What is digital marketing and why is it important?

By Brian Fairbanks

May 4, 2021 • 4 minute read

If you’ve been thinking about breaking into the marketing industry, you may want to consider social media marketing or digital marketing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and LinkedIn™’s 2020 most in-demand jobs list, both are fast becoming highly competitive fields, with companies all over the country adding digital marketers and digital marketing departments to their corporate structure.

Or perhaps you’re considering leveling up your social media marketing (SMM) skills or simply getting into the field in general. An online course might be an excellent option for pursuing your goals.

Some universities offer self-led, skill-based courses for professional development. Examples of these are Introduction to Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing Essentials courses. Read on to learn how courses like these can teach you what digital marketing is all about. As well as learn about what potential careers await graduates with the skills and expertise in this growing field.

What is digital marketing?

Businesses worldwide have realized that digital marketing is essential, especially for connecting with clients and customers who use smartphones, tablets and other connected devices. Digital marketing also plays a vital role in reaching people who stream their entertainment rather than watch it over the air. To reach these often younger, more technically savvy audiences, many companies are expanding their marketing and advertising teams to include digital marketers and social media experts.

As global internet use continues to climb, (there are about 4.66 billion people reportedly using the “world wide web” and nearly that many signed up for at least one social media platform), and digital advertising spending grows 12% as of 2020, the industry may continue to grow to keep pace, as well.

What do digital marketers do?

These professionals can help brands get the word out on a number of social platforms. Digital marketing professionals can also help optimize company websites and blog content for search engines (also known as search engine optimization, or SEO for short). They might also work in eCommerce, which includes any company that allows customers to buy products online with shipping, such as department stores, where total retail sales rose 30% between 2019 and 2020.

Check out some of the areas you may be able to work in as a qualified, experienced and highly trained digital marketing professional:

Search Engine Optimization

When an internet user wants to learn more about a company or buy a product, they generally start with a search engine (Google, Yahoo!, etc.). There, they type in their question or keywords into the search bar, hoping to find what they need in the first page or so of search results.

Savvy companies realize that, if they aren’t designing their content for search engines (SEO), their competition is ranking higher on the first page of Google and other search engines. This translates to potential customers overlooking them and choosing the higher-ranked competition. (Also, local residents who look up physical locations like neighborhood restaurants, sign makers, daycare centers, etc. online often choose to investigate the company that appears in the first few search results.)

That’s where an SEO specialist comes in. A search engine optimization expert essentially edits, proofreads or even drafts content for a website, including headlines, blog posts and metadata and/or keywords to help attract potential customers to a company’s various webpages.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is arguably among the most important digital marketing channels available today. There are billions of potential customers and free apps that have the potential to reach all of them through paid, viral and/or organic content.

Targeted advertising, a skillset and feature of social media platforms, helps companies raise awareness of their business, especially among people who are not following that brand’s accounts, by designing and selecting the criteria by which specific people will see them.

Targeted audience groups can be defined in an almost unlimited number of ways, such as by geographical area, gender, communities of interest, age and so on. Viral and organic content are posts on social media (often consumed and shared through apps) that are targeted to reach a greater share of a specific audience defined by certain demographics.

Employees or freelancers in SMM (social media marketing) are often tasked with driving “engagement.” This is usually defined as conversation and online comments around posts, sharing said content, hitting the “Favorite” or “Like” button on a social media platform and other measurable actions.

No matter the type of engagement, all of it serves to indicate whether the content is reaching and resonating with the intended audience and/or performing well as an advertisement for the brand.

Education options at University of Phoenix

If you do choose to learn more about SEO, University of Phoenix offers a non-credit Introduction to Search Engine Optimization course, which touches on a number of important areas, as well as several other key facets of SEO. You will learn how to:

  • Compare the differences between paid, organic, local and image searches
  • Define the major factors in the organic search algorithm
  • Explain why semantic search is important to marketers
  • Identify how the knowledge graph works

And that’s just the first week! Click here to see what else is usually covered in the 5-week Intro to SEO course.

If you are more interested in the social media side of digital marketing, the University also offers a non-credit Social Media Marketing Essentials course. In this course, students will be introduced to a wide range of digital marketing cornerstones. They may learn how to:

  • Identify the elements of social media platforms
  • Understand the components of a social media strategy
  • Develop content that will engage social media followers
  • Leverage social media platforms
  • Measure and automate marketing efforts

Whether you’re looking to become a digital marketing professional or just to increase your knowledge of this area to potentially be more attractive to employers and recruiters, consider courses such as this Social Media Marketing Essentials course or this Search Engine Optimization course. Both can give you the skills you need to compete in this popular, growing and rewarding industry.

To learn more about these courses or to apply, visit phoenix.edu/professional-development.

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