How to Start a Career in Digital Marketing (Step-by-Step)

Digital marketing is one of the fastest-growing
industries and even during times of uncertainty, jobs in advertising and marketing
continued to grow. So today, I'm going to show you how to start
a career in digital marketing and grow both your knowledge and salary. Stay tuned. [music] I've been in digital marketing since 2009. And throughout my 11 years, I've built and
sold my own sites, freelanced, ran an agency, consulted, and today, I have the privilege
of being an employee at Ahrefs. Now, I actually have a degree in health science,
some certifications in investments and insurance, but my knowledge in digital marketing
comes from the school of hard knocks. Part of the reason is because I'm stubborn,
but it's mainly because in 2009, there really wasn't any good material online or in
schools that would give you practical guidance and advice.

So I want to walk you through the stages that
you might go through in your path to become a professional digital marketer. Alright, so the first thing you'll want to
do is to create your own website or blog. Creating your own website gives
you your own testing grounds. It lets you get practical experience with
marketing strategies without worrying about hurting someone else's site. Just choose a niche that you're interested
in and create a site using WordPress.

And there are literally thousands of
tutorials out there to help you get started. Now, don't bother overthinking things
like what your logo should be or how you'll make money from it. These things can come later. And if you're completely stuck, then create
a site that's built around your name. The important part is that you invest a bit
of money into your own website because you're less likely to give up
without giving it a fair shot. Now, once you've gotten your site setup,
I highly recommend focusing on just one area of digital marketing.

Let's go through the pros and cons of a
couple popular online marketing strategies. First up are online ads. And these are great to get
immediate traffic to your site. But I wouldn't recommend trying these until
you've gotten some experience under your belt. Reason being, you're more likely to burn
through money before you make it. Second is social media marketing. And this is great if you already have a large
following, but if you're just starting out that probably won't be the case. In my opinion, this is something to consider
further down the road once you've built a steady stream of traffic and an audience
who cares about your work. And third is SEO, which stands for
search engine optimization. The great thing about SEO traffic is that
once you're ranking, you'll be getting free, passive, and consistent traffic
from search engines like Google. Meaning, you'll be consistently reaching new
audiences and experience compounded traffic.

Now, the downside is that it works a lot
slower than advertising and social media. But if long term growth is what you're after,
then in my completely biased opinion, SEO is the strategy that I'd recommend
starting with because the skills you'll learn are transferable to many other
facets of online marketing. Alright, so the next thing you need to do is
spend some time learning about the area of internet marketing you want to pursue. The best place to start is by reading or watching
a beginner's guide on the topic from a reputable person or company. And we have a lot of tutorials for beginners
on both our YouTube channel and blog. Beginner's guides will help you get a general
overview of the marketing method and also act as a "hub" for subtopics to research after.

For example, in our SEO for beginners video,
I talk about how SEO works, then go on to talk about things like keyword research, on-
page SEO, link building, and technical SEO. And while much of the content is basic,
you can use those as pivot points to go and research those subtopics in further detail. Alright, the next and most important part
is to actually execute on the things you learn. Consuming too much content can and
will lead to analysis paralysis; where you end up over-analyzing things and
end up getting nothing done.

So don't bother reading about super-technical
things like crawl budget or wasting your time on split-testing, when you don't even
have a meaningful amount of traffic. Instead, focus on mastering the fundamentals. So for SEO, that would be things like keyword
research, content creation, and link building. These three things alone will move
the needle more than spending hours worrying if you should use
category pages for your blog.

Lastly, get acquainted with some
free digital marketing tools. If you're just starting out, I'm sure it'll be
tough to pay for premium marketing tools. But there are some free ones that I highly
recommend getting acquainted with because a) they're awesome, and b) you'll need to get
familiar with them as you progress in your career. The first is Google Analytics, which is a web
analytics platform that shows you things like the number of people visiting your site,
which pages they go to, how long they stay, and hundreds of other actionable metrics. The second is Google Search Console, which
allows you to see how your website is performing in Google search.

pexels photo 7971696

You can see which pages are indexed in
Google, the keywords your site ranks for, and the websites that link to you. The third is Ahrefs' Webmaster Tools. This is similar to Google Search Console
since we show your site's backlinks and keyword rankings, but you also get access to
a website audit tool which will scan your website for common and often easily fixable issues
that can be hurting your site's performance. The fourth is ConvertKit, which
is an email marketing tool. Their free plan lets you manage up to 1,000
subscribers and is super easy to use. I strongly recommend building
an email list right from the start. Think about it like this: if you're not giving
visitors an option to subscribe, then you could be missing out on opportunities to grow
an audience who wants to get updates from you.

Now, whether you're a student or you're
in another job, starting your own site is something you can do on the side. It's going to give you exposure to digital
marketing and it's going to prepare you for the next stage, which is to get a job or
internship at a digital marketing agency. Getting a job today is different
than it was 10 years ago. Before you had to have a degree in marketing,
business, or whatever in order to even qualify. But from my experience, tons of digital marketing
agencies are more interested in hiring creative people who have produced results. Working at an agency is a great way to learn
digital marketing fast because you'll have the opportunity to work with people
who are ahead of you in your career.

It's also a place you can find mentors and
you'll also get a ton of hands-on experience working on various types of client sites. Work your way up to a more senior position,
learn from people in your company, and if your goal is to become independent, then learn
how agencies and businesses are run. And this will happen naturally as you speak
with clients as well as senior-level management. Now, it's important to note that you shouldn't
necessarily give up on your other sites. A lot of good companies will actually
encourage you to spend time on your side projects to improve your craft. These are usually the types of people you
want to work for because they'll challenge you to become masters of your work. Alright, next up is to consider freelancing. Freelancing is a great way to get more hands
-on experience while increasing your income. And if by now, you're 3+ years into your digital
marketing career, then there's a good chance you already have some freelance
work lined up for you.

Now, the two great things about freelancing
after you've gotten a job are a) You'll have more experience to do good
work for clients, and b) you'll still have a steady salary to pay the bills. Now, if you aren't getting referrals or inbound
requests for work, then you can sign up for general sites like Upwork or People Per Hour,
and apply for jobs where you think you can do a great job. And these jobs will help you build
up your personal portfolio. Now, if you've chosen something more specialized
like copywriting or blogging, then I'd spend time picking up side gigs at Problogger Jobs
or other places that attract a specific audience. After you've built up a portfolio and somewhat
of a positive reputation in your industry, you can consider going full-time into consulting. And the keyword here is "consider." There's nothing wrong with staying in your
job, working your way up and retiring.

Not everyone is meant to be a consultant
and to be frank, not everyone should be. But for those who have really mastered their
craft and want to maximize their earnings potential, they'll generally go on
to do one of two things. #1. They'll start their own agency. And this requires hiring a team and usually
involves doing both the strategy and execution. Now, one of the great things about agency
work is that you can work with a lot of clients at the same time, since you'll have
teams to manage client accounts. You're also able to provide more services
since your team will likely be diversified.

And being a one-stop shop allows you to
maximize your earnings potential on upsells. One downside is that it can be quite costly,
since you're dealing with salaries and potentially office space. The second route is to do independent consulting. From my experience, this has a far better
net margin and hourly rates often range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The downside is that you'll usually be limited
in the number of clients you can take. Businesses often hire consultants who
specialize in an area to solve higher-level business problems.

So they might just want strategy. Or just training, or just execution. And although you may have a smaller
team to handle the more systematized parts of your business, clients will
be hiring you for your expertise. So naturally, you'll be limited to the number
of clients you can take simultaneously. Now, regardless if you go the agency or consulting
route, networks will be critical to your success. And this is why all of the other
steps are important to go through. When you create a website, you
learn and get practical experience with digital marketing strategies. When you get a job, you learn from
those who are ahead of you. When you freelance, you get a feel for what
it's like to actually run projects on your own. And as you're creating your personal brand,
this helps in developing your networks as well as authority in your niche. Two other avenues to consider at this stage
are to speak at events where your clients might be and to do a push with
inbound marketing. Speaking engagements are usually unpaid. But if the room is full of your target audience
and you have 30-60 minutes to show off your expertise, then it can be an extremely
lucrative trip.

For example, I spoke at a conference with
a primary audience of decision makers. And a lot of these people worked
at startups with funding. And after my talk was done, I had three
people approach me for consulting work. As for inbound marketing, that's
what we do at Ahrefs. We write and produce videos about problems
that our target audience might face. And even though we don't have sales pitches
in our content, there's no shortage of requests for consultations. So no matter where you are in your career,
it's not too late to start in digital marketing. And just like any other career, it
takes time to learn and grow. So if you're new, then I highly recommend
watching our beginner's tutorial on the 7 digital marketing strategies that work,
choose one to focus on, and then niche down from there. And if you enjoyed this video, then make
sure to like, share and subscribe for more actionable SEO and online marketing tutorials. I'll see you in the next one.

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