Digital Marketing: What It Is and How to Get Started

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] Man and woman working on a digital marketing plan at computer

Digital marketing, or “online marketing,” is a form of advertising that uses the Internet and digital technologies to connect with customers. It 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 learn 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. Like other forms of marketing, its purpose is to increase brand awareness, drive sales, and promote goods and services. 

Over the past two decades, the exponential increase in internet users has led to a similar increase in digital marketing efforts. In fact, approximately 67.1 per cent of the global population is online today [1]. A Statista study from July 2022 illustrates the pervasiveness of digital technology in the world with 5.44 billion active internet users and 5.07 active social media users [1]. In 2023, 95.2 per cent of Canadians were mobile internet users, according to Statista [2].

As a result, advertisers have devoted more and more of their budgets to digital marketing year after year. One study found that traditional marketing budgets increased by 7.6 per cent in 2024, while digital marketing budgets are expected to exceed 27.5 billion dollars by 2028 [3]. 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 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 its rewards mobile apps to identify seasonal trends and create promotions relevant to its customer base [4]. 

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 potential customers 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 

Content marketing 

Content marketing is an approach to connecting with a target audience by creating original content. Rather than making sales, it 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 online marketing. This online content is often used for inbound marketing, 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 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. Statista reports that in 2020, every $1 USD spent by a company on email marketing returned $36 USD on average. In retail, commerce, and consumer goods, that number rose to $45 USD [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 in which an advertiser pays a publisher each time their ads are clicked. Typically, the publisher is a website owner, search engine operator, or social network platform like 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: 2.910 billion active users

  • YouTube: 2.562 billion active users

  • WhatsApp: 2.000 billion active users

  • Instagram: 1.478 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 Makeup for Melanin Girls chic Instagram account 

Digital marketing salary and job outlook 

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

According to Insider Intelligence [7], an estimated 4.1 million Canadians will stop using cable TV services in 2023. Statista projects that $15.59 billion USD will be spent on digital advertising in Canada in 2023 [8], translating into job opportunities for digital marketers. 

Glassdoor estimates that the average annual salary for a digital marketer in Canada is $56,833 [9].

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 an undergraduate 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 must create a portfolio demonstrating 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

With the proper preparation, training, and approach, a career in digital marketing is within reach. Start building the marketing skills companies seek 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. 

Article sources


Statista. "Global Digital Population as of January 2021," Accessed June 13 2024. 

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