Breaking Down the Different Types of Digital Marketing Agencies

By Megan Malone


If your company is looking for a digital marketing agency, there are a plethora of options at your fingertips. A quick Google search of “digital marketing agency near me” will bring up a map full of red pins around your area and an endless amount of search result pages.

With so many marketing agencies, how do you know which one is best for your business? Before we look at each type of digital marketing agency, let’s define what digital marketing is, exactly.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is a term often used interchangeably with terms like “online marketing” or “internet marketing.” It’s essentially used to describe marketing that focuses on generating results through digital (or electronic) platforms.

The opposite of digital marketing is traditional marketing. Traditional marketing includes print magazine ads, direct mail, billboards, TV commercials, radio, newspaper ads and other forms of non-digital media. These days, most digital marketing agencies offer a mix of digital and traditional marketing services.

But when it comes to the digital side, what sets these companies apart? To better understand digital marketing agencies, here is a breakdown of each of the different types.

Content Marketing Agencies

A content marketing agency is one that specializes in creating digital and traditional content. “Content” includes anything from blog posts to videos to infographics and more. The primary function of content marketing is to provide something of value to the prospect or customer — not to overtly sell or advertise. Thus, content marketing agencies don’t typically focus on things like commercials, paid search advertising or direct mail campaigns.

 different digital marketing agenciesSome of the main types of content these agencies focus on include:

  • Blog posts
  • Magazines and/or magazine articles
  • E-books
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Emails
  • Landing pages
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts

Content marketing agencies also often specialize in inbound marketing. Although content marketing is a relatively new term, the concept has actually been around since the late 19th century!

Advertising Agencies

Speaking of old-school marketing, let’s take a look at the dinosaur of marketing firms — the advertising agency. Advertising agencies focus on creating, planning and executing digital and traditional advertising campaigns for their clients. An advertising agency may also be called an ad agency or a creative agency.

Out of all the types of agencies on this list, ad agencies have been around the longest. When you think of an ad agency, the Sterling Cooper agency in Mad Men may come to mind. Today, many former ad agencies have adapted to offer digital and inbound services. However, unlike content marketing agencies, most ad agencies aren’t built to deliver high-quality, consistent content on a long-term basis.


Outbound Agencies

Outbound agencies focus on lead generation through outbound marketing solutions such as cold calling, reaching out through email or LinkedIn, and list retargeting campaigns. Outbound agencies work with B2B companies to identify contacts in their target audience and communicate with them.

Unlike inbound marketing, which focuses on pulling people toward a company by offering valuable content, outbound marketing focuses on pushing the sales message directly to the customer. If you’ve ever gotten a postcard or sales call from someone and wondered, “How did they get my information?” that’s the result of outbound marketing.

Public Relations Agencies

 digital marketing agenciesPublic relations agencies, or PR agencies, are different from other agencies on this list since they don’t create, buy or execute inbound or outbound content. Instead, PR agencies promote individuals or companies via editorial coverage.

The primary focus of a PR agency is bringing media attention to their clients. This includes getting the business featured “for free” on external websites, blogs, magazines, newspapers, TV programs, radio shows and more. A PR agency may also write and distribute press releases, write and distribute pitches to journalists and publications, plan and execute events, respond to crisis and newsworthy events on the company’s behalf and write speeches.

PPC Agencies

A pay-per-click or PPC agency is one that specializes in paid digital media. PPC is a type of digital advertising where the company pays a fee any time a person clicks on an ad. PPC is generally focused on advertising with search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Many companies manage their paid search in-house or outsource it to their primary content or advertising agency. While most digital marketing agencies offer paid search management, there is some value in outsourcing to an agency that specializes in PPC. Hiring a PPC specialist or agency that focuses solely on PPC is helpful for companies in highly competitive markets that rely heavily on paid search to get their products and services in front of potential buyers.

Which digital marketing agency is right for me?

 digital marketing agencyTo determine what sort of digital marketing agency is right for you, you need to determine what your marketing strengths, challenges and goals are — then consult with experts from different types of agencies to determine which strategy is the best fit for your business. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when making your decision:

  • What is my desired ratio of paid vs. unpaid advertising?
  • Do I have any media connections or relationships to get free publicity?
  • How well is my website performing?
  • Does my target audience primarily “hang out” online or in a non-digital space?
  • Has traditional marketing worked for me in the past?
  • Do I have enough marketing expertise in-house or do I need to outsource for specific skill sets?
  • What is my ultimate marketing goal? Traffic? Leads? Sales?

These are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself when deciding which marketing agency is right for your company. Make sure you do your research, as your decision will have a tremendous impact on the long-term health of your business.

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Megan Malone

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