Are you interested in a career as a digital marketer? Here is a step-by-step guide to teach yourself and become a digital marketing expert without courses. There are usually two routes to become an expert, one way is to snag a digital marketing job that allows you to learn along the way and the second, is to pick up the skills yourself while studying or doing a job that does not involve digital marketing.
I built my career as a digital marketer using the second route. In my experience, it has allowed me to grow faster in the industry and I have been fortunate to have a more holistic understanding of the internet ecosystem. The problem with learning on the job is you never get the broad view of all aspects of digital marketing and do not understand how each aspect interacts with the other and how they can be maximized when worked together.
My preparation for a career in digital marketing started when I had no idea what digital marketing was and before e-commerce and digital marketing jobs even existed in India.
How did this happen?
Year 2007. While in college, I heard how some people made money online. As a cash crunched college student I was very curious, I spoke to an acquaintance who was making money from the internet. While not divulging everything, he told me about a program from Google that allowed him to show ads on his blog. Whenever visitors came to his site and clicked on those ads, he earned a couple of cents and sometimes even dollars.
This was fascinating to me, I quickly came back and searched online for ways to start a blog for free. Back then, I found that Blogspot.com was a good place to start a blog for free and what’s more, it allowed me to show Google Ads. Thus began my foray into learning everything that would make me ready for a digital marketing job in the future. This blog that I started in college still earns me tidy sum of money each month even though I have stopped updating it.
Before I list out the step-by-step process I used to become a digital marketing expert, here is an article that explains what is digital marketing. Read it if you need a clear understanding of what this term means and what the buzz is all about.
Overview to Becoming a Digital Marketing Expert
This is an index for the steps which you can follow to learn digital marketing by yourself. The logic behind this is simple, by practicing and implementing the points below you will grasp faster and learn practical knowledge about digital marketing. There also some digital marketing books which I would recommend to assist you in your goal of becoming a digital marketing expert.
The objective of the steps below are to teach you to start a small website and grow it, which is what a digital marketer does for internet businesses. Therefore, in addition to learning the concepts of digital marketing, you might also end up making a bit of money in the process. Here we go:
- Start a blog. Choose a topic you love (books, cars, movies) and start writing on this blog.
- Learn and implement SEO (Search Engine Optimization). If nobody is reading your blog, SEO helps.
- Measure using Google Analytics. Check if your site is getting visitors using Google Analytics.
- Apply for Google Adsense. Showing Google ads is the primary source of revenue for any new blog.
- Perfect content marketing. Write more relevant content and increase the articles on your blog.
- Set up a Facebook page. This is the social media presence of your blog.
- Enable email subscriptions. Start getting email subscribers for your blog.
- Register for Google Adwords. Pay for Google ads for driving traffic to your blog.
- Use Facebook ads. Pay for Facebook ads for driving more traffic to you blog.
- Reflect on your journey. Look back and see how decisions you made impacted your blog.
Now I shall provide a detailed explanation on how to execute each of the steps above. There is the learning objective mentioned with each activity, this is what you learn at the end of each task.
Start a blog
What do you love? Is it latest cars or would you rather watch the latest flicks. Whatever you like, choose a topic that you know a fair bit about and that you like writing about. For example, this blog is about digital marketing, because I love this subject!
- Understand the basics of building a website using WordPress
- Learn to register a domain name and hosting a website on a server
- Using the website as a platform to implement digital marketing
Now you may want to know, how to start a blog?
It’s extremely easy, thanks to WordPress. I suggest using WordPress for your blog because it simply is the most powerful platform available that allows you to create an online presence. Currently WordPress powers 20% of the websites on the internet. However, before we get to installing WordPress, let us arrange a name for your website.
- Register a domain name on Namecheap.com. A domain name is the name of your website, for example Mashable.com or Cultofdigital.com. Here is a list of top domain name registrars.
- Purchase web hosting on Bluehost.com. As the term suggests, web hosts such as Bluehost provide the server (memory and bandwidth) that you need to host your domain name.
- Complete hosting your domain name on Bluehost and install WordPress from the Bluehost Control Panel. This should take five minutes.
The above steps will allow you to have your very own powerful WordPress blog and you have taken the first step to becoming a digital marketing expert. If you want to skip this step, you can start your own free blog at Blogger.com. However you may want to think twice due to the limited control you possess and weak impact they have on search engine rankings.
Search engine optimize your blog
Once you have your blog set up and before you write your first set of article. It is very important to understand how to get your first batch of visitors to the blog. For example, how did you arrive at this blog? I would assume you searched for something on Google and the blog appeared in search results.
- Understand the factors impacting SEO of a website
- Search engine optimize articles on the blog
- Understand important SEO terms
Here are some fundamentals of SEO for your blog:
- The whole blog should focus on a singular theme, for example if it is cars – then all your content should revolve around cars or at least, automotive content in general. This is because Google views all your content together and prefers to rank websites that are specialists on a particular topic. One of the reasons why personal blogs do not rank very well.
- Secondly, your articles should adhere to the keyword density. Keyword is the term for which you want to appear in the search engine for. For example, do you want to rank for “best sports cars” – then that is your target keyword. Keyword density is the number of times your target keyword appears in your article. The typical keyword density of an article should be around 2%.
- Finally, focus on how the URL structure of the links to your article affect search rankings, understand how to write titles for your articles that are search engine optimized.
Doing the above will give you a primer on SEO. A digital marketing expert who does not have SEO basics strongly embeded in his mind will struggle to growth hack the business he works for.
Measuring with Google Analytics
How would you measure if your blog is getting visitors? And how would you know what search terms you’re ranking for or what articles are the most popular on your blog? All this data is easily available if your blog is integrated with Google Analytics.
- Get comfortable with Google Analytics dashboard
- Understand important metrics of a website
- Learn to diagnose website issues
- Learn important terms in digital marketing
Now you will realize the amazing potential Google Analytics has, this platform will become the most valuable tool for you and is regarded as a necessary expertise for any digital marketing expert. This tool is very important for improving website performance and traffic over time. Here is how you can become well conversant with Google Analytics using your WordPress blog.
- Sign up at Google Analytics website.
- Log in and find the Google Analytics tracking code. Insert this code into your WordPress blog.
- Access Google Analytics and start measuring the following metrics:
- Traffic: The number of visitors to your site
- Traffic sources
- Unique visitors
- Page views
- Bounce rate
- Top exit pages
- Search keywords
- Top pages
- Make sure you understand what each of the terms stands for. Based on reading the above metrics come up with a plan to boost traffic to your blog and make your visitors stick around for longer at your blog.
Google Analytics is a very fundamental tool that every digital marketer and internet entrepreneur must master. Please make sure that you spend sufficient time exploring this site. Personally, I find it a lot of fun to look and analyze what visitors are doing at my site.
Monetize with Google Adsense
After a month or two once you see traffic trickling into your website, you can try to make money from your blog. For this we will use Google Adsense. Google Adsense is a platform which allows you to publish ads to your blog. When visitors to your website click on these ads, you generate revenue. Start off with the steps below.
- Understand how publisher side of online advertising works
- Learn ad placement optimization
- Understand the logic of online ad bidding and key terms
Here is how one of the ways you can make money online with a blog:
- Sign up at Google Adsense and await approval.
- Once your account is approved, login and create ads of different sizes depending on how you want to place them on your blog. You can place a maximum of three Google ads on a single web page.
- Monitor and measure your income from the different ad placements. Sometimes ads to the side of the content will work, sometimes a banner within your articles will get you more clicks. Either ways, once you place Google ads, the key to maximizing your profit is to place the ads correctly on your blog.
- Monitor the CPC (cost-per-click) of the ads. Are you earning very little for a click on the ad (lesser than 10 cents?) It may be because the keywords you utilize in your articles are not very competitive.
When you place Google ads on your blog, Google tries to show ads relevant to your content. Which means for a car blog, the ads shown will be related to cars (automobile insurance, automobile parts, companies etc.). Based on how valuable a keyword is for an advertiser and how popular your blog is, you can make varying income. If a keyword is very valuable, there will be multiple advertisers bidding for it and therefore, you have a probability of making more money if you write articles around those terms. You can research for the competitiveness of keyword on Google ads using Google’s keyword planner tool.
Accelerate content marketing with blog
I consider content marketing to begin with the first article you publish on your blog. Any content that is written with the intention to pull visitors, educate users or drive sales is content marketing. A blog is one of the most popular medium of content marketing.
- How to create a content calendar
- How to use content to drive sales for affiliate and otherwise
- Why content marketing is important
Content marketing is one of the most powerful and free way that many businesses have grown. Take popular sites like BuzzFeed or ScoopWhoop, they are both examples of good content marketing. A corporate website of a big Multi-national company is another example of content marketing because it serves to educate visitors about their brand and mission.
- Create a content calendar for your blog. Use an Excel sheet of Google spreadsheet to list the following in columns:
- Date of article to be posted
- Title of article
- SEO keyword targeted
- Keep modifying the content calendar as per your requirements. Consider starting to post content on other blogs as a guest blogger.
- As you want to grow traffic to your blog, the key will be to write as many quality articles as possible. Write articles that are useful to users. Try writing articles that endorse something. For example, if your blog is about cars. You could write an article about the “best car fragrances”, link your list to the car fragrance items on Amazon. Make money when someone purchases a car fragrance at Amazon when he goes via the link shared on your article. This is possible using the Amazon affiliate program.
When you make your first sale via your content, you will realize how users trust good content to make their purchase decisions. As a digital marketing expert responsible for driving sales you should be adept at leveraging content marketing strategy for sales.
Implement social media marketing on your blog
You must have social media marketing all over the place, its the new buzz word when it comes to business growth. Take small steps into social media marketing using your blog.
- Setting up Facebook page
- Acquiring fans on Facebook page
- Maintaining a Facebook page to drive engagement
- Understand Facebook engagement metrics
When we talk about social media marketing, it implies that we are not going to spending an advertising money in driving it. Let us look at free ways of social media marketing.
- Go to Facebook to create a page and follow the on-screen instruction to set up a page for your blog.
- Add a Like box to your blog encouraging visitors coming to your website to become a fan of your page and receive updates on their Facebook feed.
- Start posting updates from your blog on your Facebook page. Try to make the title interesting for users to click on and visit your blog. Also share content from other pages related to your blog. The key to a good social media strategy is to give your fans fun and interesting content.
- Measure Facebook engagement of your fans using Facebook Insights.
By doing the above you will get learning into how Facebook works and what sort of content works and does not work on Facebook. Also understanding the challenges to grow Facebook page without ads is crucial as it will allow you to come up with more creative ways to devise your social media strategy.
Basics of email marketing
When you log into your inbox do you get flooded by emails asking you to buy things and book tickets you can’t travel? If yes, that is your experiencing aggressive email marketing by companies. But I am sure, even the most annoyed customer has sometimes found something that he is interested in within those promotional emails. If not, there are at least blogs or websites that you might subscribe to whose content you read when they send you an update. That’s exactly what we’ll do with your blog.
- Understand how email marketing works
- Understand important metrics of email marketing
- How to implement email marketing for a blog
Proceed with email marketing for the blog using the following steps:
- Sign up at email marketing services such as Aweber or MailChimp, these are free if your subscriber base is fairly low.
- Place a sign-up box on you blog where readers can enter their email address to subscribe to your updates.
- Design an email template using your email marketing service. This will be the format and design in which users will see your email.
- Once you have enough data, start tracking important email marketing metrics such as Open Rate, Click-through-rates and using Google Analytics see how visitors from your subscriber emails are behaving on your website.
One of the challenges you will face is to acquire more email subscribers for your blog. The process of understanding how to drive more sign-ups and getting more users to open the emails you send them (open rate) will define the key learning for you to become a digital marketing expert.
Create your first ad using Adwords
Now it is time to learn Search Engine Marketing using Google Adwords. Google Adwords is a platform that allows you to create ads that display on Google search engine.
- Learn to create ads on Google Adwords
- Learn to do keyword research for ads
- Optimize ads for maximum return on investment
- Understand major digital marketing metrics
Once your blog has started to gain momentum on search engine traffic via organic means and you are also slowly seeing some traffic from your social media and email marketing efforts, it is time to focus on key skill for a digital marketing expert and that is Google Adwords.
- Sign up for an account at Google Adwords.
- When you set up a new Adwords account, you are eligible for free $100 credit for free. In case you do not receive it, you can contact Adwords support services and they can provide you with this credit.
- Choose a page from your blog where you want to drive traffic to. This can be decided as follows: the page either is a sales page which allows you to make affiliate income from Amazon, Flipkart etc. or it could be a page that gives you very high Google Ads income. Essentially, you need to pick a web page from where you can gain value out of the money that you are going to spend on Google Adwords.
- Create an ad for the landing page. Set a CPC (cost-per-click) for your ad, which is the maximum bid money you are willing to pay for each click.Write an ad copy that is appealing. Research on what search terms you want the ad to show up for and make it go live.
- The CPC can be lower than your maximum CPC bid depending on the competition for the keyword from other advertisers. If your maximum bid is lower than your competitor, you will observe that your ad is delivered at a weaker position than the advertiser who has set a higher maximum CPC bid.
- After your Adwords campaign goes live, monitor it daily. Check the CPC for different keywords, see the CTR of your ad and think about ways of improving it. Finally analyze bidding on which search terms is giving you the maximum returns. Get rid from bidding on terms that are getting you visitors but not offering any return on investment. All this can be tracked using Google Adwords and Google Analytics.
Learning to operate Google Adwords is a much longer process. However, doing the above for even a week will give you a glimpse into a day of the digital marketer. More than anything else, the conceptual learning and understanding that you would gain from the process of how the advertising ecosystem works would be invaluable.
Paid marketing using Facebook Ads
Over the last couple of years Facebook Ads have come of equal prominence to Google Adwords. In addition, you will find the average cost you pay for Facebook ads for the same amount of traffic would be lesser. However, you would also observe that Facebook target would be a little more generic in comparison to its counterpart.
- Learn to create ads on Facebook
- Understand key advantages of using Facebook ads over Google ads
- Tracking and optimizing ad campaign performance
Use the following steps to create a Facebook ad for your blog.
- Head over to Facebook for business with your personal ID and click on Create an Advert.
- Choose a landing page like you did for Google Adwords and create your first Facebook ad.
- Measure results using Google Analytics. Be sure to tag your Facebook ads with a UTM parameter.
- Read the data on Google Analytics and Facebook ad platform to see how you can improve the performance of these ads to achieve maximum value.
Using Facebook ads after Google Adwords will teach you how these two ad engines target users differently. Also using different ad platforms will give you practice to become more comfortable with CPC bidding for online ads.
While this article has listed out each of the tasks in separate points, these should be done paralleled eventually. For example, email marketing should be automated and content calendars should perpetually contain new content ideas and targets. All content you write must be search engine optimized and you should try to improve revenue from your blog for the traffic that it brings in.
Growing your blog using all these digital marketing techniques will teach you digital marketing in the most practical way possible and give you a better understanding than anyone who has attended lecture courses. I have already shared an article on how digital marketing courses such as DSIM are not at all effective. Take it from me, I was just a blogger and in 2015 I personally handled over a million US dollars worth of online advertising budget for the e-commerce firm that I worked for. If you think my path is worth following, then this guide lists it in detail.
I sincerely hope that this self-help guide to become a digital marketing expert is useful to you and fairly straight-forward to implement. Since I want to keep making the guide more in-depth and easier to understand, I would really appreciate the comments which you can share with me. These comments can be in the form of questions, doubts or feedback. All the best!