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The 5 Essential Digital Marketing Skills You Need (& How to Get Them!)

February 17, 2020

Marketing is not about pitching to customers; it’s about communicating with individuals. It’s understanding what resonates best with them and why, and delivering value on those terms. It’s not asking them to buy, it’s building trust so that when the time comes for them to make a decision, they willingly choose you.  

Digital marketing is no different; it’s just that the dialogue occurs over electronic platforms. While the soft skills required for marketing have not changed—communication, curiosity, empathy, for example—the hard skills for digital marketing are slightly different.

In this post, we’re going to cover five digital marketing skills that are crucial for success in today’s landscape—whether you’re looking to grow your career or business or both. Plus, we’ll provide a free tool so you can assess, improve, or practice that skill, as well as a free course to help you ensure you’re building these skills on a solid foundation.

1. Copywriting

Copy is written material aimed at promoting and prompting action. Given the number of online channels that exist today, copywriting is a must-have digital marketing skill. Emails, landing pages, event invitations, paid ads, social media posts, chat bots, product descriptions—these all require copy.

Copywriting is a different skill from other writing (blog writing or technical writing, for example) because you need to be able to capture attention, communicate value, and inspire action with a limited number of words and space. You also need to be able to shift gears easily, as the expectations and mindset of an audience varies depending on platform.

digital marketing skills copywriting hellofresh

Copywriting communicates value, resonates with the reader, and prompts action.

Free copywriting tool

Good copywriting doesn’t convince or impress; it is easy, pleasant, and interesting to take in. That’s why we recommend the Hemingway App as your free copywriting tool. Paste in your copy, and it will point out sentences or sections that are complex, lengthy, or choppy. It will also measure reading time and grade level (did you know you should be writing at 8th grade level?!).

With these features, you can ensure your copywriting is as smooth and clear as can be.

digital marketing skills hemingway app

Free copywriting course

If you’re looking for a free online course to help you develop this digital marketing skill, try out Copyhackers’ Conversion Copywriting 101. This course will teach you how to keep purpose and conversion at the forefront of your writing for various forms of web content: landing pages, home pages, headlines, testimonials, ads, emails, and more.

digital marketing skills conversion copywriting 101

2. SEO

Search engines, as you know, are a regular part of the customer journey for just about any business. Whether they’re seeking the closest hair salon, looking at catering options for an upcoming event, or comparing features for a car, consumers look to search engines to help them make confident purchasing decisions.

As such, knowing how to get a business to appear for relevant searches is a crucial digital marketing skill. SEO is a complex subject with both technical and creative aspects, so it encompasses a wide range of sub-skills. You need to know how to produce and promote useful content, how to build effective directory listings, as well as how to structure and secure your website.

SEO is an ongoing investment, but the ongoing benefits of showing up on the first page of Google are hard to beat, so whether you’re brushing up on your skills or just getting started, it’s worth your time.

Free SEO tool

Woorank’s free website review tool provides a free assessment of your website’s SEO. It reports on what keywords your site appears to be focused around and lets you know if anything is missing in the way of title tags, meta descriptions, headings, alt tags, and internal links. It also checks for performance optimizations, such as security, mobile usability, sitemap validity, and file compression. Woorank covers both your on-page and off-page SEO, and it compiles everything into an easy-to-read report with a prioritized task list. It’s a must-have free tool to help you hone your SEO skills and improve your website’s rank!

digital marketing skills woorank

Free SEO course

This free SEO Training course on Udemy covers SEO from basic fundamentals to more advanced strategies. You’ll learn the vocabulary, best practices, and most effective strategies, and get familiar with on-page, off-page, mobile, and local SEO. As Google and search engines are always evolving, SEO is a digital marketing skill that needs constant maintenance. This course will provide that workout you need to stay in SEO shape. 

digital marketing skills udemy seo course

3. PPC

While showing up first in organic search results brings benefits that compound over time,  it can take a while to establish this presence. An option for gaining relevant visibility more immediately is through pay-per-click advertising. With PPC, your business is guaranteed to show in top spots, but you pay for each click your ad gets. BUT paying more doesn’t necessitate mean showing up more, because ad relevance and quality are factored in.

This relevance and quality aspect is what makes PPC a skill. You don’t just need to know how to balance or allocate your budget; you need to know which keywords to target, the best channel and ad format(s) to use, as well as how to create a cohesive experience for your audience. The better your ads are, the lower your cost per click and the higher your profits.

And PPC advertising isn’t just on search engines, either. It’s on social media, websites, apps, directories, and more, making this digital marketing skill an absolute must-have.

digital marketing skills PPC rover


Rover has PPC ads on social media and search engines 

Free PPC tool

WordStream’s free Google Ads Performance Grader is a free tool that is sure to keep your PPC skills in top shape. Sign in with your Google account, and in less than a minute, find out where you may be wasting spend and how you can improve performance metrics such as click-through rate, Quality Score, impression shares, and more. The report also includes insights on best practices, keywords, text ads, and mobile advertising. It serves to both improve your online ad performance and help you keep up with your PPC skills.

digital marketing skills wordstream google ads grader

Free PPC course

WordStream’s Growth Academy is a free and interactive learning platform with the courses you need to get up to speed on PPC basics such as account structure, keywords, conversion rate tracking and optimization, bidding strategies, and metrics. It also covers the inner workings and best practices for Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Display Ads, YouTube Ads, and Google Shopping. With Growth Academy, you can obtain or improve the digital marketing skills required to meet your goals, whether they are to generate more leads, sell more products online, or expand into ecommerce or agency account management.

4. Email

Email has been around for ages, and yet it still prevails as one of the most effective marketing strategies out there. In fact, for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $42. Rock on, email.

Email marketing is a popular digital marketing skill because it is so versatile. It can be used to convert leads, engage dormant customers, build loyalty, and more. You can send useful content, important updates, exclusive deals, event invites—the list goes on.

With finely-tuned email marketing skills, you can build out your lists and perform experiments, gaining valuable insights about your audience to help drive your goals.

Free email marketing tool

Really Good Emails enables you to learn best practices and gain inspiration from those who have mastered this digital marketing skill. Like Pinterest for emails, you can browse categories, search brands or keywords, and even save your favorites.

What’s great about this tool is that you aren’t just looking at templates with placeholder text. These are actual emails, so you can get inspiration for design as well as copy. Because sometimes, you need more than lorem ipsum.

digital marketing skills really good emails

Free email marketing course

Wishpond’s free Email Marketing Masterclass for Beginners will help you form an email marketing strategy that aligns with your business and career goals. In the 1-hour course, you’ll learn about email campaign types, email marketing funnels and goals, growing your list, A/B testing, and more. Whether you’re new to email marketing or looking to get your skills up to par, this course will set a solid foundation for you.

digital marketing skills wishpond email marketing class

5. Conversion rate optimization

So you’ve got your copywriting, SEO, PPC, and email marketing skills all in order, and you’re using them to generate lots of traffic to your website. Good work! But you’re not a digital marketing master yet. What good does it do anyone if none of these visitors takes action on your site? This is where the skill of conversion rate optimization, or CRO, comes in to complete the picture.

A conversion refers to the specific action you want a visitor to take on any given page of your website—request a quote, download a free guide, sign up for your mailing list. There are a number of factors that influence whether visitors perform these desired actions, and CRO seeks to identify the conditions that drive the most engagement. Your CRO skills involve A/B testing, conversion funnels, and engagement metrics like bounce rate. You also need to be familiar with page elements that influence conversion: copy, layout, button colors, speed, and even site structure and navigation.

Free CRO tool

A/B testing is a core feature of conversion rate optimization. However, sometimes the data can be deceiving. Kissmetrics’ Free A/B Significance Test Calculator allows you to make sure you are correctly interpreting your CRO data. Just plug in the results and it will calculate how confident you can be that the winning condition from the test will increase conversions when applied on a larger scale.

digital marketing skills AB significance testing

Free CRO course

Unbounce’s free Landing Page Course gets you squared away with landing page fundamentals, including page elements and architecture, call to action design, lead capture forms, and copywriting. There are also two video series: The Landing Page Sessions examines real campaigns, while the Landing Page Design series shows you how to apply design principles for conversion.

digital marketing skills unbounce landing page course

Prioritize these digital marketing skills this year

Digital marketing allows business to save money, expand their reach, personalize their content, and measure results. Whether you’re working in marketing or growing your own business, you need to keep up with the appropriate skills so you can ensure you’re getting the most out of the many tools and channels available today. These include:

  1. Copywriting
  2. SEO
  3. PPC
  4. Email
  5. Conversion rate optimization

The channels may may not be new, but the skills required to reap the most benefit from them are constantly evolving. Use the tools and free courses in this post to keep your digital marketing skills in top shape!

Kristen McCormick

Kristen is the content marketing manager at ThriveHive, where she helps business owners improve their online presence. She specializes in content strategy, SEO, and conversion optimization, and she finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.

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