to get the most from your online presence and make a big difference to your bottom line. Let’s look at how you can use some of these marketing tactics to help get you the results you want.

Optimised website content

Your website is the hub of your digital marketing activities. You could think of your other tactics as the spokes of a wheel, all of which ultimately lead back to said hub. However, whilst linking back from other activities such as social media, blogs and email are important, your website needs to be well-optimised in the first place.

Around 3.8 million searches are made on Google alone every single minute, so this is one opportunity you don’t want to miss out on5. Take the time to research the best keywords for your business and weave them into your front end copy as well as including them in back end data such as page titles and meta descriptions.

If local business is important to you, make sure your geographical key words are well-represented. Registering with Google My Business and other local directories, and keeping your entries up to date, will give you a better chance of being found online. And whatever your business type or location, make sure your site is mobile-friendly, or you could end up sliding down the SEO rankings.

Content creation

Leading on from the above, all well-written and optimised content will do wonders for your online presence. Creating content such as blog articles requires a slightly different approach from ‘standard’ website content. Research long tail (multiple word) search terms you can include into your copy as well as shorter terms, known as seed keywords.

Make sure you include your seed and long tail keywords in the preview ‘snippets’ for each article. These will appear in on-screen search engine results and will also be used when search engines read out a verbal response to voice searches.

If your web platform provides tools to help with page optimisation, such as Yoast for WordPress, make sure you follow the recommendations to give your content the best chance of showing up online. However, as with any form of online content, be wary of ‘keyword stuffing’ or ‘keyword cannibalisation’ as these will do you more harm than good.

Social media management

Note the inclusion of the word ‘management’ here! As with all forms of digital marketing, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about social media. For example, you might prioritise Facebook over other platforms because research shows that 1 million people log into it every minute, compared to just 87,500 people using Twitter.5

But what if your target audience don’t use Facebook? They might actually prefer Twitter. Or LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit or any number of different platforms. So, the onus is on you to find out where they’re hanging out online so you can connect with them (after all, you wouldn’t give a speech to an empty room, would you?)

Your business type matters, too. If you have a highly visual product or service such as giftware or photography, you’ll want to look at image-based platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to help showcase your wares. On the other hand, if you run a corporate business, like an accountancy or law firm, you might find that B2B platforms like LinkedIn will help you find prospective clients.

Email marketing

Email marketing is another tactic it’s all too easy to get wrong. With 188 million emails sent every minute5, how do you make sure your lovingly crafted messages stand out from the crowd?  To start with, just like all the content you create, your emails need to be relevant and interesting if they’re to engage your readers and not be filed under ‘Bin’, or worse still, ‘Spam’. It’s also important to make them attractive and user-friendly, with a well-designed template and sensible use of imagery, video and embedded web links.

You might wonder why you need bother with email when you can engage with your audience on social media. But, believe me, it’s worthwhile. By creating a clean, segmented and GDPR-compliant database, you can communicate in a much more personal way than you can on public social media pages. Think exclusive access to special offers, loyalty discounts, insider information and other perks you wouldn’t want to offer all and sundry.

Your email list is also your own business asset, whereas social media platforms are owned by Facebook et al. In the ever-changing world we live in, how would your business cope if your favoured platforms suddenly shut down – cutting you off from your contact base?

Need help developing your digital marketing plan?

As a Digital Marketing Consultant, I’ll help plan your digital marketing activities so they start getting you the right results. It all starts with strategy and planning, so if you’re not sure where your digital marketing is going for the rest of 2019, get in touch today. I offer a FREE one hour consultation so we can explore your requirements and discuss how I can help.

Call me today on 01636 922 747 or complete my online contact form and I’ll call you back shortly.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Ofcom
  3. E-marketer
  4. We Are Social
  5. Statista

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