Joshua Nite

8 Essential Concepts Every Digital Marketer Should Understand

Joshua Nite on May 23rd, 2016     Digital Marketing


There’s an old story about a reporter who visited a skyscraper construction site. He approached one worker and asked what he was doing. “I’ve got to pour this cement before it sets, don’t bother me,” was the reply.

The reporter asked another man the same question. “I’m setting this rebar, don’t bother me,” the man said. Over and over, when asked what they were doing, each worker irritatedly explained their task at hand.

Finally, the reporter interviewed the lowest man on the job totem pole—the hod carrier. His job was to scoop up clay on a flat board, then hold it for someone to trowel it onto a wall. Not exactly the most interesting or inspiring work. “What are you doing?” the reporter asked.

The young man stopped and looked up to where the top of the building would be someday and said, “I’m building a skyscraper.”

There is no shortage of specialties in an average marketing department. There is certainly no shortage of small, incremental tasks to be completed, either. But it’s important to ask yourself: Am I pouring cement, or am I building a skyscraper?

The most successful marketers tend to be skyscraper builders. They understand how their role fits into the overall plan. Which means they have a base understanding of what everyone else is doing, too. Having that context can only make your work better. What’s more, you can avoid being commodified—being thought of as “the content guy” or “the SEO woman”—and expand your role.

You don’t have to be an expert on everything, of course. But even if you never touch one of them in your current role, it’s important to have a basic understanding of these eight concepts:

#1 – SEO

SEO is rapidly becoming a highly specialized field. It’s one of the fastest-changing aspects of marketing, too, as search engines continue to refine their algorithms to provide a better searcher experience. A major part of SEO now is simply having content that is the best answer for your potential customers.

That said, there are some old-school basic SEO elements that every piece of content should have:

  • A title tag fewer than 80 characters long, to avoid being shortened in results pages
  • A meta description that describes the content in 160 characters or fewer
  • Header text (H1 tags) for the most relevant text
  • Alt descriptions for images that describe the content of the image
  • Descriptive text for links (not just “Click Here” or “More”)

If you want to dig deeper into SEO basics, Google’s SEO starter guide is a great resource.

#2 – Optimizing Content for Web Reading

Even if you’re not a content creator, it’s important to know how people read content online versus print. Online reading habits affect everything from SEO to design.

People tend to ‘scan’ online content rather than read it top-to-bottom. Long paragraphs and lack of navigational elements can send readers back to their search engine results for a more reader-friendly page.

Keep paragraphs short and to the point. Just two to three short sentences is enough, for the most part. Make sure there is plenty of white space breaking up your content into snackable sections.

Add headers (with the H1 tag, as above) for each topic. That way, skimming readers can see your most important points at a glance.

#3 – Content Planning

As a content creator, this is an important bit of context that I sometimes have to go out of my way to get. It’s easy to relax into being told, “here’s your topic; fill up a bucket with words and send it off.” But that’s ground-level thinking. It’s important to know how content planning works, where the topics are coming from, and how to do that research for yourself.

Learning the process of content planning can help you achieve content mastery. You’ll write better content because you fully understand the need you’re trying to meet.

#4 – Full-Funnel Content Strategy

We have a three-stage funnel model at TopRank Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Convert. Buyers in the Attract stage may not be actively looking for a solution. They might not even be aware they have a problem. Those in the Engage stage are looking for a solution, researching their options. Those in the Convert stage have made a decision to buy, and need a final nudge to our client’s solution.

That model drives nearly everything we do. We develop content for each stage of the funnel, each with radically different SEO strategy, amplification strategy, and targeting. It’s important to know your funnel, and how your role fits into the overall full-funnel strategy. 

#5 – Paid Social Media

It used to be simple to get reach on social media. You put out great content, build an audience of followers, and they shared your content to their networks. Easy. Simple. And above all, free.

Now, the big social media guns like Twitter and Facebook are undeniably pay-to-play. Without advertising, you’re only reaching a fraction of your followers, let alone attracting new ones. Even on LinkedIn, which has yet to embrace the algorithm scourge, you can reach a much broader audience with a little strategic boosting.

Learn the basics of social media advertising with this post.

#6 – Online Advertising (Pay Per Click)

Pay per click (PPC) is for organic search what your paid social media is to your organic reach—a way to reach a broader audience and prioritize your content over others. For a price.

This LinkedIn Marketing blog post has a ton of resources to help you grasp the basics of PPC.

#7 – Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is rapidly becoming a go-to solution for co-creating great content and increasing content amplification. It seems simple enough—find influential people, get them to share your stuff, profit—but each of those steps has plenty of sub-steps built into it.

Influencer marketing involves content strategy, content creation, and amplification. Since it touches multiple roles, it’s a good idea for every marketer to at least have a grasp of the fundamentals.

#8 – Measurement

Unless your role specifically requires it, you may not need to know exactly how to track, measure, and report on the results of your marketing efforts. But it is important to understand your department’s overall goals, the goal for each piece of content, and how progress will be measured. Goals and metrics vary widely, so I recommend tapping the metrics & analytics experts in your organization for an overview.

Reach for the Sky

The difference between a ground-level grunt and a skyscraper builder is a sense of context. That knowledge of the bigger picture can inform how you do your day-to-day tasks, set you up for future success, and even inspire you to build a taller skyscraper. If you’ve had your eyes on the ground, get together with your team and share information about each other’s roles. Learn a little bit of what they all do, and make sure you’re all building the same building.

Need help with any of these 8 areas of expertise? Our team of skyscraper builders is standing by.

Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client. 

Header image via Shutterstock


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