What is the Difference Between Digital Marketing and Affiliate Marketing

Veranika Minina 24 May 2024 Beginners

Table of contents:

  1. What is Digital Marketing?
  2. Types of Digital Marketing
  3. What is Affiliate Marketing?
  4. Types of Affiliate Marketing
  5. Difference Between Digital Marketing and Affiliate Marketing

In the marketing sphere, businesses have various possibilities at their disposal to promote products and services. Digital and affiliate marketing are popular approaches nowadays. Understanding the differences between them is essential for effective decision-making.

This article answers the main question: is digital marketing the same as affiliate marketing? Let’s delve deeper into the essence of each of these types.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is an approach of raising brand awareness and promoting products through the internet. Usually such digital channels as search engine optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing, email marketing, and content marketing are used.

Digital marketing can be described as an integrated promotion of a product or service using different types of marketing: online and offline. SMS and mobile apps on phones are used to attract offline users.

Digital marketing leverages the power of the internet and digital devices to connect businesses with their customers in a highly targeted and measurable way. So, for any company it’s essential to establish brand awareness in social networks to reach out to their customers or just have their own websites.

Types of Digital Marketing

Typically, the shopping journey in 2024 combines offline and online services. Even while in a store, people go online to find comparable offers or read product reviews. The Klarna’s Shopping Pulse study show where the typical shopper’s journey begins in 2024:

When you choose a promotion method in digital marketing, you need to consider such types as SEO, PPC, SMM, email marketing, and content marketing. Let’s take a look at their main characteristics.


Search engine optimization focuses on enhancing the visibility of a website in organic search engine results like Google. Its purpose is to raise awareness, capture existing demand, and attract traffic.

A website that is optimized for SEO has a greater likelihood of taking higher place in search engine rankings when someone is looking for a specific query.

However, achieving success in organic search rankings requires a solid understanding of SEO principles, such as conducting keyword research, implementing topic clusters, acquiring backlinks, etc. These elements indicate the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of your brand, which ultimately impacts your rankings.

As you establish credibility and enhance your overall reputation through SEO efforts, its impact grows exponentially, enabling you to generate more leads and sales while reducing customer acquisition costs.


Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising that is usually displayed on search engines, but can also include social media advertising (Social PPC).

In PPC, advertisers compete for visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). Advertisers get paid by the search engine every time someone clicks on their ad.

Advertisers select keywords that align with the products or services their target audience is likely to search for. When a user enters a keyword into a search engine, it generates a list of relevant ads. As you can see, the approach is similar to SEO. But the advertiser gets paid for each time users click on the link.

When implemented correctly, PPC can serve as an effective strategy for paid search. It proves particularly valuable when advertisers require immediate results. Additionally, PPC campaigns can assist in validating targeted keywords for SEO initiatives.

In other words, running paid marketing campaigns allows businesses to identify which keywords generate the most revenue. This insight can then inform the launch of SEO campaigns aimed at achieving organic rankings for those keywords. Consequently, it is advisable to combine PPC with SEO to establish a more sustainable digital marketing approach.


Right now, SMM is one of the most common types of advertising due to the popularity of social media. This type of marketing allows brands to better tap into the thoughts and feelings of their audience.

Each social platform works differently and has its own rules for posting ads. That said, its users too have certain expectations about the types of content and topics that should be consumed on that particular platform.

For example, Instagram is a photo and video platform. Therefore, users expect to see images, videos, and user-generated content with catchy captions. This is why most marketers get so worked up about content for this social network with large reaches.

In the case of SMM, brands can self-promote or hire specialists who will be responsible for text, photo and video content and strategize.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the advertising of products and services through email. This method is recognized as one of the most profitable marketing channels. Moreover, it serves as an effective method of forming long-term customer relationships.

Email marketing involves the practice of sending a promotional message via email, usually to a list of contacts that is the target audience. The ability to segment your mailing list is key to the effectiveness of email marketing. It allows personalized interactions that drive website traffic, increase sales, and build customer loyalty.

However, marketers often find that their emails end up in spam, meaning the target audience doesn’t even see them. Therefore, it is important to design the message correctly so that the system identifies it as a useful and important email.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves strategically planning, creating, publishing and distributing various types of marketing content to engage your target audience. This can include how-to guides, blog posts, and webinars.

Content marketing allows you to provide value and build trust with your audience. It promotes healthy business growth and increases the likelihood of converting potential customers into buyers.

A well-executed content marketing strategy complements other digital marketing channels and supports your overall marketing efforts. It leads your customers from the initial awareness stage to taking the desired action, facilitating a seamless customer journey.

These are the main types of digital marketing that are most commonly used by marketers today. However, there are also other approaches, such as affiliate marketing, that help advertisers to promote products and services effectively, too. Let’s understand its peculiarities.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a form of digital marketing where affiliates earn commissions by promoting and directing traffic to advertisers’ products or services. These products and services are usually called offers.

Affiliate marketing involves three parties: marketers, advertisers, and affiliate networks or programs. Advertisers seek partners to promote their products or services, while affiliates promote these offers to the target audience using affiliate links and earn commissions for successful referrals. Affiliate networks serve as intermediaries, connecting affiliates with advertisers and gathering offers from advertisers for affiliates to access.

To start affiliate marketing, you need to join an affiliate network. But not all platforms offer easy registration, asking affiliates for data such as screenshots from other affiliate networks or ID details. So, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the rules of the chosen affiliate platform before registering, especially if you are just starting out in the field.

To enhance user convenience, affiliate platforms offer a range of tools, including:

  • User-friendly dashboards to monitor progress and assess effectiveness;
  • Custom-built software provided by advertisers;
  • Content, link, and download lockers to secure and manage access to certain content or downloads;
  • Live chats and affiliate networks managers support to address any inquiries or concerns.

Affiliates receive commissions for the actions that referred users perform. Here are five commonly used commission types in affiliate marketing:

  • CPS (Cost per Sale): Payments are calculated based on each sale generated;
  • CPA (Cost per Action): Marketers receive commissions for specific user actions, such as making a purchase, registering, filling out a form, and so on;
  • CPI (Cost per Install): Payment is made for each app installation on a user’s device, whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, or computer;
  • CPL (Cost per Lead): This commission type involves payments for each qualified lead that is generated through affiliate campaigns;
  • CPC (Cost per Click): Affiliates receive payment for each click on the ad, regardless of whether a sale or conversion occurs.
  • Revshare

Many affiliates choose this type of marketing as a way to make quick and big money. However, this is not entirely true. In order to earn big commissions, you need to spend enough time learning all the peculiarities of affiliate marketing.

The earning potential in affiliate marketing is influenced by the level of experience that affiliates possess. Earnings in affiliate marketing can vary widely, ranging from $100 to $10,000 or more. However, it’s important to note that there are no guarantees of consistent monthly income. It is normal that beginners initially earn $0.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing has experienced significant growth as a cost-effective method of digital marketing. With this approach, affiliates are not required to develop their marketing campaigns internally. Instead, they can monitor and supervise the promotion of products through diverse marketing channels.


Influencers are people who have a substantial number of followers on social media platforms. They also can be affiliate marketers earning the commissions by promoting products through affiliate links or by offering affiliate discounts. The promotional content created by influencers can take various forms: product reviews, guides, or simply showcasing the product through photos.

Influencers, like all marketers, target a specific niche audience when promoting offers. Advertisers are typically involved in approving how their products or services are presented in content as well as how many quality leads they get.


Bloggers are constantly creating high quality content. They use affiliate links on their blogs, and unlike some other platforms, these links tend to stay active for a long time. As new visitors are exposed to the content and follow these links to the retailers’ websites, bloggers continue to generate revenue. Affiliate links are usually included in tutorial articles, reviews, or product listings on blogs.

Search Engines

The placement of ads at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) is so common that you might not immediately find them as affiliate advertising. Similarly to how companies can track the source of your visit from a blog to their website, they can also identify when you arrive on their page through a search engine ad. Typically, companies pay per click to have their pages displayed near the top of the SERP. Instead of solely relying on paid placement, many websites also employ search engine optimization (SEO), which is a content marketing strategy aimed at achieving high rankings based on search engines’ algorithms.


While influencers or bloggers often incorporate product reviews into their content strategy, there are individual sites that focus on reviews. Partnering with such sites can be beneficial for both authors and advertisers. It is important that review authors openly disclose their monetization model and relationship to affiliate marketing. This ensures transparency and maintains the integrity of the review process.

Text links

Using text messages can serve as a valuable tool in affiliate marketing. Similar to subscribing to a blog or mailing list and receiving affiliate links, codes via email, you can also subscribe to text messages that keep you informed about product launches, price reductions, or events. These text messages may include affiliate links or discounts.

Pay Per Lead

Previous types require affiliates to be paid for clicks or purchases. However, affiliates can also share information about potential customers with their affiliate network and receive a reward for each person referred to, known as a “lead”.

Difference Between Digital Marketing and Affiliate Marketing

After studying the main characteristics of digital and affiliate marketing, it’s time to find out what are the main differences between the two types.

1. Who Performs the Tasks

In affiliate marketing, marketers run the campaigns using special platforms as a CPA network. In digital marketing, brands or product owners develop their own digital marketing strategies or invite third-party marketing teams if necessary.

2. Marketers Competence

Digital marketing requires a considerable level of proficiency. It is essential to possess knowledge in developing and managing successful content marketing and advertising campaigns across multiple channels, as well as being able to track the outcomes.

In comparison, affiliate marketing is a more accessible strategy for beginners. You do not require any technical expertise to initiate the promotion of affiliate products or services. It is possible to understand how this sphere works without courses: in practice or by studying information on the Internet. In addition, many affiliate networks suggest guides for beginners.

3. The Reach

Digital marketing encompasses a broad range of spheres and involves various digital channels that are usually used for ad campaigns. This enables marketers to reach a wider audience by implementing effective content marketing strategies and targeted paid advertising that focuses on specific demographics and interests within a particular niche.

In contrast, affiliate marketing has a narrower scope. It is a form of digital marketing that uses multiple online channels and employs various digital marketing techniques to advertise and promote offers.

While both approaches have the potential to reach a large audience, affiliate marketers typically narrow down their reach to the channels they have control over. As their main objective is to promote specific products and services, they often target smaller audiences and may focus on one channel at a time.

4. Marketing Purpose

The primary objective of affiliate marketing is to promote offers with the aim of earning a commission. In contrast, digital marketing aims to raise brand awareness and cultivate a favorable public perception, ultimately driving customers to make purchases.

5. Revenue

In digital marketing, the primary revenue source stems from the sales of the marketer’s own products or services. Conversely, in affiliate marketing, revenue is derived from commissions generated by affiliates. This means that affiliates earn a specific percentage for each conversion that is generated through their affiliate links.

Coming to the conclusion, let’s compare digital and affiliate marketing in the table.

CharacteristicsDigital MarketingAffiliate Marketing
MeaningDigital marketing refers to the practice of promoting and advertising products, services, or brands using digital channels and technologies.Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing, where affiliates drive traffic to offers and earn commissions.
ObjectiveThe goal is establishing brand recognition and achieving conversions.The main goal is to attract traffic to offers.
Skills requiredSEO, SMM, Content Marketing, Analytics, etc.Understanding of content creation and influencing skills.
Cost EfficiencyMarketers receive payouts for successful sales and conversions.The affiliate receives commissions only for users’ successful completion of required actions.
Payment modelsPPL, PPS, PPC, PPI, and more.CPA, CPS, CPI, CPL, CPC, etc.
Affiliate Marketing VS Digital Marketing


Both digital and affiliate marketing are integral parts of the marketing landscape. They differ in various aspects. 

For example, digital marketing encompasses a wide range of strategies and channels aimed at building brand awareness, engaging customers, and driving conversions. It requires technical expertise and focuses on promoting the marketer’s own products or services. On the other hand, affiliate marketing is a performance-based approach where affiliates are rewarded for driving traffic to offers. It is more beginner-friendly and allows marketers to earn commissions by promoting products or services of others.

Understanding these differences is crucial for marketers to choose the most suitable approach for their specific goals and resources.

Veranika Minina
Veranika Minina is a fan of affiliate marketing. Veranika's articles are carefully crafted to simplify complex concepts, making them accessible to beginners while also offering fresh perspectives about CPA-networks for experienced marketers. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned marketer, Veranika's writings are sure to inspire, educate, and motivate, guiding you towards a profitable affiliate marketing journey.
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