Many people come into the digital marketing industry with the soft skills they need to do a great job. These skills can make it easier for them to learn the hard skills necessary to perform their job duties.
It’s been said that soft skills can’t really be taught, but I strongly disagree with that.
It takes both hard and soft skills to do your best work in digital marketing. And the good news is, you can work on building both types.
Depending upon your experiences with the world, you may give up easily because you’ve never gotten what you wanted. You may not want to ask questions because you’ve had questions shut down before. With the proper environment, those skills can definitely sharpen.
Here are 20 essential skills to help you succeed in digital marketing.
Soft skills are skills related to how you work. These are skills many people possess without really thinking about them.
Here are 10 soft skills that are the most important ones from my experience.
I love when an employee wants to learn more. There are so many aspects of digital marketing and so many little niche areas. Craving more knowledge about how it all fits together truly makes you better in any role.
If you give up easily, digital marketing is probably not the field for you.
You may work to rank a site and an update crushes you, or you may pitch ideas that get rejected. You may be called in to help figure out why a site isn’t doing well.
Every day there’s something new, and that’s what keeps it all interesting.
3. Willingness to Listen and Learn
I have been wrong so many times it’s crazy. My employees (and clients) know to argue their points with me if they think I’m wrong, and I’ve learned to really trust what they say.
I’ve had clients give me instructions that I don’t think will work out but I try them and have been surprised quite often. Thinking you know everything means you don’t have the opportunity to get better.
With my team, assignments can vary from month to month depending upon our client roster. They might be working on a finance client for one month then they’ll need to switch up to a travel client.
They may need to pitch in and help someone else out on a client they’ve never worked on.
When I first started out, I got thrown into technical SEO, content writing, and PPC all at the same time. There’s always a chance that you’ll need to do something else or extra so you might as well be prepared for it.
5. Ability to Multitask
There are always a ton of things going on at once in digital marketing. You want to read the latest articles, see the latest relevant tweets, do your job, figure out how to do something in a different way that saves time, do reports, etc.
If you can’t multitask well, you will quickly fall behind.
Being able to see things from someone else’s point of view is essential to marketing of any kind. It’s important to understand why someone thinks a certain way.
Empathy is so important that I wrote an entire article about it.
7. Taking Your Own Ego out of the Picture
Sometimes we are so caught up in what we think needs to be done, we can’t take a step back and listen to someone else because all we are thinking is that we know what’s best.
We all need to realize that we don’t always get it right, and even if we are right, sometimes it just doesn’t matter.
You can’t take it personally when you think you should bid on certain keywords and the client wants you to bid on different keywords.
I can’t take it personally when I submit an article to this very site and my editor asks me to make a change.
8. Strong Work Ethic
Obviously, you really need this in most careers but with something like link building, you are never going to do well without wanting to work hard as it’s very frustrating and tedious at times.
When marketing fails, it can be extremely difficult to start over. You will encounter lots of roadblocks in some form or another so it’s critical to keep trying and not give up.
9. Honesty and Transparency
One of my pet peeves is when someone can’t admit to a mistake.
You’ll always be found out.
We had a couple of employees who would leave work on the clock and think they wouldn’t be caught, for example. We had someone clock in from another state and pretend that I just hadn’t seen them in the office.
People say completely absurd things. With so many people available to replace you, not being honest is unacceptable.
10. Being Able to Say “I Don’t Know”
I don’t know why this is so difficult but it seems to be. I worked for someone who told me to never admit to not knowing something, and I think that is ridiculous.
You don’t learn unless you admit that you don’t know something. If I don’t know something, I want to dig in and figure it out.
I don’t find it embarrassing to not know everything. I’ve never thought less of anyone who admitted to not knowing something.
With so much information thrown at us constantly, it’s impossible to keep up.
Hard skills are teachable skills. Here are the 10 hard skills that I think are the most achievable and the ones that can help you forge a broader knowledge of the industry.
11. How to Search Well
People constantly ask questions they could easily query in Google. It can waste a lot of time.
You need to be able to dig for information and get better with your search queries so you aren’t wading through tons of irrelevant information.
We’ve had employees who started to work on a new client and would email to ask me to explain what a certain product was used for, for example.
I’d then spend my own time searching Google and figuring it out, then emailing back. I’d much rather do my own research than ask someone else to do it for me.
12. Using Excel, Google Sheets, or Another Spreadsheet
At the very least, you should be able to perform basic functions in a spreadsheet. But depending on your job, you would be wise to learn how to efficiently deal with large sets of data.
From keyword data to backlinks, it’s difficult to get the info you want without using those advanced functions.
13. Conducting Research and Gathering Data
You will most likely need to pull data from various sources at some point. You may have to do a technical audit on a website.
There are so many tools and sources for information that it’s critical you can figure out where to look and how to get what you need.
If you’re creating content, you’ll also need to be able to find and verify information.
14. Using Google Analytics
You can get so much information from Google Analytics that it would be a real missed opportunity not to try and master it.
If Google is giving you information about your site, you absolutely need to use it.
From looking at traffic to tracking conversions, Google Analytics is a must-have tool, and it’s free.
15. Using at Least One Major SEO Tool
Outside of Google Analytics, it’s good to know how to use at least one tool that can give you a different dataset. I use a few because each has its strong points.
It’s amazing to see how much information you can get from these tools and their reports.
16. Analyzing the Effectiveness of Your Efforts
Some people measure progress by increased traffic. Some like conversions.
Whatever your KPIs are, you need to know how to track them reliably.
Whether you communicate better through writing or speaking, good communication skills are absolutely critical.
My employees are remote workers and none of my clients are anywhere near me, so I spend a lot of time emailing back and forth with everyone.
I think good communication skills come naturally to some people. But if they don’t to you, it’s definitely something you can work towards improving.
18. Figuring Out What’s Going On and What’s Gone Wrong
If traffic suddenly drops or your bounce rate drastically increases, it’s important that you know how to start tracking down potential causes.
Not everything is cause for alarm, of course. There may be logical explanations for what you’re seeing.
You simply need to know where to look and how to grab enough information to get an idea of what’s happening and then start to fix it.
19. Using a Crawler
There are several great crawling tools out there and you should familiarize yourself with at least one of them.
Even if you aren’t getting too technical with your work, just being able to get information about redirects or duplicate content can be incredibly helpful.
20. Coding or Understanding Code
I came into SEO from a programming background so I’m a bit biased, but I do think that SEO professionals should at least know basic HTML.
More advanced programming skills (like learning Python) are certainly helpful, too.
Coding also teaches you how to think very logically and improves your problem-solving skills. Even if you never have a chance to code, you will be better equipped to think through problems.
Do You Really Need to Possess All of These Skills to Be Great at Your Job?
Absolutely not. There are countless SEO pros who don’t know how to code, for example, and they can do their jobs well.
There are people who don’t possess a lot of the soft skills and they’re fine.
With today’s level of remote work situations there is more flexibility than ever to be yourself, work where you like, sometimes work whenever you feel like it, and simply get the job done.
But when it’s time to grow your career and enhance your professional value, you’ll definitely want to work on a few of the key digital marketing skills above.