Digital Marketing Career Guide: How To Get Started

The nature of communication has changed. As technology has evolved and advanced, the need for digital tools has spread, changing every industry, field, and job market it reaches. Now, for every business that exists, there is an online presence. For every marketing campaign, there is a social media or digital ad component. For every bad or good customer experience, there is an online review waiting to be found by a potential customer. And behind all of these situations is someone or the need for someone to manage such digital functions.

Table of Contents

Rapid Digital Development Has Created a Gap

The skillset required by marketers today has broadened significantly than in years before the explosion of digital marketing. A growing demand for online optimization and data-focused marketing has resulted in a need for employees who have knowledge of online environments and understand the intersection of commerce, marketing, and the internet.

Given the success of powerhouse social platforms and startups, it would seem that there would be a surplus of tech-savvy kids with enough digital marketing prowess to just jump right now. In fact, the rapid advancement and ever-updating nature of online marketing practices has created a gap between demand and available talent/skill. In a research study that pulled over 75,000 job listings from Indeed.com, Moz reported:

“As the marketing industry continues to evolve due to emerging technology and marketing platforms, marketers are expected to pick up new skills and broaden their knowledge more quickly than ever before. Many believe this rapid rate of change has caused a marketing skills gap, making it difficult to find candidates with the technical, creative, and business proficiencies needed to succeed in digital marketing.”

This study revealed that while there is certainly no shortage of jobs looking for digital marketing skills, candidates with the skills themselves may be more difficult to come by than we thought.

This Problem Presents an Opportunity

From the problem of a gap between demand for digital marketing and adequate, available talent stems an opportunity. By beginning a career in digital marketing that gives you the skills businesses are looking for, you can put yourself in a job market that has an anticipated growth of 13% by 2022.

With a little work and time commitment, you could position yourself as the ideal candidate for the surplus of digital marketing skills in demand by employers.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  1. Where to start learning about digital marketing
  2. How to get started on your digital marketing career

Now more than ever is the time to embark on your digital marketing career and use that gap to your advantage, so let’s get started.

Learning about Digital Marketing

The cool thing about digital marketing is that because it’s always changing and evolving, we are all students. There’s always something new to learn, a fresh spin on an old practice to try, and endless possibilities to apply your own creativity to digital marketing.

While there’s no shortage of marketing majors, minors, and courses in universities and colleges across the country, the most competitive and highly sought skills of digital marketing still aren’t covered in depth. SEO, web development, SEM, and other such disciplines of digital marketing are, for the most part, things even the experts learned by doing it themselves, learning from what was already out there, and hands-on practice. Studying marketing will give you a skeletal image of how traditional and modern marketing overlap with digital, and a fair amount of exposure to digital rhetoric.

To get to a point where you can build a career in digital marketing, you’ll need to seek out the best resources and learning opportunities out there. While many schools and universities offer marketing classes and degrees, it’s still important to find resources and teachers that are outside academic settings and practicing within the industry.

Gaining Knowledge

So, if you’re already learning about digital marketing inside the classroom, and want to learn more about what goes on outside the classroom, where do you look? Right where it exists: online. Having a general overview of digital marketing as a whole is just as important as having a working understanding of the main disciplines that fall under the umbrella of the field (think: SEO, PPC, SMM, etc.).

Basic Digital Marketing Concepts and Terms

Like any field, there are terms, definitions, and concepts that make up the practices and components that contribute to what digital marketing is. In this particular field, new terms develop all the time, there can be varying interpretations of old terms, and there are a lot of acronyms that get tosses around. While you don’t necessarily have to master every term and concept related to digital marketing, it does help to be familiar with the basic, most used concepts and terms. This glossary is a good list to start familiarizing yourself with and serve as a point of reference until you come to know all the ins and out of digital marketing.

Click here to download the glossary.

Courses to Learn About Digital Marketing

There are a number of resources that can give you a thorough crash course in the different branches of digital marketing. For an education in digital marketing, these are the ten best teachers:

  1. Moz Academy

Moz is arguably the best place to learn about digital marketing and SEO. A series of videos on different branches of digital marketing will introduce and walk you through mechanics, best practices, and other things you need to know. Moz Academy is particularly useful for a crash course in SEO, firstly because they’re one of the top authorities and tool providers for it, and secondly because it turns a sometimes foreign and intimidating subject into a friendly, approachable explanation.

  1. Lynda

You can learn about practically any subject on Lynda.com, but their selection of digital marketing courses is pretty impressive. The 162 available marketing courses include sections on email marketing, content marketing, SEO tools, PPC, mobile marketing, and dozens more. An appealing feature of Lynda is the ability to sort courses, tutorials, and subject matter by the experience level of the learner. This style of learning accommodates users of all skill levels, which can be really helpful if you have more experience with one branch of digital marketing than you do with another.

  1. Simplilearn

If learning about digital marketing practices is something you really need to do at your own pace, then Simplilearn is a great resource to consider. Their online programs reflect the direction that digital marketing has taken in recent years: an emphasis on data-driven online marketing with creative applications. You can self-pace the rate at which you work through the videos, and the quizzes, exams, and projects built into the courses ensure that you’re retaining everything you learn.

  1. Digital Marketing Institute

Through this resource, you can get a professional diploma in digital marketing. The course of study includes units on PPC, SEO, Email marketing, and more. Most importantly, it includes a unit on analytics that will teach you how to monitor and optimize digital marketing strategy based off of analytic reporting (this is a skill every digital marketing employer is looking for). This program is especially appealing for young professionals, as the Digital Marketing Institute has been featured as one of the top 30 best values for digital marketing certificates, alongside many prestigious universities including MIT and Duke University.

  1. Online Marketing Institute

Like the Digital Marketing Institute courses, the Online Marketing Institute offers a wide range of courses that will teach you about different practices. Some of these courses include social media marketing, search engine marketing, content marketing, and marketing automation. Many prominent leaders in digital marketing, such as LinkedIn and Google, have employees with certifications through the online marketing institute.

  1. General Assembly

This resource specializes in the skills most demanded by employers and companies today. Through their courses, you can expect to gain a proficiency in anything and everything from Google AdWords to User Experience Design. You can structure your courses to be full time, part time, or even condense them into a 1-week accelerated course. The curriculum breaks the main fields of digital marketing down into 10 units that will teach you everything you need to know.

  1. Coursera

This is a five-course overview of the latest digital marketing skills, taught by industry experts. Featured in INC, it’s been ranked as one of the best online classes for professionals and will give beginners an expert education in the industry. With projects built in to the courses, students will have opportunities to apply concepts and practices and gain digital marketing experience.

  1. WordStream

As a leader in PPC and online advertising, WordStream’s courses cover all things paid search. Their learning courses are broken down into PPC 101 for beginnings, PPC 102 for intermediates, and Advanced PPC. There are webinars, white papers, and videos to supplement the learning courses, and completion of WordStream’s resources will result in a comprehensive knowledge of how and why advertisers use PPC.

  1. Udemy

In a series of super cost-effective videos, you can learn about all the different digital marketing practices, how they work, and learn how to put them into practice. There are courses in categories like digital marketing, SEO, branding, analytics and automation, and even public relations. These videos make for great resume-boosters because you’ll expand your list of proficiencies and skills.

  1. LinkedIn

You can also learn about digital marketing right from the same professional network that helps you get connected and search for job listings. On LinkedIn’s learning site, you can filter the courses by experience level, type (courses, videos, learning paths), and the amount of time you want to spend learning. Here, you can learn about Google AdWords & Analytics, marketing research, editorial calendars, and much more.

Digital Marketing Certifications

Once you have a foundational understanding of what digital marketing is and how it works, the next step is to seek out certifications. This is helpful for two reasons:

  1. It will test your skill level and give you opportunities to apply what you’ve learned.
  2. Having certifications will show showcase your competencies to others and give you a competitive edge in the job market.

Some top certification programs to consider are:

  • Simplilearn DMCA: This program is popular because it offers self-paced, user-friendly, easily paused videos. At the end of each unit is a quiz that helps you apply your newly obtained knowledge, and there are also built in projects and exams to take in order to receive certification as a DMCA (Digital Marketing Certified Associate).
  • Digital Marketing Institute: With learners from Google, Hubspot, and Twitter, the Digital Marketing Institute is a widely recognized and highly acclaimed program. Completion of their courses and certification will result in competitive knowledge about digital marketing as well as experience from a noteworthy institution.
  • Online Marketing Institute: Between the level 1 certifications that cover fundamentals and the level 2 certifications that teach integration and execution, this resource offers a high value for its certification. It’s great for beginners and even people looking to sharpen their digital marketing skills.
  • Coursera: Having this specialization will give you a competitive advantage, because upon completion of the courses there is a real life capstone project setup in partnership with Grainger. This will give learners education, certification, and experience.
  • OMCP: This program requires a lot of work, but comes from an official and widely recognized organization. This certification puts you through a thorough and in depth crash course of digital marketing before testing your knowledge (a set minimum passing score is required to receive certification).
  • Google AdWords Certification: PPC focused, this program will teach you everything you need to know about paid search advertising campaigns and how to use one of Google’s most popular tools, AdWords. Upon successful completion of the exam, you’ll be AdWords Certified (this certification/experience is highly sought after by employers).
  • Google Analytics Certification: Much like the aforementioned PPC Certification, the Google Analytics Certification teaches you everything you need to know about using Google Analytics before testing you on the tool. Knowledge of analytics is an increasingly desired skill to have within the digital marketing industry, as data interpretation is a driving force behind all marketing.
  • Bing Ads Certification: It helps to know optimization practices of both major search engines. For that reason, Bing’s Ads Certification is a helpful option for those seeking their Accredited Professional Badge.

Continued Learning

People who practice digital marketing are always learning, because the strategies, tools, and landscapes are ever-changing. Your education in digital marketing doesn’t simply stop once you’ve reached the end of a course or earned a certification. You continue to learn alongside other digital marketers, participating in the advancements that happen and driving changes for more effective marketing. To stay ahead of the curve you’ll want to keep up with the latest happenings of digital marketing, so here are the best places you can do that:

  • Moz Blog: All things SEO and inbound marketing. Expect a lot of guides, resources, and data.
  • Marketing Land: All branches of marketing are represented here through articles, podcasts, videos, case studies, and more.
  • Kissmetrics: Very well done and visually appealing marketing information in article, webinar, and infographic format. Kissmetrics has an entire section dedicated to guides that will teach you different marketing practices.
  • Hubspot: Data-driven articles that don’t waste a single word. Expect ideas, tips, and references to market research.
  • HigherVisibility: Our blog covers all practices pertaining to search marketing and digital marketing, as well as breaking industry news.
  • Copyblogger: Focused on content marketing practices, tips, and ideas. A go-to for editorial calendar inspiration.
  • Contently: Also content-focused, with a blog stacked full of tips and tricks to keep content marketers fresh.
  • Content Marketing Institute: Also content-focused, but with more emphasis on the intersection of content and online performance. Tons of topics, resources, event and training opportunities, and more.
  • Search Engine Journal: Covers a range of topics with emphasis on search engine related practices and news regarding penalties, updates, and strategies.
  • Social Media Explorer: Insights, tools, tips, and news about social media marketing and trends.
  • Quora: The Q & A site that’s sorted by categories. You can ask, answer, and interact with other people when you filter your category selections. Categories as broad as “digital marketing” and specific as “on-page optimization” are accessible (similar resource is Reddit).

Getting Connected

So, you’ve started learning the fundamentals of online marketing, are seeking out certifications, and are keeping up with industry trends and news.  Now what?

An important step in this process of beginning a career in digital marketing will be getting connected with others in the industry. Digital marketing is all about how and where you reach people online, so it should come as no surprise that building a network of connections, resources, and collaborators is a critical part of professional development within this industry.  As previously stated, professionals of digital marketing are always students, because there’s always something new to learn. Bearing that in mind, the next step is to find places where you can continue exploring digital marketing and people who can teach you new things. Here are some ways you can get started and, more importantly, get connected.

Joining a marketing association is more than just a good way to meet new people, it’s an opportunity to gain another source of experience and apply your talents. Most organizations host fun events, have resources for their members, and connect you with other like-minded marketers. Some organizations to consider:

  • American Marketing Association. Local chapters exist everywhere, with varying degrees of membership to accommodate both students and professionals. The association covers topics like advertising, branding, digital, engagement, and more.
  • The Internet Marketing Association. Groups exist in different areas, with the website keeping up with articles, podcasts, and industry news. This association also offers a Certified Internet Marketer certification, which gets members all kinds of perks through the organization.
  • The Mobile Marketing Association. Online marketing and optimization has seen an increasing shift towards mobile, which makes an association strictly focused on mobile marketing a valuable resource. Their mission is to innovate marketing through mobile while driving business growth with closer and stronger consumer engagement.
  • SEMPO. This is the largest nonprofit trade organization in the world serving the search and digital marketing industry and marketing professionals engaged in it. Membership offers events, resources, and a community of professionals involved in search and digital marketing.
  • LinkedIn Groups. Your LinkedIn account is an awesome resource, because users in LinkedIn groups are typically very active and eager to connect with others. It’s a great place to get your feet wet with outreach and networking.

Participating in internet culture is a big part of being actively engaged as a digital marketer. Moreover, it’s a source of inspiration, interest, and engagement. There are pockets of opportunity for digital marketers to engage with others and discover new information all over the internet, but my advice is to always start with Influencers.

Influencers are the go-to people for any given industry. They typically have large followings for their blogs or social media accounts, are active users and regularly populate their channels with content, and are notably well connected among other industry leaders.

When you connect with or follow an influencer, doors start opening up and you can follow the bread crumb trail of suggested follows that will lead you to more experts and leaders. There’s a lot to learn from leaders in digital marketing, and follow their work and social media accounts will help you keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

Job hunting is job hunting any way you cut it, but it helps to have an idea of where to look for jobs in the digital/marketing sector. There’s no shortage of places to search for digital marketing jobs, but you definitely have to spend some time looking for the best ones. Here are some solid places you can search for digital marketing jobs:

  • Indeed: Probably the most popular job site, Indeed has millions of job listings across tons of industries. You can filter job listings by different categories including location, experience, company, and more.
  • Monster: On Monster you can search for jobs and also get tips and advice through their career resources. It’s used by thousands of companies, and you can create a user profile that allows you to apply to job listings with just the click of a button.
  • Career Builder: This is another one of the major job sites. On it, you can add your resume, find jobs by location and skills, and create a profile that employers can view. You can also see which keywords employers are using to search for candidates, which is helpful for tailoring your resume to specific job listings.
  • The Muse: The Muse is a super-hip website that has all kinds of modern and trendy job listings (including an entire marketing section). You can search by location and job type, and read full job listings from different employers. By making an account, you can apply right through The Muse website.
  • WayUp: This site is particularly helpful for students who are either still in school or freshly graduated. On it, you can fine part-time jobs, paid internships, and even entry-level job opportunities. WayUp is partnered with thousands of start-ups and Fortune 500 companies, which makes it a great resource for finding digitally or marketing-focused opportunities.
  • American Marketing Association: As was mentioned earlier, being connected has a lot of benefits, including access to job openings you might otherwise never know about. The AMA has a job board full of such jobs, and because it’s a marketing-oriented association, you will only see marketing job listings that cater specifically to the many members of the organization.
  • LinkedIn: There are thousands of job listings, opportunities, and connections on LinkedIn that can help further advance your digital marketing career. As a professional network, many companies and recruiters spend a lot of time actively searching for people to fill their open positions. You can apply to job listings directly on LinkedIn using your profile, so make sure all your information is updated and ready.

Recap

Again, digital marketing is an ever-changing landscape with constantly moving targets, and that kind of rapid development is what makes it both challenging to follow yet full of opportunity. That’s why learning from within the confines of academia is just as important as learning and engaging in the online world of digital marketing. Having a strong foundation of knowledge, certifications, and connections within the digital marketing sphere are all things that will work together to bring you success in your career. Moreover, by utilizing these resources and gaining experience now, you’ll have all the tools you need to stay ahead of trends and stand apart from the crowd.