Over the last two decades, we have seen advances in tech like never before. With more and more digital technologies being introduced, all industries have had to adjust to the changing landscape.

One example of digital tech’s most recent impact is in the field of digital marketing. Estimates have predicted that close to 2/3 of all retail sales will be conducted online.

In turn, job growth for digital marketers has more than doubled in the past five years. Despite the high demand, recruiters are reporting of a digital skills gap that is not being properly met.

Digital Marketing Laptop

Snapshot of Digital Marketing Landscape

Digital marketing budgets have expanded tenfold to keep up with the times. Consider this, Forrester Research has estimated that digital marketing spending will top $100 billion by 2019.

Digital marketing efforts have seen an annual growth rate of 11 percent and this continued expansion is expected to stay steady through the year 2021. And digital marketing’s reach is anywhere and everywhere.

Digital marketing encompasses search marketing, social media promotion, display ads, viral videos and email marketing communications. Most shockingly, digital marketing spending surpasses broadcast and cable advertising costs combined. It is even forecasted that digital marketing will eventually cause traditional efforts such as direct mailers and print ads to be phased out. The belief is that soon the digital in the title will be dropped altogether and online efforts will simply be referred to as marketing.

When digital marketing efforts were in their infancy, the focus was more on volume. Get content out to the public as quickly as possible. Marketing budgets were spent on whatever type of online campaign was the flavor of the month. However, digital marketing is no longer in the experimental stages. Value over volume is now of the utmost importance. With more analytical tools available, it’s no longer required for a big portion of a budget to go toward ads producing no results.

Millennials, typically defined as consumers who fall between the ages of 18 and 35, will be the primary audience that digital marketers will continuously aim to engage. At this stage, they are establishing careers, buying homes and expanding their families. Spending is at an all time high during this phase of life. This age group also has grown up during the digital age and will absorb most of their media digitally.

As far as media consumption rates, the highest growth has been seen in the world of viral video. Marketing budgets for online video ads have increased as much as 114 percent since 2014. The key benefit? Video ads are more affordable than traditional network and cable advertising opportunities and can have just as big of a reach.

Another big change is that techniques used in digital marketing campaigns have evolved. During the early days, digital marketers were trained to “cheat” the system. Techniques were developed to trick search engine algorithms and advertisers were using unsavory tactics such as keyword stuffing and link spamming to improve their search engine rankings.

In response, Google developed highly sophisticated tools that crawled through the web’s billions upon billions of webpages to rank the most relevant ones the highest. Because of this marketing is now less aggressive and more evocative. Content marketing has become more principled with a focus on generating content that appeals to a consumer. Great content will start a conversation with the consumer and provoke them to learn more. This could lead to opt-in email lists, social network following and word of mouth brand awareness.

Responsibilities of the Digital Marketer

So, what are your responsibilities as a digital marketer? It boils down to keeping prospective and current customers interested and engaged in a company’s services and products. Digital marketers must create and manage online content in a way that makes an impact. The digital marketplace is competitive and the task falls on the marketer to determine how to standout. Here are a sampling of responsibilities that may fall on the digital marketer to handle.

Managing digital tools: Marketers have a large number of digital advertising tools at their fingertips. Forms of media that they may use to create content include mobile apps, website ads, podcasts, text messages, social network ads and blog posts. On any given day, a digital marketer may craft a press release, design a new Facebook ad or share relevant links across website and social media pages. Whatever content is created should be in line with the brand’s online objectives.

SEO and SEM: You have great content—now what? What’s the point of great online campaigns if no one sees them? SEO will focus on structuring online content in a way that allows Googlebot to find your pages and add them to the Google Index. SEO is more about building your audience naturally and getting your links to the top of search engine results. On the other hand, SEM is more about paid advertising strategies. Paid ads can be utilized to drive traffic to your web pages especially when SEO efforts are in their early stages.

Building brand awareness: Content creation isn’t only about making a quick sale. Brands that post ad after ad on their social network sites struggle with consumer engagement. When managing a social network page, a digital marketer will want people to come back to their pages—in the hopes that a conversion will eventually happen.

Content monitoring: Marketers are responsible for viewing metrics to determine how often content is being viewed once going live online. Engagement of content is also analyzed. What are consumers doing once they see the content? Are there sales conversions as a result of the content? What adjustments need to be made to boost engagement? The digital marketer will develop and implement a marketing plan that uses key metrics as their source material.

E-commerce management: Depending on the business type, a digital marketer will also likely manage online shopping experiences. The goal of managing e-commerce websites is to keep content engaging and optimize user experience. Marketers are in charge of creating “clickable” offers that lead to sales.

Requirements to Become a Digital Marketer

Digital marketing job requirements will vary from employer to employer. A recruiter will assess their department’s needs and look for qualified candidates who can help jumpstart their marketing efforts. What works for one company may not work for another.

As far as education, a bachelor’s degree in communications or marketing is typically required. Individuals who have an educational background in IT or web development may also be considered for open positions.

If you have not received an undergraduate degree, agencies may consider you based on any type of digital marketing certifications you have earned. Digital marketing certification programs will focus on educating students on the following topics:

  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing strategies
  • Search engine marketing (SEO)
  • Mobile engagement
  • Social media advertising
  • Pay per click ads
  • Campaign data analysis

Entry-level jobs in the field will help you learn the basics of designing, managing and analyzing online campaigns. Current and future digital marketing trends will need consistent assessment and analysis. These trends will help you plan out and adjust any future campaigns. Don’t grow complacent once you land your dream job. Continuing education courses should always be on your radar since digital marketing job requirements change at a rapid pace.

Job Outlook

Consider the following statistics:

  • The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7 percent increase in the marketing field by the year 2024.
  • Independent research in 2015 conducted by Fractl and Moz found that marketers were in extremely high demand with online job ads upwards of 75,000 in a single month. Despite this, recruiters were struggling to find qualified talent.
  • Almost half of ads for marketing job openings request that candidates have digital marketing skills.
  • More than 68 percent of marketing firms recently surveyed reported that they have a separate budget dedicated exclusively to digital advertising costs.
  • AdAge reported that more than 80 percent of businesses surveyed by the firm had plans to increase their digital marketing budget over the next 12 to 18 months.

These statistics boil down to one simple fact: the demand for digital marketers is high, but isn’t being met. Marketers are not getting the training they need to expand their skill set in an evolving landscape. The job landscape has changed rapidly due to the surge of online shopping, but not enough candidates are keeping up with the technical skills required for these positions. Companies are looking for well-rounded individuals who have a plethora of capabilities that extend beyond the basics. LinkedIn profiles may claim “content marketing” experience, but what type of duties that involved can easily be open to interpretation.

Digital marketing manager positions are particularly difficult job openings to fill. Wanted Analytics reported that digital marketing manager roles has one of the highest national job shortage rates. On average, only two qualified candidates are applying to this type of job opening. The job outlook is positive, but not enough candidates are seizing the opportunity.

Who Has the Skills?

If you do a quick search on LinkedIn, it sounds like anyone and everyone has some form of digital marketing “expertise.” However, knowing how to post a Facebook ad, doesn’t make you an expert digital marketer. In most cases, self-claimed digital marketers have only a surface level knowledge of online marketing. A truly successful digital marketer will need to have technical know-how, a flair for creativity and have a strong proficiency in business practices.

As far as what types of skills are valued, research has shown that digital marketers with SEO (search engine optimization) experience are paid more than those without this skill set. Job titles like “social media marketer” may only make an average of $50,000 annually while a “SEO specialist” could make upwards of $100,000 a year.

Along with SEO, the following qualities are considered the most critical to being a successful digital marketer:

Mastering digital engagement strategies: One of the top skills required by the would-be marketer is a willingness to get a handle on any and all digital engagement tools. Complacency is one of the biggest issues seen in the field of digital marketing. Technology is changing all the time and marketers must be able to go with the flow. This is a change from years past where job duties are simply mastered with little to no continuing education required.

Being tech savvy: Marketing budgets are being spent on the development and implementation of technical tools. Monies are not going toward building exhibits or attending conferences to gain more face-to-face interactions. Instead, money is going toward data analytics, automation tools and executing campaigns on a wide range of online networks. Getting a handle on new analytical tools without a steep learning curve required is critical to staying competitive in the field.

Strategy and planning capabilities: Day to day operations for a digital marketer is only a small part of his or her responsibilities. There is a call for marketers who are able to plot out advertising strategies well in advance. High-quality content can be assets to a company and plotted out throughout the year. Marketers should also have a “vision” of future strategies that can be implemented over time. Detail-oriented individuals are valued, but they also must be “big picture” thinkers.

Lead generation: For a successful lead generation, marketers must be able to get into the heads of their targeted audience and know what makes them tick.

Data analysis: Looking at ad analytics is only the tip of the iceberg for the digital marketer. It is required to know what to do with these figures and how to make adjustments as a way to maximize engagement.

Creativity: Creativity may not be at the top of the list of skills needed, but that doesn’t mean ingenuity should be discounted altogether. Creativity is more needed in a way that allows you to take data and transform it into something meaningful that will engage prospects. Analytical thinkers with a creative side will fare best in the industry.

Future of Digital Marketing

Looking at the trends predicted in the field of digital marketing will help job seekers stay competitive in a volatile market. Past trends involved getting website traffic via blog posts, digital ad campaigns and social media posts. New digital marketing efforts will not only focus on traffic, but also on getting quality leads and lead conversions. Here are a few strategies that are likely to be included in digital marketing campaigns in the future.

Combinations of inbound and outbound marketing strategies: This involves following up with web visitors in a way to further engage them. For instance, if a social media visitor comments on a post, the digital marketer could share more meaningful content with them to continued interactions.

Employing multiple digital marketing strategies: To stay competitive, digital marketers must know that they can’t always rely on the same online campaigns month after month. There is not one single digital marketing tool that eliminates the need for all others. Energies need to be focused on developing campaigns that complement each other in a meaningful way.

Deeper analytics: Looking at an online ad’s click through rate is not nearly enough to determine the future of your digital marketing efforts. Data mining, analyses of large sets of data, will be used in the future to determine how to best proceed with planned campaigns. Machine learning is expected to assist with data mining endeavors. Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence that permits a computer to learn and analyze large data sets without advanced programming.

Making more choices based on ROI: In the future, marketers are expected to be hyper focused on ROI (return on investment) statistics over customer engagement metrics. Although ROI can be difficult to measure initially as you look to build brand awareness, you need to use data mining and other analytics to see if digital marketing investments are paying off.

Embracing new technologies: New digital tech releases often and marketers need to stay on top of how to integrate more gadgets into their campaigns. For instance, personal digital assistants are being used more and more everyday (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant). The savvy digital marketers will find ways to use this AI to promote their brands.

Social media re-focusing: Social networks were originally developed as a way to connect with peers. It is now being used for entertainment purposes with users looking for content tailored to them. Social media users also want more control over what they see, especially in light of privacy concerns. Facebook is even launching a new option that eliminates ads from Newsfeeds. Digital marketers will need to change their strategy to work with the way social media sites are addressing privacy concerns.

The main takeaway from how digital marketing is shaping the job landscape is that these types of positions will continue to be highly valued. Businesses with a presence on any form of digital media can benefit from having a qualified digital marketer on their team.

Prospective digital marketing candidates must have a willingness to go with the flow. If new tech is being utilized, they need to know how to use it to promote their products. More and more departments are working with digital marketers to maximize profits. IT specialists, graphic designers and copywriters are just a few examples of professionals who can work successfully in conjunction with digital marketers.

Digital marketers may not need highly specialized training to succeed, but they do need to accept that they must have a capacity to learn quickly and be team-oriented.