Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing: What Type of Marketing Is Right for You?

Looking to expand your marketing repertoire, but not sure whether to go with digital or traditional marketing? If you’re in the middle of the digital vs. traditional marketing debate, several significant differences can help you determine what type of marketing will work better for your company. We’ll go over the difference between digital marketing vs. traditional marketing, which type of marketing you should use (digital or traditional marketing), and if you can use digital and traditional marketing together.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing involves promoting your business to audiences online. With digital marketing, you use Internet marketing channels which include:

  • Search
  • Social media
  • Paid advertising
  • Online stores
  • Blogs
  • Emails
  • Videos
  • And more

These channels help you reach a larger audience online. With over 4.54 billion people active on the Internet, marketers turn to digital marketing channels to help them reach more interested leads.

Here are some popular digital marketing strategies that marketers utilize:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Social media marketing
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Web design
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • And more

Advantages of digital marketing

Digital marketing provides you with a treasure trove of opportunities to evolve how you reach and interact with customers.

Advantages of digital marketing

There are several advantages of digital marketing that allow you to build awareness of your brand and drive sales.

It lets you effortlessly reach current and new audiences

With digital marketing, you can reach audiences on a global scale. You can market your products and services locally, nationally, or internationally for a little to no cost compared to traditional marketing means.

Many digital marketing strategies enable you to reach more people interested in your products or services, as well as new markets and undiscovered interested audiences. You can target people locally to internationally, allowing you to expand your market.

Digital marketing helps you reach people more precisely. You can define your ideal buyers by age, gender, profession, income, preferences, interests, and behaviors and create content that gets the attention of your audience.

With advanced targeting, you can identify who you show your content to so that your content makes the most impact. If your business provides barn-house style home furnishing, you can target homeowners with interest in that style.

Digital marketing also allows you to reach warm audiences. With digital marketing, audiences find your products and services when they need them, making them more likely to convert into a customer.

The traffic to your website, due to your digital marketing efforts, comes more ready to purchase because they are more informed. A big part of the reason that qualified traffic finds your business is because your products and services match their interests and help solve their problems.

When customers are looking online for a brand like yours, digital marketing helps you to reel them in.

It allows you to personalize your audience’s experience

Digital marketing enables you to create personalized content that you can tailor to your audience.

With digital marketing, you don’t have to create one piece of marketing to try and appeal to everyone. Instead, you can create multiple pieces that are tailored to people with different interests.

You can also personalize the content you create to hit your audience’s interests and helps solve their problems. Every time you interact with someone, you can continue to gather information to better match their preference.

Digital marketing also has a wide variety of content types you can personalize to match individuals in your audience. For example, you can craft:

  • Personalized ads based on search history
  • In-depth content based on commonly asked questions
  • Engaging social media ads based on likes and interests
  • Unique email marketing campaigns based on shopping behavior
  • And more

Well-optimized and personalized content also has a high chance of spreading quickly through word-of-mouth sharing and reaching even more people.

You can build relationships with your audience

With digital marketing, you have plenty of opportunities to build relationships with your audience.

Digital marketing strategies allow you to interact and engage more than most traditional marketing strategies. For example:

  • Email marketing is one of the best ways to keep in touch with individuals in your audience. You can send them information and deals they might be interested in and remind them of your products and services. Emails also provide your audience with and easy way to get in touch with you.
  • Blogging lets you easily communicate information relevant to your audience’s wants and needs. On your blog, readers can stay up-to-date with the content you produce, comment on the tips you provide, and engage in meaningful conversation with others in your audience.
  • Social media marketing allows you to have conversations with your audience. If they comment on posts, you can comment back and start a dialogue. If they have a question, they can message you directly, making it easy to chat with your company.

Interacting and engaging one-on-one with your audience lets you build brand awareness and customer loyalty. Having an active presence online also allows you to build up a reputation for excellent customer service.

It’s more customer-focused

Digital marketing is about anticipating customer needs and meeting them where they’re at. It allows people to come to you when they need information or help, instead of you always reaching out to them.

For example, search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing technique that optimizes your content so it shows higher in search engine results. When people search for information related to your industry, they’ll find your business.

Digital marketing allows you to focus on creating the best experience for your audience by personalizing their experience to their unique needs. It enables you to deliver what they need at each stage of their buying process, from discovery all the way to purchase.

Since digital marketing focuses quite a bit on providing helpful information, your audience will know you care more about building relationships rather than pushing your products on them. You’re more likely to build solid relationships because you’ll be showing personalized content at your audience’s convenience.

It’s easier to compete

With digital marketing, there’s more advertising space and more opportunities to market to your audience.

And with the ability to market to broad audiences at low prices, and due to the wide variety of digital marketing optimizing techniques and tracking methods, you’ll be able to compete in any market you’d like.

Digital marketing allows even the smallest startups to compete against the largest companies successfully.

Having more relevant ad content allows you to outrank your competition. With pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you set the budget you want, and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. With a good PPC strategy, your ads will appear on the first page of search results.

Optimizing your content for search features like featured snippets or People Also Ask sections will also allow you to take up more valuable search real estate. Featured snippets, especially, help you outrank your competitors in search.

It has high conversion rates

Digital marketing provides a seamless conversion process for visitors.

Users on the Internet often find making a purchase easier, quicker, and more convenient online than through traditional mediums, which means that, due to your digital marketing, you’ll have a greater percentage of users who are highly likely to convert using your website.

It’s cost-effective

Digital marketing costs much less when compared to many traditional marketing strategies. We’ll dive into more detail on this later, but overall, running digital marketing strategies is more cost-effective than traditional media.

With many digital marketing strategies, such as content marketingsocial media marketing, and search engine optimization, you can implement them for free if you’re willing to spend some time and put in the effort.

Even online paid advertising methods (such as social media advertising or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising) are much cheaper compared to advertising traditionally. Advertising online with digital marketing lets you pay, on average, under a dollar per person who clicks on your ad.

Not to mention, with PPC advertising, you get $8 for every $1 spent on advertising.

Combine that with the far-reaching, advanced audience targeting that digital marketing allows, and you’ll be getting the the most out of your advertising budget.

You can easily track and measure results

When you invest in digital marketing, you can easily track and measure the results of your campaign.

Digital marketing allows you to track a wide variety of real-time data such as clicks, dwell time, devices, and more. You can access programs like Google Analytics, where you can track all these metrics in one place.

Access to this data enables you to see the results of your digital marketing efforts. Using the data, you can measure how well your digital marketing is performing against your marketing goals.

Additionally, you can adapt and optimize your strategy as needed. By tracking your results, you can quickly figure out what works well and what doesn’t, which allows you to make changes as you need.

What is traditional marketing?

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, is marketing through offline means.

Traditional marketing channels

These traditional marketing channels include:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Catalogs
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Telephone
  • Billboards
  • Fliers
  • Industry events
  • Trade shows
  • And more

Marketers find that traditional marketing is useful for its stability and simplicity. Some of the traditional marketing strategies that marketers use are:

  • Telemarketing
  • Broadcasting
  • Face-to-face meetings
  • Door-to-door sales
  • Direct mail
  • Print advertising
  • Networking
  • Referral marketing
  • And more

Advantages of traditional marketing

Advantages marketing channels

Just like digital marketing, traditional marketing can provide amazing results for marketers when they create robust traditional marketing strategies.

It reaches your local target audience easily

Traditional marketing helps you target local audiences.

Businesses targeting audiences within a specific location use radio, television, and newspaper to reach local leads. You use local resources to help you reach people in your area that you think will have an interest in your company.

It can provide your audience with a physical copy

Many traditional methods involve producing physical advertisements such as newspaper ads, flyers, and direct mail ads. These handouts give people a physical copy that they can hold on to.

Your promotional materials provide your audience with a hard copy that they can refer back to whenever they want, which is a significant advantage for traditional marketing over digital marketing.

It provides consistency

Compared with the volatility of the digital marketing sphere, traditional marketing channels rarely change.

Since digital marketing relies on technology, it’s constantly changing and adapting as technology progresses. It means that you have to learn and adapt as digital marketing strategies change.

Traditional marketing channels, however, stay the same. You rarely have to change your newspaper ads or radio spots, as these types of advertising typically remain the same.

This stability means that you focus less on staying up to date with an everchanging landscape and more on creating marketing campaigns. You don’t need to worry about relearning how to use traditional methods.

It’s easier to implement

Traditional marketing tends to be simpler to learn and apply than digital marketing. There’s less of a learning curve with traditional marketing, and many businesses already have some experience with traditional marketing channels.

With newspaper ads or magazine ads, you only need to create the ad, and someone else handles the publishing for you. You don’t have to implement it with an advertising method like you need to with digital marketing.

And with traditional marketing’s stability, marketers only have to learn how to do it once.

Digital marketing vs. traditional marketing

Digital and traditional marketing have their advantages. They compare differently in essential matters, as well. We’ll go over the top differences between digital and traditional marketing.


There is a significant difference in cost when it comes to digital marketing vs. traditional marketing.

Digital marketing

We’ve talked about how digital marketing is more cost-effective than traditional marketing, and chances are, if you’re willing to put work into it, it’s possible to do digital marketing in-house.

To get the best digital marketing results, however, you’ll want to have enough in your marketing budget to spend a little. Good digital marketing, on average, costs between $2500 to $12,000 a month for small to medium-sized businesses when paying for digital marketing services.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing is more expensive than digital marketing.

Channels like print, television, and radio advertising offer limited advertising space, and due to the expense to run those mediums and the scarcity of advertising space, the advertising placements are often steeply priced. They can climb up to as much as $8 million just to set up.


The audiences that you can reach differs between digital and traditional marketing.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing lets you reach global audiences. There’s no limit in audience size or range with digital marketing.

If you do want to increase the size of your audience, for the most part, the increase in price is not much using your established digital marketing channels when compared to traditional marketing.

There are also plenty of techniques you can use, such as social media marketing, where you can generate lots of free word-of-mouth publicity for your content. If you craft good content and optimize and promote it well, it has a good chance of going viral on social media.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing doesn’t quite have the reach and precision digital marketing maintains.

Methods like newspaper ads and flyers only reach people who buy newspapers or visit somewhere that has your flyer hanging up. With these methods, you have limited reach.

As for TV and radio ads, you’ll reach a much larger audience, but that doesn’t mean you’re reaching an audience that’s interested in your products or services. You end up pumping money into strategies that may only reach a small portion of people interested in your business.


How digital and traditional marketing target audiences also differs.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing lets you efficiently target individuals from desired audiences.

With digital marketing, you can target people, whether by their search history or their demographics, so you can serve up valuable content when they want it. Even if your audience has specific interests, you can target them with content that matches them perfectly.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing has little means of targeting your intended audience.

The audiences that access traditional marketing channels often have a wide range of demographics and interests. If your target audience is more limited in their demographics and interests, it can be hard to target them using traditional means.


The engagement level for digital and traditional marketing varies, as well.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing provides plenty of opportunities for your business to interact and engage with your audience. We mentioned earlier how social media, blogging, and email marketing all present valuable channels to boost your audience’s engagement with your brand.

On the other hand, you also have to deal with negative feedback that has higher visibility with digital marketing.

The Internet gives increased visibility and importance to reviews and reputation, which can be hard for businesses to manage correctly. If you don’t respond effectively to negative reviews, it could bring serious damage to your business’s reputation.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing provides less room for interaction and engagement with your audience than digital marketing.

With traditional marketing, interaction comes, for the most part, from pushing ads and services onto consumers in a one-way information relationship. Audiences don’t have many channels for providing feedback to companies through traditional marketing channels.

Traditional marketing can also be fairly intrusive. Whether your audience is watching a show or listening to a song, traditional marketing can easily interrupt the user’s experience, making them less likely to engage.

Ads that intrude often aren’t relevant to them, and they have little to no choice on whether they view the ad, which provides a negative experience for them and can lower conversion rates.

That’s not to say that good engagement with your audience is impossible with traditional marketers. Businesses can use these channels to appeal to their audience, and they can build close relationships through traditional marketing by creating a hometown connection.


Digital and traditional marketing have different levels of competition.

Digital marketing

With digital marketing, your competition often comes from all over the world.

While digital marketing can give you an edge competing against other businesses, it also means that you’re competing against more companies because digital marketing puts you on a global market.

If your digital marketing is not at its best, it can be a challenge to gain visibility online and stand out from your global competitors. With the vast amount of information online, it can also be challenging to grab the attention of your consumers.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, can make it hard for SMBs to compete against large companies.

While there is often less competition in traditional marketing compared to the global landscape of digital marketing, traditional marketing has high expense and relatively low conversion.

It can be hard for businesses with small marketing budgets to compete for limited advertising space with companies who have more resources to invest.

However, since traditional marketing focuses, for the most part, on advertising to audiences within more local areas, your main competition can often be other businesses within the same area.

Compared with the global scale that digital marketing places businesses into, if your competitors are a similar size and level as your company, then often it can be easier to compete with traditional marketing’s local focus.

Return on Investment (ROI)

The ROI that you can receive changes between digital and traditional marketing.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing has high returns. Couple the high conversion rates with low cost, and you often get a much higher return on your investments than you would with traditional marketing.

Since audiences only see what they are interested in, they have greater motivation to convert. And digital marketing provides easy ways for converting. In most cases, audiences can convert with a click of a button.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing has lower conversion rates than digital marketing.

Audiences in traditional marketing are less motivated to convert than with digital marketing.

Converting with traditional marketing channels often involves more steps than with digital marketing. The increased effort and time it takes for audiences to convert means that there are additional chances for people to drop out somewhere along the way in the conversion process.

Learning curve

The learning curve can also change from digital marketing vs. traditional marketing.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing can be hard to learn. It contains a lot of aspects for marketers to remember to bring results. It also can require extensive knowledge and expertise to deliver a successful digital marketing campaign.

Digital marketing involves a lot of tweaking and optimizing, so marketers must understand how to perform regular testing, optimization, and updates. This process can take a lot of time and effort to make sure the campaigns perform their best.

You also need to stay up to date with digital marketing.

Digital marketing is constantly evolving.

With the advent of new technologies and the quick changing preferences of Internet audiences, the techniques, platforms, and trends you use for digital marketing can change frequently.

Staying at the top of your digital marketing game requires you to be in the know at all times, which can mean setting aside regular time dedicated to researching the digital landscape.

Traditional marketing

Traditional marketing can be much easier for marketers to pick up compared to digital marketing.

A big reason for this is that traditional marketing and its channels have been around for a long time. Most marketers have had some interaction with traditional marketing channels.

The channels tend to be a bit more straightforward than digital marketing. The more limited targeting and optimization capabilities also mean that traditional marketing often requires less time and decisions than digital marketing.


The amount of optimization options for digital and traditional marketing also differs.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing has plenty of opportunities for optimization — you can even optimize your ads mid-campaign. On the other hand, digital marketing takes dedication and time to implement.

It requires time to set up and optimize properly. In the case of search engine optimization and social media, it can take upwards of six months for it to start generating the best results.

Digital marketing takes time for a couple of reasons. Search engines need time to find and index your site. These search engines need to crawl your site, understand the content, and rank it appropriately in relevant search results.

Additionally, your audience needs time to discover content, research businesses, and decide the best option before converting.

Digital marketing also requires time to maintain. Consistency is vital when maintaining a visible presence online, so you’ll need to be implementing your digital marketing strategies continuously.

You’re also subject to search engine regulations.

Many of the strategies of digital marketing rely heavily on search engines and social media platforms. As a result, marketers need to follow the rules and regulations of search engines and social media platforms or risk being penalized with less visibility.

And since these guidelines can be updated regularly and with short or little notice, marketers need to stay aware and ready for the possibility of major revisions to their marketing strategies.

Not to mention that with increased targeting and optimization, you handle more customer data than ever. Digital marketing requires you to manage security and privacy issues.

Over the past couple of years, Internet users have exhibited increasing concerns over privacy and personal data security.

Digital marketing relies heavily on consumer information, and so, security and privacy issues become increasingly important for marketers to understand and remedy. The changing Internet laws and regulations can sometimes be vague and difficult to navigate.

Traditional marketing

With traditional marketing, optimization options are limited compared to digital marketing.

Advertisements are not very customizable. In most cases, due to the lack of personalization options, you’ll end up with a one-size-fits-all ad.

And once an advertisement is in circulation for traditional marketing, there’s not much you can do to optimize it after the fact. It’s only after your campaign that you can use the results to optimize your later campaign tactics, and depending on your campaign, that can mean waiting for months.

On the other hand, you don’t have to worry as much about data privacy and other Internet security concerns.


The way that digital and traditional marketing is different as well:

Digital marketing

Metrics in real time

Digital marketing has more trackability and measurement ability than traditional marketing. Digital marketers can analyze a wide variety of metrics in real time, such as:

  • Clicks
  • Pageviews
  • Unique visitors
  • Session length
  • Likes and follows
  • Links from other sources
  • Page rank
  • Ranking keywords
  • Video views
  • Conversions
  • Purchases
  • Subscriptions
  • And more

Traditional marketing

The results of traditional marketing are much more difficult to quantify than for digital marketing. Unlike digital marketing, marketers can’t track who views their ad or how they’re interacting with it.

Results are also dated. They lack the real-time aspect that digital marketing provides. Marketers must wait until after the campaign is over to determine how well their campaign converted.

What type of marketing is right for my business?

After comparing our list of the advantages and disadvantages of digital and traditional marketing, you may be wondering where to invest the most time and effort and which type of marketing will bring your company the highest returns: digital vs. traditional marketing.

Deciding between digital and traditional marketing comes down to what you’re audience is looking for in your marketing. Your audience could enjoy an even mixture of digital and traditional marketing, or they could lean more towards digital vs. traditional marketing or vice versa.

To determine whether you should focus on digital or traditional marketing, you should research your audience in depth. Discover their preferences when it comes to marketing channels, then focus your efforts on those channels.

Remember to keep your business resources and goals in mind and choose the channels that let you make the most out of your marketing efforts.

Can digital and traditional marketing work together?

The answer is yes!

Digital and traditional marketing mesh well together.

For many marketers, it’s not a case of digital marketing vs. traditional marketing. Many of the most successful marketers use digital and traditional marketing in conjunction to provide the best marketing experience for their target audience.

Add digital marketing to your marketing strategy with WebFX!

Now that you know the difference between digital marketing vs. traditional marketing, WebFX can help you craft the best digital marketing strategy that complements your marketing goals.

As a full-service digital marketing agency, WebFX has over 25 years of experience handcrafting digital marketing strategies that drive real results.

Our award-winning team of digital marketers can take the pressure and complexity out of forming a digital marketing strategy. They specialize in integrating your digital marketing strategy into your business goals so that you can build your business and make the most out of your budgets.

Contact us online or call us at 888-601-5359 to talk to a strategist about how you can build your digital marketing strategy!