Digital Marketing vs Online Marketing: What’s the Difference?

When talking about marketing strategy, we often use the terms “digital marketing” and “online marketing”.

The two terms are used interchangeably, and that’s not essentially wrong. In fact, many senior professionals in the field don’t make a distinction between them.

However, there are subtle differences between digital marketing and online marketing.

Let’s look at each of them with examples.

What is Digital Marketing?

The definition of Digital Marketing and what it encompasses is constantly evolving.

Simply put, Digital Marketing is any effort to promote a brand, product or service using digital channels, devices and platforms, irrespective of whether they are connected to the Internet.

Examples of Digital Marketing

For example, a clothing store sending a text message to subscribed customers in order to announce a sale would be a form of offline Digital Marketing. This does not require the customer to have an active internet connection.

Another example is the use of QR codes to promote a product or service and invite customer interaction. QR codes are similar to barcodes and can store information that can be transmitted directly to a mobile device. These can be used in traditional offline media like print and billboards as well as on online channels like websites and blogs.

Where it can get confusing is in an instance like this: when you first download a game or an app to your phone you may be using the Internet to do so. But when you play the game or use the app you may not necessarily need an internet connection. It is still a digital channel. It’s just not online.

What is Online Marketing?

As we’ve just seen, Digital Marketing is the broader term and, while a large part of it is Online Marketing, it also includes digital TV, SMS, radio, billboards and other means of digital advertising.

On the other hand, Online Marketing, or Internet Marketing as it is also known, is marketing conducted via digital media connected to the Internet, which makes Online Marketing a subset of Digital Marketing.

Thus, all Online Marketing is digital, but not all Digital Marketing is online!

Types of Online Marketing

Online Marketing requires a live internet connection and an actively connected audience.

It involves the use of online channels and platforms to spread awareness about a brand, product or service and to generate leads and sales.

Search Engine Marketing, Pay-per-click advertising, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Email marketing, Affiliate marketing and Content Marketing are the most popular types of Online Marketing.

The best way for a product or service to market itself online is to employ an integrated approach and utilize these different types of Online Marketing in combination.

An Example of an Integrated Online Marketing Campaign

Say a local beauty salon wants to spread awareness about its services and get more clientele. It has a basic website with a list of services and prices, but that does not seem to garner significant visits or new customers.

An Online Marketing strategy for the salon could include a number of different but inter-related marketing efforts. Here are some of the ways in which the salon could promote its business online:

  • Content Creation and Marketing: The salon could begin by generating regular content (write blog posts on beauty-related topics, create explanation/instructional videos, create a photo gallery, etc) which can then be marketed through its website and other official channels.
  • Social Media Marketing: It could create pages on Social Media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram and use its unique content to garner interest, increase site traffic and potential leads.
  • Search Engine Optimization: The content can also be used to optimize the website for its top keywords, get more links to the site and get higher ranks in organic search results.
  • Pay-per-click advertising: The salon could also bid on keywords related to services and display text or banner ads on search engines and their network sites to generate new customer leads.
  • Email marketing: It could collect customer emails and send updates on latest promotions and discounts.

Does it Matter?

So the difference between Digital Marketing and Online Marketing is really just a technicality. You could use either term, but be sure you know exactly what you mean when you’re developing your own strategy.

What’s important to understand is that Online Marketing is not a one-and-done kind of marketing effort. It requires constant monitoring and tweaking to get the best results over time.

The distinguishing factor of Online Marketing is the ability to track and analyze where and how the money invested has been spent and if that has resulted in any significant improvement in marketing metrics.

While it is relatively easy for a small business owner to set up and manage Online Marketing campaigns on their own, hiring professionals to do it will ensure a comprehensive strategy and adequate time and resource allocation.