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What is the Difference Between Digital and Online Marketing?

Online and digital marketing are terms that are often confused and misused. I work in the industry yet have found myself wondering should I write online or digital?

It may sound trivial, but knowing the difference can help you shape your overall marketing strategy.

It can also help you analyze your current strategy by categorizing in which type of marketing your efforts fall. Are you making sustainable long-term efforts that will yield results consistently or are you simply playing by ear with each of your outreach efforts?

The Umbrella Term: Digital Marketing

Digital marketing refers to using digital channels, devices, and platforms (regardless of whether they are online or not) to build or promote your marketing message.

In other words, with digital marketing you don’t limit yourself to using the internet, and in this way digital marketing can serve as an ‘umbrella’ term because it encompasses many marketing techniques.

For example, let’s say you want to run a mobile campaign where you send SMS texts to your customers offering upcoming promotions from your business. Again, technology was used to create and send the message, but the was no need for a live Internet connection for your users to receive it.

I guess you could say that as long as technology keeps evolving so will digital marketing. But it is safe to say that anything that has a digital foundation can be considered digital marketing. And as of now you have plenty of strategies to choose from: E-mail Marketing, E-books, Games, Content Marketing, Video Marketing, Mobile Marketing (SMS text campaigns), TV ads, Digital OOH ...etc...

Get the Action Live with Online Marketing

Online marketing also commonly referred to as ‘internet’ marketing is a subset of digital marketing. The main characteristic of online marketing is that it requires a live internet connection to work, so, for instance, if you run a PPC campaign for your business you are doing a form of online marketing.

Another example is if you run pop-ups on your website to advertise and offer or service. Same goes for display advertising of any format whether it be banner ads or text ads.

Like digital marketing, online marketing evolves with technology. However, I would argue that online marketing is so fast paced that sometimes it can be difficult to keep up. Also, for a newcomer it can seem more overwhelming because of the terminology and skillset that some efforts require.

Some online marketing efforts include: Website, SEO, SEM, PPC, Display Advertising, Social Media Marketing ...etc...

Where is My Money Best Invested?

Most businesses will always be engaging in some digital marketing, and that is great, but not sufficient. I’m a big fan of using data to make smart decisions when it comes not only to marketing a business, but also to learn about it from all perspectives.

The straight up answer is that it very much depends on several factors like: Business typeIndustryMarketing budgetMarketing GoalsTarget audience ...etc...

For this reason, I recommend using at least one form of online marketing to benefit from the data you can gather, and also to measure the results your efforts are yielding. Install your Google Analytics, if you run a PPC campaign add conversion tracking and see exactly where it is that your money is going and how you can spend it wisely.

Does the Difference Really Matter?

The truth is, it doesn’t, the definition is a mere technicality. What matters is that you understand the implications of each one and choose wisely when building your overall marketing plan.

Which leads me to my next point: strategize. Regardless of the way you choose to do marketing, you need to have a plan of action. What kind of results do you want to get? How do you plan on achieving this? Do you just want exposure? Or do you want to get to know your audience and track the money you have invested?

Answering these questions will help you realize if you need to focus on online marketing, digital or both at the same time.

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