Avi Levine

The Four Skills Digital Marketers Need Today

By: Avi Levine | May 13, 2015 | 

Digital MarketersBy Avi Levine

We all know that marketing is changing, and businesses are taking note of the move online, which requires the need for digital marketers.

Are you keeping up?

In my work training marketing professionals, I’ve studied hundreds of job postings for marketing talent. The numbers I’ve seen show what skills are most valuable—and it’s no surprise that they’re all digital.

Today, 90 percent of marketers don’t feel equipped to navigate the digital landscape, but in my research I found that 93 percent of marketing jobs require a digital skill set.

These skills run the gamut from one year of SEO experience to 10 years of social media experience (which of course digital marketers don’t yet have).

While the latter may not be possible for anyone, here’s what you need to do to stay competitive with other digital marketers.

Digital Marketers Need SEO Skills

Ranked number five on the LinkedIn 25 Hottest Skills that Got People Hired in 2014 list, search engine optimization (SEO) was also cited as a required skill for 14 percent of the companies I looked at.

It’s about more than just understanding keywords and getting them on your site.

SEO is about optimizing websites at a page and server level to generate traffic and conversion.

To be the best among digital marketers and stay competitive, here’s what you need to consider:

  • Algorithm changes: Remember all that recent talk about Mobilegeddon? The changing Google algorithm now ranks sites that are not optimized for mobile lower than those that are. What this means is that those marketers who weren’t staying up-to-date on the recent changes suddenly found their website showing up way further down on the page than it used to be. Even if you have a strong background in SEO, you’re in a bad place if you’re not keeping up with how it’s changing.
  • Moz: If you’re not using the Moz SEO toolbar, you’re already behind. This lets you access all your SEO metrics quickly while you’re surfing the web, giving you the ability to determine how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword, create custom search, and view social metrics for social media sites—but let’s talk more about that last point a bit later.
  • SEMRush: it may be cheating to add this one, but search engine marketing (SEM) is just as crucial as SEO to becoming digital marketers. SEMRush offers the tools to analyze and research your competitors’ keywords and discover new competitors, localize your ad campaigns, and find the right keywords for SEO and PPC campaigns. It’s the kind of high-level tool that puts you above and beyond those who only have a strong SEO background.

Digital Marketers Need Mobile Skills

Hate to bring it up again, but Mobilegeddon didn’t just change SEO; it showed how important mobile is in the new marketing world—and yet most businesses are behind the curve in optimizing their marketing for mobile.

To show that you’re among the innovative digital marketers, understanding mobile is a must. While this doesn’t necessarily mean \ you need to go learn iOS and Android development right away, here’s what you should be doing:

  • Optimizing websites for mobile: If you’ve gotten this far in the article, this one should be obvious to you. Just remember a certain day that starts with Mobile- and ends with -geddon.
  • Integrate with owned media: As Gini Dietrich mentioned a while back, you’re going to need to optimize your app with iTunes—80 percent of app search happens within the app store, to nobody’s surprise. Your mobile site should also be integrated using the same keywords you use for paid media in order to ensure seamless tracking across platforms.
  • Analytics: How are you measuring mobile performance? It’s going to be different from your traditional ways of tracking data. Google Analytics can help you track mobile traffic to measure user acquisition and engagement through your mobile applications and websites, so be sure you’re using it to keep track of engagement.

Digital Marketers Need Social Media Skills

We all know you can’t just post any #ThrowbackThursday tweet and start raking in new followers, but social media is a constantly evolving field that requires more and more know-how.

Ten percent of the businesses I looked at cite a requirement for social media experience among applicants, and that experience needs to go far beyond keeping up an active personal Twitter account.

Today, your social media presence is crucial to educate a social media audience about your brand, engage with them through value-driven content, and eventually turn them from leads into conversions.

Here’s how:

  • Think beyond fans and followers: Are you only tracking the most basic metrics? Fans and followers are only showing a piece of what’s happening on your social media. Instead, you need to use KPIs that demonstrate how effective your content is and to whom. Take the time to research your applause rate, engagement rate and response rate—we’ll get more into how below.
  • Target carefully and have conversations that drives business: Social media content without a target is like salsa without chips—there’s nothing there to scoop it up. Design content that reaches a specific audience, and do your research to find out what resonates with these different targets. Then, keep in mind that all social media activity should be set up to drive business. Whether it’s through engaging with thought leaders to enhance your reputation or talking directly to customers, you should always have an eye on using this content to drive new revenue.
  • Develop site-specific and interactive content: Are you posting the same things to Twitter as you are to LinkedIn? It’s not going to work. This point closely relates to the one above it in that different audiences use different networks, so be sure you’re using the analytics features on each platform to track your audience as well as your activity.

Digital Marketers Need Analytics Skills

We’ve already mentioned analytics a few times, but it’s worth its own section.

You may have all of the skills above, but you aren’t much without the analytical skills to interpret and report the efficacy of digital marketing efforts.

I found 13 percent of businesses listed analytics background and experience as a required skill in their job descriptions, and I anticipate that will only continue to grow.

The best digital marketers need to not only implement strong inbound and outbound digital strategies, but they should also analyze them regularly, and use those insights to constantly improve.

Here are some ways to bolster your skills:

  • Google Analytics/True Social Metrics: These powerful (and in the case of Google Analytics, free) tools allow you to track and report a wide range of data in multiple forms. Use them to report your SEO, mobile, and social media activities in a simple and communicable way. You’ll demonstrate your value to the rest of the company and set yourself up with the data needed to track the success of future campaigns.
  • KPIs (applause/amplifications): We already talked about how important it is to look at more than the obvious KPIs for social media, but this applies overall, as well. Sometimes, the best KPIs aren’t the clearest. Instead of seeking out how your operations have influenced the number of leads sent to sales, look instead at how many Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) come out of it—or track the average revenue per lead you send through. This provides data that gives you a more nuanced view of how successful your marketing is.
  • Sales CRM integration: The link between marketing and sales is more important than ever. You need to communicate closely with the sales team in order to ensure your marketing operations are guiding quality leads into the sales funnel. While the best way to do this is through sitting down for a chat with the leaders of the sales department at your company, take advantage of CRMs such as Salesforce and Hubspot that facilitate integration between the two departments.

Today’s digital marketers must be skilled in more than one specialty; a hybrid professional, if you will.

How will you stay ahead of your competition?

About Avi Levine

Avi Levine is the Executive Director of the Digital Professional Institute, Chicago's destination for digital skills training. A graduate of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Avi has a track record of starting and advising early-stage companies and entrepreneurs.

  • “The best digital marketers need to not only implement strong inbound and outbound digital strategies, but they should also analyze them regularly, and use those insights to constantly improve.” < You’re so right. Absolutely important, and not always prioritized.

  • Avi Levine

    Eleanor Pierce Thanks so much Eleanor. So much of digital marketing is being methodical and having the discipline and patience to evaluate regularly the performance and ROI of each channel.

  • You had me at the food analogy (salsa/chips/scoop it up!). Honestly, this is very helpful. Although I am pretty new to a lot of this game, the advantage of that is being able to know why it’s important to tactfully say “wait till we measure” when a client says, “wait we should throw in some new hashtags [or whatever]” to get more views. NOTE: still figuring out how to “measure” but at least I understand its importance! #PassTheSalsa

  • Avi Levine

    biggreenpen yup!

  • JamieNRutter

    These are all so important! I especially love the inclusion of analytics – it’s so looked over.

    May I add a 5th? Digital marketers need marketing skills. Foundations never changes, no matter the platform or technology.

  • Erin Ferguson

    “…but social media is a constantly evolving field that requires more and more know-how.” I can’t like this enough. I think I’ve trained myself to stop flinching when someone says, “Oh you’re young – you can do social media,” but I’m sure my eye must still twitch. Yes, anyone can make a post, but it doesn’t mean that it’s good!
    Curious – what do you think will be the next Mobilegeddon?

  • Avi Levine

    Erin Ferguson Absolutely! I think the key to remember is that these are just platforms to communicate with real people on the other side. So whatever enhancements, changes or new features are rolled out – you ask – how does this help me better communicate with the person on the other side. The “young” are certainly adept at the platform, but it’s the understanding of the fundamentals of marketing and communication, and the strategic application of these tools and platforms that will drive a brand’s success. That’s the logic behind our Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing courses.

    In terms of the next Mobilegeddon – it will be the next platform that is adopted irreversibly by the masses. Google wants to make sure that people have a seamless search experience. So if they all start searching on VR devices like Occulus, or their watches, or another new “smart” device that becomes irreplaceable, then you can bet that Google will update their algorithm to favor sites that make that search experience more seamless.

  • Avi Levine

    JamieNRutter Absolutely! That should be #1.

  • danielschiller

    And the ability and willingness to learn!

  • siddhartha070

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