A wise digital marketer once said, “it’s all about the platforms, baby.” Ok, that was me. And maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not a huge one. The digital role in marketing and advertising agencies is arguably more about being an expert on a multitude of platforms than any other position (even the creatives).
It can be overwhelming for new digital marketers to know which platforms are necessary to handle the planning, creation, execution and attribution of digital marketing campaigns. We’ve compiled a list of the platforms that every digital marketing agency should be well-versed in and explain why they’re essential to the process. Without further ado, here are the core digital marketing platforms that you should learn.
The Search Engine Optimization Discipline (SEO)
Ok, search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t really a platform. However, understanding keywords, ranking algorithms, ranking factors and what it means to have a mobile-friendly website is the best starting point I can recommend for a new digital marketer. So much of what digital marketing agencies and campaigns do is focused on building an organic presence. Digital marketing agencies need a strong foundation in SEO to help their clients’ websites rank highly on search engine results pages.
Learning SEO doesn’t take long, and there are some great resources out there to help you. Once you know the basics, it’s important to stay current. Google releases algorithm updates very often and staying abreast of these updates is critical to keeping your clients current. When it comes to staying current, I can’t recommend The Moz Blog and Search Engine Land enough.
Every digital marketing agency should be well-versed in SEO crawling tools. SEO crawling tools help you research competitors’ SEO presence, discover SEO issues with your clients’ websites, build a reputable backlink profile, and so much more.
There are a lot of SEO crawling tools out there, but Moz and SEMRush are the most well-known. And for good reason. These tools are easy to learn, have good report generation capability, and are relatively inexpensive. You can extract a ton of value from them in the long run.
Google Search Console & Bing/Baidu Webmaster Tool
It’s not enough to control your presence on one search engine—they’re all important because every visitor counts. Moreover, different demographics tend to use different search engines. For example, Bing is particularly important for b2b marketers because its users tend to be older and wealthier than users of the other tools. These tools allow you to submit sitemaps, test site speed, see organic search term traffic, and more.
Google Analytics is the best free website analytics platform out there. With Google Analytics, you can learn how audiences get to your site, what they do while they’re on your site, which pages generate the best engagements, and which resources they interact most with.
A digital marketing agency is only as good as the results it can produce, and Google Analytics is a cornerstone of showing results. Google offers a free course for those looking to learn how to use Google Analytics, so that’s a good place to start.
Google Tag Manager
Once you’ve learned the basics of Google Analytics, you can move on to learning Google Tag Manager. In a nutshell, Google Tag Manager allows digital marketing agencies to track more granular website interactions than those that are available with Google Analytics.
For example, when you want to see which content is most engaging on your site, you might want to track how far down the page a user will scroll. Tag Manager is a simple way to be able to track those events and import the data into Google Analytics and digital marketing campaigns.
Another important role of Google Tag Manager is creating remarketing audiences. A remarketing audience is a set of website users who you want to advertise to after they’ve left your site. Google Tag Manager allows you to create more specific lists than just targeting viewers of a page.
With Google Tag Manager, you can place a tracking cookie on the browsers of users who have shown a particularly high level of interest in your site (like users who have downloaded marketing materials). Obviously, this is an essential capability for any digital marketing agency, so learning Google Tag Manager is a must.
Content Management Systems (HubSpot and WordPress)
Knowing these tools will allow you to make the day-to-day changes that are required for operating a website. As you get more advanced, you can work in plugins, marketing automation, and other more complex features.
Customer Relationship Management Systems (Salesforce, HubSpot, & Others)
One of the biggest advantages of digital marketing is attribution, and the first step in building an end-to-end attribution model is establishing a connection to a client’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. Uploading contact lists to digital marketing campaigns, creating custom forms for individual campaigns, and reporting on the number of new customers that advertising campaigns are bringing in are only possible if you have a fundamental understanding of how the information is collected and stored.
Additionally, being familiar with the capabilities of these platforms will help you understand how your clients operate on a daily basis. As digital marketers, we need to understand our clients just as well as we understand their audiences. Knowing how to use the platforms that they use will let you converse with them in a productive way.
It’s a good idea to learn Google Ads while you’re learning SEO. A Google Ads campaign’s performance is inseparably linked to the target site’s SEO picture. Being proficient in both skill sets will give your digital marketing agency a strong foundation for success.
As a Google Ads expert, you can run search campaigns, display advertising campaigns, video campaigns, app promotion campaigns, and shopping campaigns. I would argue that it’s the most important platform to be an expert in. Digital marketing for b2c, eCommerce, healthcare, and b2b clients is always possible to some extent with Google Ads.
Google’s unique targeting features allow you to target users based on their browsing behavior, demographics, or traits that make them similar to your own website visitors. You can also add remarketing lists to your Google Ads campaigns. These targeting features allow digital marketers to attract qualified leads in large numbers on a pay-per-click basis.
One last benefit of learning this digital marketing platform is that you will simultaneously be learning how to use Bing Ads. The two platforms are pretty much identical in their capabilities and components.
With nearly 2.5 billion active users, Facebook is the largest social media network in the world. Most audiences are on Facebook in large numbers.
Marketing on Facebook—and on all social media, really—is more of an art form than SEO, PPC, email, etc.
Miki Abraham sums it up perfectly in her social media marketing article on JRNI: personality and swagger are a big deal. Even if you are short a couple of hashtags, your great content will be shared and find your audience. But you can have all the right hashtags and fall flat if your content is weak.
However, technical excellence is still important. Facebook Blueprint is a great place to get started. Once you’ve digested those courses, you can move on to the advanced courses.
While studying the Facebook Blueprint courses, you will find that there are Instagram courses as well. That’s because Facebook owns Instagram. Instagram inventory is automatically checked as a placement for paid digital advertising campaigns on Facebook. For all other intents and purposes, however, the platforms are separate.
Audiences gravitate to Facebook and Instagram differently. Instagram’s visual focus means it has a particularly strong appeal for the audiences of certain types of clients. Restaurants, travel companies, fitness companies, fashion companies, beauty companies, and companies involved in other niches where imagery is key are all good fits for growing an Instagram presence.
As a digital marketing platform, Twitter is easier to learn than Facebook from a ‘components’ perspective. But it’s just as much of an art. The key difference is the importance of hashtags when marketing on Twitter. Savvy digital marketing agencies can create a buzz around a hashtag that can drive business for their clients.
In my experience, though, Twitter just doesn’t offer the same ROI that Google and Facebook do for most marketers.
There’s no substitute for experience, but the next best thing is learning from the greats. If you have the time, I’d recommend checking out the Twitter profiles of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey teams. They’re not just funny—they have a thumb on the pulse of their audience. They make the comments that their audience is thinking. The Knights’ account has fallen off recently, but it played a large role in helping grow the team’s following when it joined the league.
LinkedIn is a very important social network for recruiters and B2B marketers. Users have twice the purchasing power of your average user. It’s the best way to reach C-suite executives in large numbers.
Moreover, LinkedIn is a godsend for recruitment marketers seeking to hire highly educated employees. With LinkedIn, one has the ability to search for competing companies, job titles, schools, and content that pertain to their audience and directly message them with InMail campaigns. The best talent is usually already employed, so the ability to deliver high-volume recruiting messages on LinkedIn is something that all recruitment marketers should take advantage of.
Social Management Tools (Hootsuite, AgoraPulse, Tweetreach, etc.)
Social management and listening tools make the research, creation, management, and scheduling of social media campaigns a breeze. Companies need their social media messaging to be consistent, and these tools bring the posting of content on all networks under a single roof. Without them, social media marketing would be a complete mess.
App Deep Linking Platforms (Branch, Deeplink.me, etc.)
Deep linking platforms are services that allow marketers to create streamlined app marketing experiences. If you’ve ever been sent a link that takes you to a location inside of an app that you don’t have, you’ll be familiar with the process of having to download the app, then having it not open to the location where you are sent after you have finished your download. You end up having to go back to the text, email, or social media conversation where the link was provided and to click it again to be sent to the right part of the app.
With deep linking, digital marketers can keep the “link juice” for users who have not yet downloaded the app. Users will still be sent to the right location within the app after they have downloaded it. There are several other nifty features of branch, but it’s important to be familiar with its uses and why it’s necessary. Obviously, if your client doesn’t have an app then deep linking platforms have no use. For those that do, however, using deep links effectively is essential.
Screaming Frog is a web crawling tool that allows you to see your website the way a search engine would. Sometimes, that is all you want. Screaming Frog is a great resource for digital marketers who need an objective view of a website to see what SEO components are missing without the use of an intermediary like SEMRush (which, as good as it is, frequently experiences bugs).
Screaming Frog lets you quickly download a list of a site’s pages, meta titles, URL status codes, alt text, redirects, and other components straight from the horse’s mouth.
Email Marketing Tools (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.)
Email is important for all marketers and is king in certain industries like healthcare and pharma. Tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to manage your email campaign and its connection to your marketing platform. They allow you to automate mundane email marketing tasks and also view email analytics for your email marketing campaigns.
Google My Business
Google My Business is sort of like a Google Search Console profile that allows you to send business information directly to Google. It then uses this information to match your company to relevant searches. While every business should have a Google My Business profile, it’s particularly important for local companies.
As you will learn, local SEO (including having good reviews on your Google My Business profile) can help your client’s website and contact information show up in Google’s Local Pack—a crucial source of businesses for retailers and local companies.
Call Tracking (Phonewagon, CallRail, etc)
Telephone calls convert far more often than web-based customer contact options. But tracking them is difficult without a paid platform. Leveraging phone tracking in the form of like dynamic and static number insertion, you will get much more phone attribution detail than if you track clicks on a phone number link.
Services like Phonewagon and CallRail allow you to assign a proxy phone number for each website traffic source. When a user calls that number, the platform receives information like how the user arrived at your site, if they have called that number before, and other useful data. Think of these services like a Google Tag Manager for your phone call attribution. They take a process that is very cumbersome otherwise and make them easy to understand and implement. Obviously, you won’t be able to really learn these platforms without paying for them, but you can at least get started by learning basic phone tracking elements.
Chatbots (MobileMonkey, ChatterOn, Bold360)
Currently, chatbots are essentially advanced web forms that are filled out in a conversation format. But they’re already unmatched in a few important areas.
- Helping users navigate large websites to quickly find out what they want.
- Answering customer support questions immediately at any hour.
- Automating lead generation and registration.
These strengths are relevant to most businesses. But not all chatbots have the same capabilities.
- MobileMonkey is a good platform to learn on because it has a free option. You can test the functionality of your chatbot in real time.
- Bold360 ItsAlive are more advanced options that facilitate longer conversations. However they are more expensive
Chatbots are a nice-to-have, but they won’t create success on their own. Remember to cover your most important bases first–whichever those may be for your niche.
And Those Are Just to Start
To call back to the late great Billy Mays: “But wait…There’s more!”.
These are just the most popular platforms.
Depending on the availability of your creatives, you might find that it is easier for you to learn how to save an image for web yourself on Photoshop. Or you might need to use Canva to lay out your social media post in a similar circumstance.
The important thing is to never stop learning about digital marketing platforms. In my opinion, the most important trait for a digital marketer to have is initiative. Digital marketing agencies can never stop innovating. If you learn one thing from this post, it’s that this list would have been much shorter ten years ago and that it will be much longer in a few years. Remember—a digital marketer can never stop learning!
Check Out Our Life Sciences Blog!
If you enjoyed this content, I hope you will head over to the bfw Life Sciences blog for pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing content.