Become A Good Online Marketer In 5 Really Hard Steps

While reading Reddit I came across a great story on how to become a good programmer in 6 really hard steps. It was written in response to another story which promised “easier ways to make your code amazing.”

I love this line of thinking because it is also true in something as complex as online marketing. Anyone telling you “it’s going to be easy” or offers “simple ways to get online marketing results” is kidding themselves. Experienced online marketers know there are no shortcuts to building long term web visibility.

So taking inspiration from the programmer story, here is how to become a good online marketer in 5 really hard steps:

Step 1: commit for the long haul or don’t bother

You can’t dabble in internet marketing. It’s too nuanced, there are too many details to understand and you’re not going to instantly be fluent in it all. From web analytics, to SEO, to social media, to email marketing, to PPC there are a lot of tactics to learn.

Further, the web is constantly evolving: both from a technology and user preference stand point. You can’t really be a good online marketer by only understanding the basics and yesterday’s tactics, you need to live at the edge.

Accept that, like programming, this isn’t a 10 year process: this is a lifetime journey. You need to do this because you want to.

Step 2: create and market lots of websites, brands, blogs, communities and apps

If you’re at an agency where you’re working on a variety of projects you’re getting experience here. This is also doable client-side as you should have no shortage of digital assets to market, content to create and communities to build.

But you need to go beyond this even if you’re doing it professionally if you want to be a really good online marketer. You need to go through the process start to finish on your own projects. Not just marketing something finished, but create your own brand from the ground up. The web makes this possible for any of us. Eric Friedman calls these sandbox projects and the experience you gain building one is not possible to obtain elsewhere. It’s a distinct advantage and yet it is shocking how few actually go through with it.

Step 3: study how popular web brands do it

By this I don’t mean just study the competitors in your niche. Study the popular brands on the web: media, B2B start-ups, everything you can find. Learn everything from how modern brands of media touch emotions and play on sociology to create content that gets shared at scale to analyzing how companies create successful viral launch pages. Get your hands on as many case studies as possible, attend conferences, and network / hear lessons learned directly from other online marketers.

Step 4: learn multiple tactics, master a few

If, ultimately, you want to be leading marketing for an organization you need to have a broad understanding of potential tactics. Throughout the life cycle of a brand different tactics make sense at different times (and some may make sense to work on long before you’ll need it, like building a community). But the point is you need to understand all of them and when they make sense to apply.

With that said, you need to become master of a few. I recommend you become a data-driven marketer as there is no online marketing tactic you should execute without using data to make decisions and measure effectiveness. Another is learning the art of effective web content as content is the essence of all online marketing. And the web continues to trend to a place that rewards good content as SEO further continues to simply be a byproduct of organic marketing success and social sites place emphasis on content.

Step 5: learn something no one else has learned yet

I love this last tip offered to programmers in the original article linked, and I’d suggest you do the same thing as an online marketer. There’s no limit to what you can do with creativity and technology and after you’ve gone through the first four steps here the bigger picture of digital communications should come into vision. That, in essence, it’s not about technology, it’s about ideas.

Once you start to see this you’ll start to think more creatively and less about simply processes and best practices. That’s not to say you should skip developing processes and making sure basic optimization items are addressed. These things are necessary and should come first. But they’re the easy part and where you’re learning what everyone else (should) already get. Where you start to push boundaries and learn new things is when you’re already executing proficiently and have enough organic results you can be freed up to experiment.

I know the original article offered 6 steps and I only wrote 5. That was on purpose: what additional step would you recommend?

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