Over the last 2.5 years in a high producing digital marketing agency, I have learned the type of skills and training that are necessary to becoming a highly valued, well-rounded digital marketing expert. The digital marketing process is simple: initiate, iterate, integrate. The tools, channels and integrations that make this possible are broad. What should you ignore and what should you focus on? Here are the key characteristics and tools needed to become a skilled digital marketer regardless of whether the digital marketing program is for a centralized, national marketing organization or for a large, multi-location ownership organizations. I’m primarily referring to lead generation programs for businesses with a physical location or a specific specialized skill, not a retail e-commerce website.
A brief note about characteristics is that each one of these can be learned.
You need to care about helping businesses succeed and be-trainable and flexible. It also helps to be good working with people if you plan to manage client accounts.
This does not have to be in-depth but you need to be interested in analyzing and figuring out how technical, digital programs and software work and can quickly pick up new ones.
Having organization skill that can lead projects and coordinate small teams to accomplish specific digital marketing goals. You also need to be interested in process improvements.
This one is necessary to be doing any sort of design or planning campaigns for clients. In many cases, digital marketing allows for A/B testing which allows the user to provide insight into what is best. So you don’t necessarily need to be creative in most situations, but this certainly can help.
If you have any of these characteristics, you might be a good digital marketing manager. The capabilities and tools I will list now can be learned. I hope this helps shed some light on how it all works although I’m sure it will also cause some confusion and questions.
Digital Channel Knowledge
Nothing takes the place of understanding the activity and user benefits of a specific channel, where people are active online like social media or Netflix watchers, anything that might be digitally consumed media. Then there are various online media buying methods, for example, if you want to advertise on Wall Street Journal’s website you can tap into their available inventory through a direct buy, a 3rd party network buy, or a programmatic buy. Understanding the ‘natural’ activity, i.e. organic nature, of activity on social media channels and different ways to consume digital media as well as paid activity or the types of ads that you can create and how you can buy them. When you are actively engaging either as a provider of organic content or paid content you also want to know how their native reporting tools work and the integrations that can be connected to the channel to improve production and posting cadences.
A close second to the actual digital channel knowledge is the need for an integrated dashboard or reporting toolset that allows you to look at multiple channels apples to apples instead of relying on the native reporting tools that are in many cases unreliable or at best, varied in the way they track things. When you have multiple digital channels that you want to drive interest and awareness, it is essential to be able to pull that data into other sources that will give you different views of data. Outside of tools like Google Analytics, which use scripts embedded on website pages, the only other way I know to pull data into other sources is through an application program interface (API’s).
This is the functionality and design flow of your website. Is it clear when people come to your site where they are supposed to go to find what they want? And does the website design support that or does it cause unnecessary distractions? Too many focus primarily about the look and feel of the site and forget that websites are for people to find information they are looking for as quickly and efficiently as they can. Also, we don’t want to forget the different types of environments the information might be accessed in like in a classroom, on the job in the field or in the office. There is also the platform being used like the mobile phone, iPad, or desktop and whether they are online or offline.
Website Indexability and Accessibility
This is the description of Search Engine Optimization. How do the algorithm based search engines evolve over time to provide the most natural results for a specific search query? Are there tactics necessary to allow spiders to crawl your site and understand what they are looking at in order to sort it and consider its value among other websites that might be providing helpful information as well? There are many best practices for implementing a website that is indexable and accessible by the search engines.
Tools used to review website metrics and what is the most pertinent information that might be useful for businesses to make educated decisions. There is the defacto standard, Google Analytics, that allows a user to understand the activity on their website as well as analytical tools that can provide information on what is happening within search engines prior to clicking on to the website from tools like Google AdWords and Dart Search.
By this I mean, connecting different channels to dashboards and presenting them in a useful format to gain insights. This is a much more complex process than simply connecting different channels to a dashboard, which frankly can be somewhat complex on its own). By advanced reporting, I mean being an expert at Excel and mining and making sense of larger chunks of data. There are tools like Next Analytics that act as a go between for organizations that want to compare data from multiple Google Analytics profiles by aggregating the data and spitting it out into an excel sheet or another dashboard ready for use. The challenge with this is, once it is spit into an excel sheet, you typically need to be able to run pivot tables and do vlookups in order to organize the data. In most cases, there is some data that can be automated and others will need to be pulled manually. Then you would need to troubleshoot if any problems that arise in accessing that data. Next Analytics specifically pulls this information using algorithmic based commands that resemble a coding language.
This is helpful to crank out some display ads, render a website mockup, or put together a basic campaign in a specific channel. Knowing Photoshop and Illustrator can be beneficial but other tools are becoming more intuitive as the capabilities for design become more involved.
Display Animation and Dynamic Creative Implementation
Ad Trafficking and Online Media Buying
Display ads need placement on a specific ad network or direct buy that you have purchased ad space from. Managing ads in one system like DoubleClick Campaign Manager allow you to integrate the trafficking across other networks and pull the insights into Dart Search to see impression activity or set up UTM parameters to see the click activity in Google Analytics. You also now can manage your own programmatic buying efforts via Google’s Bid Manager tool.
Paid Attribution Tracking
If someone clicks on your paid ad then you can be sure that it will be tracked by default. But, if you need to understand the attribution of your display ads for those that see the ad but don’t click-through, i.e. the impression share, then you need to use Dart Search as it will help with attribution modeling as well as integrate conversion activity from your website to see first click, last click, or a weighted attribution for those that converted. This helps you understand the full online sales funnel and how effective your campaigns are from start to finish.
Most of the tools mentioned are Google’s proprietary products. There are non-Google products that do a similar job and are more common for very large companies that don’t want Google to have their data. These are much more specialized and Google is the most popular as the leader in the search engine race. Good luck with digesting your interest in digital marketing further.