A Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing – 7 techniques explained – no jargon!

Perhaps you want to work in digital marketing because you’ve heard about it as a career option at uni, and you know of a few people who work in a cool agencies in London and love it. But you’re not sure exactly sure what all the terms mean nor what field to get into, or what the various disciplines actually involve. This Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing explains 7 of the most common digital marketing disciplines. I’ve written this purposely basic and easy to understand, so we start at the beginning to give you a solid grasp of each area. Plus I’ve also linked each discipline off to one or two industry blogs that you can trust to find more in depth information if you wish.


1. What is Search Marketing?

You grew up with search. It’s the little box on Google (or another search engine) where you type in what you are looking for. Seemingly so simple, but there is so much more to it, and when us marketing folk talk about “search” we are really referring to “search marketing”.

Search marketing is the process of driving web users to websites using both paid and unpaid (also known as organic) tactics.

The top few listings on the page, and up until recently, the listings displayed down the right hand side, were paid for by advertisers who want their site to be listed for the term you type in. Now the paid for listings are the top 4 results with the little yellow [ad] tag and also Google Shopping results.


The organic results are those that are found by Google’s spiders “naturally” because they rank in Google’s database for the term typed in the search box. The natural results are those that appear below the ads and include the new local listings (map and text listing for local businesses).

It is the Google algorithm that decides the order of these listings. An algorithm is essentially a complicated mathematical equation. No-one knows exactly the make-up of Google’s algorithm and it is the subject of much discussion and speculation in the search world. We know that certain things like links from other sites, the relevance and quality of the content on your site, the speed of pages loading and more is included. The important thing to remember is that Google’s job is to show the user the information that best answers the search query and to do this they reward and prioritise relevance and good quality content.

Searchengineland and Moz both do a grand job of explaining all there is to know about search.

2. What is Mobile Marketing?

Mobile marketing is the process of advertising your product on or using a mobile device. Perhaps that’s advertising on Facebook using a Mobile App Install Ad or perhaps it’s using a text message to advertise your wares. You can read more about mobile ad formats here. 

Because the smartphone accompanies most of us wherever we go, (even to the loo!), it is fast becoming the advertising vehicle of choice for many businesses. Did you know that there are now more searches made on mobile than on desktop? All that said, mobile advertising has it’s own set of challenges. Are you happy giving out your mobile number to a company? Most of us aren’t. So businesses tend to resort to bribery. I’ll give you a free service or a discount in exchange for your details.

Mobile is also a great way for businesses to engage and have a conversation with their customers. Text message surveys and voucher codes delivered by text are on the increase. Here is a list of mobile marketing techniques that you may come across if you decide to wrk in mobile:

  • Appstore optimisation (ASO) – the process of getting your app to the top of the appstore (SEO for apps!)
  • Mobile gaming – development and marekting of games played on mobile.
  • Mobile web – mobile sites (or responsive sites) developed to work on mobile browsers and all that goes with them.
  • Wifi and bluetooth – gives marketers the abilty to connect with users when they use the network or have blue tooth switched on.
  • Mobile search – getting your mobile site found on the mobile web e.g. Google.
  • Location targeting – the ability of companies to target you with e.g. ads or app notifications dependent on where you are.
  • QR codes – barcodes for mobiles that take you to an offer or promotion on a mobile site/website.
  • Augmented reality – think Pokemon Go.
  • Mobile video – Youtube, Snapchat etc.
  • SMS marketing – Text messaging to customers, often used for after-sales communication.

The Mobile Marketing Association do a good job at keeping us up-to-date with mobile marketing changes.

3. What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is a catch-all term for paid advertising on social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as well as the unpaid ‘organic’ activity that we can all do to gain traffic or visibility for our brand or website.

Unpaid activity usually focuses on the creation of highly engaging content. Stuff that other people want to read, and is likely to provokes a reaction – make you laugh, make you cry, make you post an angry rant! Anyone with an account on a social media platform can try social media marketing.

Paid activity is the way platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn make money from advertising. All the advertising options vary but generally include options for cost-per-click advertising (where you only pay when a user clicks on your ad) and brand or CPM advertising (where you pay a fixed sum for a thousand ad impressions – that’s 1000 views of your ad to you and I).

Keep an eye on MashableUK for the latest in Social Media Marketing.

4. What is Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)?

This one is not so straight-forward. Let’s start by ensuring we all know what a conversion is.

A conversion is basically a user-action on your website. Something you are measuring to determine if your website is performing the function you want it to, and how well. That may be a sale, a click to another page, an email address capture, creating an online account, completing a survey, downloading an app. You get the idea.

So your conversion rate (CR) is the number of users completing the action expressed as a percentage of your site’s total traffic.

And so it follows that conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the process digital marketing folk undertake to increase conversions/actions on their web or mobile site.

It’s a really large topic and includes all sorts of techniques – far too many to explain here. So I’ve listed just a few to get you started…

Some of the most common CRO tactics are:

A/B testing or split-testing

The process of testing identical pages with one element changed.

Multi-variate testing

Testing multiple versions of the same page to see which combination of elements produces a higher conversion rate.

Cart abandonment

The process of reducing the number of people who abandon the shopping cart before purchasing (perhaps using email, or pop-ups, or checkout re-designs/split-tests).

Customer journey analysis

Seeing where customers leave the journey and making changes using the tests described above to push more users further down the journey.

Qualaroo is a great CRO tool that can do all sorts of things and they have fantastic info on their blog where you can find out more about this hot topic.

5. What is Email Marketing?

Silly question right? Email marketing is one of the oldest if not the oldest digital marketing activity, and it remains one of the primary ways for businesses to communicate to customers and potential customers. In it’s basic form (and how it first started) email marketing is the process of sending the same email to a list of people. And that remains true today, but with layers of tech sophistication added. There are hundreds of email marketing tech companies today, all of whom are constantly evolving their email systems. So much so, that many email systems now also include landing page development, ecommerce, customer relationship management databases and social media marketing. This is now more commonly known as Marketing Automation and here are a few of the companies that sit under each umbrella:

beginners guide to digital marketing - email systems

Email marketing effectiveness is measured using a couple of core metrics:

Open rate – the number of people expressed as a percentage of total send who open the email (this is recorded when email systems download images)

Click-through rate (CTR) – the number of people expressed as a percentage of total send who click on a link in your email

Unsubscribe rate – the number of people expresses as a percentage of total send who click on the unsubscribe link and remove themselves from the email database.

Today technology has evolved so much that you can do all sorts of wonderful things to increase your email open and click-through rates, such as:

  • Personalise your message to an individual e.g. use their first name or company name in the text
  • Show different content to a user based on their demographics. A fashoin brand may send images of dresses to women and trousers to men.
  • Show different content to a user based on their previous behaviour. If a user picked out and clicked on a particular pair of trainers last week, send them more reminders of those trainers this week.
  • Automatically send the email when a user completes an action
  • A/B test (the same as CRO above) your subject lines and email messages to see which is most effective
  • Send another email depending on whether a user clicks on one or another link in an email

There is so much more you can do with email marketing, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Mailchimp is a good, free email marketing tool where you can have a look at a system, test your skills and learn more.

5. What is Ecommerce Marketing?

Let’s start by giving you the definition of ecommerce marketing. Very simply it’s the process of driving sales online. And mobile commerce, yep you guessed it, is the process of driving sales on mobile.

Ecommerce marketing folk start by raising awareness of the online store’s brand and products across the internet, using both traditional (leaflets, direct mail, print advertising) and digital marketing (SEO, PPC, email, mobile etc) channels to do this.

Their job is not finished, however, when they get the user to the online store. It’s then a process of refining the customer journey using conversion optimisation techniques to get the user to buy, and then buy again. So in English that means testing all sorts of things on the website (such as layout, design, messages, colours and more!) to move as many of the users closer to buying.

Common ecommerce marketing channels include:

Search engine optimisation

To make the site visible for key search terms in the natural SERPS (search-engine-results-pages) listings. E.g. if I wanted to buy a pair of Nike trainers, the store would optimise their page that advertises Nike trainers so it appeared on the search engine.

Google Adwords

Similarly, if I wanted a quick win and my NIke trainers page doesn’t yet appear in the top listings for the term Nike trainers, I can create a paid for listing on Google Adwords (and other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo).


Ever been followed around the web by graphical ads after you have visited a website? That is known as remarketing. The ecommerce people would know that you visited the Nike trainers page, but did not buy on the first visit, so they would remind you of those lush trainers you really want as you move around the internet.

Affiliate marketing

Perhaps you next visit a cash-back site such as Top Cash Back or an voucher site such as My Voucher Codes to see if you can get something in return for your purchase. If you buy using the voucher or claim the cashback this is known as affiliate marketing.

Email marketing

Not forgetting good old email marketing. Once you’ve registered your interest with a company, or set-up a store account if you are regular purchaser the ecommerce marketers log your preferences, your purchases and also what you look at on the site and then send you hopefully relevant emails to encourage purchase; once again reminding you that you want those Nike trainers.

Social media marketing

In the same way that you will see ads remarketing to you on the web, you may also see similar ads on Facebook and Twitter. It works in exactly the same way and the shop only pays when you click on their ad. You may also like their store page on a social network and so by engaging with them, they have yet another way to communicate with you.

Shopify is a tool that allows you to set-up your own online store. It has a great blog with tons of useful ecommerce info.

7. Lastly and importantly let’s talk about Data & Analytics

Whilst data and analytics isn’t a marketing tactic per se, you can’t do digital marketing without it. Data underpins everything we do, and making sure the data is “good data” is mission critical.

It’s the information, metrics and numbers that you get from the various marketing activities that you undertake and how you make sense of this information and base future decisions upon it. Businesses that succeed and thrive are usually very good at this. Think Amazon.

Amazon measure absolutely everything. They have got so good at it that they now test the on page minutia. For example, if they move the buy button a fraction or change it’s colour what does that do to their conversion rate and so on. Ever noticed their ‘people who buy this also buy this’? That’s their data at work again, making you buy more stuff.

There are so many marketing tools for so many different things, all with their own proprietary reporting and measurement that you’ll never be short of a report or twenty. But, there’s one tool that is pretty universal, tracks most things you need to track (at least when you are starting out) and is free to use. It’s called Google Analytics. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free tool offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. It was launched in 2005 after Google bought an analytics company called Urchin. You will still see urchin in the web tracking code today. You put a simple piece of code on every page of your website and Google starts to gather information about your website visitors by dropping a cookie onto the user’s device and recording what they do. Simple!

The best place to read more about Google Analytics is on their website at their help centre  or their blog  – although beware, it can sometimes be a bit technical.

AND they offer free training for anyone who is super keen to learn how it works. If you’re serious about digital marketing you will have to learn this, so you may as well start to learn before your first interview.

So there you have it, a whirlwind beginners guide to digital marketing. If you have any questions about any of this stuff get in touch with us here at Digital Marketing For Grads and we’ll be glad to help you out. If you found this article useful we’d be grateful of a share or like – thank you!

About post author

Hello. My name is Lucy Smith. I recently quit my full-time Marketing Director role at a tech start-up in London, (after 13 years hard graft getting there), in favour of starting up on my own. Why? The journey from graduating with a 2:1 in Media and Cultural Studies to Marketing Director hasn't all been plain sailing, but is has been challenging and tremendous fun. A career path that I heartily recommend to anyone who will listen. Digital Marketing For Graduates is my brain-child. I'd like to give something back, as well as have the experience of starting my own business. I will give it my all. Provide and source the very best information I can, but I know I can't do it all alone. For Digital Marketing For Grads to evolve I will need some help. Please get in touch if you'd like to be part of the idea.
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