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The Difference Between Inbound Marketing and Digital Marketing

The 21st century has brought about some of the most drastic changes in the marketing industry the world has ever seen. There are more ways to advertise and sell your products or services than ever before. 

Two of the most effective (and therefore most prevalent) methods talked about are digital marketing and inbound marketing.

These two terms are intrinsically bound and often come up in the same conversations. Some people even use them interchangeably. However, they do not have the same meaning. 

In this post, we’re going to make clear the distinction between digital marketing and inbound marketing.

What is Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a broad term that people use to refer to any marketing tactic that is done through a digital medium. This includes methods such as: 

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Pay Per Click (PPC)
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Native advertising
  • Marketing automation
  • Email marketing
  • Online PR
  • Inbound marketing

as well as other industry or geo-specific techniques. 

The term digital marketing itself does not refer to any specific strategy, set of services or desired outcome. 

A digital marketing strategy is the application of one or more of these methods to accomplish a specific goal.

For example, a company may want to increase community feedback. There’s no way PPC or marketing automation will help them. So they could create a digital marketing campaign that utilises their email subscriber list and social media following to collect customer evaluations. 

In summation:

Digital marketing is the term used to refer to all marketing methodologies that utilise an electronic device or the internet. 

A digital marketing strategy is the combination of these methodologies and tools to accomplish your digital marketing goals.

A digital marketing campaign is a way to track and analyse the success or failure of a specific digital marketing strategy in regards to its end goals.

What is Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a specific marketing methodology that focuses on attracting, engaging and delighting customers at every stage of their buying journey.

It is a set of practices implemented in order to generate, nurture and close qualified leads. It also focuses on providing value to existing clients in order to increase brand loyalty.

Inbound marketing concentrates on attracting visitors that are already interested in your product or services – as opposed to outbound which tries to get a message in front of as many people as possible. In general, inbound marketing costs less and generates a bigger ROI than outbound.

Inbound marketing strategies typically use a combination of 

  • Content marketing, specifically:
    • Blogging
    • Premium content
    • Case studies
  • Email marketing
  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Landing pages

in order to attract, engage and delight. 

For a more in-depth analysis, check out our blog What is Inbound Marketing?

Digital vs Inbound 

The main difference between digital and inbound marketing is that digital marketing is an umbrella term used to reference the entire web and electronic marketing industry, while inbound marketing refers to a specific digital marketing methodology.

A business can employ an inbound marketing strategy as well as other digital marketing elements, depending on their needs and goals.

Which is right for my business?

Inbound marketing is the best way for businesses to generate, nurture and close qualified leads. 

However, if you haven’t developed a strong brand reputation online, you’ll need to use other digital marketing strategies to establish your reputation and build a credible image.

Digital marketing is best for boosting your brand awareness and accomplishing short-term goals such as building your following, increasing web traffic or improving your conversion rates.

Inbound marketing is best for businesses who have developed their assets and now want to build a larger strategy in order to accomplish long-term goals, establish themselves as leaders in their industry and grow their business.


If you’re ready to take your inbound marketing to the next level, sign up for a free email marketing evaluation with our team: