Using digital marketing to grow your business can be a web of  confusion if you’re new to it, or even if you’re used to focusing on one particular area. In this article, we’ll look at an overview of the main aspects of digital marketing, so that you can get a birdseye view and start to visualise how an integrated, strategic digital marketing program might help you and your business to flourish.

By Ellie Keft

July 17, 2021

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing generally relates to marketing that’s delivered on a digital device or online.

And that’s in comparison to traditional marketing, which isn’t online—things like print, tv, radio, direct mail such as brochures, telemarketing, billboards or other outdoor platforms like at sports games, aaaaand so on and so forth.

In contrast, digital marketing is often broken into the following categories:

  • Content marketing
  • Search engine optimisation (or SEO)
  • PPC & Search engine marketing (or SEM)
  • Social media marketing (organic and paid)
  • Email marketing

What’s the objective of digital marketing?

Usually the point (or ‘the objective’ of digital marketing is to achieve one or a few of the following:

  • To build brand awareness
  • To solidify chosen brand messages
  • To drive traffic (aka ‘visitors’) to your website (or the platform you do business on)
  • To drive sales or monetary exchanges
  • To serve and nurture a community
  • To gain feedback and insights

Traditional marketing definitely still has a place in many brands’ marketing strategies, but increasingly we’re seeing some just avoid it altogether.

The main advantages of digital marketing are that you don’t need a big budget to do it, and you can have close interaction with your customers, in real time.

It’s also much more nimble… nimbler? It’s dynamic. Which means that you can chop and change as you go. Imagine calling the New York Times and letting them know you like a ‘quick copy change’ on that double-page spread in the latest edition…

In digital advertising, you can also do a lot of it yourself.

I’m not saying that the bar has dropped when it comes to copy and creative in digital advertising (that is, the words and images people use), buuuut maybe I am saying that.

With graphic design DIY tools like Canva, and a proliferation of online training and templates, business owners really can do a lot of it themselves, without having to pay a highly trained copywriter or graphic designer.

What’s the difference between paid, earned and owned media and platforms?

One other distinction I just wanted to make quickly, is the difference between paid, earned and owned media and platforms, because you might hear people using those terms and they are important.

Paid media is pretty self explanatory, but it’s just a form of media that’s paid for. So social media or search engine ads, sponsorship and affiliation marketing.

Earned is more about media and mentions that you’ve earned through reputation, virality of content and messaging, and comes in the forms of publicity pieces, unsolicited reviews, word of mouth and sharing your content.

Finally, owned media is any channel or platforms that you can control. Now here’s where it does get a bit murky—websites are an obvious form of owned media, but what about social media?

Given Facebook’s recent media ban, it seems to me that you don’t ‘own’ your social media content at all. If Facebook, or any other platform can turn off your ability to share your content there, and use it as it’s intended to be used, perhaps that’s not ‘owned’ but rather ‘tenuously rented’ or something.

This article is based on an episode of my podcast, Unearth Your Herd… check it out!

Alright, let’s dive a little deeper into the individual components of digital marketing so that you can get a birdseye view of it all.


First up, content marketing. ‘Content marketing’ is the creation and distribution of content like blogs, e-books, social media posts, videos, podcasts, and more, to draw in your ideal customer or audience.

Typically, when people talk about content marketing, they’re talking about ‘organic’ or unpaid distribution of content.

And typically, they’re talking about online activities, but it can also include offline ones too.

For example, if someone runs a media story in a favourite, niche mag like Country Style and in it, they include a call-to-action, or an instruction, say at the bottom, to visit a particular landing page on their website, that is content marketing.

So you see, the content doesn’t have to be online, it just usually tends to be what people are referring to when they’re talking about content marketing.

And as a quick add-on, content marketing isn’t just about creating content, it’s also about strategically distributing it.
So by this I mean, how are you going to make sure that people see the content that you produce?

There are organic or “unpaid” ways such as organic social media shares and sending out an email, and there are also paid ways like ads.

A combination of both is usually needed, but the exact combo will depend on a few things like how much budget you have access to, your existing audience size and engagement levels, and your skillset, your network and access to other people’s skillsets, and your passions.

So just to give a quick real-world example of how many of my clients use content marketing:

They complete some keyword research to decide what topics to create content around, they choose a medium and platform, let’s use a blog article on as an example here.

Then, they publish the article on their website, share it on their social media pages, share the URL with a few likeminded websites and social media accounts for greater reach.

Then they also send out an email to their community with a link to the article, and they will often run paids Facebook and Instagram ads to the article as well, to ensure as many people see it as possible.

Beyond that, they can also repurpose the article, perhaps into a downloadable PDF that they can share with new audience members, perhaps into an instructional video which will perform well on social media, or perhaps they’ll turn it into a press release that they can pitch to local media outlets for some extra exposure.

‘Content marketing’ is the creation and distribution of content like blogs, e-books, social media posts, videos, podcasts, and more, to draw in your ideal customer or audience.

SEO—Search Engine Optimisation

Alright, next up, SEO. SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’, and it’s a set of practices you can take on and off your website to increase the quantity and quality of the organic traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

Organic traffic is free traffic – that is, traffic you don’t have to pay for, such as paid ads.

The most popular search engine, Google, is usually what we’re talking about when we talk about ‘optimising’ for search, but others include Bing, Yahoo and Duckduckgo.

In order to rank in the results of search engines like Google and Bing, you can follow a set of “rules” or processes allowing their algorithms to choose to deliver your pages to a user, based on their search query (the keywords they type into the search engine).

SEO goes hand in hand with content marketing because it’s about optimising the content that you’ve created so that it is as easy as possible to be found by the people who you’d like to attract.

SEO is, in a sense, more narrow than content marketing, but also there are so many overlaps. To a point where SEO and content professionals often just use the two interchangeably, especially when talking about on-site content.

I like to divide SEO is into four buckets; on-page SEO, technical SEO, off-page SEO AND SEO content.

Different SEO people (known as SEO’s), categorise it differently, but I find having those four is the most holistic.

I’ll go into more detail on those four categories in a future article, but super quickly:


  • On-page SEO is all about what you can control on your website, such as title tags, page descriptions, content, links and URLs.
  • Technical SEO is all about making sure Google (and other search engines) can crawl and index (examine and categorise) your website.
  • Off-page SEO on the other hand, is about the signals that are happening off of your website.
  • SEO content is the content used to send traffic to your website, useful, relevant content that people want to read and share with others.

SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’, and it’s a set of practices you can take on and off your website to increase the quantity and quality of the organic traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

SEO Guide CTA ad for blog


Ok next up is PPC and/or SEM. ‘PPC’ stands for ‘pay-per-click’, where, if you’re the advertiser, you’ll pay what’s called the ‘publisher’ every time someone clicks on your ad.

And SEM stands for search engine marketing, and is specifically talking about using paid methods to show up in search engine results rather than organic, which is SEO.

And by search engines, we’re generally talking about websites and platforms like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duckduckgo, and so on.
SEM is kind of like SEO’s rich cousin who buys their grandparents’ love through splashing cash.

The terms ‘SEM’ and ‘PPC’ get a little bit murky and intertwined, but the way I see it, SEM is the ‘search’ part of paid advertising.
And then other forms of paid advertising in PPC include:

  • display ads
  • banner ads
  • affiliate marketing

And some even put paid social media marketing in this bucket as well.

Display ads can be those annoying ads you get at the beginning of YouTube vids.

Banner ads which are those other annoying ads that pop up on websites… they can be super creepy and can follow you around the web.

And affiliate marketing is where one brand earns a commission when they refer sales to another.

Personally, I haven’t dived as deep into PPC and SEM as organic forms of marketing. But I do definitely see the value in it and have offered Facebook and Instagram paid ads management to clients for a fair few years now. It’s just probably not the form of marketing I naturally gravitate towards.

‘PPC’ stands for ‘pay-per-click’, where, if you’re the advertiser, you’ll pay what’s called the ‘publisher’ every time someone clicks on your ad.

And SEM stands for search engine marketing, and is specifically talking about using paid methods to show up in search engine results rather than organic, which is SEO.


Ok next up is social media marketing.

As I’ve just said, you could put this in the PPC category, but I wanted to explain the difference between organic (unpaid) and paid social media marketing so I’ve separated it out (and most people do separate it out anyway).

Social media includes platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and even forums and review sites such as Reddit and TripAdvisor.

When you post on these platforms, you’ll reach a portion of the people that follow you, and you’ll also possibly show up in some kind of suggested feed or algorithm-based suggestion function, depending on the platform.

Often, organic reach isn’t enough to see solid growth, which is why many will use paid ads to get some cut-through.

Many people think paid ads are just to reach new audiences though, but that’s not the case. Paid social media ads can be really useful in reaching your current audience, that is, the people that already follow you.

Organic social media is fantastic, and you can see some great growth there for sure. I just always like to remind people that Instagram is NOT the only marketing you can be doing, nor is it the most effective platform for many brands.

It’s shiny and noisy, but it might not be the best place to showcase your voice authentically and in-depth.


And last but not least, is email marketing. In fact, this definitely isn’t least.

For many brands, it’s the form of digital communication with the highest conversion rate.

Meaning, if you have a list of people that you can email when you have an offering, a new product, a sale, or maybe an availability in your accommodation, they are generally more likely to take your desired action than, say, your social media following.

I know that can be really hard to believe, because if you’re like me, there are a bunch of emails that come into your inbox that you never open.

But think about it, are there any at all that you open religiously, you read beginning to end and you often click on the links inside?
I know for me, I can name 4 or 5 of those off the top of my head.

And these are brands that have holistic marketing tactics, they provide great content for me that I engage in on multiple platforms.

Maybe they’ve got a podcast, great resources on their website and maybe they show up on Instagram stories regularly to provide value to me and the rest of their audience.

So that’s the goal with email marketing. It’s not a silver bullet, it’s part of a process and it’s a way to communicate intimately with your people.

Photo credit: Elena Popova

Three Things That Are Vital for a Thriving Digital Marketing Program

Now, just before I wrap up, there are a couple of other things that are VITAL for a thriving digital marketing program that I want to quickly mention.


Firstly, strategy and planning.

There is definitely a huge amount of value in approaching digital marketing strategically and with a solid plan in mind.

A digital marketing program without strategy and planning is like driving to Broken Hill without a map.

Yeah, you might get there eventually, but it would have been much quicker and more effective if you’d just remembered to pack the bloody map!


Secondly, brand messaging.

Brand messaging is about articulating exactly what you’re offering, and to whom, and it’s about identifying your ‘edge’ or your ‘special sauce’ in your market.

It’s also about drilling down into your core values, your goals and your ideal target audience.

It does tie into planning, but it’s deeper and more holistic than that.


And thirdly, monitoring and analysing results.

This is a big one that so many people avoid or neglect.

I totally get this. I’m a words gurl, not a numbers person, so I understand that diving into your Google Analytics can be daunting.

And beyond looking at them and recording them, it’s important to analyse them and learn from them.

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land we predominantly work on, the Ngunnawal people. We recognise that ‘Australia’ was founded on the dispossession of First Nations people, that sovereignty was never ceded, and that this country always was and always will be, their land. Hiatus Studios pays our rent by making monthly donations to Healing Foundation, which supports Stolen Generations survivors, their families and communities.

© Copyright Ellie Keft 2021


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