While it can refer to marketing in electronic mediums that are not connected to the internet (like digital billboards by highways), it most often refers to advertising that is seen while people are connected online. Here are some of the most popular forms of digital advertising:
SEM & SEO
SEM (Search-Engine-Marketing) and SEO (Search-Engine-Optimization) are related services in that they help promote your products or services in a search engine, with the most popular being Google. The difference between the two is that SEM is only about showing paid ads in the search engine, and SEO is about helping your website rank high on the search engine results page (SERP) without making any payments to the search engine.
A media company can offer both, but many times they will focus on one or the other. The reason for this is that search engines have completely different criteria for showing paid results as opposed to unpaid (also known as organic results). Paid ads appear based on an auction system that also has other mitigating factors. Organic results are subject to search engine algorithms (programmed rules) which constantly change to determine what sites are the best result for a specific query (question).
Display ads are exactly what they sound like, they are visual ads that appear in different places across the internet, that if clicked on, take a user to the desired location. Also known as banner ads, display ads typically are seen on websites above or below content or in the sidebar. They are meant to be shown in a way that gets the users attention but are not obtrusive.
Display ads fall under the category of paid ads just like SEM ads, and in a similar way are usually based on an auction system. Display ads can also be partnered with different types of targeting data to make sure the ad is shown to the most relevant person.
Video ads are similar to display ads, in that they can show up in similar places on a website. A video ad can be shown above, below, in the middle of, or to the side of a blog article just like a banner ad.
Unlike display ads though, video ads can also be shown within streamed video content. A great example is in YouTube where a video ad might appear before the video starts (pre-roll), in the middle of the video (mid-roll), or at the end (post-roll). Pre-roll and mid-roll ads are especially valuable to advertisers since users are forced to watch them (or at least let them play) to be able to watch the content for which they originally came. Like display and SEM, video ads usually are placed on sites based on an auction system.
Social Media advertising is similar to advertising on a search engine in that a marketer can either choose to pay for ad placement or work to gain organic traffic, or do both.
An example of paid social media ads includes showing an ad in the middles of someone’s newsfeed on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. These ads appear based on an auction system that is uniquely designed by the different platforms.
Organic advertising on social media sites involves creating relevant content that helps generate followers and engagement with your social media page.
Besides these popular forms, digital advertising can also incorporate other traffic types, and platforms.