Digital Marketing: What It Is and How to Get Started 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

The internet has revolutionized marketing. Find out how you can leverage digital marketing to launch your career.

[Featured image] Several employees work on their laptops and desktop computers in a digital marketing agency.

Digital marketing, or “online marketing,” is a form of advertising that uses the internet and digital technologies to connect with customers. Digital marketing seeks to accomplish the same thing as traditional marketing except by leveraging computers, smartphones, and other digital devices rather than traditional media, such as print, radio, or television. 

Read on to find out more about digital marketing, its methodologies, and what a career in digital marketing requires. 

What is digital marketing? 

Digital marketing is a form of marketing that leverages the internet and digital technologies, such as computers and smartphones, to connect with customers. As with other forms of marketing, its purpose is to increase brand awareness, drive sales, and promote goods and services. 

The exponential increase of internet users over the past two decades has led to a similar increase in digital marketing efforts. In fact, approximately 62 percent of the global population is online today [1]. A study from April 2022 illustrates the pervasiveness of digital technology in the world with the following figures: 

  • Active internet users: 5 billion 

  • Active mobile internet users: 4.32 billion 

  • Active social media users: 4.65 billion

As a result, advertisers have increasingly devoted more and more of their budget to digital marketing year after year. One study found that at the same time digital marketing budgets routinely went up by double-digit figures, traditional marketing budgets were repeatedly slashed by single-digit percentages [2]. Digital marketing, then, is a growing field with a growing impact. 

Data also plays a big part in digital marketing. In addition to collecting valuable information by tracking a customer’s journey in real time, data also allows marketers to target specific audiences by tailoring content to their preferred digital channels. For example, Starbucks has been known to use data collected from their rewards mobile apps to identify seasonal trends and create promotions relevant to their customer base [3]. 

Read more: 5 Steps for a Data-Driven Online Marketing Strategy

5 types of digital marketing (with examples)

Digital marketers connect with potential customers through several different channels. The following digital marketing tactics, used by small companies and big businesses alike, remain among the most popular and impactful used today. 

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a technique that seeks to improve the ranking of online material on search engines, such as Google or Bing. If you have ever searched for something on Google, you’ve likely noticed that even the simplest search can yield millions of results. Yet, you probably rarely go past the first few suggestions, let alone the next page. 

In such a highly crowded space, digital marketers use SEO to ensure that potential customers actually find their products or services online. Some common ways to go about SEO include:

  • Creating quality content that meets searcher intent 

  • Using keywords to help search engines identify relevant material

  • Using long-tail keywords (specific phrases that searchers use) to help content reach its target audience

  • Ensuring that content loads quickly and is compatible with mobile devices 

Read more: What Is SEO Marketing? + How to Improve Your SEO

Content marketing 

Content marketing is an approach that connects with a target audience through the creation of original content. Rather than being concerned with making sales, content marketing typically seeks to raise brand awareness through material that appeals to a particular audience.

Content marketing can be done through either digital or traditional media but is most often used today as a form of online marketing. Often, this online content is used for inbound marketing purposes, effectively drawing audiences in with enticing content that piques their interest and raises overall brand awareness.  

Content marketing can take many forms across a range of digital media channels, including: 

  • Informative articles and blogs 

  • Original videos

  • Podcasts 

Email marketing 

As the name suggests, email marketing uses email to reach customers. To do it, marketers send out timely emails to large groups of people who have signed up for their contact list to advertise sales, discounts, and new products or services.  

The impact of email marketing is clear. One study found that email marketing had a return on investment (ROI) of 4,200 percent for every dollar invested [4]. Another study found that 59 percent of polled marketers ranked email as having the highest ROI of all their marketing efforts [5].

Some common examples of emailing marketing include: 

  • Timed emails that raise brand awareness during holiday seasons 

  • Blast emails that inform recipients about upcoming sales events 

  • Targeted emails that send personalized offers and messages to specific groups on an email list 

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a digital marketing model that involves an advertiser paying a publisher each time their ads are clicked. Typically, the publisher is a website owner, search engine operator, or social network platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram.

Typical examples of PPC advertising include: 

  • Banner ads that flank web content on the sides or top of the page 

  • Social media ads that appear in the feeds of targeted audiences 

  • Ads that appear when a specific keyword is searched on a search engine, such as Google

Social media marketing 

Social media marketing is a form of digital marketing that uses social networks, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, to reach customers. A core feature of modern digital marketing, social media marketing leverages the reach of social network platforms with data-driven efforts to reach targeted consumers. 

The active user size of social media platforms makes them particularly enticing to marketers. One study published in January 2022 quantified the number of active social network users in the billions [6]: 

  • Facebook: 2.895 billion active users

  • YouTube: 2.291 billion active users

  • Instagram: 1.393 billion active users

Whether through computers, mobile devices, or mobile apps, social media offers the opportunity to reach a wide—and targeted—audience of possible consumers. 

Examples of social media marketing include:  

  • Videos posted onto social media as a part of a larger campaign, such as this 80s-themed music video produced by peanut company Planters for the holidays 

  • Pictures posted on Instagram that reflect a brand’s identity, such as Patagonia’s nature-filled Instagram account 

Digital marketing salary and job outlook 

Digital marketing is a growing field with a growing impact. In addition to taking up an increasing amount of marketers’ budgets, it also offers the opportunity to reach billions of people using the internet today. 

As a result, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that advertising, promotions, and marketing manager roles are projected to grow by 10 percent between 2020 and 2030 [7]. 

Glassdoor estimates that the average annual salary for a digital marketer in the United States is $84,402 as of July 2022. Digital marketing managers in the US make an average annual salary of $95,487.

How to become a digital marketer

Digital marketers generally need a firm grasp of marketing, business, communications, and digital technologies. Many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in either business or communications, though a degree isn’t always necessary if you have the right skills. It may also be helpful for candidates to have done an internship while in school.  

In addition to possessing the proper credentials, you will also need to create a portfolio that demonstrates your digital marketing abilities. Some of the skills you should showcase in your portfolio include the following: 


  • Marketing

  • Communication 

  • Collaboration

  • Creativity

  • Decision making

  • Data analysis

Next steps

A career in digital marketing is possible with the proper preparation, training, and approach. Start building the marketing skills companies are looking for with the Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate or Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate on Coursera. Go from beginner to job ready in months as you learn at your own pace. 


professional certificate

Meta Social Media Marketing

Launch your career as a Social Media Marketer. Build job-ready skills for an in-demand career and earn a credential from Meta. No degree or prior experience required to get started.


(13,215 ratings)

177,854 already enrolled


Average time: 7 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Performance Advertising, Digital Marketing, Brand Management, Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Marketing, Social Media Marketing Strategy, Content Development, content management, Marketing Content Development, Campaign Management, Ad Management, Meta Ads Manager, Meta advertising, Marketing Optimization, Digital Analytics, Marketing Strategy, Communication, Ads Manager


professional certificate

Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce

This is your path to a career in digital marketing. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that can have you job-ready in less than 6 months. No degree or experience required.


(10,355 ratings)

279,119 already enrolled


Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Marketing, E-Commerce, display advertising, Email Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Customer loyalty, Marketing Analytics, Customer Outreach, Website Structure, Customer Awareness, Google, Search Engine Marketing, Social Listening, Social Media Bidding, Customer Engagement, Social Media Analytics, Social Media Branding, Email Writing, Email list segmentation, Email marketing strategy, Email marketing analytics, Contact management, Digital marketing KPIs, Spreadsheet management, Presenting to stakeholders, Media planning and strategies, Fulfillment and delivery, E-commerce platforms, E-Commerce Strategy, Seasonality, Job preparedness, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Portfolio preparation, E-commerce store optimization, Building customer loyalty

Related articles

Article sources

1. Statista. “Global Digital Population as of January 2021,” Accessed May 27, 2022. 

2. Statista. "Change in digital marketing spending and traditional advertising according to CMOs in the United States from 2012 to 2020,” Accessed May 27, 2022. 

3. Forbes. “Why Utilizing Data in Your Digital Marketing Strategy Is So Essential,” Accessed May 27, 2022. 

4. Jobs. “Mind-Blowing Digital Marketing ROI Statistics (2022),” Accessed May 27, 2022. 

5. Benchmark. “Email Marketing Stats That Are Crucial for Your 2022 Strategy,” Accessed May 27, 2022.  

6. Statista. “Most popular social networks worldwide as of October 2021, ranked by number of active users,” Accessed May 27, 2022. 

7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers," Accessed July 28, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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