Working in the digital marketing industry is a great experience. For the last 20 years, I’m working as a digital marketing manager and in this post, I’ll explain how to become a digital marketing specialist with no prior experience in marketing.
Becoming a digital marketing specialist requires a lot of effort and hard work but it’s the best digital marketing job you can get in the online marketing industry.
Nevertheless, if you are willing to put in the required effort, there is nothing stopping you from pursuing a digital marketing career.
In this guide, you’ll learn what a digital marketing specialist does, how to build the necessary skills, and what to expect in terms of annual salary.
What does a Digital Marketing Specialist Do?
A digital marketing specialist is a professional with a diverse set of skills, responsible for the online promotion of a website (business or products), using all available digital marketing channels.
He / She needs to have a good knowledge of all Digital marketing disciplines and tools. The job responsibilities include:
- Designing, implementing, and monitoring SEO campaigns
- Analyzing and optimizing PPC campaigns
- Supervising content marketing campaigns
- Utilizing social media networks (for traffic, awareness, and sales)
- Managing the other members of the digital marketing team
- Coordinate the activities of all digital campaigns
- Set goals and analyze the performance of all digital marketing channels
The difference between a digital marketing specialist an SEO specialist or a PPC specialist is that a digital marketing specialist needs to be an expert in more than one area and have a broad knowledge of how digital marketing works in general and not just a single discipline.
10 Steps to Become a Digital Marketing Specialist
These are the 10 steps to follow to become a digital marketing specialist.
- Learn Digital Marketing Essentials
- Work as an SEO Expert
- Master PPC Advertising
- Build Social Media Marketing Skills
- Implement Content Marketing Campaigns
- Learn How Email Marketing works
- Build Team Management Skills
- Learn How to Use Data Analysis / Reporting tools
- Get a Digital Marketing Certification
- Stay Updated on the Latest Digital Marketing Trends
1. Learn Digital Marketing Essentials
The first step to becoming a digital marketing specialist is to learn what is digital marketing and how it works.
Digital marketing is not a single discipline but it’s a term that encapsulates a number of techniques and methods you can use to promote a website or products online.
The most important digital marketing channels are:
- Website Marketing
- Search Engine Marketing (includes SEO and PPC advertising)
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing
- Video Marketing
As a digital marketing manager, you need to know what is the role of each channel, what it does, and how to use it.
2. Work as an SEO Expert
Once you get a general idea of what we mean by digital marketing, the next step is to master SEO and become an SEO expert.
SEO has a critical role to play in the success of a digital marketing campaign, that’s why it’s important to learn how to optimize a website for search engines.
Building your SEO skills will also make it easier to work with other online marketing techniques.
Although it is more likely that you will have dedicated SEO experts in your team, as a digital marketing expert you’ll have to supervise them and the most efficient way to do this is to have working experience with SEO.
3. Master PPC Advertising
A considerable amount of your time and budget will be allocated to managing PPC campaigns either on Google Ads or Facebook.
As a digital marketing specialist, you need to know about the different types of campaigns you can run and how to correctly measure and analyze the results.
Depending on the size of your team and industry, it is common for a digital marketing campaign to only have PPC campaigns running so mastering PPC is more than critical.
4. Build Social Media Marketing Skills
Besides using paid ads on Facebook, you also need to learn how marketing works on other networks.
Depending on the type of website to promote, you may have to explore other social media networks like Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn, and thus is important to have the necessary skills.
5. Implement Content Marketing Campaigns
To power all your digital marketing campaigns, you need content that has the following characteristics:
- Satisfies the user intent
- Interesting for users to read
- Optimized for each platform (SEO, FB, etc.)
- Generates rankings, leads, and conversions
Content can be in the form of text, video, or audio and can be in different formats like articles, YouTube videos, landing pages, podcasts, etc.
As a digital marketing expert, you need to prepare a plan on what type of content to produce and when and how to measure the performance of each content type.
This is what content marketing is all about.
In a well-structured digital marketing team, your job will not be to provide the content (you will have dedicated writers for this task), but it’s your responsibility to ensure that the right type of content is produced for the different campaigns.
6. Learn How Email Marketing Works
Email is still one of the most popular selling tools. Despite the rise of social media networks, marketers use email marketing to finalize a sale, get more leads and engage with their customers.
Email marketing is usually the last step of a marketing sales funnel. All other digital marketing campaigns (SEO, PPC, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing), generate leads for email marketing and email marketing will do the sales (or any form of conversion), through a series of targeted emails.
In most teams, the role of email marketing specialist is missing so the responsibility of running email marketing campaigns falls directly under the supervision of the digital marketing manager.
7. Build Team Management Skills
To become a digital marketing professional, you need to have good team management skills.
The reason is that part of your job responsibilities will be to lead and manage a team of other specialists that make up a digital marketing team.
In big digital marketing agencies, the digital marketing manager is essentially the manager of the team (or team leader if you prefer) and besides the technical knowledge, he/she needs to have the necessary skills to manage a team of people.
This means knowing how to work with project management tools, setting goals and targets, training your team, and all other tasks that a person in a managerial position is supposed to do.
For small teams or digital marketing experts who work as freelancers, you may not have to manage people but you still need to know how to create project plans, set milestones, and monitor the progress of a project.
8. Learn How to Use Data Analysis / Reporting tools
Besides monitoring and optimizing digital marketing campaigns, part of the daily tasks of a digital marketing professional is to analyze data and prepare reports.
Whether it reports to the marketing department or to the client directly, a digital marketing manager needs to know how to use several digital marketing tools.
The must-know tools are:
- Google Analytics
- Google Data Studio
- Google Search Console
- Facebook Ads Reporting
- SEMRUSH or similar (Ahrefs, Moz, HubSpot, etc)
9. Get a Digital Marketing Certification
One of the fastest and most efficient ways to become a digital marketing specialist is to follow a comprehensive digital marketing course.
A digital marketing course will teach you everything you need to know about digital marketing without having to read separate guides or look for additional resources.
Getting a digital marketing certification from a reliable company, it’s a great way to show that you know Digital marketing.
Becoming certified does not prove that you are a good digital marketing professional but it does show that you have the necessary knowledge for the job.
Of course, to secure a position in a big agency or company, you need to have several years of working experience and ways to demonstrate your expertise (success stories and case studies).
10. Stay Updated on the Latest Digital Marketing Trends
Google is making thousands of updates per year to its search results and algorithms, Facebook is adding/changing new features all the time, Google Ads move towards AI, etc., etc.
The changes happening in the digital marketing industry are continuous (I would say daily) and are a lot.
Learning never stops for digital marketing experts and this is something that makes this profession very interesting and challenging. You never get bored as there are always new things to learn.
If this is something you cannot accept, then becoming a digital marketing specialist is not the best choice for you.
If on the other hand, you like working in a dynamic environment, you need to make sure that you stay informed of all the latest trends and the resources below will help you do that.
How much do Digital Marketing Specialists Make?
Now that you know what it takes to become a digital marketing specialist, you may be wondering if is worth the effort.
As with many professions, the salary of a digital marketing professional depends a lot on the experience, country, and type of job (working in a company or freelancing).
The annual salary of digital marketing specialists in the United States is between $40K and $60K.
The following table shows the average annual salary of digital marketing specialists (from payscale) in the United States according to years of experience.
- Entry Level (less than 1-year experience) – $40, 453
- Mid-Career (5-9 years of experience) – $55, 850
- Experienced (more than 20 years of experience) – $61, 763
Zip Recruiter sets the average to $52,190 per year or $4349 per month.
If you plan to work as a freelancer, an experienced digital marketing manager can make up to $140 per hour.
If you want to become a digital marketing expert, you need to have in mind three things:
- You need to learn how to use each and every digital marketing channel.
- Digital marketing is a dynamic industry and continuous learning is part of the daily routine of a digital marketing professional.
- The salary and compensation depend a LOT on years of experience and results.
You don’t need to have a formal university degree, although there are many schools that offer digital marketing degrees.
If you are willing to learn and put on the required effort, there is nothing stopping you from starting a career in digital marketing.