Most Effective Digital Marketing Channels for Your Business

Last updated: May 15, 2023

Social media. Email. Search Engine Optimization. Display advertising. The variety of digital marketing options can seem endless. Your budget, however, is anything but infinite. So, where should you spend your limited marketing dollars to get the best bang for your buck? Start by matching your goals to the most effective digital marketing channels.


Here's a quick primer on each channel and what they can help you achieve.


Affiliate Marketing

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing involves working with outside individuals or companies under an agreement that they promote your product in exchange for a commission from each sale that can be attributed to their efforts. Let’s say you’ve invented a new kitchen gadget. You could partner with a recipe blog to offer readers a 30 percent discount on your new gadget, and in return, the blogger gets a small percentage of each purchase that is made using your discount code.


Ideal for:

  • Building brand awareness with customers already interested in your product category.
  • Increasing direct sales of specific products or services.


Male business owner sitting in front of a computer analysis which digital marketing channel is most effective.

Content Marketing

Content marketing, as defined by the Content Marketing Institute, encompasses creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Company-generated content such as blogs, whitepapers, infographics, e-books, and videos establish expertise, promote brand awareness, and keep your business top of mind when it’s time for readers to buy what you sell.


For example, if you run a kayak outfitting company, you might develop an infographic comparing sit-on versus sit-in kayaks, create a video showing how to re-enter your kayak if you capsize, or write a blog article explaining helpful features to look for when buying a new kayak. The guidance provided will likely result in customers making a purchase from you.


Ideal for:

  • Driving organic traffic to your website.
  • Positioning your company as an authority in your field.
  • Increasing brand awareness for your company/products.
  • Developing a subscriber base or social media following for future marketing efforts.
  • Supporting other digital marketing efforts such as SEO or email marketing.


Display Advertising

Display ads allow you to use images, audio, and video to promote your products and services. They are typically served up on websites, email platforms, social media, and many other digital channels that offer ad placements, usually in the form of a banner.


One of the key advantages to display ads is their ability to track users for retargeting. For example, if a user views a product on your website and doesn’t make a purchase, you can track them with a cookie and show them another relevant display ad later.


Ideal for:

  • Driving sales or encouraging customers to take a specific action, like downloading your app.
  • Building brand awareness among a far-ranging group of potential customers.
  • Tracking potential customers across digital channels to present additional ads.


Email Marketing

It’s not the newest technology available, but email is still the reigning king of digital marketing. According to HubSpot, email generates $42 for every $1 spent. That’s an astounding 4,200 percent ROI, making it one of the most effective options available. Email also allows you to apply the latest trends in digital marketing, such as personalization and automation, without hurting your marketing budget.


Ideal for:

  • Driving sales conversions and brand awareness.
  • Nurturing leads, establishing relationships, and building trust so potential customers will eventually make a purchase.
  • Following up with customers who have interacted with your company in some way.
  • Segmenting customers so you can deliver targeted messages addressing specific needs.
  • Maintaining established relationships with customers to drive continued sales.


Influencer Marketing

Although it’s a favorite target of late-night talk show hosts and millennial-bashing comedians, influencer marketing does yield results. In fact, nine out of 10 marketers say influencer marketing was the same or better than other channels they use, and one out of two women have made a purchase based on an influencer’s recommendation.


How does it work? Essentially, companies partner with celebrities, websites, bloggers, or others who are considered experts in their fields and who share similar values. These influencers provide endorsements and product mentions that can lead to sales among their followers. Examples include luxury hotels that provide free stays to travel bloggers and jewelry designers who provide free products to celebrities in exchange for a favorable mention on a blog or social media.


Ideal for:

  • Reaching a new customer base among a third-party’s established following.
  • Pairing with a perceived expert to increase product or service consideration.
  • Driving sales of specific products or services.


Mobile Marketing

By 2024, the number of mobile shoppers will rise to approximately 187.5 million users, making this an increasingly important channel for marketers. Your company can leverage the move to mobile by optimizing social media, websites, and emails, plus implementing text messages, push notifications, and mobile applications.


For example, banking apps offer a mobile-optimized way for users to easily complete routine tasks. They’re also a unique platform for banks to “meet customers where they are” and upsell or offer complementary services.


Ideal for:

  • Driving new and repeat sales through a seamless, mobile-optimized experience.
  • Geo-targeting customers to recommend products and services based on location.
  • Delivering in-app marketing, through either company-developed or third-party apps.


Organic Search or Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Google processes approximately 63,000 search queries per second, which isn’t surprising considering people use search engines for everything from research to shopping to entertainment.


However, users tend to click on the first three search results displayed. By adopting SEO best practices like keyword research, on- and off-page keyword optimization, and linkable content creation, you can ensure your website comes out on top in the search engine rankings. Best of all, implementing SEO is free, so it won’t bust your marketing budget.


Ideal for:

  • Building brand awareness with motivated customers.
  • Placing higher in search engine rankings so customers see your company sooner when searching for products or information.
  • Building backlinks from other websites to help improve your search engine rankings.


Paid Search or Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Also known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, SEM allows companies to purchase ads on search engines such as Google or Bing and pay a fee each time the ad is clicked on. These ads appear at the top of the search results page (before organic search results). Costs are typically determined by bids on specific keywords, while banner ads on websites usually have set prices. 


Ideal for:

  • Building brand awareness and recall through placement at the top of search results.
  • Generating leads and conversions by developing geo-targeted or demographic-driven ads for customers seeking solutions to a problem.


Social Media Marketing (SMM)

If email is the reigning king of digital marketing, then social media marketing is certainly the queen. Nearly 4.5 billion people around the world use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, and TikTok to establish and maintain personal connections.


It’s also a highly effective way to help grow your business. You can sponsor paid ads and content, promote products and services organically to users, or create popular content that’s likely to be shared or result in follows.


Unlike other channels, social media is an informal space, which allows for more personal and authentic connections. It can sometimes lead to direct sales. However, businesses who take the time to cultivate a relationship with followers can expect numerous highly qualified leads down the line. Studies show 90 percent of people buy from brands they follow on social media.


Ideal for:

  • Building rapport and customer engagement with followers and reinforcing your brand image.
  • Expanding your customer base through word-of-mouth as users like and share popular content.


Female influence looking at her her social media account on her mobile phone.

Want to Learn More About Effective Digital Marketing Channels?

Now that you have a handle on the basics, learn the real-world digital marketing tactics that drive results! USF’s Digital Marketing Certificate can help you learn the essential skills you need to effectively market in today’s online economy and stay up to date on digital marketing trends. Learn more about our live online program that will have you up and running in just eight weeks.


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