Digital marketing is a booming industry!

UK advertisers spent a record £8.61 billion on digital advertising in 2015, which represents a 16.4% year-on-year rise and the fastest rate for seven years, according to the latest figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB).

Having predicted growth of 4.2% in digital adverting spend for 2016, the latest Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report data forecast this growth will continue at a rate of 3.8% across 2017.

Content marketing is playing a huge part in the digital growth story – a study from Yahoo and Enders Analysis has forecast that content marketing spend alone will hit £349 million by 2020 – but effective digital marketing takes more than a keen eye for content and a bit of social media savvy.

If you really want to get ahead in digital marketing, you’ll need to consider developing the following skills…

A solid understanding of SEO

The death knell has been ringing for SEO for some time now, but don’t believe the hype, SEO is far from dead. Despite Google’s best efforts to monopolise the search engine results pages (SERPs) with its paid ads (more on those later) – not to mention the panic it causes with the release of its Pandas, Penguins, and Possums – effective SEO is still about high quality content and link building.

When asked during a live Q&A what two of Google’s major factors are, Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, instantly replied: “It’s content and links pointing to your site.”

Try to keep it simple, as some SEO experts will try to blind you with science and big budgets. I once had the pleasure of working for a marketing department headed up by a guy whose SEO strategy seemed to be based upon Google Authorship and expensive, one-off campaigns and events – authorship was dead (though perhaps not buried) within a year of rolling out that strategy, and the company I worked for was placed in penalty by Google.

One thing to bear in mind is that SEO is constantly evolving, so it helps to at least have an understanding of basic SEO best practices, as well as an understanding of local SEO and mobile search rankings.

A working knowledge of PPC

Pay-per-click (PPC) is a model of marketing whereby the advertising business pays a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. Search engine advertising is the most popular form of PPC, and ads are marked as such in the SERPS and sit above the ‘organic’ SEO-driven results.

Google makes a lot of money from PPC ads, and so it always looking for ways to push them over organic results – its latest iteration of paid ads sees them take the top four spots of the SERPS, relegating the organic results to below the ‘fold’.

An effective digital marketing strategy should incorporate both models of search marketing, and so you should have a working knowledge of both.

How to utilise inbound marketing strategies

Inbound marketing uses content, social media and SEO to drive traffic and potential customers to a website, and you’ll need to implement the following strategies as part of an inbound marketing campaign:

  • On-site content marketing – Posting great content to your site on a regular basis not only helps out your SEO efforts, it can drive new customers to the site and engage existing ones – this last point is particularly important as engaged customers buy 90% more frequently, spend 60% more per transaction and are five times more likely to remain loyal to a brand, according to a study from consumer experts, Rosetta.
  • Off-site content marketing – Off-site content marketing should work along any on-site campaign, providing well-written, targeted and engaging content to external sites to both drive links and new audiences back to your site.
  • Social media marketing – There’s no point creating great content if no-one knows about it, so use social media to push your on-site and off-site content to followers and encourage them to share it to bring in even more eyeballs. In addition to content marketing, use social media to engage with your customers, build brand loyalty, and trouble-shoot.
  • Email newsletters – On the face of it, email marketing appears to be more of an outbound strategy, but can really be considered as inbound marketing as most email newsletters deliver content to subscribers, to increase brand loyalty and retention and encourage recurring traffic back to your site.

Make sure you know about marketing automation and can use the relevant software to automate certain email and social media marketing campaigns so content reaches the right audience at the right time.

Get to grips with analytics

In the early days of SEO, when it was considered something of a black art – or white magic, depending upon the choice of hat – digital agencies and in-house search teams could effectively write their own cheques on the back of the promise of ‘P.1’ in Google.

But business owners have wised up somewhat since then, and most now want to know the bottom line when it comes to return on investment (ROI), demanding the figures to back up marketing spend and gauge the impact of individual campaigns.

So it’s worth getting to grips with analytics so you can produce the data to show how vital your marketing expertise is to the business. Or at least justify your existence – if you want to set yourself apart, it’s no longer enough to be either a content writer or a number cruncher, you need to be a bit of both.

You’ll also need to use analytics to get a better understanding of your customers’ needs and market trends, to help shape your content and make it work more effectively.

A bit of basic coding knowledge

A growing number of digital marketing opportunities now require a knowledge of computer coding, usually HTML and CSS, and having a basic understanding of these languages can help to quickly resolve minor issues, such as formatting changes on blogs or websites.

So try to at least nail down the basics of HTML and CSS, but learn as much as possible about these and other coding languages if you really want to get ahead of the game.

And remember, don’t overdo it

If you’re in digital marketing, there’s a good chance you’re working longer hours and spend more time checking and sending email than your peers in other industries.

A 2016 study from Workfront, provider of cloud-based enterprise work management solutions, found almost half of marketers (48%) log into work emails before and after business hours every day, while the same number (48%) admitted to checking their work emails every weekend, compared to under a third (28%) of general office workers.

So why are marketers ‘always on’? The study found a third (33%) reported in was because they had too much work, while just over a quarter (28%) said they wanted to be available to their clients any time of day or night, a problem that could significantly worsen as businesses become more global.

The big worry was that almost half of marketers (44%) said they overwork simply to get ahead, but the fact is while there may be short-term gains in being always on, the long term effects can be catastrophic to your health – the culture of working anytime and anywhere is now being linked not only to increased levels of stress and anxiety, but also to cardiovascular disease.

So if you really want to get ahead in marketing, don’t overwork – of course it’s alright to stay late sometimes, even occasionally check emails from home if you must, but don’t let it become the norm and always keep clear divisions between work and home life.