A rookie’s advice on learning Digital Marketing — for rookies

November 1, 2018
Confusion in learning

Open more than 5 tabs and end up doing nothing — save 20 bookmarks, and read none

If you try to learn digital marketing and look for a guide (or so to say) online, you’ll come across plenty of “ultimate”, “complete” and “step-by-step” resources published by marketers or agencies.

These lack a personal touch and aim to have you register to an e-mail newsletter or try a service. That’s because that “publication” is part of their content strategy to capture leads 💰.

Also, they tend to contain plenty of internal links — you end up opening them, read a third and just give up because there was way too much to read.

They boost their internal linking while you boost your “give-up” rate. When you look for a course, it may even be more confusing.

Some charge a fee while others do not even let you register until the next batch, on top of paying thousands of dollars. Heh.

Where do I start?

This is the question I had in mind for months until I decided to start. Should I learn PPC first? Or SEO? Hang on, isn’t SEO dead? Ah no, it’s back … I just typed it on Google.

What on Earth is an ad network? How does it work? And isn’t CRO supposed to mean “Chief Revenue Officer”?.

God damn! Too many acronyms and fuzzy words.

The “skeptics” were of no help either. A statement such as “SEO is dead” made me lose motivation and diminished my curiosity about the topic.

Every time I read a blog post on how a platform or skill would no longer be useful, I felt it was pointless to start exploring it.

At this point, you might say: “I think you’re stupid, someone’s frivolous opinion should not dictate the skill set you want to develop”. You’re correct. Folks! Confusion is at its prime 😵.

Get a grasp of the jargon and familiarize yourself with important terms — befriend the acronyms

Too many terms

This article is free of links. I want you to read the entire piece (as long as you are learning), and cultivate your own opinion on how to start learning. There will be no definitions in this article. Why? I want you to do your own research and build your own definition. Reading multiple definitions will help you build your own.

I am not affiliated with any of the resources I will mention (or recommend). Let’s get started.

As a LinkedIn user, I turned to LinkedIn learning and started to explore the jargon:

  • SEO (search engine optimization).
  • PPC (pay-per-click).
  • SEM (social engine marketing).
  • Social media marketing.
  • Growth hacking.
  • Content marketing.
  • E-mail marketing.
  • Affiliate marketing.
  • CRO (conversion rate optimization).
  • YouTube analytics.
  • Ad networks.
  • Google’s toolbox: analytics, adwords, keyword planner, search console and so on.

This is a good start for a noob, as it helps with having a better perspective on the different aspects of the digital marketing realm.

At this stage, I had not watched any courses yet and was simply informing myself about what to explore in depth 👻.

Start with one topic and commit for a certain time period — once you start, there is no return

Absorbing SEO

I randomly selected SEO and decided to make it “my topic” for September.

I promised to educate myself on the subject and be quite knowledgeable about SEO by the month’s end.

You can do the same for any topic you feel like learning.

Be it for a skill you want to use in freelance, your current job or any other reason.

You don’t have to pick from the list above — just create your own.

Or don’t create any and just start learning immediately.

To cover the basics and beyond, boost my motivation, and understand SEO-related topics, I took the following courses:

  • “Become an SEO expert” on LinkedIn
  • “Learning Content Marketing” on LinkedIn (the course has been removed)
  • “Content Marketing” on the free HubSpot Academy
  • “The 2018 SEO Training Course” on the free HubSpot Academy
  • “SEO: E-commerce” on LinkedIn
  • “Advanced SEO: Search Factors” on LinkedIn
  • “SEO: Apps” on LinkedIn
  • “SEO Fundamentals Course with Greg Gifford” on the free SEMRush Academy
  • “Technical SEO course with Bastian Grimm” on the free SEMRush Academy

I enjoyed the format of the latter two and really found the technical course enriching. As you move further into SEO, you get to the importance of meta descriptions, headers, and tags to rank your website. To understand that better, I completed the following course on LinkedIn:

  • “HTML Essentials Training”

Since I am not inclined to learn the language, I did not complete the coding tasks. However, I feel more at ease now when confronted with a source code. JavaScript SEO is a topic that got me curious, so I have added to my list the following LinkedIn course:

  • “JavaScript Essential Training”

And just out of curiosity (and pure boredom), I took the following LinkedIn learning courses too:

  • “Learning Conversion Rate Optimization”
  • “Programmatic Advertising Foundations”
  • “Affiliate Marketing: Advertising”

Do not focus on accumulating certificates, but acquiring knowledge and understand how to apply it.

I used to focus on getting certified but then realized how hollow that was.

Tip: if the author is too slow while you watch videos, increase the video speed.I did not limit myself to watching videos online but read blog posts and documentation as well from:
  • Google Analytics Help
  • HubSpot
  • MOZ
  • Neil Patel
  • SEMRush
  • Backlinko
  • Elephate
  • Link-assistant
  • Search Engine Land
  • Search Engine Watch

And others.

I started listening to the “Digital Marketing School” podcast on CastBox and covered the first 100 episodes. Combining different methods of learning — watching videos, listening to podcasts and reading blogs — was a great way to steepen my learning curve.

I am not saying that the above resources are the best and hold the absolute truth, but they have been helpful to me.

Allow me to reiterate. Educate yourself and build your own opinion. The practice eventually will help you do much better.

Why did I choose those resources? Pure randomness 🐙.

Funnily, I shared a few of the resources I used with an “SEO expert” to seek advice, and he mentioned that many of them are “really bad”.

As I was learning, I took notes of best practices on Evernote and created my personal “marketing toolbox”.

Complete a month, assess how much knowledge you’ve acquired — if satisfied, attack the next month

Understand digital marketing terms

September was a success for me. I had learned the basics of SEO — and beyond, which felt like a huge boost in knowledge compared to the beginning of the month.

Evidently, this was just the onset.

For October, my plan was to deepen my knowledge in SEO and get better at Excel (and Google Sheets).

Spreadsheets are probably not essentials for digital marketing — according to a few experts I had a chat with — but can make your life easy when you want to analyze data. Also, I find them useful in my career and personal finance.

I completed the following courses on LinkedIn learning:

  • “Analyzing your website to improve SEO”
  • “Google Sheets: pivot tables”

And added the following LinkedIn learning path to my list:

  • “Master Microsoft Excel”

On purpose, I take some basic courses to refresh my mind about certain topics. I also take multiple “basics” courses on a topic from different learning platforms to make sure I cover it all. Repetition can be boring, but I find it fruitful.

I suggest you draw your own skillset diagram to see where you are at and where you want to move to 🏋.

You are not limited to digital marketing — you can add languages, general business skills, and other topics you find relevant.

Think about what you want to achieve and set reasonable goals — prevent useless failure

Prepare learning roadmap

This article is by no means a step-by-step article. It is written to inspire you to create your own method to learn digital marketing (or another domain). The idea is to set attainable objectives. Start small, keep growing small and once you feel you can do more, aim higher.

For example, if you have a tight schedule and feel that learning content marketing would be beneficial, do not commit to completing 5 online courses and reading 40 long blog posts on the topic in a single week.

Complete one single course in the first week. Complete one single course in your second week. Complete one single course in your third week. Feel confident enough? Cool. Increase the dosage.

If in one of those weeks you feel that you can do more, go ahead. But that should not set a new benchmark.

If on week two you manage to complete three courses, that does not mean you have to complete three or more in week three. Stick to the initial agenda. Also, to keep track of all your progress, I suggest to write it down or keep a record of it, on Trello for example.

Be wary of how you set goals.

Make sure to control your dopamine levels (secreted when you set ambitious goals and imagine yourself becoming who you want to be) and keep room for surprises in your agenda 🚧.

Try getting mentors and create your own toolbox — incorporate learning in your mundane tasks too

Get mentors

If you manage to have a mentor while you learn digital marketing, that would be a great boost.

Do not fall for any mentor, she or he should have credibility and demonstrated results.

There are many clowns in the field, and it seems like it is hard to distinguish the skilled from the charlatan.

You can tap into your personal or professional network to get advice. I personally used LinkedIn to reach out to two interesting profiles I had found. None responded 😿. But I am not giving up.

Also, create your own toolbox with your favorite platforms and tools. I have a list I keep augmenting and highlighted them below — among many others:

  • Google: search console, analytics, trends, ads, data testing tool, email markup tester, structured data markup tester, and page speed insights
  • Keywords: LSI keyword, infinite suggest
  • Crawling: screaming frog
  • Speed: pagelocity, dotcom monitor
  • Audit: yellow lab tools, site checker pro
  • Structure: mofo snippet optimizer

This is by no means a great list. It just contains a few of the tools and platforms I have compiled and want to explore more.

As I grow in the field, I will keep updating my personal toolbox — and so should you as you evolve.

As for incorporating learning into your mundane tasks, I prescribe listening to a podcast while washing the dishes / cleaning your home or reading a couple of blog posts while taking the metro.

If these do not apply to you, then you can find a way to learn while doing something that does not require much brain power (preparing your meals, washing clothes, decluttering your room).

If you are a noob like me, create your own framework — there is no magic resource out there

Create your own learning system

Again. In case some of you missed the point, I am not an expert, not even a tenth of it. The tools and resources I have listed are just examples of what I used.

My aim here is to encourage you to create your own framework and learning methodology to keep track of your progress.

Do not let yourself be discouraged by colleagues and your entourage. If you want to learn digital marketing (a term that seems to be despised by some), then start doing so.

I recall from my first working experience, I approached my manager and told him about my plans of learning Google Ads. He rebutted instantly saying that we already had a Head of Digital Marketing and I should focus on learning something else.

While the manager made a fair point, I still should have learned Google Ads — for my self, and potential new employers.

Just because one of your team members is good at something, does not mean you don’t have to be good as well.

Now that you’ve read this, I encourage you to adopt the same framework or create a totally different one — as long as it works. Do it for SEO, another digital marketing topic, or a skill you really want to learn.

“insert cheesy call-to-action to encourage readers to write a comment to increase my chances of ranking higher — meh*“insert Twitter handle”
Omar Benseddik

Omar Benseddik

Frontend web developer


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