DIY Digital Marketing Education: Where to Start
So you’re a small business and you want to learn how to get a proper education in digital marketing to maintain your online marketing plan on your own. Consulting and agency fees are out of the question long term, but you do have a little money set aside for marketing spend and continuing education. You’re in luck. With a little planning and budgeting, your spend can go a long way. Let’s explore some of the resources to learn the discipline of digital marketing, so you can run those programs on your own.
Use an Agency/Consultant for a Short Period of Time
If you have some money set aside that you can invest in online marketing services or consulting, it’s not a bad idea to use these services for a period of time to get on the right path. This is if it’s an agency that’s committed to educating clients along the way on where you are and where you should be headed and why.
There’s no use spending the money if you won’t be able to maintain the site moving forward on your own and/or if you haven’t learned one thing from the experience. Make sure when you’re shopping around for consulting or services that you get a feel for the firm’s attitude about knowledge transfer and what they are offering you as far as tools you can take with you.
Take Digital Marketing Training
Nowadays, many of the well-known online marketers offer some type of training, whether it’s online, classroom or at conferences. Training is a good way to get your head wrapped around key concepts and take away some actionable items you can begin applying to your own site.
When looking for training, keep in mind:
- Who the teachers are. Are they reputable in the industry? What companies are they attached to? What reputation do those companies carry?
- What the curriculum is like. What is the scope of what they are teaching? How do they teach – virtually or face-to-face? Are the concepts up-to-date? Will the training actually be applicable and is it right for your business and objectives?
Some of the industry’s best and brightest offer training courses in multiple disciplines. This includes:
- Market Motive: This training has a host of industry thought leaders and experts teaching everything from SEO and PPC to social media, conversions, analytics and more.
- SEOToolSet® Training: This classroom SEO training is hands on, and taught by industry veteran Bruce Clay. This training covers best practices in SEO and digital marketing that can be applied to your site immediately. A shortened one-day training course is offered at conferences such as Search Marketing Expo (SMX) and Search Engine Strategies (SES).
- aimClear Facebook Marketing Intensive: This thorough full-day classroom course is offered at the SMX conferences and taught by aimClear, a leader in Facebook marketing. The course covers all-things Facebook, from community management to Facebook ads and everything in between.
- SEMPO Institute: The nonprofit Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization offers one or more courses as needed, by topics such as search marketing, SEO, copywriting and much more.
- Local University: This local search engine optimization training brings together experts in local search to teach the basics of digital marketing and optimizing for a local focus online.
Buy Books and Tap into Online Resources
Education doesn’t just start and stop with someone else’s agenda. If you simply can’t spend the money on consulting services or training, there are some really great books out there that are jam-packed with all the info you need to get started on your online marketing and to refer to along the way.
Some great books to get you started include:
- SEO: “Search Engine Optimization All-in-One for Dummies” by Bruce Clay and Susan Esparza
- PPC: “Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing: An Hour a Day” by David Szetela and Joseph Kerschbaum
- Analytics: “Web Analytics 2.0” by Avinash Kaushik
- Conversion: “Always Be Testing: The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer” by Bryan Eisenberg
And to stay on top of the changing face of digital marketing, like really stay on top, you should invest a little time each week in researching new developments. This industry is fast moving, so while the foundational principles will stay the same, not everything in a book is going to be the most current.
Some sites you’ll want to put on your reading list are:
- Google Webmaster Central Blog: This blog has official news from Google on crawling and indexing sites.
- Matt Cutts’ blog: Matt is head of Google’s webspam team and sort of an ambassador to the search marketing industry.
- Inside AdWords: This is Google’s official blog for info on Google AdWords for paid search.
- Official Google Blog: Info on Google products, technology and company news.
- Search Engine Roundtable: Reports on some of the most interesting threads happening in search engine marketing forums.
- Search Engine Land: News and in-depth coverage about search marketing industry developments.
Those are just the tip of the ice berg. If you take a look the right of this post in our SEO & SEM blogroll column —–>, you’ll see a wealth of resources from some of the industry’s most active contributors who tackle the issues and changes we face daily.
A note on Twitter: Most online marketers have a Twitter account. If you want to tap into real-time expertise, join the conversation on Twitter. If you don’t have an account already, make one. Start aligning yourself with online marketers who you can engage in conversations with, exchange information and start discovering new resources.
Attend Digital Marketing Conferences
Conferences are a great way to stay on top of industry trends and how to meet the challenges digital marketers face with hands-on tactics from agency and in-house online marketers. You’ll probably get the most out of conferences once you’ve had a little experience applying digital marketing to your site, instead of treating conferences as a starter education.
Some of the bigger industry conferences in the U.S. include:
- SMX West
- PubCon South
- SES New York
- Ad:tech San Francisco
- SMX Advanced
- SES San Francisco
- SMX East
- SES Chicago
Both SMX and SES host conferences globally, so if you’re not in the United States, check their websites to see when a conference is coming near you. And if you can’t make it to some of the bigger conferences, check local associations and companies that host digital marketing workshops you can tap into.
Putting it All Together
Some forms of training and continuing education are more appropriate at different stages in your education. Think about the combinations that will set you up for success in the long run. For example, you could use an agency/consultant to give your online marketing a jump start and then take it from there by using that knowledge and mixing it with additional training on your own.
Books can be a good reference for when you need strategies and to know “how to” on your digital marketing plan. Then, continuing education through conferences once or twice a year and reading blogs weekly can keep you up-to-date and give new perspective.
And of course, when you need a second opinion or have questions, Twitter and forums are a good way to tap into instant knowledge from your digital marketing community.
Now go forth and tackle your digital marketing plan!