Updated for 2019
I’ve been a digital marketer since the early days — way back when the meta keyword tag still worked and automating a single email was magical.
In that time I’ve been hired by plenty of marketers and have also hired lots of very smart digital marketers myself.
It seems the industry is really starting to explode these days and any time a new job is posted the poor recruiter gets flooded with hundreds of applications from smart young people trying to break in.
I’m here to help those bright young people. Below is what I have found will help you stand out from the pack.
First though, let’s go over some of the things everyone says they have. You MUST have these:
The stuff everyone claims to have:
The following is a list of stuff that almost everyone seems to claim they know or have experience in.
SEO — So you know what a keyword is?
Absolutely everyone seems to think they know SEO. The issue is that it is super hard to figure out just how much you actually do know. Sure, I can see if you know what a canonical tag is or how to set up schema tags properly, but generally resumes don’t tell me this.
Also, I am always wary of people who claim to know SEO because there is so much BAD information about it available. Practices that are ‘grey’ can be seen as very positive by some and then suddenly get you banned by Google later (remember guest posting?)
This is something where I don’t think there is an easy answer you can put on a resume. This is more an area we would have to discuss in depth at the interview stage.
Social Media — Instagram is nice. right?
Literally every new digital marketer tells me they have social media experience. To be honest I kind of assume this — we all use Facebook gosh darnit, that doesn’t mean anything!
One thing that's important is knowing where social media fits within a marketing strategy. It is generally not the main point but a helper. A way to build brand and get customer insights. If you can see the value in its social nature and not just chat about getting more followers I will certainly be impressed.
Paid social on the other hard is about targeting - using Facebook and Twitters knowledge about their users to the best of your ability to get in front of the right person at the right time.
Content writing — be good at this
Not much to add here. Everyone who wants to a marketer should be at least competitive at writing both sales copy (get the money) and ad copy (get emotional).
Wordpress — You already know this… right? It’s kind of important.
I kind of hope you already know this one. Wordpress is pretty well the industry standard. If you don’t know it yet, go ahead and learn it. You should know the most common plugins as well.
The more advanced your wordpress knowledge the better. Can you install tags yourself? Change the look of a template?
What will make you stand out:
There, done with all the boring stuff everyone says they have. Now to the bit I hope is most important: what you will have that no one else will. This is stuff companies need more than someone who can come up with a clever tweet.
Statistics, analytics and numbers
I know. Most marketers are the ‘creative’ type and don’t like dabbling in numbers too much. I’m sorry I have to break this to you: numbers will become your life.
Go to Khan Academy and brush up on statistics. Then make sure you are pretty darned advanced in Microsoft Access and Excel. They will become your friends.
Next you need to learn some general data analysis tools. Things like Tableau and SAS are pretty big players. Mentioning you have an understanding of them will win you serious brownie points. They can be a bit advanced though - having a working knowledge of Google Analytics can go a long way.
What's great is that you can get a certification in Google Analytics to prove your knowledge. It's free and relatively easy. Check it out here.
Knowing how to set up proper dashboards, do analysis of data and even predicting the future (within reason) are all super valuable assets.
Adwords certification (then get Bing)
This one is easy. Go here: https://landing.google.com/academyforads/#?modal_active=none
Study all that and get certified.
Then go and do the same for Bing Ads.
The best part is gaining this knowledge is completely free (hell, you can say you are self taught using these resources and that’s even more bonus brownie points!)
Just go here and start:
FTP and SSH (Why you need to become even more nerdy)
Next up you got a get a little more nerdy. Knowing how to update sites using FTP and SSH are invaluable tools that will get you in the good graces of many a hiring manager.
A few Google searches can get you the resources to learn how this stuff works.
Google Analytics is nice but what if you had kissmetrics and Adobe? (What the hell are they?)
Everyone and their mother uses Google Analytics, except… well they don’t. Many of the really big corporations out there actually use Adobe Analytics. Then there are the companies using KissMetrics or even stranger: IBM Tealeaf.
Take the time to learn these alternative data tools. You’ll find many of them work in very similar ways and if you know one, the others will be pretty easy to pick up.
Most companies have SOME sort of email automation. Whether that be a simple campaign set up in Mailchimp or a complex multi-step process with a billion different events set up in Ontraport or some custom tool they built.
The more you can learn about what works and what software is used in email automation the better off you will be.
Mailchimp is a good start to learn some of the basics but maybe try this fun little project that includes some of the above:
Set up a website with an email collection form and have a self hosted version of Mautic on it. See if you can then use email automation, social media marketing and an affiliate account to make yourself some money.
That kind of project would certainly impress me. Don’t ask me how to do all that though — the fun part is figuring it all out!
The world of affiliates
I’ve mentioned joining an affiliate program a few times but what about the other side of the coin? Running an affiliate program is time intensive but for many companies is a huge part of their revenue stream.
Take the time to learn how to best interact with your affiliates, what kinds of promotions work best, what collateral they like to use, etc. Joining the Amazon program can help you get an understanding of what affiliates are looking for.
In the end
The main message that I want to push through all this is that you have to keep learning. There is so much information out there (for FREE!) and it’s always changing.
Something that was best practice just a few weeks ago could get your entire campaign tanked a week later.
Go forth, learn, try new things. Have fun though, that’s important too.