Differences Between Digital Marketing and Online Marketing

The term “digital marketing” has been used interchangeably with “online marketing” or “Internet marketing”. This observation is common, especially in conferences and events. The fact that some agencies try to differentiate themselves by coming up with smart-sounding names may add to the confusion.

While they share some similarities, there are key differences to be considered in your marketing strategy. Before we delve further, let’s take a step back in order to have a clearer overview of the 2 main marketing channels.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing is a marketing technique that focuses on types of marketing that have been successful in the past. This includes print advertisements (newspapers and magazines), out-of-home (OOH) advertisements (billboards and public transport) and broadcasting (television and radio). Traditional marketing was the main method of marketing before the rise of technology. Nowadays, marketing has transitioned to digital platforms, particularly through the internet.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing is an umbrella term that includes anything that requires the use of an electronic device, including online marketing. Examples of this include broadcasting, digital OOH advertisements, podcasts and e-books. Digital marketing has been growing with the dominance of digital platforms in the 21st century, replacing traditional marketing.

Online marketing

Online marketing is a subset of digital marketing. Any marketing that requires the internet to perform is considered online marketing. Websites, blogs, social media and emails are all methods of online marketing. Online marketing focuses on attracting customers and building an online presence.

Attracting customers

Customers can be attracted in two main ways – sales and lead generation. Lead generation is the process of getting people to become naturally attracted to an organisation. These people become leads, and thus, potential customers.

SEO and discoverability

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the most prevalent method of building an online presence. SEM is online marketing that attempts to increase an organisation’s visibility on search engines.

There are two main methods in SEM. The first is through search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is a long-term strategy that attempts to make content on web pages more accessible and discoverable through search engines. It optimises websites for targeted keywords related to the organisation, helping the website rank higher on search engines when the keywords are searched.

The other viable albeit short-term option is to use pay-per-click (PPC) ads. PPC ads, such as Google Adwords, provide guaranteed visibility at a fee. While it can be more expensive than SEO, you are only charged when a person clicks on the ad. PPC models allow organisations to manage their expectations effectively.


There is little difference between digital and online marketing. Online marketing is simply a subset of digital marketing and refers to content delivered via the Internet, while digital marketing refers to any marketing that exists on electronic devices. Companies should advertise through a variety of mediums, but keep an eye out for trends – social media is the dominant form of marketing today, using PPC models to get quick results.

Pat-Lin Communications provides public relations services for both traditional and digital channels. Contact us to schedule an appointment.