What is Digital Advertising?

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Digital advertising is any paid media placement on a digital medium such as a website, an app, or internet-connected platform. It is also sometimes called online advertising.

To get a clear picture, it may also be helpful to think of what digital advertising is not:

  • It is not Traditional Advertising like TV ads, infomercials, or radio commercials
  • It is not Print Advertising such as magazine ads, newspapers ads, or direct mail
  • It is not Out of Home (OOH) like billboards, bus/train wrappers, or sponsored blimps
  • It is not guerilla marketing, experiential marketing, event sponsorship, or stadium naming rights

While there are many different types of advertising that are not digital advertising, here we’ll focus on the things that are digital advertising. Let’s start by taking a deeper look at some of the different types of digital advertising. Below are 8 different types of digital ads:

  1. Display ads or banner ads: These are what most people think of when they hear internet advertising. The two most common sizes of display ads are 300×250 and 720×90, but these ads come in many different sizes. You can run these on the Google Display Network or other display networks.
  2. Remarketing / Retargeting: If you have ever browsed a website like Adidas and then noticed that an ad for the same pair of shoes is following you around the internet, that is an example of remarketing. It is marketing to you something you have already interacted with in some way. Remarketing can be done through a display network, RLSA on a search network, social media networks, or other vendors. 
  3. Paid search: Paid search ads are the ads you see on a Search Engine Results Page such as Google or Bing. They target people who are actively searching for a product, service, or topic with relevant advertising.
  4. Social media advertising: Advertising on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter are examples of social media advertising.
  5. Video/YouTube ads: These include both a banner ads that may appear below the video, or pre-roll video ads that show before the video you are trying to watch.
  6. Affiliate ads: Website administrators will sometimes place affiliate ads on their website from partners that offer some sort of commission to the website owner if someone clicks the ad and buys a product.
  7. Native ads: Native ads are designed to seamlessly blend into the content on a page such as when you see an ad while browsing through a blog feed or with the other suggested links.
  8. Advertorial / Sponsored content: Similar to native ads, sponsored content, often called advertorials, are long form articles used to promote a product or service while blending in as normal website content.

What is the difference between digital advertising and digital marketing?

Great question! The difference is in the details, but it’s an important distinction to make. Digital marketing encompasses all digital advertising, but not all digital marketing is digital advertising. To better illustrate this, lets… use a picture:

Digital Marketing Landscape

In the Digital Marketing Landscape pictured above, take a look at Search Engine Marketing (SEM), a type of digital marketing. There are two primary components of Search Engine Marketing:

  • Paid Search advertising
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is a part of both digital marketing and search engine marketing, but it is not digital advertising because you are not directly paying for the placement of an ad when using SEO. Paid search, however, is digital advertising, search engine marketing, and digital marketing because you’re exchanging money for the ability to place your ad and market your business on a search engine. Paid search, Paid Social, Remarketing, and Display ads are all types of digital advertising and digital marketing.

What are the biggest benefits of digital advertising? What makes digital advertising unique?


Unlike traditional media, your entire interaction with digital ads is online and with the right technology, advertisers can track how people engage with their ads. Using tracking codes, pixels, snippets, scripts, and other technology, advertisers work to understand things like how many times an ad is seen or clicked on, when a user went to their landing page, if a user made a purchase because of an ad, how much money was spent, etc. This trackability enables advertisers to see a more clear picture of how advertising is actually impacting business and gives them real evidence on how to improve the functionality of their ads. 

Highly Targeted

Perhaps the most important benefit of digital advertising is that it’s highly targetable. This is important to advertisers so they can ensure the ads they are creating are resonating with the people seeing their ads. This is also a benefit to consumers because consumers see ads that are more relevant and personal as opposed to being bombarded with ads for products they would never buy. With digital advertising the targeting possibilities allow for a much better experience for consumers and in return can deliver a much better return on investment for businesses. 

Easily Editable

Digital ads can be edited easily because they are in a digital format. Computers have allowed humans to create content, art, and yes, even ads at an incredible rate because digital formats can be changed and duplicated so quickly. With traditional advertising such as a magazine or newspaper, once your ad has been printed, it can’t be changed until the next print. With digital advertising, if you don’t like something or its not working as expected, ad experiences can be changed quickly to suit advertisers needs or when new data and ideas come in. This saves advertisers money and again, helps to make sure that consumers are seeing relevant advertisements.

More Controllable

When online advertising first started, advertisers would buy ad placements directly from the big website publishers and once the agreed upon amount of money was handed over to the publisher, the ads would be served. This was a slow and more or less finalized process. With current digital advertising, instead of waiting for publishers to make changes, advertisers themselves now have the ability to strategically control when, where, and how many ads are being shown. This control also extends to the price advertisers pay. While in the past the cost of placements may have been predetermined at the start of a campaign, with digital advertising, budgets can be regularly updated and spending is often based on performance.

What are the goals of digital advertising?

Digital advertising goals are dependent on the type of business and the goals of the business. Here are a few examples of common digital advertising objectives:

  • Lead generation such as driving phone calls to a mechanic or filling out contact forms a deck contractor’s website.
  • Brand Awareness used to increase the number of people who know of your business
  • Increase Sales such as on an ecommerce website
  • Increase Online Bookings such as reservations for a restaurant or booking a hotel
  • New Customer Acquisition such as new patients at a dental practice
  • Increase Website Traffic used to grow the use of your website or services

Once you have selected an digital advertising goal, there are platforms and tools that allow you to set up conversion or revenue tracking for your ads. This is the trackable piece we mentioned before. It provides digital advertisers and businesses with visibility into which ads are performing best and which aren’t working for a business.

Where can I advertise online? 

You can advertise almost anywhere on the internet nowadays. This includes blogs, news sites, search engines, social media, and many of your favorite websites. With that said, we always recommend that you determine your business goals and then decide on a target market. Then find out where that target market is online and what phase of the customer journey they are in before you start advertising online. Essentially, you must decide on what ad experience you want to create before you decide where you should advertise online.

For most businesses getting started with advertising, Google Ads and Facebook are the two most popular digital advertising platforms. They have a range of options including multiple digital advertising networks and offer the ability to create different types of advertising experiences. Beyond these two though, there are plenty of other options such as Bing, Instagram (technically part of Facebook advertising), Yelp, LinkedIn, Amazon, Twitter, YouTube, and many others.  

However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should run on all these different platforms as you may end up wasting your money and getting nothing in return for your advertising dollars. This is where professional digital advertising services can help. If you aren’t sure where or how to start advertising, contact a digital marketing expert who can walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of choosing each option and help you craft a targeted ad strategy based on your business goals.

How much does digital advertising cost?

Digital advertising costs as much or as little as you want. In a way, you get what you pay for. If you want to reach a larger audience, you will have to pay more. Similarly, you may have to pay more if you are trying to reach a very specific group of people. With digital advertising, you are essentially buying eyeballs and because of the prevalence of the internet, there is a lot of ad inventory available to reach an ideal target audience for your business.

How do you buy digital advertising?

To answer this question, you first have to answer two other questions:

  1. How do you pay for digital advertising?
  2. Where do you buy digital advertising?

Let’s start with how you pay for digital advertising. You may have heard digital advertising called PPC advertising and that is because you often “Pay Per Click (PPC).” However, depending on the platform you use for your digital advertising, you may be paying per a certain number of impressions, paying per click, paying per acquisition, or paying per video view, CPM, CPC, CPA, and CPV respectively. All of these are “Cost Per” metrics that help advertisers understand how much they are paying for their advertising.

Now on to question number two, where do you buy digital advertising? You can buy or place your digital ads through: 

  • Direct buys by reaching out to a website directly
  • Ad Platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook ads that allow you to place ads on ad networks. (These are the type of advertisements that Intigress specializes in.)
  • Or Programmatically through Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and a complex set of technologies and vendors. This is usually only right for companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising a year.

So how do you buy digital advertising? Well, that depends on where you are placing your ads and how the advertising cost is measured. As a simplified example, let’s say you decide to run a Google shopping ad, you will then pay Google each time someone clicks on your Google shopping ad. When you pay depends on how you’ve set up your Google account; however, you are generally billed on a monthly basis.

Now that you’ve learned what digital advertising is, the types of digital advertising available, where to buy it, how to pay for it and its benefits, it’s time to select a goal and get started!

Interested in learning how professional digital advertising services can help your business grow? Contact us today! We’d love to talk with you about how digital advertising can help you reach your unique business goals.

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4 Responses

  1. Great read regarding an overview of digital advertising as well as its benefits for continued business success. Thanks for this.

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