My career in digital marketing started in 2008 when I took an entry-level job as an SEO copywriter at a tiny web design firm.
This was on the tail-end of spammy tactics such as keyword stuffing and SEO link directories being effective. If you happened to know one of the 10 DMOZ editors still active at the time, you could boost your PageRank a point. And PageRank was still a thing.
I wrote content for search engines more than humans, and it showed. But everyone was doing it.
Sometime around 2009-2010 was when things really started to change. Business owners who were reluctant to blog were launching Twitter profiles. Global corporations embedded their latest tweets on their homepages.
Here are my predictions about how digital marketing will look in the coming decade.
Digital marketing managers
Job titles that contain “digital marketing” now will become less and less common. Unless you’re really good at finessing, you can’t survive as a marketer today without at least basic knowledge about digital marketing.
Go look up some marketing manger job postings. You’ll notice that they usually demand experience with CRMs, marketing automation, content management systems, social media, SEO and just about everything else that’s under the digital marketing umbrella.
If you’re a traditional marketer, now is the time to expand your digital marketing expertise unless you plan to retire in the next few years. And if you’re a digital marketer, take advantage of opportunities to learn the fundamentals of marketing. Your next job title could be “marketing manager” even though everything you do revolves around the Internet.
When businesses hopped on the Web 2.0 bandwagon a decade ago, the advice they got was almost completely different than what they’d hear today:
- Be everywhere: Everybody needs to be on every social network! At one point, I got dinged on a Hubspot quiz because I said SEO was more important than social media. Everyone was taking their cues from self-described social media mavens who mostly just padded each other on the back until everyone tuned them out.
- Throw the kitchen sink at website visitors: In the early 2010s, corporate websites had hokey Twitter feeds embedded on their homepages, ugly keyword clouds in widget areas, autoplay videos and music, and gigantic social media share icons.
- Use as many plugins as you can: If you were launching a WordPress or Joomla! site 10 years ago, you’d be told to you must use 15-25 plugins. Who cares if it slows pagespeed own more if visitors can see snowflakes fall on your homepage in December, right?
- Get as many links as you can: Truth be told, I scored some links from some pretty shady sites that boosted rankings significantly. That would never happen today.
Toward the end of the 2010s, the way of thinking changed. Now you’re told:
- Be where your customers are: Not every business needs daily Instagram posts. You can ignore TikTok for the time being. No one is interested in B2B Snapchat accounts. However, I still recommend at least starting an account when a new social media platform blows up to prevent the competition for taking your username.
- Eliminate distractions on your website: It should be a tool for customers to learn and communicate with your business. Anything that gets in the way can negatively impact profits.
- Use only the plugins you need: There is no reason to use a plugin unless there’s no other way to accomplish something. Too many plugins will reduce your site’s speed (and possibly rankings, though that’s hotly contested right now) and introduce security vulnerabilities. Just a few weeks ago, the WP Database Reset plugin was exposed for allowing non-logged in users to make edits! I’ve actually used that plugin before when I had to troubleshoot a hacked blog without FTP access but I deleted it right away. If I have to use a plugin for a quick task, I’ll do it in a staging area and deactivate/delete it before moving to the live site. Be careful out there.
- Disavow fishy links: I don’t agree with this one but it’s still common advice. If you haven’t engaged in black hat link building, you don’t need to worry about disavowing every spammy website that links to you. Any site that’s been around for a few years has suspect inbound links.
More sales alignment
Marketing and sales departments are usually at least a little adversarial. Marketers think the hard work is getting the leads to flow in, and salespeople think the hard part is closing the deal. I’m a marketer with no interest in adopting a salesperson lifestyle so I’ll go ahead and say their job is harder. Even though it’s not.
If you’re an in-house marketer, the best way to move up the ladder is to develop a close relationship with sales. Make yourself indispensable to the sales team.
As a digital marketer, you’ll be even more valuable if you can troubleshoot issues with SFDC and talk intelligently about sales cycles. You don’t need to live and breathe sales to do this. You’d be surprised what you can learn just eavesdropping.
Large corporations will always spend a fortune on their digital marketing. A $100K website is nothing to a multi-billion-dollar company but it’s out of the question for mid-sized companies.
Amateur website publishing has been a thing since the 90s, when I got my feet wet with Angelfire, Geocities, and AOL Members, but in 2020 it’s possible for almost anyone to build a beautiful site in a day. Even Wix and GoDaddy put the early 2010s technology to shame.