What is Digital Marketing – A Comprehensive Answer [Updated]

digital marketing analysis

It’s the beginning of a new millennia and the world has been taken by storm by the influx of digital technologies. No longer do people have to depend on the traditional mail system to deliver urgent messages to loved ones, no more do people have to go to phone booths to reach friends and loved ones. The world as we know it has been tipped off its scales by digital technology.

Digital technology has affected every aspect of our lives in unimaginable ways. The massive wave of innovation in digital technology brought along with it many advantages not just to individuals but brands too. One of the most profound impacts of digital technology on brands is the area of digital marketing. Digital marketing created a scale for brands to compete on a fair level. No more do small brands look on while big brands dish out thousands of dollars on traditional advertising. Digital marketing became the fair judge for all businesses globally.

What more? The world has gone global with about 3,675,824,813 billion people using the internet at an average growth of 918.3%. That’s huge! At this rate about 90% of the world’s population would be online by the next 10 years or less.  Many brands are taking advantage of this convergence of people all over the world on one platform.  The global digital advertising spending has been predicted by experts to reach 252.02 billion USD by 2018. Google netted worldwide advertising revenue of 53.05 billion U.S. in 2015 alone and is projected to reach 66.71 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. With the endless possibilities presented by digital marketing, it’s no wonder that businesses are spending heavily on digital marketing.

A Brief History of Digital Marketing

Before we delve into defining digital marketing, it’s important to take a look at its roots. The term “digital marketing” was first used during the 1990s. However, digital marketing has its roots as far back as the mid-1980s when the SoftAd Group now known as ChannelNet, came up with advertising campaigns which enabled the readers of these campaigns to send in their replies using the reader cards found in magazines and in return, receive floppy disks that contained multimedia promotions of cars and offering free test drives.  This record of the roots of digital marketing might be the earliest known history of digital marketing as we know it today.  However since the 1980s digital marketing has grown to be very sophisticated and widely accessible by individuals and brands.

So What Exactly is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a very broad term, difficult to pin down. The ever progressive rate of digital innovation and growth makes it impossible to give digital marketing an exact definition. Although digital marketing simply been referred to as marketing online, we’d approach the definition from a more explanatory point of view.

Digital marketing also known as digital advertising, online marketing, internet marketing or e-marketing, is a generic term for all marketing activities carried out through digital channels or online media. Digital marketing today is carried out via popular mediums like Google, Facebook, Youtube and various other platforms.  Digital marketing also refers to the different promotional techniques used to reach customers via digital technologies.

Digital marketing uses the internet as its primary medium of promotion, in addition to mobile and other digital technologies. Digital marketing is executed using techniques like search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and link building. It also executed using non-Internet channels that provide digital media, such as short messaging service (SMS), multimedia messaging service (MMS), callback and on-hold mobile ring tones, e-books, optical disks and games.

Contrary to popular belief, the main aim of digital marketing isn’t sales. The main aim of digital marketing is engaging customers and giving them a chance to interact with the brand on a personal level. This aim is often achieved due to the interactive nature of digital technologies today.

Why Digital Marketing?

A lot of traditional companies have been taken by surprise by the spread of this digital marketing “thing”. Many of them are still wondering what on earth the rave is all about. Well the answer is simple; the people of the earth have moved…to the internet and if you want them to buy from you then you have to move with them. As of December, 2016, when this report was first carried out, 50.1% of the world was already on the internet and that number continues to grow at an exponential rate as shown by the number below.

The Internet Big Picture

World Internet Users and 2016 Population Stats


JUNE 30, 2016 – Update
World Regions Population
( 2016 Est.)
% of World
Internet Users
30 June 2016
Rate (% Pop.)
% Users
Asia 4,052,652,889 55.2 % 1,846,212,654 45.6 % 1,515.2% 50.2 %
Europe 832,073,224 11.3 % 614,979,903 73.9 % 485.2% 16.7 %
Latin America / Caribbean 626,119,788 8.5 % 384,751,302 61.5 % 2,029.4% 10.5 %
Africa 1,185,529,578 16.2 % 340,783,342 28.7 % 7,448.8% 9.3 %
North America 359,492,293 4.9 % 320,067,193 89.0 % 196.1% 8.7 %
Middle East 246,700,900 3.4 % 141,489,765 57.4 % 4,207.4% 3.8 %
Oceania / Australia 37,590,820 0.5 % 27,540,654 73.3 % 261.4% 0.8 %
WORLD TOTAL 7,340,159,492 100.0 % 3,675,824,813 50.1 % 918.3% 100.0 %
NOTES: (1) Internet Usage and World Population Statistics updated as of June 30, 2016. Curled from www.internetworldstats.com. Copyright © 2001 – 2016, Miniwatts Marketing Group. All rights reserved worldwide.

15 Benefits of Digital Marketing

What makes digital marketing so attractive to brands all over the world? Here are some common benefits;

  1. Affordability

Digital marketing is popularly known for its affordability. Never has marketing globally been so affordable to not just small businesses but individuals. With digital marketing, your marketing budget can be as high as a million dollars and as low as a dollar.

  1. Targeting

Most digital marketing platforms like Google and Facebook come with pre-installed targeting metrics that enable people to target their audience. You can target your audience according to age, interests, online behavior and several other targeting metrics.

  1. Reach

The internet is the platform on which digital marketing exists and just like the internet, digital marketing is global. Digital marketing offers not just a wide reach but a global reach. Therefore with digital marketing, a brand can connect with consumers on a global scale.

  1. Speed of Execution

Digital marketing platforms are mostly already made. All marketers have to do is fill in the blanks. When it comes to execution, digital marketing, marketing plans can be executed in a matter of minutes. The speed of execution of digital marketing makes it a very efficient way of marketing.

  1. Measurability

Digital marketing also offers the most efficient and precise ad measuring tool. With digital marketing, it is often easy to determine the effect of one’s marketing efforts. Most digital marketing platforms come with automatic measuring metrics that run alongside each marketing effort.

  1. Management

Digital marketing also offers ease of management. A platform like Facebook  comes well equipped with features like targeting, measurement, advert performance reports and even the ability to stop ads that aren’t giving expected ROIs.

  1. Conversion

Before the advent of digital marketing, getting 100% returns on marketing investment was gold. However, with digital marketing, conversion rates reach as high as 1000%. A local blog reported reaching over 100,000 people with just $20 digital marketing budget. Conversion in digital marketing is often defined by views, likes, engagement, comments and several other metrics.

  1. Edition and Refinement

Digital marketing is very popular for its edit-ability. Unlike other marketing types that cannot be refined once set in motion, digital marketing can be paused, reviewed or even stop at any point in time. This makes it easy for brands to save costs on “bad ads”.

  1. Virability

Before digital marketing, the only way ads could go viral was through the word of mouth. Then came the internet along with digital marketing that had the ability to make an ad go viral globally in a matter of minutes. In digital marketing, most brands try to create ads that would hit the digital marketing bull’s eye – virability.

  1. Shelf life

Digital marketing has the capability of offering a shelf life, longer than other types of marketing. Digital marketing presents the opportunity to not just market as long as a brand can afford, but also to store marketing information for referential purposes.

  1. Personalization

One of the many attractions of digital marketing is the ability to create ads according to personal taste. However, personalization is often hampered by ad specifications of various digital advertising platforms.

  1. Feedback

The stoic audience syndrome was banished by the advent of digital marketing. The audience of digital marketing is active and shows their presence by giving feedback. The feedback feature of digital marketing is a vital quality that has helped many brands understand their customers better and improve their offerings.

  1. Real Time

Digital marketing occurs in real time. The real time feature of digital marketing makes it easy to measure and manage digital marketing activities.

  1. Competitor Insight

With digital marketing, a brand can know what competitors are doing and how they are doing it. Competitor insight if effectively used, plays a huge role in helping a brand strengthen its market presence.

  1. Variety

Never have there been these many varieties in ad forms and advertising platforms. With digital marketing, advertising options are vast if not limitless.

How Is Digital Marketing Different From Traditional Marketing?

By definition, digital marketing is a general term for all marketing activities carried out using digital technologies. Digital marketing relies mainly on the internet as its backbone. Digital marketing types include internet marketing, mobile phone marketing and virtually all marketing carried out via any digital medium.

Traditional marketing on the other hand refers to all marketing activities carried out through traditional channels like print, billboard, newsletters, flyers, newspapers and other traditional medium.

Features that differentiate digital marketing from traditional marketing

  1. Cost

Digital marketing cost is relatively cheap when compared to traditional marketing costs which can run into thousands of dollars.

  1. Targeting

Traditional marketing often uses a broad targeting metrics to reach its audience, except in the case of face to face marketing while digital marketing often enables very specific audience targeting.

  1. Reach

With digital marketing the reach is global. However, the reach of traditional marketing activities is highly streamlined to a specific geographic location.

  1. Execution

Digital marketing offers more ease of execution when compared to traditional marketing. Digital marketers can execute massive digital marketing activities from their bedrooms!

  1. Measurement

In digital marketing, platforms are well equipped with automated and highly effective measurement metrics that enable marketers effectively track marketing performance. However, traditional marketing measuring techniques are often very vague.

  1. ROI

Digital marketing offers more returns on investment when compared to traditional marketing especially due to its low cost and wide reach.

  1. Shelf life

Digital marketing has a longer shelf life when compare to traditional marketing. While most traditional marketing activities often have a lifespan of one year, digital marketing activities can go on for many years.

  1. Intimacy

Traditional marketing offers a more intimate marketing experience especially in the case of in-person marketing while digital marketing relies on the use of computer applications to reach

  1. Engagement

Traditional marketing often deals with a stoic audience while digital marketing often deals with audiences that are active participants in the advertising process.

  1. Time

Unlike traditional marketing which is often executed on fixed dates, digital marketing occurs in real time. The real time feature of digital marketing makes it a more efficient and easy to track way of marketing.

Types of Digital Marketing

There has been a lot of disagreement among digital marketing experts as to what is or isn’t a type of digital marketing. Based on in-depth research, we identified ten types of digital marketing. However, it is vital to point out that virtually all of these digital marketing activities are intertwined.

Email marketing

At Penning Solutions, we describe email marketing as the luring bait and sinking hook of digital marketing. Email marketing is a vital tool used by successful business to foster customer communication. Email marketing today has gone just beyond sending blocks of boring texts to using beautiful templates and visuals to tell about business offering in exciting and personalized ways. Email marketing is one of the pillars of digital marketing and must be taken seriously by any business that wants to remain relevant in this digital age.

Content marketing

In the world of digital marketing, content is King. Content isn’t just any King it’s a tyrannical King who businesses must please or be condemned to irrelevancy online.  Content marketing is the area of digital marketing that focuses mainly on establishing business voice and authority through the creation and distribution of valuable and relevant information in a consistent manner, to a defined target audience. Content marketing is used by the top global brands today. Some key benefits of well strategized content marketing include increased leads, more sales, increased awareness and cost savings.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is one of the giant pillars of digital marketing. Facebook alone is said to have enough people using its platform to make it the world’s third largest country. The whole world is moving to social media and smart businesses are moving with them! Social media marketing is a tool that is being maximized by both small and large businesses alike to reach their target audience. Social media marketing presents every business with a fair ground for marketing competition; no more do smaller brands have to say “no” to a marketing channel because they can’t afford it. With social media marketing, marketing budget can be as high as a million dollars and as low as a dollar.

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing works the way a living virus works; it enters a host and using a fast self replicating process, takes over the host in an unbelievably short time. Viral marketing like a virus uses a self replicating strategy by leveraging on various advertising channels at once. The first step to successful viral marketing is creating the message which we call the “virus”. A marketing message can never go viral except it posses the features of replication and strategically positioned avenues to replicate. An effective viral marketing strategy can produce up to 1000% return on investment.

Text Marketing

Text marketing remains an effective type of digital marketing and is especially effective in areas where digital development is slow. Text marketing is also very affordable hence it remains a vital digital marketing avenue for both small and large businesses.  Text marketing if properly carried out, can give great returns on investment. However, text marketing can turn on your business if poorly carried out. In fact, many businesses in an effort to carry out text marketing have ended up annoying customers, losing leads and wasting marketing budget. The first rule for getting great returns on text marketing is quality over quantity.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is another powerful type of digital marketing used by various businesses around the world. Affiliate marketing is basically a referral and commission based business relationship. In affiliate marketing a business (merchant) pays another business or even individual (affiliate) a commission for generating leads or making sales. Global businesses are gaining from this referral based business relationship. However, it’s sad to see that many Nigerian businesses are still ignorant of the profit generating power of affiliate marketing.

Influencer Marketing

Just like the offline world, the online world is made up of the “most-knowns” and the “unknowns”. Influencer marketing focuses on leveraging on the influence of the “most-knowns” to generate specific actions from a target audience. Brands have gone from zero to hero just by being mentioned by a celebrity. However, influencer marketing goes beyond just using a celebrity or an authority to promote a brand. Influencer marketing like every other type of digital marketing has its intricacies. Some of these intricacies are niche definition and influencer selection. Every publicity may be good publicity but definitely not on a lean budget.


PPC (Pay-per-click) is another type of digital marketing popularly associated with search engines and social media platforms. Pay-per-click has been widely utilized by brands to get people to click and take action on their websites. Google’s pay-per-click program continues to dominate the world of PPC advertising. PPC is an intricate type of digital advertising and its sucess depends heavily on targetting metrics. It is often advisable to let a professional handle PPC ads.


If we had a penny for every time we came across SEO online or heard it offline, we’d be billionaires! Several businesses are aware of the impact of SEO on their online activities; sadly, many of these businesses go about SEO in the very wrong ways! SEO is a very delicate type of digital marketing so getting it wrong can spell doom for your business. SEO is that vital ingredient in every online activity. The online world is massive and SEO is the key to being found among millions of other businesses. The topic of SEO can never be exhausted because online platforms are dynamic. However, SEO is basically about finding one business in the massive haystack of businesses online.

Online Advertising

This is has to do with leveraging on the existing online platforms to promote your business. Although all forms of advertising are basically online advertising, in the digital marketing world, online advertising is often associated with advertising on the websites of other businesses and even individuals. This form of digital marketing is often used when a business is trying to reach a local audience. Although this might be the easiest form of digital advertising, it can go bad very quickly without the presence of effective digital marketing analytics.

Popular Digital Marketing Platforms

google logo

In the world of digital marketing, the whole internet is a stage and these digital marketing platforms, key players. Here are some major and often used platforms for digital marketing:


Google is one of the world’s leading global brands. This American technology company specializes in providing internet-related services, online search, online advertising, cloud computing, software and hardware. This internet giant accounts for the largest share of digital advertising market with over $20 billion in advertising revenue in 2015.


The social media King, Facebook, is an American company owned by Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has the largest convergence of human beings on one social platform. Facebook has over 1 billion users and counting. Given the number of people on Facebook, it’s no wonder that many digital advertising are carried out on this platform. Facebook holds the belt for the second largest market share for digital advertising with over $8 billion dollars in advertising revenue in 2015.


Yahoo which used to be the internet giant before Google is also an American multinational technology company. Yahoo provides services such as web portal, search engine, mail, online advertising and a host of other services. Yahoo is among the top 10 most visited websites in the world with monthly views running into billions. Yahoo also accounts for a major share of the global digital marketing advertising.


Owned by world giant brand Microsoft, Bing is a popular web search engine that provides a variety of search services including web, images, videos and map search. Bing is currently the largest search engine in the US after Google with a search volume of 20.9%. Bing Ads uses the pay-per-click system for digital advertising on its platform.


Twitter is an online social networking and news service where users post and interact with information. Twitter is also a US company founded in March 2006. There are over 310 million monthly active Twitter users who send out millions of tweets every day. Twitter also rakes in millions of dollars from digital advertising services such as promoted tweets and accounts.


Owned by the social media giant, Facebook, Instagram is also a force to reckon with in the digital advertising space. Instagram which was founded in 2010 is an online mobile image sharing website that lets users share images and short videos publicly or privately.  Instagram has over 600 million active monthly users and offers opportunities for businesses to reach their target audience through ad campaigns like sponsored posts.


YouTube like Instagram is owned by an online giant; in this case Google. YouTube is a video sharing website and a multi-platform application. In 2016, YouTube was ranked the second most popular website in the world. In 2007, YouTube launched its Partner Program which is based on Google’s Adsense, allowing video uploaders to share in advertising revenues. This action spurred an increase in digital advertising on YouTube. YouTube advertising is a platform through which businesses can reach millions of people through video advertising. YouTube offers two types of ads; in-display ads and in-stream ads.

Vital Digital Marketing Tools

work tools

Digital marketing tools are basically tools that aid effective and efficient management of digital marketing across platforms. These tools are vital for creating, implementing and measuring digital marketing campaigns.

Content tools

Content tools are basically for creating and uploading optimized content on your website. When it comes to creating a content that converts, a variety of content tools are involved. Some vital content tools include: plagiarism checkers, SEO analyzers, optimized blog topic generators, content marketing tools, grammar checkers and font creators. A lot goes into creating great content and these tools help make it possible.

Image tools

When it comes to having a user friendly website, optimized image is everything! Many businesses make the mistake of just uploading images on their websites just because others are doing so. However, uploading “wrong” images can spell doom for your website speed and ultimately, traffic. Using copyrighted images without permission could also land your business in legal trouble. Some image tools to use include image optimizers, image size reducers and copyright-free image websites.

Social media tools

Sharing is everything for any business that wants to thrive online. The benefits of social media to a business can never be overestimated. Social media tools aid maximization of social media platforms to facilitate exposure, feedback, opportunities, sales and leads. There are several free and paid social media tools available to businesses today. Some social media tools include social media management tools, social media marketing tools, social media analytics tools, social media content tools and social media automation tools.

Email tools

As earlier described, emails are digital marketing hooks. They are what keep your customers coming back again and again. Email marketing today has gone beyond just sending text based mails to sending texts that tell a story and convince using astounding visuals. Email tools make it easy to reach a large number of people at the same time. Email tools aid automated marketing which is a popular digital marketing trend.

Video tools

Visual information is key in the digital marketing sphere. Considering the fact that the web is filled with good videos, it would take something more than just “good” to capture the attention of your target audience. Video tools help you create outstanding videos that not just capture the attention of your audience but convince them to take specific actions. Some video tools used in digital marketing include video editing software, animation tools, audio and subtitling tools.

Analytics tools

Returns are everything to a business. Most businesses exist to make profit and this is the sole reason they invest millions of dollars yearly on marketing. It’s puzzling that many businesses pour thousands of dollars into digital marketing without knowing what they’re making in return. Analytics tools help businesses know exactly how their digital marketing activities are performing. Some popular analytics tools include Google analytics, Facebook analytics and several other modern analytics software.

Information tools

Information is borne out of information. The web is saturated with information so finding the right information for your content can get very grueling when you have to search through tons of poor content. Information tools are basically tools that help you curate the best source of information for your content. Some vital information tools include authority blogs, bookmarkers, research and statistics websites.

Is Digital Marketing Effective?

Before we answer this question, take a look at global digital marketing spending:

Revenue in the “Digital Advertising” market amounts to US$198,439m in 2017.

The market’s largest segment is the segment “Search Advertising” with a market volume of US$102,547m in 2017.

US$198,657m of total revenue in the “Digital Advertising” market will be generated through mobile in 2021.

The retail industry accounts for the largest revenue share, which is 13.7 % of Display Advertising revenues in 2017. (Statista)

The simple answer: businesses can’t be spending this much on digital marketing if there were no returns on investments! Returns are as high as 1000%. Saying that digital marketing is effective is nothing short of an understatement. Digital marketing is the heartbeat of all global businesses today. Digital marketing is compulsory for any business that wants to remain relevant.

How much do I need to do digital marketing?

This is one question businesses are often very interested in. This is especially true for businesses that are new to digital marketing and have very restricted marketing budget. The truth is that there isn’t a general answer for this question. Digital marketing can cost as low as a dollar and as high as a million dollars! However, working with a digital marketing expert would help any business determine how to maximize available budget for effective digital marketing.

Start Now!

There has never been a right time to do digital marketing as now. Your business has the potential to become a global brand by maximizing the many benefits of digital marketing. Digital marketing also remains the marketing type with unbelievably high returns on investment. Businesses we’ve worked with have registered as high as 1000% returns on digital marketing spending. You can contact Penning Solutions today to discuss your digital marketing needs.

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