Editor’s note: This blog is from the perspective of five University of Pittsburgh students — Kirsten, Steve, Darcie, Erin, and Sara — who completed a class this summer called “Digital Marketing Search Fundamentals”, taught by Zack Duncan of Root and Branch.
Our digital marketing class this summer did not give us credits that count towards graduation (in fact, some of us graduated in Spring 2020), nor did it give us a grade. Instead, we learned about paid search and organic search along with some of the key concepts central to digital marketing. We also became certified in Google Ads Search along the way.
We each had different reasons for taking the course, but we all believe that digital marketing will have value for us in our lives.
At the beginning of the term, in June 2020, we were asked, “What is one thing you’re hoping to get out of this class?” Here are some of our responses to that question:
I hope to gain a strong understanding of SEO and Google Ads, and to get hands-on experience to understand how both would be used in a work setting.
I want to learn something about marketing that I might not learn in the classroom.
I’m hoping to become more competitive in this difficult job market.
I hope to build on my resume and develop skills for personal use.
I want to learn a foundational skill that can be applied in many different aspects of business.
Now that we’ve completed the class, we wanted to share our thoughts on why we believe digital marketing matters — both for our lives today and as we look ahead to the future. We’re also going to cover five of the most important building blocks we learned this summer, that have helped us see how all the pieces of digital marketing fit together.
Part 1: Why digital marketing matters
Why digital marketing training matters now
To become more competitive candidates in applying for jobs
Some of us are recent grads in the midst of searching for our first jobs after college. Some of us are still in school and are actively looking for internships. We’ve all seen our fair share of job listings for positions like “Digital Marketing Intern” or “Digital Marketing Associate”. Given that the majority of us are marketing majors, you might think it’s safe to assume we would be qualified for at least an interview for those positions.
Before gaining a solid foundation in digital marketing, we were often quite limited in the listings we were qualified for. But things have been changing now that we can say we’re certified in Google Ads Search and can speak to topics like digital analytics, SEO, and the importance of understanding the marketing funnel.
To help with growing freelance side businesses
Towards the beginning of the pandemic, a few of us were dangerously close to graduation with little to no hope of finding a job in marketing. Instead of binge-watching Netflix all day and hoping some fantastic opportunity would magically come our way, the entrepreneurial among us decided to see how we could use our current skills to generate revenue.
One of us is especially interested in graphic design and learned everything there was to know in Adobe Creative Suite to become a freelance graphic designer, starting a side business in graphic design, and designs logos, labels, menus, and more.
After this class, finding clients has changed in a big way now. Instead of being limited to looking for clients in social media groups, digital marketing knowledge opens up a whole new world. With a functioning website and a knowledge of both paid and organic search, the process of finding new customers has dramatically changed (for the better!).
To be more informed consumers
While a digital marketing background doesn’t instantly translate to job opportunities for everyone, it can help all of us become more informed consumers.
As consumers, we want to pay for quality goods and services at a fair price. Some basic digital marketing knowledge gives us a better understanding of why the search engine results page (SERP) findings show up in the order that they do. Knowing about keywords, domain authority (for organic search) and quality scores (for paid results) can demystify things. And that’s just on the SERP.
Moving off the SERP, it’s helpful to know how nearly every advertisement we see is somehow targeted to us. If you are seeing an ad, there is a very good chance you fall into an audience segment that a brand has identified as a potential target. You may also be seeing the ad due to a prior visit to the brand’s website and are now in a retargeting audience (feel free to clear out those cookies if you’re sick of them!).
The more information you have as a consumer, the more likely you are to make a better purchase. These few examples just go to show how digital marketing training matters now, even if you are not the one actively doing the digital marketing.
How a digital marketing foundation be useful in the future
It’s helpful in creating and growing a personal brand
Your brand only matters if people know about it. You could sit in your room and put together the most awesome portfolio website for yourself and create a solid brand identity, but if no one else knows about it, what’s the point? Digital marketing concepts like understanding SEO basics can help make your presence known to potential customers, employers, and clients.
It would be terrible if your competition got all the business just because you didn’t use the simple digital marketing tools available to you, right? Digital marketing efforts can have many different goals ranging from making sales to just increasing general awareness of your brand, so get out there and start!
To become a more flexible contributor in future career opportunities
One thing we’ve heard consistently in the job search process is employers love flexible, cross functional employees. It seems the most successful and valued employees are often those that are not only experts in their field, but also have a pretty good understanding of other subjects that impact their work. Let’s say you’re an account manager for a digital agency, and you have some great insight that you think could be helpful in driving some new ad copy testing for your biggest client. It’s going to be a whole lot easier talking with your copywriter and media team (and being taken seriously by them), if you have an understanding of how the text ads are built.
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