16 Skills That Make You A Proficient Digital Marketer

essential digital marketing skills

For many people, digital marketing is a dream job. And if it isn't yet, then it might be after I tell you digital marketing is a job you can do anywhere, and exactly how I'm able to make a living as an expat entrepreneur in Belize.

With the onset of many technology company perks and telecommuting jobs, digital marketers can make a six figure salary, have unlimited vacation and enjoy a flexible schedule that allows them to work from home — or even across the world as a digital nomad.

If you’re looking to get a new job as a digital marketer this year, make a career change, leave a desk job to travel as a remote digital worker, or improve your skills at your current digital marketing job — I’m here to help. I was able to grow my digital marketing career and take the plunge in 2016 to start my own business and travel and work in another country as a remote digital marketer.

Here are the essential 16 digital marketing skills I learned throughout my career that helped me advance in my digital career and ultimately start my own digital marketing agency:        

1: Writing & Editing: This might be the most important skill set to have as a digital marketer: I don’t think there’s one job I’ve had in digital where I didn’t have to write and edit. Because of the importance of content marketing, you’ll can get very far in your digital marketing career if you know what makes a great blog post, how to source and write great content, and how to turn a bad piece of content into a good one. You should also know how to employ the help of copywriting tools like AP Styleguide.

2: SEO: Organic search results are about 8.5x more likely to be clicked than paid search results, so it is IMPERATIVE to understand and utilize search engine optimization (SEO) in a digital marketing career. Today, “white hat” SEO tactics include content marketing, guest blogging, and link building through social marketing and high-quality content. But, you should also know technical SEO tactics such as updating title tags, H1 and H2 tags, and incorporating keywords.

Speaking of keywords, it’s essential as a digital marketer to know how to research keywords to include within website copy, blogs and PPC to drive results for the brands you work for.

3: Design Skills: So much of digital marketing today is driven by visuals. Content on all of the social media platforms perform better when accompanied by great images. As a digital marketer, you need to know how to create and edit your own visuals.

If you can whip together a banner ad, email banner or social media image in Photoshop yourself, that’s one less person you have to go through, one less step to get your digital campaign launched – and one less person your client or employer has to hire. If Photoshop (or another Adobe program isn’t in your arsenal of skills, there are lots of tools like Canva available to help). 

4: Social Paid Advertising: The days of social media being “free” are gone — I lived through them and since I’m only in my 30s, that should tell you they didn’t last long. The best way to reach people now on social media sites and ensure your content gets distributed is to use social paid advertising.

Understanding how to write copy — length and variations — and follow image best practices on each site will be extremely helpful in your career. As will understanding how to monitor and alter bids to optimize your ads or understand when to get help if you don’t have the time to spend on it every day.

5: Top-Notch Personal Brand: As a digital marketer, you will likely be the face of a brand whether that’s through social media, content marketing or a conference presence. It’s important to have a great digital presence online that shows you are active and professional. In addition, by utilizing top content sites, like Medium, to build your personal brand, you’ll ultimately understand them better yourself and how you can leverage them for the brands you work for.

6: WordPress: WordPress now powers 25 percent of all sites across the web and 50-60% of the share of the global CMS market – making it the most popular CMS. The New York Post, TED, Thought Catalog, USA Today, CNN, Fortune.com, TIME.com, Spotify, TechCrunch, CBS Local and NBC all use WordPress, so it’s not just a tool that small businesses use to patch together a website because they don’t have a developer.

Chances are brands you work for will use WordPress, or they’ll need to switch to it. Understanding WordPress and all of its features and plugins will be a great skill in your digital marketing career. It’ll even help you setup your own website and blog for your own business.

7: Excel Proficiency: Snore. We’ve all seen the Word applications on every resume for the last decade plus. But, now with the increase in data and importance on data analytics, it’s more important than ever to be proficient at Excel and understand how to quickly manipulate data and create tables and graphs from the data you’re looking at.

Are you just listing Excel, or are you really an Excel whiz? Make sure it’s the latter.

8: Social Media Marketing: Nearly one-third of the population is currently using some type of social media platform and 97 percent of the global share of companies use social marketing. This makes social media marketing an invaluable skill set in a digital marketing toolbox.

There is a lot more to social media marketing than just posting on Facebook. You should know how to generate user engagement on all platforms, copywrite, build ads, create visuals and analyze reach and engagement. You also need to understand all of the rapid changes on each platform and when to utilize different platforms for different internal business goals.

9: Email Marketing & Newsletters: A number of articles on the web will ask the question, “Is email marketing dead?” I’m here to tell you, it’s not. Everyone still reads email. It’s still a very effective way to reach customers. Any brand you’re working for will have content they want to distribute — email newsletters are a great way to tap into an email user base to extend the reach of content.

10: Google Adwords & PPC: A number of businesses are able to drastically expand their reach and generate high revenue and brand awareness through pay-per-click advertising, otherwise known as PPC. If you’re able to do this for businesses, you’ll snag some of the highest paying jobs in digital marketing. To do PPC well, you need to be able to think both scientifically and strategically, and effectively create, optimize and report on campaigns using both Google Adwords and Google Analytics in conjunction with each other.

11: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): The point of digital marketing should be to drive traffic to a website and convert that traffic to customers. CRO is the art of testing different website pages, copy and calls-to-action (CTAs) to see what converts the best. It combines the art of website design, copywriting and user experience. As a digital marketer, you should understand how to do an A/B test, and be proficient in tools like Optimizely to aid in your research.

12: Marketing Automation: Marketing automation is the art of creating automated tasks for website visitors to save you time as a marketer. It’s important to know how to setup forms, create landing pages, and trigger drip campaigns that will nurture website visitors to become customers. It’s an essential aid in helping your sales team find sales qualified leads from web traffic.

Speaking of sales qualified leads — if you know how to score website visitors to determine how important they are to a marketing team or a sales team, you’ll be ahead of a lot of digital marketers out there.

13: PowerPoint Design: Try as I might, no one has created an application yet that has ubiquitously replaced PowerPoint. I know, I can’t believe it either. Throughout my entire career, I’ve needed to create PowerPoints. And as presentations to my clients become increasingly more important, I still use PowerPoint.

In digital marketing, it’s important to know how to create a PowerPoint that’s not just text on a slide. You need to thread together a story and clearly state a strategy, so you can socialize your project and results across a number of important players — whether that’s to junior level workers or leadership.

14: Influencer Marketing: Brands can score big time by connecting with online influencers to raise brand awareness and distribute or cocreate content. Understanding how to connect with influencers and move them from unaware to advocate is an important digital marketing skill. If you know how to use a tool like Traackr to find and track online influencers, you’ll be ahead of the game and save time.

15: HTML & CSS: With the need to use WordPress, write copy and update websites, employ marketing automation and understand CRO, it’ll do you good to know basic HTML and CSS. If you can get into website code for a blog and update a title, this will save you tons of time from going to a custom WordPress developer or a brand’s product team.

16: Creative & Analytical Abilities: Finally, digital marketing is both creative (photography, writing and design) and analytical (Google Analytics, CRO, marketing automation). To be truly successful at digital marketing, you should be able to bring both art and science to your work and understand how to juggle both of these important skillsets.

Master all of the first 15 skills and pull them together with the perfect mix of creative and analytical strategies in #16, and you’ll be the successful digital marketer you’ve always wanted to be.

This post originally appeared as a guest contribution on Hatchbuck.com — a great resource for small business owners looking for a marketing automation tool! 

Jeanna Barrett

San Francisco, CA