Digital Advertising Basics

Getting Started on a Winning Digital Marketing Strategy


Digital advertising is the practice of delivering promotional content to users through various online and digital channels. Digital advertising is more than website banners or pop-up messages, those things that first come to mind when we think about digital ads. If you take a step back to consider how much of our lives are spent online and how much advertising opportunity exists, you get a better picture of how big of an umbrella term digital advertising is. 

Table of Contents


What is Digital Advertising?

Digital Advertising on Search Engine Platforms

Digital Advertising using Native Ads

Digital Advertising through Email Marketing

Digital Advertising using Social Media Networks

Diversify Your Digital Advertising Strategy

Terms to Know

Digital advertising encompasses pretty much any online channel you can think of. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Bing, and on and on. There are so many avenues to direct paid traffic that it can feel overwhelming.

Topic ONE

What is Digital Advertising?

The answer might seem simple at first glance. Online ads, right? You’re probably thinking “digital advertising is that thing I use an ad-blocker to avoid.”

According to MarTech Advisor, “Digital advertising is the practice of delivering promotional content to users through various online and digital channels.” 

Digital advertising is more than website banners or pop-up messages, those things that first come to mind when we think about digital ads. 

If you take a step back to consider how much of our lives are spent online and how much advertising opportunity exists, you get a better picture of how big of an umbrella term digital advertising is. 

Digital advertising encompasses pretty much any online channel you can think of. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Bing, and on and on. There are so many avenues to direct paid traffic that it can feel overwhelming.


You might be wondering-- if the umbrella of digital advertising includes such strategies as social media advertising, search engine advertising, native advertising, email marketing (to name just a few), does that mean that you need to use a deluge of these tactics to get traffic? 

No! Digital advertising can be used strategically to get the results you want.

In this guide, you will learn about some of the most common types of digital advertising and how to use them to reach your audience. 

Topic TWO

Digital Advertising on Search Engine Platforms

We use our search engines for practically everything these days. Have you ever searched for a website, even though you already knew the full URL? (It’s okay, we’re all guilty of little laziness every now and then!)

It’s no wonder search engines act as a powerful platform for online advertising and marketing. First, let’s get the jargon out of the way. The three main acronyms to know when you’re looking into digital advertising with search engines are: SEM, SEA, and SEO. Let’s break it down.

SEA - search engine advertising

SEA (search engine advertising) consists of using paid promotions on results pages to increase web traffic.

Examples of SEA:

  • Text ads that display based on a keyword or keywords searched.
  • Product listing ads that populate in search results.
  • Display ads, either text or images, that show up on platforms that are part of the search engine advertising networks.
  • Video ads, such as those that populate on YouTube.

SEO - search engine optimization

SEO (search engine optimization) is a long-term strategy focused on using keywords to target audiences and improve your site’s web ranking through quality content.

Examples of SEO:

  • Website optimization that makes website crawling and indexing easier for search engines.
  • Creating and updating content using certain keywords to boost search engine rankings.

SEM - search engine marketing (SEA + SEO)

SEM (search engine marketing) encompasses all elements of SEA and SEO.

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By focusing on targeted search engine advertising campaigns and long-term SEO strategies, businesses can set themselves up for higher ranked pages and increased traffic (that includes both organic and paid). 

The two big search engines to consider are Google and Bing. Yahoo is another well-known player in the web explorer game, but the majority of Yahoo search traffic is powered by Bing.


Digital Advertising using Native Ads

Image from iOS

Digital Advertising using Native Ads

There are a lot of reasons to want your ads to stand out. Your business has spent a lot of time building a brand and a message to be seen, not ignored. This is what makes native advertising an interesting and unexpected type of advertising.

What is native advertising?

Web advertising platform Outbrain defines native advertising as “the use of paid ads that match the look, feel and function of the media format in which they appear.” In short: native ads are sponsored content in camouflage.

Why should I use native ads?

According to Marketing Land, native ads belong in your digital advertising strategy for these reasons:

  • Native ads are a good tool for prospecting new clients and promoting content to existing clients.
  • These ads can improve brand perception.
  • You can use native ads to combat "ad-blindness" that comes from regularly ignoring flashy banner ads.
  • Native ads contribute to an overall more pleasant user experience because they fit seamlessly into the UI.

Topic FOUR

Digital Advertising through Email Marketing

Email is a popular marketing tool for a lot of reasons. After all, email is one of the most effective communication channels for companies. With an estimated 4.48 billion global email users by 2024, it certainly seems safe to say that email is here to stay.


Though email marketing and advertising is popular, email is not a perfect tool. Emails will come back as undeliverable or filter to spam folders. A company can send email after email, but that doesn’t mean that the subscriber will open the message and click through.

Is email a fail-safe marketing strategy?

In short, no. Some challenges email marketers frequently run into are:

  • Email users are wary of fraudulent and malicious emails.
  • Our inboxes are a very saturated channel. Between personal emails, deals, content, and more, it doesn’t take much time for an inbox to fill up.
  • And on that note, your emails have to make it past spam filters to end up in the inbox, not the junk folder.

Should I try email marketing?

Yes. There are amazing opportunities that come from effective email marketing. Here are just a few:

  • Email is widely used. Remember the projection that there will be over 4 billion email users by 2024?
  • Users can access emails on multiple platforms and devices. In fact, according to a report from Statista a whopping 49.3% of emails were opened on mobile phones.
  • Email has the highest ROI when compared to other marketing channels.


Your goal should be to approach email marketing strategically. Build your tactical email marketing strategy by:


Topic FIVE

Digital Advertising using Social Media Networks

Social media networks are a powerful tool for building a brand and sharing content. If your business hasn’t explored the many uses of social media platforms to reach audiences, you might be missing out on a lot of potential engagements.

Our World in Data reports that one in three people use social media platforms. And that’s a worldwide statistic, meaning that billions of people are active social media users.

Graph showing number of people on social media platforms from 2005-2019

The graph above shows the upward growth of social media platforms internationally. It’s easy to see why social media advertising is a worthy investment for many businesses. The potential for reaching new customers is seemingly endless!



According to a Statista study, we should expect “further monetization of social networks and messenger apps.” 

“The integration of shopping and payment solutions into social networks combined with exact localization will increase user engagement, conversions, and performance of advanced targeting.” (Statista)



Successful advertising on social media is an art and a science.

Advertisers spend a lot of time and energy on eye-catching creative and engaging copy--but what good is that when no one is actually seeing your work? This is where social media advertising requires a bit of a mad scientist. 

Each platform comes with its own insights, audiences, and advertising capabilities. 

Take Facebook ad targeting, for example. With Facebook, advertisers can adjust target audience rules by location, consumer behavior, demographics, connections, and interests. Those are a lot of variables to work with! 

Take time to understand user experience.

User engagement varies by social media platform. This is important for advertisers to take into consideration before running paid ads.


A 2018 study in the Journal of Advertising identified the different engagement dimensions for some of the most popular platforms. If Youtube is associated with entertainment by its users, running an advertisement for funeral homes might not make the most sense. If you are trying to advertise something current and/or topical, Pinterest shouldn’t be your first choice. 

Take time to select the right social media platforms for your brand. Assess what platforms align with your product type or service and can effectively carry out your advertising goals.

Topic SIX

Diversify Your Digital Advertising Strategy

It’s clear that there are many channels for digital advertisers to reach audiences. You can probably see yourself using some or all of these to sell your brand and generate tons of revenue. Unfortunately, digital advertising costs money, and you probably have a little limitation called an ad spend budget. what?

Meet your customers where they’re at.

Mix up your marketing strategy to reach more audiences. Use multiple channels to find your customers and help them find you.

Don’t feel cornered into using one particular channel.

It’s probably not going to be your best bet to put all of your eggs in one basket. Think about it--many of the digital advertising channels that occupy the marketing space now didn’t even exist 20 years ago.

Think outside the box.

Google and Facebook are certainly star players in the advertising game, but they’re not the only ones that can deliver results. Explore valuable platforms that are off the beaten path at a fraction of the cost.


Terms to Know

Campaign - When you decide to run an ad, you'll always start with the campaign. Here, you'll choose an advertising objective, like Promote Your Page, which defines what you want your ad to achieve. 

For example, if you promote your Page, your ad will be optimized to get more likes on your business's Facebook Page. You will also set your budget at the Campaign level.

Demographic Audience Targeting - As you click on the Demographics tab, you’ll get plenty of targeting topics to refine your audience based on many options. The basic 3 are:

Age – If you’re targeting an audience with a specified age range, you can easily reach them by telling Facebook who your ideal customers are.



You can also select to target a particular gender.



If you’re advertising in a particular language, you might want to only target the people who can understand your ads.

But you can get way more detailed. As an example, you’ll be able to target people by their political views, life events, job titles, ethnicity, and so on.

Interest Audience Targeting - Interests are one of the best (and easiest) Facebook ads targeting options as they allow you to target people specifically interested in a subject related to your product. For example, you could target people interested in your competitors or your broader market segment, or magazines and blogs covering your market.

To target based on interests, you can either browse the menu with hundreds of interests or simply type in one interest, so that Facebook will suggest to you other related topics.

The interests are based on Facebook users’ likes and interests, apps they use, Pages they’ve Liked, and more. Adding more than one interest will target people with at least one of them so you’ll make your reach broader.

CTR (Click-Through Rate) - CTR stands for click-through rate and is a Facebook Ads metric that measures the ratio of clicks (how often someone clicked on your ad) to impressions (how many times your ad was viewed on the platform) for individual ads.

CPA (Cost Per Action) - CPA stands for cost per action. Known on other digital marketing channels as cost per conversion, this is the price you pay for each action a user takes on your website because of your Facebook ad.

Find more marketing jargon definitions in our Revenue Engine Glossary.