Digital marketing has changed dramatically in the last five years. Both b2b and b2c buyers have fundamentally changed the way they buy — which means marketers have had to change how they market to buyers online. According to a 2012 report by SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before prospects engage with a salesperson. At the same time, mobile is advancing, consumers are changing the way they search online, and social media is leaving a permanent footprint. So what skills and knowledge do digital marketing job seekers need under their belt to land a gig in this competitive industry?
I’ve narrowed it down to three areas of focus for job seekers:
The Rise of Content in SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) plays by a different set of rules today than it did five years ago — and for job seekers, it can be challenging to keep up. SEO is no longer about buying website links, writing keyword-stuffed blog posts or web copy, or listing a website across directories. These “black hat” SEO tactics were common practice five years ago, but today will land you in Google’s doghouse.
Today, SEO is about content. Consistent, relevant, and high-quality content will help a website build links organically and increase search rankings. Digital marketing job seekers should become familiar with the variations of online content — including blog posts, articles, and video, to start — and understand how it’s tied to SEO.
Let’s take Google’s latest Hummingbird update. The Hummingbird algorithm is based on semantic search rather than straight keyword search, further supporting the notion that “content is king.” Think about the type of search you would perform in Siri — perhaps, “What should I cook for dinner tonight?” Google wants to provide the closest results for the user’s question, making sense of the words tied together as opposed to individual keywords. While job seekers may find it difficult to keep up with the changes in SEO, the key piece to remember is that educational, high-quality content is the foundation of a promising SEO strategy.
So what can aspiring digital marketers do to master Google’s changes? Beyond understanding the shift to content in SEO, prospects can hone their writing skills to be Google-friendly. It is incredibly easy to access a piece of content online and bounce quickly — whether it’s because the content is not what the user is searching for or, in many cases, the writing is poor or unclear. Job seekers who showcase their writing abilities — for example, through blogging and, most importantly, in cover letters and résumés — show employers that they can navigate the semantic changes in SEO.
Social Community Building
The good news is that most young job seekers are already social media experts. This Generation Y demographic knows social networking like the backs of their hands — but the challenge is translating this second-nature knowledge into hard evidence that they can contribute to and build social communities.
Why is this important? According to Toolbox.com, 81% of b2b buyers participate in online communities to help their peers get answers — but only 37% of b2b buyers use social for perspective in making purchasing decisions. Buyers want answers, information, and input from others before purchasing.
Job seekers who become online community building experts (i.e. by starting or actively participating in a LinkedIn group, creating an interactive blog, or building a YouTube channel) should be able to fill an often vacant or misused role in many marketing firms and departments.
The advancements in SEO, social media, and content creation mean software programs and tools are needed to support, measure, and track these campaigns. A job description no longer simply lists “good communicator” or “attention to detail” as qualifications, but instead requires candidates to know specific programs and processes. Knowing these will put prospects leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Here are a few examples:
Digital marketing is a tough industry to break into. As technology advances (and as Google gets smarter), job seekers must keep pace, expanding their knowledge of online marketing programs and tools, becoming social community building experts, and staying up-to-date with SEO changes. Focusing on these areas will show potential employers that you are one step ahead of the curve — which is right where digital marketers should be.
About the Author: Stacy Picking is a marketing professional at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Stacy manages and implements projects, marketing strategies, and media outreach for Hinge’s internal marketing efforts.