Digital Marketing: What It Is and How to Get Started

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Interested in a digital marketing career? Learn more about the industry, different types of online marketing, and how to get started in this growing field.

[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 uses online tactics to reach new prospects and existing customers. As with other forms of marketing, its purpose is to increase brand awareness, drive sales, and promote goods and services. 

The exponential increase in internet users over the past two decades has led to a similar increase in digital marketing efforts. In fact, approximately 63.1 per cent of the global population is online today [1]. A study from July 2022 illustrates the pervasiveness of digital technology in the world with the following figures: 

  • Active internet users: 5.03 billion 

  • Active social media users: 4.7 billion

As a result, advertisers have increasingly devoted more and more of their budget to digital marketing year after year. Digital ad spend accounts for 74.3 per cent of UK ad spend in 2022 and is consistently growing in the country [2].

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 its rewards mobile apps to identify seasonal trends and create promotions relevant to its customer base [3]. 

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 optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation (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 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 

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. As a result, UK marketers are willing to invest in the strategy. In 2020, 59 per cent of UK marketers devoted 20 per cent of their budget to email marketing. Another 33 per cent of marketers spend up to 40 per cent of their budget on the tactic [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 personalised 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. 

It’s a particularly common tool in the UK, which has one of the highest rates of social media users in the world. With internet penetration growing rapidly across the country, the number of social media users have risen to 57.60 million in 2022 [5].

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 on 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. 

Digital Marketing is listed as a “job on the rise” in the UK. During the pandemic, brands tightened traditional marketing budgets but leaned on digital marketing to reach customers because of its ROI. Digital marketing positions grew by 52 per cent in 2020 [6].

Indeed estimates that the average annual salary for a digital marketer in the UK is £27,683 as of December 2022 [7].

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

To learn more about digital marketing, consider earning the Google Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Professional Certificate. This set of courses, offered by Google on Coursera, will provide a strong skill set to help you begin a career in the industry. In just six months, you’ll be job-ready and have experience with marketing platforms like Canva, Google Ads, Hootsuite, Hubspot, and Shopify. Enroll for free today.

Article sources

Articles sources


Statista. “Number of internet and social media users worldwide as of July 2022,” Accessed December 15, 2022.

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