A-Z Guide : How To Start a Career in Digital Marketing
How to start a career in digital marketing is one of the most common search terms in the job-search field. Why is this important to you? Because you’ve probably searched it too, which means you’re in one of the most competitive, sought after industries available.
But don’t stress! We’ve put together an easy A-Z Definitive Guide for how to start a career in digital marketing, and it’s right here! You’ve heard of some of these terms, but it’s important to be familiar with them all. Let’s jump in.
In a world becoming increasingly linked to data (see below) you’ll need to understand analytics. That is, how to track the success of your campaigns. This is everything from how far down the funnel a lead goes to the most effective times to post on social media.Take an online class and spend your own time becoming familiar with different analytics software.
For many years, digital marketers have been so focussed on numbers and hits and lead conversion that many forget the importance of brand. But Google never did. Your clients - and indeed, yourself - need a brand that consumers and, therefore, Google, instantly recognise and trust.
Whilst a lot of digital marketing relies on doing for learning, certification in a range of tasks will give employers and clients faith that you know what you’re doing. Never overlook the importance of having a piece of paper that says ‘I Know SEO’.
As mentioned in ‘A’, data goes from strength to strength. What is data? Data is everything around us, and in digital marketing that means knowing your consumers and your audience inside out. Data is often in the news because with great power comes great responsibility. There may be no more crucial aspect of this industry for you to be adept in than this.
Along with building a brand is encouraging engagement between your audience and your client. You’ll have seen the effect of this on taking influencers from also-rans to dominant forces in the online world. Understand how to get people to engage, and you’re on your way to success.
Funnel is a word you will both hear a lot and, hopefully, say a lot when working in the digital marketing sphere. It refers to the journey you take your audience on from a cold lead through to a dedicated consumer who advocates for your brand. Learn as much about this as you can.
An obvious one for ‘G’. Google dominates everything we do in the digital marketing sphere, from SEO to Analytics through to Engagement and our Funnels. Immerse yourself in the history of Google algorithms (so important that it almost usurped Analytics for the ‘A’ spot) and keep up with current trends/changes.
As above, it’s important to understand the history not just of Google algorithm changes but of the industry as a whole. It will help you appear more knowledgeable to those around you, and gives you a headstart in predicting future trends as you learn from the lessons of the past.
Influencers are users of social media that have (often) large followings and command a real say in what consumers of a specific industry think and do. Big brands are becoming more familiar with this scene, and there’s a lot of room for growth if you can think outside the box for this one.
Okay, not exactly digital marketing specific, but in a competitive field you need to take what you can get whilst starting out. Every bit of work will help build your portfolio, your skills, your confidence and other people’s trust in your abilities.
Understand keywords. This field has changed dramatically over the years when thinking of Google’s role in it, but to master SEO, content marketing, PPC and CPM you need to be well-versed in what a keyword is.
L: Landing page
User experience (see below) was a buzz word just a few years back. It seems to have dropped off from the digital marketing lingo of late - particularly since Google’s massive algorithm change to favour mobile devices - but you need to understand the important of the Landing page in your website design and funnel management.
Metrics goes hand in hand with data and analytics and more. They’re effectively your KPIs, and you’ll use them in interviews with employers and in meetings with clients. Understanding metrics puts you in a powerful position in this industry.
As with job-hungry above, you need to go the extra mile because of how competitive this industry is. We cannot stress enough how important it is to meet as many people as possible, from any field, because everyone, everyone needs effective digital marketing in this era.
We’ve snuck SEO into ‘O’ to allow for social media below. But optimisation refers to everything you do to get a brand higher up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). This includes keywords, content marketing, engagement and brand authenticity. Learn as much as you can about search engine optimisation, and remember to keep up with current trends, if you want to work in SEO.
This is self-explanatory. You’re trying to enter one of the most sought-after fields in the business world. Therefore, you need to be passionate about what you do, put a lot of your own time and resources into it, and love the excitement of an industry that never rests.
Two meanings for this one. Firstly, query everything yourself. Something looks to good in analytics or really is as good as it looks? Why is that, and what is working or not working that needs to be tweaked in your marketing plans? Secondly, encourage engagement through your audience sending questions to your. Don’t underestimate the potential of a well-planned Q&A page either!
In everything you do, don’t forget that at the end of the day money talks. Your clients, your employers and, indeed, yourself, really only need to focus on returns: that means revenue. So all of your amazing marketing strategies and designs are worthless if they’re not delivering value for money.
S: Social Media
You already know this, but social media platforms have changed our world. Zuckerberg just got questioned by the US Congress! This means you need to understand the ins-and-outs of this scene, if you are to work in Social Media. What’s popular? What’s waning? What’s the best way to spend your marketing pounds across the platforms?
T: T-shaped marketer
If you’re new to this area, you may not have heard this one before, but Rand Fishkin (something of an idol in the industry - uses the term T-shaped marketer regularly. It means understanding multiple, broad areas of the digital marketing landscape, but specialising in one or two specific skills.
As we mentioned above, UX (User Experience) isn’t going anywhere. It affects your conversion rate and your brand’s trustworthiness. Both of those affect everything else. UX refers to how a user of your website finds what they’re looking for and enjoys (or doesn’t!) being on the site. That’s a broad clarification of what is an intricate area of digital marketing, and is worthy of your time.
This may seem a bit out there, but virtual reality is a scene that is building and building. Digital marketers are going to be making more use of this and time goes by, so it’s not a bad idea to add this to the ‘broad’ section of your T-shape.
Website trends ebb and flow, but what stays consistent is the impact it has on your audience. Will they return? Will they recommend you? Will they bounce from the first page they reach? Your website is the new store on the high street, so put the time and effort into learning everything from design to development to marketing of the site.
Another of the intangibles in this list, but not to be underestimated. Remember, as with networking, you’re in a competitive field so you need to bring something to the table that others won’t. Focus on your strengths, and for want of a better term, optimise them!
It feels strange to say it, but apart from fairly random advertising via Google’s video platform, this seems to have been a sleeping giant for many in the digital marketing world. If you can harness the knowledge of the power that YouTube offers your client, you’ll be in a better position than many in your field.
Last but not least, this is the industry that never sleeps! That’s both a blessing and a curse when you work in it, for every day is different and exciting, but it’s also relentless which is where your passion needs to come in. But if you think you have what it takes, focus on what we’ve put in this A-Z guide and you’ll be 26 steps ahead of your colleagues!
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So now we've run through the A-Z, here are our 10 Tips on how to start a career in digital marketing.
Kicking off a career in digital marketing can be both daunting and difficult, but there are a number of ways you can make it a smoother transition - whether you’re fresh out of school or uni, or trying to make a change from the 9-5 job you hate.
How to Start Your Digital Marketing Career
We’ve put together a helpful list of 10 steps you can take to make sure you kick off your digital marketing career in style.
This is something that is so much more important than most people realise. If you speak to all the best DJs out there, did they learn their craft by reading a book, or did they buy their first set of decks and just have at it? The best chance you have of getting really good at anything is - you guessed it - practice. Qualifications are important, as we’ll look at below, but getting out there and starting your own project not only gives you confidence in your own abilities, but stands out to potential recruiters.
This leads on nicely from number 1: building a personal brand is important for employers to see that 1. You’re good at what you do, and 2. You take the industry seriously. You can learn more about how to build your personal brand, and why you should, over on our dedicated article: Personal branding: what you need to know.
Learn the lingo
Digital marketing is a serious, constantly changing and competitive industry, and if you’re to stand out in applications and interviews, you need to be across the language. Personal projects and qualifications will help with that, but you need to stay updated on industry knowledge, which leads us too..
Stay up to date
As we said, this digital marketing is constantly changing. Keep up to date with the latest developments and trends by having constant browses of sites like Moz, Distilled, Search Engine Land and Hubspot. These are leaders in the field and will help keep you abreast of, well, everything. This takes us to point 5…
Willingness and passion
You need to be both willing to learn, and passionate about the field. We’re going to assume you’re getting into this career because digital marketing excites you. Well then, that should and needs to transfer into doing *all of the above*. The willingness comes through hard work, and getting up each morning to read about any developments. The passion comes into it when you need to keep that going for a long time. But hey, both of those aspects are part of the job, and will keep you one step ahead of your clients (and competition!).
Speaking of clients (and potential colleagues), networking is one of the most important parts of any job in marketing - digital included. Surround yourself with people who are more experienced in, and better at, digital marketing than yourself. That way, you’re both learning as you go and meeting people that will be able to recommend you for jobs, find you clients, and of course be friends!
But as much as nepotism plays a massive role in everything, you still need some backing behind you on a certification level. This isn’t retail where you can learn on the job. This is strategic, analytical, organised work that is a difficult blend of creativity and tight logistics. Get the balance right, and you’re laughing. But to do that, you need to have some real training behind you.
And whilst your going down the path of training, embrace it. Get nerdy. Learn the technical side of everything you can. Even if you don’t want to build websites - you just want to write content or create SnapChat videos - we can’t stress enough how much of a help it will be for everything from interviews to on the job projects to know the background of different elements of the digital world. So get nerdy.
And number 8 leads nicely to 9: be a t-shaped marketer, as Rand Fishkin of Moz puts it. Have training or knowledge or experience in a couple of specific digital marketing disciplines, but have a broader understanding of all things marketing. Companies value this massively - it makes you a wildcard asset that other people may not be.
Understand data and metrics
Last but not least, do you understand data? Do you know how to assess analytics? You need to know this to work in this field in the 21st Century. It comes back to almost everything above: be nerdy, get trained, learn the lingo, stay up to date. It’s all critical.
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Next up: What's the Trajectory of a Typical Digital Marketing Career Path?