What is the Difference Between Digital and Online Marketing?

Yamil Amed Abud

5 years ago



“Online marketing” and “digital marketing” are both terms that are often confused and misused. I work in the industry, yet have found myself wondering should I write “online” or “digital?”
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 initiatives that will yield results consistently or are you merely playing by ear with each of your outreach efforts?

Digital Marketing vs. Online Marketing

The Umbrella Term: Digital Marketing

The term “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. In this way, digital marketing can serve as an ‘umbrella’ term because it encompasses many marketing techniques.

For instance, if you download ‘Temple Run 2’ on your iPhone, you would do this by using the internet, and the app was built with technology that probably did as well. However, when you use it on your phone, the app is working independently from the internet and thus considered a form of digital marketing.

To give you another 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 it was no need for a live internet connection for your users to receive it.

You could say that as long as technology keeps evolving, so will digital marketing. You could also 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:

  • Games
  • Content Marketing
  • Video Marketing
  • Mobile Marketing (SMS text campaigns)
  • TV Ads

Here’s another idea: digital marketing may also refer to offline ads on digital devices. In this case, you can launch an ad with a local cable company (offline ads) and display ads on TVs (a digital device)

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. The 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 improves exponentially through time making it challenging to keep up with it. Also, for a newcomer, it can seem more overwhelming because of the terminology and skills often required.

Some online marketing efforts include:

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • PPC (Google Search, Bing Search, etc.)
  • Display Advertising (Text, Image, Video, Shopping Ads)
  • Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn)
  • TV (Google’s Display Network)

Online marketing comprises all of the marketing strategies included in digital marketing. We have ads for people typing keywords in Bing Ads or Google Search, including searches performed on YouTube as well. Then we have the massive Display Network from Google, including the Audience Network for Bing Ads (MSN, EDGE, etc.), among other networks serving text, image, and video ads.

One of the latest features available on Google is the new device segment for TV. The display network now includes television, meaning that we may now serve ads on smart TV’s capable of both, connecting to the internet and browse and display ads.

Digital vs. Online, Does the Difference Matter?

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

This 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 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 marketing, or both at the same time.

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