How to learn digital marketing and get entry-level marketing jobs

Internet marketing education

Do you want to know where to find the best jobs in digital marketing and web development?

Just ask your iPhone!

Using advanced voice recognition, your smartphone or tablet can tell you whatever you need to know. But how? Well, it starts with advanced computer technology, search engines, and social media networking, which all require technical skills. You can be part of this skilled workforce if you follow these essential steps to understanding the options available and how to get started choosing your niche and learning the tools of the trade.

The Internet has revolutionized and disrupted many industries. Since only about one-third of the world’s 7 billion people are online, there’s still lots of room for the web to grow, and an almost endless amount of skilled workers will be needed to build that digital future. We’re already experiencing technological advances that seemed more in the realm of science fiction just a decade or two ago, and it seems like the there is no end in sight to the changes technology will continue to bring.

Digital Marketing Jobs Videos

In the following videos, John McDougall talks to students about how to get entry-level digital marketing jobs. In the first video, John speaks to a group of high school students at North Shore Community College. He had limited time to speak, but this is a good overview of some of the jobs in the industry, including some tips and tools for helping you to educate yourself and stand out from the crowd. Click to view a PDF of the presentation slides or view the transcript for the video below. The second video was a presentation at Endicott College on Authority Marketing and Entry-Level Digital Marketing Jobs. It’s longer, and a bit more in-depth than the first video, and quite useful as an overview of Authority Marketing and jobs in the digital marketing industry.

Do you have the right personality for an Internet marketing job?

Before you jump right into this world, you should know that there are many different types of people in the digital marketing realm, all with different skill sets. The following are just few examples:

  • Creative Visually/Artist
  • Creative with Language/Writer
  • Math Skills/Programmer
  • Analytical/Research Analyst
  • Business Intelligence/Strategist

There are two widely used career assessment tools that you can discuss with a career counselor that can help you decide which general path might be best for you, so you’re able to do what’s more natural for your particular personality:

  1. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) says that there are 16 different personality types.
  2. The Strong Interest Inventory (SII) identifies interests and compares this information to the likes and dislikes of individuals in more than 100 occupations.

Learn more about career exploration.

Learn more about career assessment.

Learn more about what you can do with your personality type.

Also check out these profiles of hundreds of jobs from the bureau of labor statistics.

So what types of digital marketing jobs are there? There are as many as there are tactics in the web marketing arsenal. Here are some of the key job categories:

  1. Internet marketing strategist
  2. Web designer
  3. Web developer  
  4. Search engine optimization specialist
  5. Link builder
  6. Online public relations and reputation management expert
  7. Social media marketer
  8. Online copywriter/blogger
  9. Paid search expert
  10. Analytics expert
  11. Conversion rate optimizer
  12. Email marketer
  13. Local search
  14. Mobile optimizer
  15. Viral video and viral marketing campaign expert

In comparison, here are some of top traditional marketing jobs:

  1. Creative director
  2. Producer for TV commercials and corporate videos
  3. Public relations specialist 
  4. Market research analyst 
  5. Sales manager 
  6. Advertising sales agent 
  7. Copywriter 
  8. Advertising/promotions/marketing manager
  9. Public relations managers
  10. Promotions managers
  11. Brand managers
  12. Graphic designer
  13. Media planner
  14. Account executive/manager
  15. Photographer

What does each of these Internet marketing jobs require you to do?

Internet marketing strategist – You must understand how each of the tactics goes together so you can create a marketing plan that leverages the relationships among tactics. You must be able to think not just tactically about how to do each type of marketing, but how to create short, mid, and long-term goals, as well as how to achieve them. A person with these skills can often get chief marketing officer and director-level jobs.

Web designer – You’ll be required to understand how to design websites in a way that follows traditional design principles, as well as create a high-quality user experience. Web designers usually also need to do a certain amount of basic web development due to a shortage of design-only jobs. Front-end developer is a common job description for those who are stronger on design than back-end development.

Web developer – This role requires significant training in various programming languages and databases. There is an extreme shortage of web developers in this country – so much so that HubSpot, a leading web marketing software company, is offering a $30,000 bonus to anyone, not just recruiters, who can find them a programmer.

Here’s some background information to put it in perspective: says that more than 1.4 million computer jobs will be needed by 2020, yet only 400,000 students will study computer science in college. That means there will be 1 million more jobs than students!

Check out an amazing graphic that shows stats at

In addition, the number-one trending job at the moment, according to job site, is that of HTML5 developer.

Some of the hot jobs in both web development in computer science in general:

Web Developers

HTML5, Puppet, Hadoop, jQuery, PaaS developers

Software developers

Database administrators, DBAs

Computer programmers

Computer and information systems managers

Computer hardware engineers

Information security analysts

Computer network architects and network engineers

Computer information research scientists

Computer technical support specialists

Chief technology officer, CTO

Chief information officer, CIO

Chief science officer, CSO

Search engine optimization specialist – This job requires you to constantly research what the search engines prefer when judging a website. There are more than 200 items in the Google algorithm, and they don’t give away a clear list because that’s their secret sauce. It’s your role to discover what tactics are hot (based on reading the latest industry blogs and through testing, since books quickly become outdated by the time they’re printed) and motivate teams to adjust websites using things like keyword optimization, proper website design structure, link building, social media optimization, content development, and more. If you like Rubik’s cubes, you will love SEO because there’s no clear guide to doing it. Keep in mind SEO is often fun for those with ADD and people that like to bounce from one task to the next and always be learning new things.

Link builder – Links are the highways of the web. Google became famous for their link algorithm called PageRank, which analyzes not only the text on a website but the amount of high-quality and topically related links that point from other sites to it. Links are like votes of confidence. They can be from news sites, blogs, industry partners, etc. Link building is one of the least understood and most manipulated tactics in all of web marketing. It used to be you could create meaningless articles and place them on article directories that very few people visited except the search engines. But with the development of the Google Penguin Algorithm, marketers must now get only high-quality links if they want to avoid being penalized. This role is now much more akin to public relations.

Online public relations and reputation management expert – Your reputation can make or break your business. So being in charge of the brand mentions and media visibility for a company is an extremely important role. The days of print-only press coverage is gone, and now PR people need to use social media extensively as part of the outreach process. The good news is there are many great tools to help you find bloggers, journalists, and websites on which to get mentions, but you will need to keep abreast of fast-paced changes as the media is going through significant disruption because of the Internet.

Social media marketer – Social media has two main components: Sharing content and engaging people. You must be prepared to create content and engagement calendars for each of the major social networks. At the very least, you will need to know how to optimize Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, but you should also understand many of the smaller networks, like Instagram, Stumble Upon, and Tumblr.

Online copy writer/blogger – Writing for the web is significantly different than writing for offline campaigns. On the web you need to create content that is scan- and skim-friendly so people can glance at the copy and get an idea of what it’s saying. You also need to carefully use keywords and connect the content when appropriate to social media/social sharing. Websites are also often the first point of contact people have with a brand, so you need to understand the role of trust factors like testimonials, awards, and affiliations when you write for the web so you can be more persuasive.

Paid search expert – Paid search campaigns include the paid ads in Google run by Google Adwords, banner ads, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn ads, and more. Your role is not only to manage the ad placement but to create a low cost-per-acquisition and high ROI. A good paid search person understands analytics as well as conversion optimization.

Analytics expert – Tools like Google Analytics, HubSpot, and Adobe Site Catalyst can help you understand who’s visiting your site, what sources they came from, and how many leads you’re getting. A good analyst is very detail oriented and likes looking for trends in data.Without a clear understanding of what your website visitors are doing, you can’t go in and fix the problems that are turning visitors away before completing a call to action. Most companies at the end of the day want their websites to produce sales, not just clicks, so this role that provides data on what’s working what isn’t is one of the most important in the industry.

Conversion rate optimizer – For every $92 spent driving traffic, only $1 is spent making a better website that generates more sales. Your conversion rate is the amount of visitors as compared to the amount of sales. Changing and testing new headlines, images, calls to action, and trust factors using software and creativity are what make this role exciting and highly profitable. Even a small increase, from a 1% to a 1.3% conversion rate can, for companies doing a large amount of business, generate additional sales in the millions of dollars.

Email marketer – Email marketing often has the highest ROI of all marketing because it is all but free to do and can create consistent leads. Being an email expert is usually part of a larger job description but is an often a critical part of an overall marketing strategy. Marketing automation that allows marketers to email people/leads using a series of rules and schedules is an advanced version of email marketing that is currently booming.

Local search – When you search Google for a pizza shop, health club, or even a lawyer, local results are displayed with a map. Most search engines have robust mobile options and results. Some studies suggest that as much as 43 percent of total Google search queries are local! In this role, you will be studying what makes one company come up well in mobile versus another and optimizing to get more visibility from paid and free sources.

Mobile optimizer and marketer – Google and most web companies these days are obsessed with mobile because it’s quickly taking over for the desktop as the main point of contact with websites. As a mobile developer, you’ll be responsible for making a website load fast and work well on mobile devices. As a mobile marketer, you will be making sure a brand will be highly visible to mobile viewers. This can include mobile ads from Google and/or Facebook, etc., mobile app development (or management of that process), and any creative ways you can engage customers on mobile devices. Mobile marketing is gaining in popularity so fast there are shortages of candidates in this area, and the problem is only getting worse. You can take advantage of that by hyper-focusing on this area, which was previously an afterthought for many marketers.

Viral video and viral marketing campaign expert – If you haven’t seen the Old Spice viral ads or the Will It Blend campaigns, check them out on YouTube. A viral video producer creates funny, interesting, or controversial campaigns with the intent that they will spread from person to person like wildfire, generating millions of impressions, views, and clicks. Even great articles, whitepapers, images, and infographics can go viral, but it doesn’t happen easily. To get a campaign to go viral in a way to replicates something spontaneously going viral can be one of the hardest things to do in marketing. Hence the millions of dollars brands spend to create and run Super Bowl ads. If you are wildly creative and/or a stand-up comedian, or want to manage people like that, then this job is for you.

How to get started learning

Now that we’ve looked at some of the job descriptions, let’s check out how you can learn each of these tactics.

Going to a school or college:

One significant advantage of going to a school or a college is that employers do like to see that you had the stamina to complete at least a bachelor’s degree. An MBA is even better if you want a manager or director role. Do you absolutely have to go to school for Internet marketing? Not necessarily, since many of the world’s top marketers are self-taught and since the information changes so rapidly that blogs and testing are often the best ways to learn the most cutting-edge stuff. With that said, Internet marketing has grown up a lot in the last few years – specifically due to Google being so good at weeding out the fakers. When you want true success now in search and social media marketing, you need to be focused on branding and targeting specific personas/demographics. Having a marketing background that teaches you these fundamentals can be an amazing foundation to build upon that many self-taught marketers may have only scratched the surface of.

What type of school you go to and training you get depends on your budget and personal style.

Here are a few options

  1. Self-study using blogs and books
  2. Online programs and certifications
  3. Traditional on-campus study

Top 10 blogs for learning Internet marketing

If you are going to study on your own, here are some great sites that you should read frequently. Ideally subscribe to their RSS feeds to get updates fed to an RSS reader or sent to your email.

Top Internet marketing books

These are some top marketing books that we recommend, from Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot to Bryan Eisenberg of MarketMotive. If you read even just a few of them, you’ll be on your way to becoming an Internet marketing ninja.

Inbound Marketing Books

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs
by Dharmesh Shah (New Rules Social Media Series)

The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly
by David Meerman Scott

Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing
by Lee Odden

Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History
by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan

Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher—How to Use Content to Market Online and in Social Media
by Rebecca Lieb (Que Biz-Tech)

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business
by C.C. Chapman (New Rules Social Media)

How to Write a Good Advertisement: A Short Course in Copywriting
by Victor O. Schwab

Content Is Currency: Developing Powder Content for Web and Mobile
by Jon Wuebben (Nicholas Brealey Publishing)

The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters
by Joseph Sugarman

Social Media Marketing Books

Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust
by Chris Brogan

The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?
by Chris Brogan

Social Marketing to the Business Customer: Listen to Your B2B Market, Generate Major Account Leads, and Build Client Relationships
by Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman

Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business!
by Paul Gillin

The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media
by Paul Gillin and Geoffrey A. Moore (Books to Build Your Career By)

Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment
by Jim Sterne

Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization
by Olivier Blanchard (Que Biz-Tech)

Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time
by Joel Comm

Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything
by Chris Brogan

Maximum Success with LinkedIn: Dominate Your Market, Build a Worldwide Brand, and Create the Career of Your Dreams
by Dan Sherman

Search Engine Optimization Books

The Art of SEO
by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie Stricchiola, and Rand Fishkin

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Secrets
by Danny Dover and Erik Dafforn

Conversion Optimization Books

Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Prospects to Customers
by Khalid Saleh and Ayat Shukairy

Always Be Testing: The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer
by Bryan Eisenberg

Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing
by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Lisa T. Davis

Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results
by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Lisa T. Davis

Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions
by Tim Ash, Maura Ginty, and Rich Page

Paid Search and Pay-per-Click Books

Pay-per-Click Search Engine Marketing: An Hour a Day
by David Szetela

Advanced Google AdWords
by Brad Geddes

Killer Facebook Ads: Master Cutting-Edge Facebook Advertising Techniques
by Marty Weintraub

Marketing and Branding Books

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert B. Cialdini

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
by Al Ries and Laura Ries

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
by Guy Kawasaki

Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry
by Stephen Denny

Winning the Zero Moment of Truth—ZMOT
by Jim Lecinski

Blue Ocean Strategy
by W. Chan Kim

Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future
by Dan Schawbel

The End Of Marketing as We Know It
by Sergio Zyman

Website Analytics Books

Web Analytics: An Hour a Day
by Avinash Kaushik

Miscellaneous Books

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug

Learning Web Design: A Beginner’s Guide to (X)HTML, StyleSheets, and Web Graphics
by Jennifer Niederst Robbins

Viral Explosions! Proven Techniques to Expand, Explode, or Ignite Your Business or Brand Online
by Peggy McColl and Michael Gerber

Don’t forget ebooks! HubSpot has a pile of great ebooks that are essential for keeping up to date, since things change so fast.

Here are just a few of the online Internet marketing degree schools:

Internet marketing certificate programs and eLearning sites

If you want to get a certificate rather than go to a school, here are some places to check out. – Some of the best, most advanced classes that include a certification as well as monthly video training subscriptions. Take at least one $3,500 class on your favorite tactic. It will change your life. – A world leader of Inbound marketing software and training. At minimum, spend a couple days and get the basic certification. It will open your eyes to a whole new word of marketing. – Video training on just about everything for a monthly fee. – A highly respected program. – HootSuite is a leading social media platform, so training in this tool can be a great thing to have on your resume and something you will surely use.

Top 10 job sites for Internet Marketing


Top 15 software/tools you will need to survive

While you won’t need to be proficient in all of them, giving them all a trial run will help you better understand what you like and don’t like to do in the web marketing space. Excel and Analytics are two that you simply can’t live without.

  1. Microsoft Excel – You will need to be handy with Excel in almost any marketing position.
  2. Google Analytics – No matter what tactic you choose, make sure you know enough to track results in Google Analytics.
  3. – Google Webmaster Tools is essential to learn how your website is connecting with Google.
  4. – The Google Keyword Tool helps you learn how many people are searching for your key phrases.
  5. – Google paid search platform that has made Google the richest of all web marketing companies. Lots of job security in this ultra-stable platform.
  6. Google Search Operators/Advanced ways to search Google to extract more information, e.g.:
  7. – Social media management tool.
  8. – All-in-one tool.
  9. or a similar tool to monitor social media.
  10. – SEO and social media software.
  11. – Link building tool.
  12. – Facebook Ad platform.
  13. – Facebook Analytics.
  14. or – Email marketing.
  15. – Submitting press releases.


Internships are great way to get actual experience. Do as many as you can until you find a job. Agency experience is especially value so consider interning at a digital agency such as these:

Check out our Internet marketing glossary to get a better feel for the lingo.

Then start applying for an entry-level marketing job using a well-crafted resume with a link to your LinkedIn profile. During the interview, get specific. Talk about a few of the things you’ve done or learned along the way, as those may trigger a deeper conversation and greater level of interest. It also shows that you’re passionate and motivated, which is a half the battle. After the interview, follow up with a simple email thanking the potential employer and letting them know you’re interested, even though that may seem obvious.

While the sky’s the limit once you get some experience, don’t pass up jobs that offer a starting salary of even $25,000 or $30,000 a year. Once you have some experience under your belt, you will be in a MUCH better position to command a higher salary.

There’s no question that Internet marketing has grown up and become highly sophisticated, given all the tools and resources that have developed around it. It’s much harder for just one person to do now, because it requires expertise on many levels, from producing high-quality content and optimizing it for search and social, to spreading the word to influencers and journalists. So buckle up and be prepared to be part of a team of people good at each of the moving parts, and you’ll be part of the growing number of inbound marketing success stories.