Get personalized career counselling from an IIT Bombay topper & ex-McKinsey consultant
Learn more

What is Digital Marketing?

What is digital marketingA for Apple, M for Mobile!

It’s a warm afternoon in Dubai, at least it seems so as I gaze out of my window to see a sparse Sheikh Zayed Road. Just a week back, months of toil and chaos ended with a successful store launch for the brand I work for. Dubai’s busy Indian suburb Karama was host to John Abraham as he graced the occasion. Thorough gentleman I tell you and what a crowd puller!

Amidst all the fervor and chaos, I remember an old friend of mine in the US messaging me Note: Old here refers to the length of our friendship and not his age.He had seen the complete store launch live on his mobile device more specifically his iPhone 6s+ through Facebook live.

Later it made me think, it is a connected world we live in, even if it means virtually! Here was a friend I had not seen in the last 5 years but through a simple App upgrade, I was beaming a mammoth store opening live miles away in Dubai. Later over a Skype call, his comments and reactions convinced me that he loved bit of the frenzy, as he was tucked into his bed there.

The good part being, neither of us paid a penny to share this experience and I am sure, millions like us consume much more through the ‘World Wide Web’ every day. 16 million of my people in India are already bitten by the “Jio wave”. Senior Ambani and company have revolutionized mobile data penetration with their “Free 4G for Now” proposition. But given a serious thought, apart from a one-time device cost and some recurring data expenses, we do certainly enjoy a lot of content.

Food for thought: How does so much content get delivered to the world?Certainly there aren’t free lunches in this world (apart from the few I have attended on pretext of being intellectual and nodding my head at some conferences).

I thought it would be interesting to take readers into a little bit of Content and Digital Marketing!

Just a basic search on Google for Digital Marketing shall throw you about 71,700,000 results so let me try and make this a little simpler!

What is Digital Marketing?

By definition, digital marketing is anything promoted virtually!

Let’s say anything that you see or read on your phone, tablet or computer that urges you to react – either through a click or share or view or even ignore!

Have you ever researched for a flight and ended up not booking it? I am sure most of us browse for fares all the time.

Let’s take an example – as part of my ‘top ten things to do’ when bored at work, I research for a return flight from Dubai to Bali and the very next day I am targeted by a banner ad incentivizing me to book the same.

Haven’t we experienced this in our everyday internet lives?

This simple phenomenon of harassing the browser is called retargeting or remarketing and trust me, it has the one of the highest conversion rates because of its ability to reach out to an interested audience.

So how does this work? Most websites these days have what ‘techsperts’ call Pixels, which are essentially codes that capture data through a cookie. A cookie is a small data collection tool that sits on the user’s web browser (In simple words, sits on our devices like a Tab, Mobile or Computer) and stores information related to our browsing history, the links we click and subscribe to and the videos we consume! Interestingly, this data serves as the basis for the kind of Ads, Offers and promotions we are served.

E-Commerce companies use all these data points to understand your taste your preferences and even arrange an array of your favorites while you are browsing their pages.

So I pick up a pair of Nike shoes from Flipkart on Day 1 and when I come back to Flipkart on Day 10, I am shown a range of accessories and apparel from Nike that I am most likely to buy.

Search Engine Marketing

Another very interesting tool for search engines (Like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu or an AOL) is Search Engine Marketing popularly referred to as SEM or Pay per click. Let’s experiment as we read. Open your Google page in a new browser

Digital Marketing Example

As a consumer, If I want to buy a ticket my logical search pattern is – Jump onto Google – Type “Cheapest Flights to wherever” and that’s it! If you make a mistake (as you see in the image above), wise ol’ Google will recognise it and show the results of the closest matching phrase.

You have at least 10+ sites urging you to buy from them. But then ‘How does Google know’ how to rank them in order. This is where a ‘Google AdWords’ campaign comes into place – What Google or for that matter any search engine does is, it allows you to bid for certain keywords and there are a million keywords in the larger online universe.

So most brands, bid for what they think are most relevant to their business. And each time somebody clicks the link, Google charges the brand for it and that’s where most marketers look at ‘Cost-per-click’ as a key tool while planning their digital media budgets.

Does this mean that in the online universe, every website has to spend dollars in order to rank themselves higher up the order? The answer is No and Yes!

Brands need to invest not necessarily in Search Engine Marketing but on something called as ‘Search Engine Optimization’ or SEO. Before we go deeper into this, let us understand ‘What are the different sources of traffic for your website’ or ‘Channels from where people like you and me can come to a website’.

Sources of traffic for digital marketing

Let’s keep our example of ‘Booking a flight ticket’ to understand this better!


You go to Google search bar – type cheap flight tickets to India – have 10 sites appear – And YOU click on the one without the ‘Green color Ad symbol’ on the left. So Google classifies you as a person who has organically arrived to a site without being prompted by an Ad.


It is similar to Organic, except Instead of ‘Cheap flight tickets to India’ if I directly enter or in the search bar then I am being classified as a direct source of traffic.


As the name suggests, if you are referred to a particular site from a ‘Third party’ website. For e.g. I am on Wikipedia and I have links taking me to a particular site then I am most likely to classified as a referral source of traffic


You open your inbox – click on an email Call to Action (CTA button) and come to a landing page (website)! Congratulations, you are classified as traffic from Email

Paid Search & Display

You see an add – you click and come! You have just contributed towards wasting dollars from a companies’ marketing budget

Social Media

All that comes from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Remember those ‘buzz feed’ articles you read, tag and share. They all contribute towards increasing traffic for Buzz Feed and several other content sites. Brands also invest a lot in Social Media Ads else you wouldn’t have Facebook, Instagram or Twitter exist as a company.

In a nutshell, primarily traffic sources for any website or ecommerce platform or content site are through organic and in-organic sources and it is important to get the basics right for any aspiring or upcoming business to thrive in the online universe.

Coming back to SEO, Google ranks every website in this big wide online world. They use a complex algorithm (that I am hoping at least they understand) combined with 200+ factors to arrive at a result. So like most things in life, it isn’t very easy to be featured on the 1st page of Google without paying for it!

All web developers and marketers work on ensuring that their On-site SEO is in place. In simple words, ensure that they have all they hygiene checks done.

Role of SEO in Digital Marketing

Let us illustrate the importance of SEO in digital marketing with an example.

I search for Best Cricket Shoes in India, Google shows me 518,000 results for the same. However, Google believes that the most relevant ones are Amazon and Flipkart for my particular search query.

If you observe, these are not ad links – they are simply brand website links for a generic keyword like ‘Best cricket shoes in India’

The reason is because Amazon and Flipkart have consistently optimized their websites, invest a lot in brand building and hence have good quality organic traffic. They have also ensured that when Google’s crawler searches for this particular keyword it is seeded in their content and offering either on their product display pages or recommendations.

Role of Digital Marketing

Keeping it short, I am sure marketers, brands and businesses world over understand the power of ‘Online’ and the scope it carries.

You and I secretly acknowledge that Mobile is the second most important thing in our lives after family. That little device that supposedly makes us a ‘Smartphone Generation’ is definitely riding the next wave in marketing and the day would not be far when kids would sing A for Apple but have the image of the bitten one that Steve Jobs created!

Watch this video to learn how you can become an entrepreneur at a young age

Akshay Vasan
About Akshay Vasan
Akshay is just another inquisitive soul in this Big Mad World of Marketers. In other things, he’s a premature hair greying victim, airplane lover and a travel aficionado trying to make it to his own list of ’40 under 40’ (more like visit 40 countries under Forty). All views are personal.

16 thoughts on “What is Digital Marketing?”

  1. Very well written akshay. I’m sure this will be of great help to generations of aspiring marketing execs! Proud of you and all the best for your future accomplishments.. Rock on!

  2. Hi Akshay,

    Its really a great article. However I just wanted to know that whether you did your MBA or not ?

    I am also in to Digital Marketing and have almost 2 years of work experience. I am thinking of applying in to MBA programs which require atleast 2 years of work experience so that it doesn’t nullify my work experience.

    Also is that possible that I can get a job in Dubai with my current work experience.

    • Hi Vaibhav,

      Yes I did do my MBA, passout of 2012 batch. You can review my linkedin profile to get a synopsis of my career thus far.

      Getting a job in Dubai is relatively easier to moving to other western countries owing to a large Asian diaspora and proximity to the subcontinent.

      However, I do recommend pursuing your MBA from a good college before making the jump to may be a UAE or anywhere else. There are some interesting threads on MBA Crystal Ball that can help you plan for your MBA

  3. Hi Akshay
    Your article was impressive am doing my MBA now I need to choose my specialization I have confusion between HR and marketing….. this is not a very high reputed college in Bangalore but I managed to do because of fee constraints….. when I started MBA I had a mindset of doing HR but now I am in a confusion as per my research marketing field has good growth… but my first experience in my career was a tele sales job I used to struggle to give leads and I quit the job in eight months and joined an MNC worked there for 8 years and left joined a school as branch head but the job was similar to taking up admission convincing parents kind of closing a insurance policy 🙂 then started with MBA am 30years female can u please suggest me some solution.

  4. Hi Sangeetha,

    HR or Marketing – 2 extremely diverse fields and both have their own growth prospects and limitations.

    In my limited years of experience, I’ve often observed that HR professionals are selected more on the quality of their work rather than the Bschool they come from (Not trying to belittle the ones graduating from top notch schools)

    In markering roles, , these kinds of barriers do exist and sometimes a candidates background gets him a foot in the door rather than his capabilities. Also making a breakthrough in a good marketing oriented organization can be challenging.

    My intent isn’t to discourage you from pursuing your liking but is to bring to light the realities of the industry.

    Now on the last part, what is it that you see yourself doing for the next 20 years?

    Developing People or Developing Products/Brands? – both can be extremely rewarding in their own ways.

    If you still want a little bit of both, look at majors in HR & minors in Marketing and you could look at roles in Internal communications, employer branding strategy, workforce engagement etc.

    Read up a little on the last part, do a bit of Google research and let me know what you think.

    In the meantime, good luck with your MBA. College reputation is important but what’s more is your grit to go back to academics after working for 8 years! All the best.

  5. Hi,
    I am Pratap Currently working in a FMCG Company in Sales with two years of total experience in sales but right now looking to switch to the Core Marketing Profile.
    Please, Suggest how shall I start if possible.


    • Hey Pratap,

      Once again, sorry for a late revert.

      Quick questions –
      Were you hired into sales before or after an MBA?
      Why don’t you want to continue with Sales?
      What are your growth prospects in sales within your company or anywhere else?

      Shall be happy if you can revert with these. It’s important to understand on why you want to move into marketing.

  6. HI Akshay,
    i am sarika currently working as a Marketing coordinator in reputed organisation in PUNE and now wish to build my currier in marketing and brand management but looking at my educational background i.e. PG in MBA finance & and UG in Agricultural Biotechnology i am bit confused about the acceptibility and scope for future ,please guide me how to shape my career and get on the right path..also suggest the suitable courses which can be added value to my career.

  7. HI Sarika,
    I draw 3 positives from this message
    1) You’re already into marketing
    2) You work with a reputed org
    3) you have a PG, albeit in finance
    However, I would need you to help me with the below
    1) What does your role cover? Your likes & dislikes with this role
    2) What sector are you currently in? Do you wish to continue in the same sector/industry?
    3) Are you open to a residential or full-time program?


Leave a Comment