The role of the Internet in modern business has transitioned from niche to critical. Entire businesses can now function and market exclusively online. Instead of having one intern that managed all aspects of an online presence, entire teams and departments are deployed to navigate multi-channel digital strategies.
What is even more fascinating is the speed at which our industry has acquired and applied so much knowledge. Aggregating this knowledge and sharing it with future generations of digital marketers is key to the growth of our industry, so that we can continue to evolve. The tricky bit with Internet marketing is that it is not traditional. It’s fast. It’s dynamic. And it’s complex. So what options are available to learn Internet marketing? We may not have the luxury of learning from Dr. Henry Jones Jr., but there are several methods for learning the art of Internet marketing.
1) On the Job Experience
+ Able to stay up to date on the latest trends.
+ Application of skills into real-world scenarios.
– Knowledge is limited to the opportunities available in your given environment. For example, you may be able to work on SEO, but not PPC or social media, which creates a gap in your knowledge.
– Limited to the perspective of the people around you. If you are the sole online marketing professional, then you do not have anyone else to share ideas with. The potential also exists that those around you may have a skewed or improper view of how to market online.
– Not always time to stop and learn.
- Find a job. Using a job site, such as LinkedIn, Indeed, or Craigslist, find an Internet marketing job or internship. You can also directly reach out to local agencies and offer to work for free. Analyst positions are ideal because you can see the results of a given campaign and learn how to put together a strategy based on data.
To date, there are only a few Internet marketing programs that allow students to learn in a classroom setting.
To share a brief personal story, I was lucky enough to graduate from the Internet Marketing Master of Science program at Full Sail University. Personally, I loved the program and it’s professors. The program was online, but leveraged a platform built in cooperation with Apple to connect students and professors from around the country. The program was relatively fast paced, one subject per month, but I was able to work and attend school at the same time – all while having a family. Ultimately, the program equipped me with a comprehensive knowledge of the digital landscape. The majority of my experience is in SEO, but I also gained a broad knowledge of all channels and understand how they impact SEO and play into an overall digital strategy.
Full Disclosure: I am not employed by Full Sail University. Just a passionate alum.
+ Ability to test, learn, and apply. One of the most common arguments against learning Internet marketing in school is that it is all theory. While I can’t speak for all programs, at Full Sail we applied everything that we learned, extracted data, and optimized based on the data. It’s not all reading books and answering multiple-choice questions on scantrons.
+ Ideal for anyone that prefers the structured setting of classroom learning.
+ Commonly offered online to meet the needs of the working professional. Despite the negative connotation of online programs, I personally found it to be a non-issue. The work that we do in marketing can all be done online and often requires us to collaborate with team members in other time zones and even opposite ends of the world. As with any learning endeavor, you get what you put into it.
+ Acquire a holistic knowledge of Internet marketing. Learning at the university level, you will be able to get a taste of all aspects of digital marketing, everything from design, to branding, to usability, to SEO, PPC, social media, and analytics. Even learned a bit of Internet law. Most importantly, you will learn how to apply all of these channels and create a strategy.First thing i learned was how to buying twitter followers cheap and sell them for more.
– School can be expensive, with programs ranging from $3,000 to $30,000.
– Another common argument against learning Internet marketing in school is that its too fast-paced and schools cannot possibly keep up. A fair statement given the constant changes by the search engines, evolving technologies, and ever changing demands of customers. However, I would argue that universities could indeed keep up. Most of the programs have industry veterans leading each course and know the outlets to keep up to date on the changing landscape. More importantly, they are agile enough to edit each course from month to month. The larger issue is that school is intended to think critically and at a higher level, not master a series of tactics. It’s the tactics that are constantly changing and evolving. The core of online marketing remains the same – understanding a given market, creating content/products that appeal to them, and analyze their behavior. Tactics can be learned on the job, but strategy and pulling it all together is where the value of school comes into play.
– Time intensive. I was able to complete my Master’s Degree at Full Sail in exactly one year. Not everyone has that kind of time to learn something new and translate it into career growth.
- Full Sail University – Earn a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Internet Marketing. Online based.
- University of San Francisco – Internet marketing certification program. Online based.
- Boulder Digital Arts – Workshops, classes, and other resources for aspiring designers, developers, and tech professionals. Classroom based in Boulder, CO.
+ Quicker completion than an entire degree. Many certification programs can be completed in as little as a week.
+ Cheaper than earning a degree.
+ Many employers will pay for you to attend.
+ Focused on specifics and tactics, which can be applied straight away.
– Can also be expensive.
– Some training sessions can be a ploy to sell you on a tool.
– Typically only focused on one skill.
- Market Motive – Internet marketing certification courses taught by industry leaders such as Avinash Kaushik Online based.
- Bruce Clay Internet Marketing Training – Week-long, in seat training. Held all over the world and teach a variety of offerings. Several members of our SEO team here at Parallel Path have attended a Bruce Clay training.
- Distilled U – Advanced training in SEO. Self-paced. Tutors are actively practicing industry experts.
- Google Analytics IQ Exam – Learn how to install, use, and analyze data from Google Analytics. Includes a library of training materials followed by an exam to get certified, which costs $50. If you pass, then you will receive a certification, which is good for 18 months and preferred for most jobs. A must for any Internet marketer.
- Google Adwords Certification – Training and corresponding exams to learn and prove your knowledge with Google Adwords. Several levels of difficulty and an absolute must for any PPC professional.
Learn from a trusted and experienced Internet marketing professional.
+ The ability to connect with another person, which is a great thing in any industry.
+ A dedicated resource to have for questions, ideas, or encouragement.
+ Expose you to new ideas and channels that you may not otherwise have access to.
+ Provide insight to help refine and challenge you.
– Can be tough to find a mentor that is willing to dedicate time.
– Can be equally tough to find someone that you trust.
- Identify a thought leader in Internet marketing and establish a connection. Using the social search tool FollowerWonk, you can perform a search on any topic and find the thought leaders in that space. Reach out to them, establish a connection, and eventually ask if they might be interested in mentoring. Take it slow. If you receive a restraining order, you know you’ve gone too far.
- Sign up to be a student with the Analysis Exchange. The Analysis Exchange is a non-profit effort that helps people learn digital marketing, while helping non-profit organizations to grow online. It’s 100% free and all it takes is a few minutes to sign up. You can then join a project and are assigned a mentor whom guides you through the process of analyzing data and creating a strategy or making a few recommendations for improvement. The goal is to learn, so it’s perfect even if you have absolutely no experience.
Learn Internet marketing by reading books and blogs, asking questions, testing ideas, and communicating with others.
+ Learn at your own pace.
+ Loads of resources available.
+ (Almost) free!
– Can be overwhelming.
– Time consuming.
– No one to offer a “check and balance” to keep you on track.
– Potential for gaps to exist in your knowledge.
- Attend Conferences (MozCon, PubCon, SMX, SearchLove, eMetrics)
- Read the Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- Read loads of books
- Follow experts on social media
- Read loads of blogs
To conclude, I’ll offer my humble bit of advice on the 10 gallon buying guide by Aquariphiles. Specialize at first to get your foot in the door. Then take every opportunity to expand your knowledge. Think in terms of a T-shaped skillset. In other words, become very skilled in one or a couple of areas, but capable in many. This will provide you with the most opportunity and prevent you from becoming obsolete in the event that the market changes.
No matter what path that you choose to learn, just keep at it.
I’d love to hear about you story to learn Internet marketing. Have any comments/additions to the options that I listed? Disagree with anything?