Online Marketing/Digital Marketing Landscape – A General Overview


This post is meant for beginners as well as more than a beginner level. I will be covering the broader spectrum of Digital Marketing landscape. I won’t be writing much details here as the detailed information of the same may be included in my posts to follow.

If you have not gone through my earlier posts then please have a look here:

Although it is very complex and is not simple to categorize the complete digital marketing landscape however typically speaking there can be below digital marketing channels or companies broadly which exist either individually or combination of two or more.

Digital Marketing Landscape

  • Agencies

    agencies are the major role playing companies in the overall digital marketing landscape and most of the digital marketing budgets lie with them. Typically agencies handle the complete online marketing budgets for advertisers and they create the complete media planning & buying including creative services. Agencies decide, in consent with advertiser, as how much to spend on what channel and what will the impact of the spend depending on the advertiser’s objective. For example let’s take the example of Samsung – Samsung launches a new mobile phone and decides to spend USD X million for its online marketing. Now they will get in touch with any of the agencies (just to name a few WPP, GroupM, Resultrix, MadHouse etc.). Agency will then come up with a plan on spend on various channels depending on the objective. Objective may be branding or may be create buzz on social media or acquiring leads of people who are interested in knowing more about the product or who like to buy the product. The plan may include SEM, SEO, SMO, Mobile Marketing, RTB etc. Agency may have some of the services inhouse and extend some to other channels keeping some portion as their commission (generally 15% of the total spends).

  • Affiliate Networks

    when it comes to delivering on performance affiliate networks come into picture. Please refer to Introduction to Affiliate Marketing Tutorial 1 for more information on affiliate marketing.

  • Search marketing Companies

    anything to do with marketing on search engines such as Google, Yahoo or MSN, search engine marketing firms come into picture. This can be further drilled down to two main business streams.

A magnifying glass hovering over several words - search, engine, optimization, focusing on acronym SEO

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

    search engine optimization is the collection of methods used to bring your website up in search engine for a particular keyword. When you search for a keyword in Google you will get to see two sort of results the normal results and ads. The previous one is called organic results & the latter one is called PPC results. You don’t have to pay to Google to come up in search engine for a keyword for organic results unlike PPC. There are specialized companies who offer such services. This will be further discussed in my posts to follow.

  • PPC (Pay per Click or Paid search marketing):

    paid marketing one search engine is called pay per click marketing as well. If you wish to come up on a keyword you have to pay to Google for every click to your ad. There are specialized companies who handle or manage this. This is quick however costlier method to reach your target audience. 

  • Display marketing

    • Ad Networks

      ad networks are basically a network of multiple publishers where in advertiser can have access to all publishers, who are connected network, with at once instead of going to multiple publishers individually. There are typically two types of ad networks.

      • Blind ad networks & Premium Ad Networks, Blind ad networks do not provide any transparency to advertisers and the ad run blindly without the knowledge of advertiser where as premium ad networks provide transparency as where the ad will be running. Blind networks nowadays have vanished.

Ad networks can also be categorized basis what type of inventory is available with them.

  • Video Ad Networks:

    Nowadays video ad networks have emerged as special category as they specialize in video inventory. Video ad networks play a major role in branding activity so most of the bigger clients or advertisers who are looking for branding they get in touch with video ad networks either directly or through agency.

  • Banner Ad Networks:

    banner ad networks used to exist in earlier days however with the emerging technology they have no more existence at present. Most of the ad networks have either vanished or converted to RTB (the advance level of Ad Networks) (explained further). 

  • Real Time Bidding:

    RTB is the advance version or level of an ad network. There were some disadvantages or things which were missing and those were taken care of with the new technology which has been named as Real Time Bidding. In ad networks there was no provision of bidding at the publisher level and you could not optimize your results. (This will be discussed further in more details in my posts to follow.) RTB broadly consists of:


  • Ad Exchanges:

    An ad exchange is a digital marketplace that enables advertisers and publishers to buy and sell advertising space, often through real-time auctions. They’re most often used to sell display, video and mobile ad inventory. Some of the Ad Exchanges are Google, The Rubicon Project, OpenX, AppNexus and Yahoo. Typically speaking there isn’t much difference b/w an ad exchange & an SSP. To simply put Ad exchanges aggregation is named as SSP. So SSP is a pool of ad exchanges used by publisher in order to sell their inventory to a larger group of advertisers rather than only one.

  • SSP (Supply Side Platform):

    A supply-side platform or sell-side platform (SSP) is a technology platform to enable web publishers to manage their advertising space inventory, fill it with ads, and earn revenue. Publisher does not have to be integrated with multiple ad networks or individual advertiser to fill the website inventory. Publisher does not have to do any manual work in order to manage inventory and it is all done with a simple piece of code and publisher gets integrated with an SSP. Some of the SSP companies are Google, OpenX, PubMatic, Rubicon Project, Right Media and AOL.

  • DSP (Demand Side Platform):A demand-side platform (DSP), or I would say Advertiser Side Platform, is a system or a platform or software that allows advertisers to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface for digital marketing inventory. Real-time bidding for displaying online advertising takes place within the ad exchanges, and by utilizing a DSP, marketers can manage their bids for the banners and the pricing for the data that they are interested in to target their audiences. Much like Paid Search, using DSPs allows users to optimize based on set Key Performance Indicators such as effective Cost per Click (eCPC), and effective Cost per Action (eCPA). Some of the examples of DSP companies are MediaMath,, Adform, Fiksu, Smaato etc. Please visit the link  for more detailed information.

  • DMP (Data Management Platforms):

    DMPs are nothing but, as the name suggests, data management software which collects the user data from cookies and analyze that data to be used for marketing purpose. DMPs are connected with the DSPs so DSPs collect data from DMPs to make marketing automated or make firm decisions. Some of the DMPs are Adobe, Krux, Lotame, Aggregate Knowledge, BlueKai, CoreAudience, Knotice, nPario and X+1. 

    • Are DSP & DMP same?

      It may seem DSP & DMP are same however they are separate entity and work in an isolated manner from each other. However nowadays DSPs are also offering the DMP service to their client so they don’t have to connect with two separate companies.

    • Who uses DMPs?

      DMPs are used by all be it agencies, publishers or direct advertisers. They can use DMPs to analyze the data which can be used in marketing with better decisions.

  • Mobile Marketing:

    mobile marketing is the online marketing channel which uses mobile as the medium of promotion. There can be various marketing activities on mobile which utilizes banners, emails, SMS, Whatsapp, SocialMedia. If we talk about companies there can be below categorization:

Mobile Marketing on Red Keyboard Button.

  • SMS Marketing:

    when the ad format is text through SMS. This is called SMS marketing. Although it is not very popular nowadays due to restrictions by TRAI. This is still used by small & medium sized business players to promote their service or product and majorly used for localized advertising. 

  • Mobile RTB:

    As mentioned earlier with the advance of technology ad networks have converted to RTBs so there are specialized RTB focused only on mobile. So these RTBs have inventory available on mobile only. Some of the major mobile ad networks or RTBs are MillenialMedia, InMoni, Go2Mobi, Smaato, AdMOB (by Google).

  • Mobile Affiliate Networks:

    these are same as affiliate networks however only the medium becomes different. Mobile affiliate networks work purely on CPI or CPL or CPS model on mobile. They can mobile websites as well as apps as their publishers. To read about affiliate marketing please follow the link What is Affiliate Marketing – Tutorial 1.

  • Mobile ad networks:

    mobile ad networks are same as traditional ad networks however the medium here is mobile instead of desktop. Mobile ad networks work with App developers as well as websites which have mobile presence as well. Apps developers work as publishers for mobile ad networks. Mobile ad networks primarily work on CPM model. In order to work with them app developer needs to implement SDK (software development kit) in their app which shows various ad formats within the app. These formats can be video, interstitial ads, banners, text ads etc.

  • Email Marketing:

    email marketing uses the promotion medium as emailer. There are specialized companies which provide email marketing services. They provide an emailer software which is used to send mailer to users in bulk. Some of these soft wares are mailchimp, constantcontact, etc. These sotwares charge per email sent basis.

  • Social Media Marketing:

    Social media marketing is done on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, etc. Due to the ease and rising use of smart phones everyone now has access to social media websites and is active most of the times. So this channel is one of the major marketing channels for advertisers. Social media marketing is either handled inhouse by the advertiser or they have specialized agencies who manage it for the client.

  • Remarketing or Retargeting:

    remarketing also termed as retargeting is one of the mostly used method by the advertisers to tap in the lost user or the user who visited the website to view the product or service. For example you have visited a website and saw a product say Nike shoes and closed the website. Now you visited another website ( maybe immediately or even after some days. You may find an ad running from Amazon showing you the Nike Shoes which you has a look at that when you visited it last time. So basically what happened is when you visited a code (hidden) also runs which sets the cookie in the browser. That cookie stored the values as what product & from what site you checked. Next time when you visited website that cookie is used to show you the same product. If you delete cookies from browser you wont see that ad again showing you same product as the information is deleted which is utilized to show the product in the ad.

    • What are the types of re-marketing?

      There can be various types of re-marketing present in the ecosystem. These are:

      • Display re-marketing: when the remarketing medium is display or banners this is display remarketing. There can two types of display retargeting:
        • Post View: when the cookie is dropped without clicking the banner. In this scenario if you have seen an amazon banner running on any (you have not visited amazon earlier) but have not clicked a post view cookie is dropped and when you visit any other website you may see the same banner again.
        • Post Click: when the cookie is dropped when you have clicked the banner and visited amazon website. A post click cookie is dropped which is used for remarketing.
      • Email remarketing: when the medium to retarget is mailer, it will be email remarketing. This is typically used for users who have abandoned at the cart stage or people who have added a product in the cart but bounced back from there. In this scenario an emailer is sent to the abandoned user which may have some offer for the user or the feedback or customer care number as to why the user got bounced back.
  • Ad Serving Companies:

    ad serving companies are which serves the purpose or serving ads to deliver it on the website. The purpose of ad serving comes into picture for two reasons:

  • Centralized serving: take a scenario wherein you are running your ad with 10 publishers or 10 different places. If you have provided the images or the files of the banners then it will be served by publisher individually. So publisher will host the image on their serve and then ad will be served on the website. Now you need to make some changes in the banner you will have to contact all 10 places to get the changes done and you will have to share new images which is more time consuming & is inefficient. To overcome such issues you serve the banners at a 3rd party server and share the banners code with all these. So whenever there is need to change the banner you just need to change it at your end and it will be updated at all 10 places without having to inform these publishers.
  • Reliable 3rd party tracking: now since most of the publisher doesn’t rely on a tracking which is inhouse by the advertiser so there has to be 3rd party software which is relied by both of the parties. You can check the list of ad serving companies here.
  • Data Analytics:

    there are specialized companies which provide the end to end data solutions. In present time these are termed as big data companies. They collect enormous data from the client and analyze the same to make some inference of the data which could be utilized to make better marketing decision.

  • Affiliates or Publishers:

    Affiliates or publishers are website owners who promote advertisers on their website. Affiliate is used specifically in affiliate marketing world whereas publisher is used in general term. These websites are normally content websites. Some of the examples of affiliates are,,,, etc. and publisher websites are, etc.

    • What is the difference b/w publisher & affiliate? As such there isn’t much difference the way they work. The only difference is the model they work on and the type of websites they own. Affiliates work purely on CPA basis where as publishers either work on CPM or CPC. Publishers have very high traffic website where as affiliate have from very small to moderate traffic.
  • VAS Marketing:

    VAS marketing companies sell content on mobile such as video download or wallpaper download or cricket information, songs download or movie watching or video watching services etc. They have tie ups with Telecom companies such as Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Indicom, Idea etc. The money is deducted from the user by these operators either from the balance if prepaid or added to the bill if post paid.\

  • Marketing Research:

    Market research companies provide market research for companies and they sell the data to advertisers which can be used by advertisers to make firm decisions to help with their marketing plans. Some of the marketing research companies are comscore, Neilsons etc.

  • Analytics Companies:

    Analytics is one of the most important & integral part of any online business as it gives insights to as what sort of users are coming from where & what pages & what activities are they performing on those pages. Whether these users are buying anything or not. Are they registering for services or not etc. Analytics provides the behavioral as well demographics data as well. Major analytics companies are Google & Omniture. Google is the most widely used by almost 95% of the website owners.


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