The Digital Marketing Definition That Makes The World Go Round

By  Marty L.

The internet is getting bigger every year and digital marketing serves as a means to get in touch with our target audience.  If you have a product, idea, or just have something to say, digital marketing is the means to get in front of the people you want to reach.  In this article, I give you my personal definition of what digital marketing means to me, as well what the big shots in the industry say it means.  I also give you the 5 D's of digital marketing.


The definition of digital marketing

In the years that I’ve been online, I’ve seen countless people try to carve out their space in the world of online marketing.  It can be tough, even brutal. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way but that just made me fortunate enough to earn a priceless education in digital marketing through trial and error.

The Definition of Digital Marketing:

Digital marketing is the method used to market your products, services, and core message online through digital channels such as email, SMS, mobile apps, and social media with digital technologies.

#DigitalMarketing is what makes the world go round.  I use it to get my products and services in front of the people who are most interested in what I have to offer.

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What Is Digital Marketing?  It’s What Makes The World Go Round

I truly believe marketing is what makes the world go round.  Now that internet sales have surpassed most brick and mortar retail sales, and more and more people are coming online every day (to the tune of billions of new users over the next five years), digital marketing is now more important than it has ever been.

Although I love the personal definition that I gave above, I want to do my due diligence and give you the definitions from the big shots in the online marketing industry.

Digital Marketing Definitions:  According To The Big Boys

Wikipedia's Definition

wikipedia logo

“Digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.”   

HubSpot's Definition

HubSpot Logo

Digital marketing encompasses all marketing efforts that use an electronic device or the internet. Businesses leverage digital channels such as search engines, social media, email, and other websites to connect with current and prospective customers.”

Marketo's Definition

Marketo logo

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Kajabi's Definition

Kajabi logo

"Digital marketing is marketing that takes place via Internet-connected devices. Email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, and many other facets of digital marketing are essential for today’s entrepreneurs.  Digital marketing is also the use of digital technologies, such as SMS and push notifications, to reach people on Internet-connected devices."

As you can see, there are many differing definitions of digital marketing, but one thing remains certain:

It's all about reaching your people on digital devices whether it be on Mobile phones, through text message, or even on smart TVs.

A Short History of Digital Marketing

A lot of websites cover the history of digital marketing in depth, and a lot of them great articles.  I could talk about how people argue amongst themselves that Guglielmo is the father of digital marketing because he invented the radio.

I could also say that Ray Tomlinson should be credited with the invention of digital marketing because he sent the first ever email.  But I wouldn’t really count that as marketing because he sent it to himself (there was literally no one else in the world that could have received it).

Personally, I think that’s all a bit of a stretch.  It’s great and all, but it’s not really digital marketing.

Below, I have created a short and simple timeline of the history of digital marketing.

The History Of Digital Marketing


The First Search Engine Is Born

picture of the first search engine, Archie

The first search engine is born:  Archie, a simple search engine that indexed FTP websites.


The First Clickable Banner

picture of the first ever banner ad

Otto Timmons and Craig Kanairick create the first ever clickable banner.  This was promoted by AT&T with their "You Will" campaign. You can actually click or tap the banner below to get the original experience.


Yahoo! Gets 1 Million Hits

screenshot of the original Yahoo! search engine

By the end of 1994, Yahoo reached 1 million hits.  Yahoo! was incorporated on March 2nd, 1995.


Surge In Internet Users

From 1994 to 1996 the number of internet users went from 16 million people up to 70 million.  


Google Is Born

screenshot of original Google search engine page

A little search engine called Google is born and brought onto the web.  It's amazing to see just how far they've come along as a company and leader in the global tech space.


Blogging Gains In Popularity

blogger logo

Blogging for the everyday person grows in popularity due to sites like Blogger and LiveJournal.  I have a strong sense of nostalgia just thinking back to the days of LiveJournal.  I used to write silly little quips with my group of friends from high school.  This was essentially a primitive form of social media.


The Dot Com Bubble Goes POP!

screenshot of the NASDAQ during the dot com bubble

From 1994 to the year 2000 the internet saw exponential increases in online company values.  People were investing money left and right into internet companies.  You could make millions with just an idea.  Unfortunately that all came to a sad halt in 2000.


The Boom of Social

Social media started to gain in popularity in the years between 2001 and 2004.  Sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, Hi5, Facebook, and many more that we know and love today, all spread throughout the world like a wild fire.


WordPress Graces The World With Its Launch

screenshot of the first version of WordPress

In 2003, Mat Mullenweg and Mike Little launched the very first version of WordPress.  I wonder if either of those two brilliant minds would have ever guessed that their product would change the web as we knew it.


Global Online Ad Spend Reaches $3 Billion

The Internet Advertising Bureau reports the global ad spend reached $3 billion in the year 2004.  This trend has showed no signs of slowing down since. 


SEO Boom!  Google Launches Analytics

search engine analytics

2005 marks the year where search analytics gains ground in the history of digital marketing.  I think it's safe to say that Google had a hand in the boom of SEO when it launched its analytics platform.  People were now able to go on a deep dive into the data that drove traffic to their websites.


YouTube Launches

2005 YouTube Logo

Though there were a few video streaming sites on the web before YouTube, none of them exploded in popularity like YouTube did.  2005 marks the year YouTube was launched and the world fell in love with online video.  More importantly for us, marketers were just beginning to realise how big of an impact YouTube could make for their businesses by posting videos directly to their audience, allowing them a fresh new platform to market to whoever would watch.


Twitter Is Launched

2005 Twitter Logo

Twitter launched in 2006 and brought to the world what we now call 'microblogging'.  Today, Twitter allows a limit of 280 characters but it wasn't always that.  For years since it was launched, the limit was 140 characters.  2006 is also the year that Amazon reported online sales of $10 billion.


Facebook Reveals Ads to Marketers

Back in 2007, Facebook revealed to the world its social ads.  Clicks were cheap back then.  This was a huge deal because you could target people in so many more ways than you could with search engine PPC.


Google Improves Search Experience

Googles search algorithms started getting pretty smart around this time.  I remember it seemed like Google was rolling out a new update every other day.  A lot of internet marketers were stressing out over this because so many people were getting slapped.


Google Rolls Out Panda Update

Google panda and penguin updates

image credit: SEO Hacker

I remember when Google first rolled out the Panda updates.  It was like a war zone among a lot of internet marketing circles.  People were crying and wailing over losing 90% of their traffic literally over night.  I've been saying for the past ten years that you can't outsmart Google.  Provide good content, give people what they want, and you won't have to worry about being SEO slapped.


Social Media Budgets Increase

Social media spend increase by 61% in 2012.  Social has been constantly evolving over the years and companies were beginning to understand this.  

2015 - Now

Rise Of A.I. & Data Is The New Gold Rush

The years of 2015 to present can honestly use a timeline all on their own.  There are so many things happening and the digital marketing landscape is evolving faster now than it ever was before.  Artificial intelligence gets better every day and is being used to help marketers dissect digital data to gain insights we not have been privy to in the past.  In today's day and age, data collection is the new gold rush.

The 5 D's of Digital Marketing

When I was doing my research to see what everyone else says digital marketing means to them, I found the 5 D's of digital marketing and thought it would compliment this article well.  

The 5 D's are:

  • Digital Data
  • Digital Platforms
  • Digital Devices
  • Digital Media
  • Digital Technology

You can find more about the 5 D's of digital marketing from the brilliant folks over at Smart Insights.

The first of the 5 D's is:

Digital Data

this is data that is collected through various channels such as email marketing stats, SEO stats, and so on.

Why is Digital Data Important?

Digital data is very important for online marketers.  The data can come in many forms, depending on the channel you’re collecting the data from.

For instance, in the email marketing channel, the data you collect could help you improve your click-through rates.  Maybe you can make a tweak to the titles of the email (the portion your subscribers see in their inbox) to improve your open rates.

What if you’re running a promotion?  You could include several links (with different tracking IDs) throughout the same email to see which one gets opened the most, and make corrections to see if the CTR improves at all.

One more example:  search engine optimization.  In the SEO analytics back end of whatever search engine you’re using (let’s be honest… it’s most likely Google), there is a plethora of digital data with which you can make informed decisions.

Digital Platforms

These can be browsers, apps, and also social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.  Digital platforms can vary wildly. It all depends on what you need.

I should add that, technically, a digital platform refers to the hardware of software that makes the site available to use as a platform.  Sites like Quora, Amazon, Facebook, etc, are all digital platforms. But we, as digital marketers, want to know which platforms we can use to get our message in front of our ideal clients.  The next section touches on which digital platforms are suitable for marketing.

What Digital Platforms Can I Use?

Search Engines:  Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Duck Duck Go, etc.

App Stores:  Google Play, Apple Store, Microsoft Store

E-commerce Markets:  Amazon, Overstock, eBay

Affiliate Platforms:  Shareasale, Clickbank, Commission Junction

There are many, many more I could list here.  If there is a need for it, someone has built the platform for it.

Digital Devices

For a lot of companies it is important to know what devices are being used when their content is being perused.  I actually didn’t know this when I first started marketing online almost ten years ago.

Why Should I Know About Marketing On Digital Devices?

The best example I can think of right now is when I advertise on Facebook.  Sometimes, I want to target people who are specifically using a desktop computer or laptop.  I do this because this usually means that the person I’m serving the ad to is most likely at home with fewer distractions.

This is a great tactic to use if you’re advertising for a webinar funnel.  You want to target people who have the time to sit through a 45-minute webinar, and this usually means people who are on a desktop or a laptop.

Digital Media

Media is the content that makes up your digital marketing efforts.  This literally encompasses everything on the web. If you can see it, watch it, or listen to it then it is digital media.

This is just another way to content.  It can be the videos you upload to YouTube, an audio file you turn into a podcast or a written piece of content that goes up on your blog.

This digital media, or content, is what you use digital marketing tactics to get it in front of your target audience.

Digital Technology

This is the technology used by businesses to make their digital marketing efforts a reality.  I grew up in a world where digital marketing triumphs over traditional marketing tactics so it difficult for me to think of what the world would look like without the technology that makes online marketing possible.

Digital technology are the tools that us online marketers use to make our businesses run as smoothly as possible.

These tools are numerous and there is a service or a plugin that can do just about what ever you can think of, but there are a few core technologies that the majority of marketers use.

Those tools are:

  • email automation services like GetResponse
  • SEO data analytics like SEMrush
  • web hosting services like SiteGround

There are many more but those three are at the core of what the majority of online marketers use.

What's Next?

If you got value from this article then feel free to share it with your digital marketing buddies and colleagues.  Also, leave a comment below and tell me what digital marketing means to you.

I hope this article finds you well,

Marty Labrado

pinterest image about the definition of digital marketing


You made it to the end! You ROCK! My name is Marty Labrado and I am the creator of Digital Influence Pro. This site is a place where I can help digital marketers, like you, to grow their online business and convert your cold market into customers. Connect with me on social media!

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