What Is Digital Marketing? Types, Skills, and Careers

Written by Coursera Staff • 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. Rather than traditional media, such as print, radio, or television, digital marketing uses computers, mobile, social media, search engines, and other digital channels to reach consumers wherever they spend the most time.

Learn all you need to know about digital marketing, its methodologies, and how to get started in this career. If you're ready to build skills in this growing field, consider the Google Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Professional Certificate.

What is digital marketing? 

Digital marketing is a form of marketing that leverages the internet and digital technologies to connect with customers. Digital marketing can take on many forms, including videos, long-form content, social media posts, display ads, paid media, or email newsletters. Users can come across these digital marketing forms on computers, laptops, mobile devices, tablets, or mobile apps.

Over 60 percent of the global population is online, and more people are joining them every day [1]. That's why companies are now increasing their digital marketing budgets while traditional marketing gets slashed [2].

More than running a sponsored Instagram ad to drive sales, digital marketing includes strategies and best practices for interacting with customers at every stage of the buying journey.

Data plays a big part in digital marketing. With marketing analytics, marketers can collect valuable information by tracking a customer’s journey in real time and target specific audiences by tailoring content to their preferred digital channels. For example, Starbucks has collected data from their rewards mobile apps to help identify seasonal trends and create tailored promotions [3]. 

Watch this short video from Google's Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate on how digital marketing creates value:

7 types of digital marketing (with examples)

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

1. Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)

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 marketing to ensure that their webpages rank high in Google searches so that potential customers actually find their products or services online. Generally, SEO marketing targets organic search terms, meaning marketers create content that naturally aligns with and ranks for top search terms related to their product. Search engine marketing (SEM) strategies typically incorporate both organic and paid media, such as buying ads on Google.

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 

Data drives SEO marketing

In SEO marketing, you'll be in charge of monitoring data, such as the bounce rate or clickthrough rate, to measure how well a blog, product page, or social media post is doing. You'll need to become familiar with tools like SEMRush and Google Analytics, as well as business intelligence tools like Tableau and Looker to generate and analyze data from your organization.


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

To explore the world of SEO, consider enrolling in the UC Davis Search Engine Optimization Specialization. This program covers Google SEO fundamentals, content and social tactics to boost SEO, and how to improve your website to rank higher in search.


2. Content marketing 

Content marketing connects with target audiences through original content, such as blogs, articles, and newsletters. It is often used to raise brand awareness through material that appeals to a particular audience.

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

  • Informative articles and blog posts 

  • Original videos

  • Podcasts 

  • Newsletters (like Substack, Medium, or LinkedIn)

Read more: How to Develop a Content Strategy: Step-by-Step Guide

To build skills in making content that goes viral, consider enrolling in the Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content course. This program takes about four hours to complete and covers "sticky ideas," social influence and networks, word of mouth, and more.


3. Email marketing 

Marketers send out timely emails to large groups of people who have signed up for their contact list to inform potential customers of sales, discounts, and product launches. The impact of email marketing is clear: When used strategically, it can have an average return on investment (ROI) of 4,200 percent for every dollar invested [4].

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 

4. 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 media 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

5. Social media marketing 

Social media marketing is a form of digital marketing that uses social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok, to reach customers. It leverages the reach of social media channels with data-driven efforts to reach targeted consumers. 

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 

Watch this video to get a glimpse at how you can use YouTube to reach audiences.

6. Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is when brands partner with popular social media influencers to promote products and services. Influencers use their expertise, experience, and content creation skills to connect with other social media users. Through their authentic and relevant content, influencers can drive traffic to the brands they represent and even inspire their audiences to purchase products and services.

Examples of influencer marketing include:

  • A fitness apparel brand that partners with fitness experts and coaches on social media to promote a new line of footwear

  • A cookware brand partners with food bloggers, bakers, and chefs on social media to promote a new kitchen appliance

Read more: What Is Influencer Marketing? How to Develop Your Strategy

7. Affiliate marketing

Similar to influencer marketing, affiliate marketing refers to when a business rewards third-party affiliates, often influencers or content creators, to promote the business's products and services. Typically, affiliates have used and enjoyed the product or service and create content on digital channels like social media, blogs, and email to tell their audience about their experience and entice them to buy. The affiliates then receive compensation such as a percentage of sales, free products, or other rewards.

Examples of affiliate marketing include:

  • Amazon Associates program, rewarding affiliates for promoting products sold on Amazon.

  • Health and wellness brands that reward affiliates for promoting products like vitamins, supplements, and health foods.

Read more: Affiliate Marketing: What It Is and How to Get Started

Digital marketing salary and job outlook 

Digital marketing is an in-demand field with a growing impact because it offers brands the opportunity to reach billions of people using the internet and social media today. 

On average, advertising, promotions, and marketing manager roles are projected to grow by 6 percent between 2022 and 2032, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [5]. Glassdoor estimates that the average annual salary for a digital marketing manager in the United States is $122,999 as of May 2024 [6].

Building job-ready skills in an online course can be a great way to increase your earning potential. Consider the Digital Marketing Analyst Professional Certificate from Unilever.

How to become a digital marketer

Digital marketers need to be familiar with marketing, business, communications, and digital technologies, as well as different types of digital marketing. You'll need to be creative, strategic, and analytical. To get started in digital marketing, here are some steps you can take:

1. Gain digital marketing skills.

Many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in either business or communications, but a degree isn’t always necessary, especially if you have the right skills. You can build digital marketing skills by taking courses or getting a certification in various areas of digital marketing. Here are some skills to prioritize:   


2. Complete digital marketing projects.

This is a great way to apply your digital marketing skills and education, explore your abilities in this dynamic field, and gain real-world experience. Projects might include:

  • Build an online store through an e-commerce platform and improve its SEO.

  • Create a social media influencer campaign.

  • Help a small business improve their paid ad strategy

As you complete projects, be sure to compile a portfolio that showcases your best work and update your online presence, including your LinkedIn profile, personal website, and social media accounts.

3. Look for entry-level digital marketing jobs.

Getting an entry-level digital marketing job is the next step in breaking into the field and set yourself up for career growth. To find a digital marketing job at the entry level, scour Glassdoor, Indeed, and other career sites for roles like social media coordinator, digital marketing specialist, entry-level content strategist, marketing data associate, and marketing assistant. Improve your resume and practice your interviewing skills.

Here are some additional resources for your job search:

Advance your digital marketing skills with Coursera

A career in digital marketing is possible with the proper preparation, training, and approach. Start building the skills that companies are looking for and earn a credential inside one of Coursera's professional certificates:

The Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate is a great option for learning the breadth of the digital marketing world, from email marketing and social media, to marketing analytics and e-commerce stores.

To focus on social media platforms and how to get the most out of them, consider the Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate.

To explore the role of digital analyst, consider the Unilever Digital Marketing Analyst Professional Certificate.

Article sources


Coursera. "Foundations of Digital Marketing and E-commerce, https://www.coursera.org/lecture/foundations-of-digital-marketing-and-e-commerce/how-digital-marketing-and-e-commerce-create-value-85J7x." Accessed May 22, 2024.

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