Lessons from My First Year at a Digital Agency

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Let me start of by saying what a whirlwind the past 12 months have been. Where once I was a passionate college graduate eager for my chance to break in to digital marketing, I am now confident search professional constantly seeking ways to progress the industry and the great agency by which I am employed.

I am a firm believer that I could not have progressed to where I am today without going through a few ups and downs, learning along the way. Today I want to share with you some of the key lessons I have learned while working with some of the brightest minds in search over the past year. It is my intention to reveal some hardships and attempt to make a few good points to both seasoned marketers and rookies alike. I am going to present a few general themes and dive in to specific examples of how I discovered their importance.


Although many search marketers may think communication is a common sense issue, I have found that communication can be much more complicated than I had ever imagined. The key reason for the complicated nature of communication is people. You need to be able to communicate constantly with co-workers, bosses, clients, vendors, and even the general public as you are representing your business at all times.

The place where I first learned this lesson was through communicating with co-workers. It is very easy to be given a project and come up with your own interpretation of what needs to be done. It is important to realize that when you are given a project by somebody in house, those instructions most likely came from another source such as a client. Often in an agency setting, information flows through a tin can telephone of sorts, and as an individual, you are responsible for interpreting the message you receive and producing an output consistent with the message’s original intention.

Every client is different, and every client has a different set of expectations. Personally, I feel it is important to build a sense of trust and responsibility with your client. This is why communication is so important. If you are able to be honest about the work you can produce, when it will be accomplished, and the details that make up the work, then you are setting the base for an honest client relationship. I think we all know of a business that once told an agency or SEO to increase its rank and ended up coming back with a nearly irreparable amount of paid links in return.

To make what could be a very long story short, communication can set the basis for your relationships throughout your professional life. Communicate your every idea, action, concern, question, success, failure, and the list goes on.

Attention to Detail

One thing that frustrates me more than almost anything is wasting time. Not paying attention to detail when working in digital marketing can end up wasting a lot of time. There is no sense in sending documents back and forth with revisions because you were too lazy to run a spell check or check out your formatting before you send it off.

In a lot of ways, paying attention to detail can be closely related to communication. By having an in depth knowledge of every decision you make, you now have the knowledge to communicate in a more concise manner. Checking documents for spelling and grammar will force you to read over the content a second and third time, therefore the content will become more familiar. When you are making changes to local listings or PPC text ads, why would you not want to document and track everything you do?

Keeping records, tracking changes, and being diligent in your tactics can only result in a positive outcome, and this is something that can be very easy to skip over or ignore.

Be Proactive

When I entered into the world of digital marketing, I felt very strongly that I was there to learn. While that was most definitely the case, I had no idea the opportunity existed through being proactive and sharing ideas. In the agency world, a good idea can come from any level. Many of us have job descriptions and guidelines, and it is easy to feel confined within those regulations. I can guarantee you right now that nobody will be disappointed to hear your input on issues that may fall outside of your role. You never know when one of your ideas hits you may just have an opportunity to help build services and make a true impact on your work environment.

In Summary

I know that many of this information could already be in your head or may be a message you have had drilled into your head time and time again. The true purpose of this article for me is to give other marketers some insight into what I strive to craft into habit. It is very easy to get complacent when you sit in front of a computer from eight to 10 hours a day, so being able to constantly remind yourself what matters can really be important.

Now when I get to work every day, I have notes that blatantly say “communicate” and “pay attention to detail.” There are sure to be more in the future, and I have truly enjoyed sharing the lessons I have learned with the SEJ community.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / auremar

Jeff Bedford

Jeff Bedford

Analytics & Optimization Specialist at The New Group
Jeff Bedford is an Optimization & Analytics Specialist at The New Group, an integrated digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Indiana University, Jeff has extensive industry experience and has worked on digital campaigns for enterprise clients around the world.
Jeff Bedford
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  • Cary

    As you said these are fundamental traits, but well worth reiteration. Strengthening these characteristics will have a positive impact for a person in any chosen field. Well worth the read.

    I do have to say there is a little fight going on in your article. Your second point of emphasis is ‘Attention to Detail’ and you stress the importance of proofreading, but the very first sentence in the article has an error: “Let me start of by saying what a whirlwind…” (Let me start off by saying…) ūüôā

    • http://www.jeffbedford.com Jeff


      You got me! It looks like when I am writing an article I know is going to be read by hundreds of people I am not as careful as when I am may be crafting a document for one, haha. Either way I stand by my message ūüôā

  • http://www.sycara.com Fionn Downhill

    Everything you say is true but the point that jumped out at me was ‘attention to detail” it makes my head spin when work has to be re-done sometimes over and over. We now log everything and have checks and balances in place to prevent impact from things falling through the cracks. It takes more time to set up a project but saves so much more in the long run and prevents issues with delivery to the client.

    • http://www.jeffbedford.com Jeff


      I like what you are saying here. Any system you can create to ensure client work is 100% covered, inside & out, the better off you are. I do need to admit though, that this article is about “lessons” and it sounds like you and I may have learned about paying attention to detail in a similar manner. So frustrating and such a waste of productivity…

  • http://www.Uberseo.net Paul

    Nice article, this made me chuckle “The key reason for the complicated nature of communication is people” its just not the same talking to yourself lol. But I understand what you mean I used to work in a support role and everyone has a different level of understanding so it can be hard and very frustrating at times dealing with “people” ūüôā

    • http://www.jeffbedford.com Jeff

      Hey Paul-

      I appreciate the comment. That does sound kind of funny when I look at it again, but it is true for sure. Maybe a good modifier would have been “diversity of people” as the more we communicate the more we realize no one person is that same.

      Thanks for reading and I appreciate your feedback.

  • http://www.blakestrategiesgroup.com Jonathon

    Great post. Communication is vital in every relationship, whether its a co-worker, business partner or within your own family. I actually use the line around my house “Communication is the key to every successful relationship.” My wife hates it when I toss that around during a marital disagreement, but it’s true. Learning to communicate effectively is a skill that everyone must learn and it will only make the relationship stronger.

    • http://www.jeffbedford.com Jeff

      Well said Jonathon-

      This is definitely one of those topics that really encompasses life and social interactions as a whole. What really amazed me is how being thrust in to a busy agency really forced me to learn how to communicate with a wide variety of people constantly on a daily basis. It really has been a great lesson…