How to get into Marketing: A Complete Beginners Guide

Liam Nolan
Jul 15, 2016 · 19 min read

In this post we will be exploring how people either early in their career or looking for a career change, can get their foot in the door of the digital marketing world. Here at Zealify, we often get asked about digital marketing roles by graduates. However, not many people are fully aware of what digital marketing entails and all the possible avenues they could pursue. In this post, we’ll outline what you might need to learn as well as covering some of the basics from different elements of digital marketing. We’ll then highlight some resources and influencers to follow, putting you in the best position possible to land an entry level role.

The Digital Marketing Job Market

Before we dive into the details of what digital marketing consists of and the skills you’ll need, here is a quick look at the digital marketing job market as a whole. There are a few things to look for; how many professionals are there in the market, how many of them are looking for jobs, and how many companies are looking for them.

It’s important to note here that throughout this post, where possible, data included is for the UK only, and data was accurate as of April 2016.

Firstly, how many professionals are in the market? From a quick search of LinkedIn, you can get a broad view of the number of digital marketing professionals in the UK. At the time of this post, there were 585,928 people in the UK with marketing terms (see below) in their LinkedIn profile. In just the time it took to write this post, this number has increased significantly and continues to do so.

Screenshot from LinkedIn search

If you have a LinkedIn profile (and you most certainly should do! — here’s a guide to creating a killer profile), you can see for yourself what the number is now — run the LinkedIn search by clicking here.

Here’s the search term used (h/t to Rand Fishkin for the terms to use and methodology — his experiment in 2015 was US based), which aims to cover the whole breadth of digital marketing terms that people might have in their bios.

(“Digital,” “Interactive,” “Internet,” “Inbound,” “Web” to “marketing” OR “Emarketing”) OR “social media marketing” OR “blog” OR “blogging” OR “blogger” OR “content marketing” OR “content strategy” OR “google analytics” OR “Web Analytics” OR “SEO” OR “Search engine optimisation” OR “Conversion rate optimisation” OR “Landing page optimisation” OR “A/B testing”

You can add to the above if there are any keywords that might have been missed, or narrow down on specific terms to get a better idea of the areas you are looking to get into.

So what does this number of almost 600,000 mean in real terms? Well, LinkedIn reached 20million members in the UK in January 2016, meaning digital marketing related professionals make up roughly 3% of all UK professionals on LinkedIn. Quite a significant portion, but should these people be seen as competition?

Using the Google Trends tool we can see the level of interest for the term “Digital Marketing Jobs” over time — ‘digital marketing’ is by far the most popular keyword of all of the above over the past 2 years. As you can see from the graph below, searches for digital marketing jobs have consistently increased over the last five years, indicating that more and more people are looking for these roles.

Google Trend for ‘Digital Marketing Jobs’

So, you have competition in terms of the number of people that could be interested in the same roles as you. But are the roles themselves actually available? Are companies actually looking for digital marketers?

The job board Indeed allows us to see job and industry trends after searching ‘millions of jobs from thousands of job sites’. The below graph shows the trend of jobs advertised that contain the search term “digital marketing”.

Digital Marketing Job Trends (Source)

This graph shows that the number of relevant jobs advertised has roughly doubled in the last 4 years, indicating that digital marketing is becoming more and more of a priority for businesses, opening up more opportunities for job seekers in the space.

Digital Marketing Components

It’s important to note (and this is hinted at with the number of different search terms used above) that digital marketing is a HUGE subject area, and you should be at least broadly knowledgeable / aware of all of its components. Topics within digital marketing include SEO, PPC, email, content, social media and more. We’ll try to cover as many as possible here, but if there’s an area we’ve missed, feel free to let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to help.

To demonstrate the growth, and the size of the digital marketing industry, you only have to look at how many different software service providers there now are. To give you an idea of the number of different technologies available, have created a Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic for 2016. This infographic is a great way for you to see the different segments of the overall industry. Here is a post with some more information around it’s creation.

Below, outlined for each component of digital marketing, is a definition, with some explanation of the basics as well as whether or not interest in them has grown within the industry. Also, some useful tools that you should become familiar with, if you are to learn more about each particular aspect, have been highlighted.

NOTE: If you are looking for some further reading on any of the below subjects, this post provides some lists of resources to help you get started. The lists are at the end of this post as many of the relevant blogs and books etc cover multiple areas.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO is the discipline of optimising your website so that it gets found, and listed, as high up as possible on the search engine results page (SERP).

“the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines” — Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz

There are a number of components to SEO that you should be aware of, and not all of them will be explained here (if you’re interested, Moz have created a great beginners guide to SEO), but here are a few of the basics.

SEO techniques can essentially be put into a couple of buckets;

  • helping search engines find and list your website
  • providing as much value as possible to your readers / users

Value is measured by search engines in terms of relevance and popularity. Popularity is determined by factors such as users’ behaviour once on your site, links from other websites (known as inbound links) and other factors. The more relevant your website is to what the user is searching for, the higher it will rank. The best way to ensure your content is relevant is through keyword research. Essentially, keyword research means ensuring your content is written in the same way that the majority of users would search for it.

For example, if you work for Joe Bloggs Sports Shop based in Fitzrovia, London, chances are you might rank highly in the SERP for the term ‘Joe Bloggs Sports Shop’. However, potential customers that are unaware of Joe Bloggs Sports Shop will not use that keyword. They’re more likely to search something like ‘sports shop in Fitzrovia’; a keyword you are likely to have a lot more competition over, but will reap rewards if you can rank highly for.

Helping search engines find and list your website is a slightly more technical part of SEO, where you are structuring your site so that search engines see it how you want them to. In order for search engines to index your website (i.e. list it in their SERP), they use search engine software (known as bots) which ‘crawl’ the internet looking at a number of different factors on every website so that they can understand each site and therefore determine which sites are the most relevant. To ensure your website has the best chance of being listed as high up the SERP as possible, you must optimise each of these factors. This involves adding meta descriptions to your site, alt tags to your images, and other html tags to your content amongst other things.

“SEO Jobs” Google Trend:

Google Trend for “SEO Jobs”

Indeed SEO Jobs Trend:

SEO Job Trends (Source)

As you can see from the two graphs above, the number of searches for SEO jobs has slightly decreased, as have the number of jobs advertised. This could be for a number of reasons. It could be that companies and marketers are becoming more sophisticated and knowledgeable in the SEO field, so they are starting to look for and advertise more specific roles within SEO, one of which we will look at next. Looking at it from the other side, it could be because SEO is become a far more all-encompassing discipline. As Google and other search algorithms become more and more sophisticated, it is the sites that provide the best value that are winning. These are the companies that are incorporating SEO into all aspects of their business; Rand Fishkin again explains this well:

“If UI/UX is holding back the achievement of the marketing goals and the search rankings that can help get you there, then you need to work on that. Same story with speed. Same story with accessibility or responsive design, with content strategy, with branding, with press and PR, public relations. Maybe you are just doing classic SEO, the keywords and links and URLs, and these types of things and hundreds of other things… the job of an SEO cannot be limited to what external people have put on the idea of what we think SEO is.”

Tools you should get familiar with:

  • Google keyword planner
  • Google Search Console

Content Marketing

Content marketing is producing content with the aim of educating, informing and entertaining your target audience in order to create brand awareness and credibility. By building trust with your audience, you earn the opportunity to convert them into customers.

“The cost of entry to being relevant in our society today is content. If you’re not putting out stories, you basically don’t exist… Every company is a media company.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

Content produced by companies can range from written word to any form of multimedia. As implied in the SEO section above, valuable content attracts potential customers that are searching for anything relevant to your product or service. Therefore, content marketing is all about creating valuable content around the topics identified through keyword research.

It should be explained here that content should be created for each stage of a potential buyer’s decision making process and therefore aligned with customer intent.

HubSpot’s Buyer’s Journey

For example, if a potential future customer is simply doing some research on a particular topic, you should be able to provide just as much value as a customer that has made their decision on what they want. HubSpot provides a great diagram here on aligning different content with the three stages of the ‘buyer’s journey’.

Typical content that a lot of companies now create comes in the form of blogging. However, more and more companies are extending this to videos, infographics, checklists, guides, templates and more. Whatever the medium, providing value to your target audience is the name of the game here.

“Content Marketing Jobs” Google Trend:

Google Trend for “Content Marketing Jobs”

Indeed Content Marketing Jobs Trend:

Content Marketing Job Trend (Source)

The two graphs above show that content marketing has become increasingly popular over the past few years, both from a job seeker’s perspective and an employer’s.

Tools you should get familiar with:

Email Marketing

One aim of content marketing is to provide enough value that a user / reader will give you their email address in return for further content. Email lists are extremely valuable to marketers; they’re a captive audience of people who are interested in your content, familiar with your brand, and therefore have a high chance of becoming customers.

The purpose of an email marketer is to create relevant, targeted content, optimised for engagement. Depending on the type of email, engagement could mean open rates, click through rates (CTR), shares or even purchases.

Different types of email marketing include the traditional newsletter, transactional emails (when a user has made an action), notification emails (have you ever viewed the ‘someone liked your post’ emails as marketing? They bring you back to the platform / website!), lead nurturing emails and customer lifecycle emails.

“Email Marketing Jobs” Google Trend:

Google Trend for “Email Marketing Jobs”

Indeed Email Marketing Jobs Trend:

Email Marketing Job Trends (Source)

The graphs above show a fairly steady interest in email marketing jobs, indicating that contrary to some beliefs, email is not going to disappear any time soon.

Tools you should get familiar with:

  • Mailchimp

Paid Search

Also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM), paid search is where you can bid to have the search engine show an advert of your website to users that search for specific keywords.

Put simply, your job is to get your target market to click on your advert for as little money as possible.

Below are some of the terms you’ll need to know:

  • PPC — Pay Per Click
  • CPC — Cost Per Click
  • CPM — Cost Per Thousand Impressions (views)

In a similar way to content marketing and SEO, keyword research is critical here, as generally, the more competitive the keyword, the higher the price. However, there are other variables to consider. The below video is a great starting point to understanding the different variables involved in the cost of paid search.

“PPC Jobs” Google Trend:

Google Trend for “PPC Jobs”

Indeed PPC Jobs Trend:

PPC Job Trends (Source)

The graphs above indicate that interest in paid search has decreased over time, although if you look at the real numbers, they are still high compared to content marketing for example. Paid search is a huge industry; in 2015, Google’s ad revenue amounted to almost $67.39 billion, a figure that has increased by roughly $8 billion per year since 2010.

Tools you should get familiar with:

  • Adwords
  • Display Planner

Paid Social

Similar to paid search, companies can advertise on social media platforms based on a PPC system. However, rather than showing ads to users that search specific keywords, social media ads get shown to users of a specified demographic. Depending on how sophisticated the ad platform is, demographics that could be specified include location, age, education, job title, interests and much more.

A huge benefit of social media ads is the level of targeting available. No matter what your product or service is, you can target your ideal customer demographic, ensuring every penny is spent wisely.

Facebook’s ad platform is currently known as the most sophisticated and effective paid social platform. This is due in a large part to how targeted you can be as well as its capability to publish ‘dark posts’ — where specific demographics see specific posts, and the posts are not visible on the company page. However, Instagram currently holds the most ‘user attention’ (more on this in organic social media below) and as Instagram uses Facebook’s advertising interface, it would be a fair assumption to think they will catch up soon with highly targeted and easy to deploy adverts.

When looking for a Google search trend for ‘paid social jobs’, there isn’t a keyword that brought up enough searches to show a trend. This could be for a number of reasons. There isn’t an industry acknowledged term that has been agreed for this discipline yet. Therefore, job seekers may not know exactly what to search for and so could be searching a range of keywords (e.g. ‘paid social jobs’, ‘social media ppc jobs’, ‘social media advertising jobs’ etc.). Also, it is relatively new as a specialised discipline and so paid social activities are still more likely to be integrated within other roles (like PPC (above) or organic social media (below)).

Indeed Paid Social Jobs Trend:

Paid Social Job Trends (Source)

The graph above shows that although they are relatively rare, social paid roles have increased quite dramatically over the last few years.

Tools you should get familiar with:

  • FB Ads
  • Twitter Ads

Organic Social Media Marketing

Marketers can use organic (unpaid) social media to share their own, and others, content and engage with potential users / customers in order to generate brand awareness and build an audience.

When marketing on social media there are two critical things to look for; attention and engagement. The balance to be made here is one of width vs depth. For example, you’d rather 1 follower that sees everything you post and regularly engages with it than 1,000 followers that never see anything. For this reason, follower numbers are often seen as vanity metrics; they won’t have a significant impact on the business unless you have their attention and they engage with your content.

As mentioned in the paid social section, Instagram currently has the best engagement of all the social platforms. However, the attention paid to different platforms is extremely volatile and can change extremely quickly. New platforms are launched regularly and as a social media marketer you should be aware of them all, making sure you’re always where the most attention is — again, real attention doesn’t mean followers, it means engagement.

Social media marketers often schedule posts to be published on different platforms for up to weeks at a time. For this to work, they use some kind of social media calendar to ensure they’re posting the right mix of different kinds of posts. Broadly, these fall into created (links to your own content) and curated posts (sharing other people’s / companies’ content). Advice differs on ratios of created to curated so it’s up to you to work out the right cadence for your audience. However, it’s important to note that social media is not simply a direct promotion tool. If all you use your social media accounts for is to ask people to do something that benefits you, you’ll be extremely unlikely to succeed. As with the majority of modern day digital marketing, providing value is the name of the game.

“Social media jobs” Google Trend:

Google Trend for “Social Media Jobs”

Indeed Social Media Jobs Trend:

Social Media Job Trends (Source)

The two graphs above indicate that interest in social media jobs has increased over time. Also, social media seems to be by far the most frequently used keyword out of all of the digital marketing terms we have looked at.

Tools you should get familiar with:

  • Buffer
  • Hootsuite
  • Social media platforms themselves (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat)

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

The majority of what we have looked at so far have been methods of attracting users to your site, but what about ensuring they actually take the action you want once they’re there? This is where CRO comes in.

“Conversion optimization is the method of tuning websites or landing pages with the goal of converting more visitors into customers. The higher the conversion rate (%), the more sales (sign ups, subscriptions, etc) you get.” — Peep Laja (founder of ConversionXL & one of the leading conversion optimization experts in the world)

Key terms when working in CRO include:

  • CTA (Call To Action) — A button or link asking the user to take an action.
  • Conversion Funnel — The path a user takes from landing on a website to taking the desired end action.
  • A/B Test — A test of 2 or more variations of an element or page on a website to find out which variation performs best.
Conversion Funnel Example

CRO involves carrying out numerous A/B tests to find out which variations produce the highest conversions. Tests could be on copy, fonts, colours, images, reviews, ease of the process, clarity of instructions, site security/perception of security, social proof or any number of other things. A conversion could be anything from a CTA click to a sign-up to a purchase depending on where the user is in the conversion funnel.

CRO Google Industry Trend (Not enough search volume for Jobs Trend):

Google Trend for “Conversion Rate Optimisation”

Indeed CRO Jobs Trend:

Conversion Rate Optimisation Job Trends (Source)

As you can see above, interest in the industry and the number of optimisation jobs are both increasing.


Whilst using all of the above digital marketing techniques, you will need an understanding of the analytics behind your efforts. Analytics software can give you an incredible amount of data on your website and marketing including: page views, unique visitors, conversions, where visitors come from (other websites, social media, where in the world), how long they spend on a page, where they go next and more. The insights you gain from analytics can show you what is and isn’t working so you can iterate and improve. Whether it be measuring the click throughs from an email campaign or which social media platform is your best referrer, analytics are an essential string to a digital marketer’s bow.

“Analytics jobs” Google Trend:

Google Trend for “Analytics Jobs”

Indeed Analytics Jobs Trend:

Analytics Job Trends (Source)

Interest in analytics jobs has increased while the number of jobs available has stayed relatively steady. However, as mentioned above, almost all of digital marketing will require some understanding of analytics in some way, so it is important to get to grips with the basics at least.

Tools you should get familiar with:

  • Google Analytics

Marketing Yourself

Once you’ve read about all the elements of digital marketing, it’s time to put all your learnings to use. The best thing about looking for a job in marketing is that you are able to prove your skills while applying for jobs. After all, what are you doing when you try to persuade a company to hire you if not marketing yourself? Put another way, if you’re able to get the attention of an employer through marketing yourself to them, that’s a good indicator that you’ll be able to get the attention of potential customers. Sure, it might mean slightly more creativity and hard work is needed than simply sending your CV to 100 companies, but the hard work really does pay off — especially if your CV doesn’t show any relevant experience! Below are some resources and guides all based around how to get into marketing.

If you do only have limited or no relevant experience, have a read of our post, ‘How to get a job with no experience’. This is a fairly comprehensive guide on how you can get started and build credibility.

We have some great examples of people that have used their marketing knowledge to land themselves a job in our Career Hustlers series. For example, you can read about how Jeremy Rieunier used Facebook ads to get a job or how Sam Mallikarjunan Got Hired in 3 hours & 26 mins.

For some more inspiration, this thread on (an online community of marketers) has countless stories on how people got their first role in marketing. The majority of them are not groundbreaking by any means, but they show that with some small tweaks to your approach and a little bit of creativity you can see some real results.

One of the best examples (and most comprehensive step by step guide) we’ve seen of someone making a career for herself out of marketing, comes from Lauren Holliday, who wrote about how she learnt digital marketing techniques and is now in the top 1% of millennials. This post is particularly useful if you’re looking for a way to use digital marketing to branch out on your own.

Another thread (you’ll spend a lot of time there if you’re serious about getting into marketing) highlights an important point when looking for jobs within marketing. This thread has some interesting discussions on how job titles within marketing are changing. It’s important to note that some of the topics outlined above within digital marketing are still fairly broad terms, and so it could be that you need to look for more specific job titles. For example content marketing could be broken down into written, graphic, video or audio content.

Below is a slideshare created by Ed Fry, called ‘How to (Really) Get into Marketing’. It highlights the DARC (Digital, Analytics, Reach, Content) skillset and how each component fits into the marketing funnel, before providing some actionable tips on how to get started. If you need some social proof that Ed knows a little something about marketing, this deck has had over 1.25 million views so far!

Common themes from the above links are:

  • Get into marketing by marketing yourself.
  • Tailor your cover letters and be creative with how you apply.
  • Create a simple website using something like Squarespace (no coding skills needed!). It could be a ‘Hire Me’ site or simply somewhere to prove your skills.
  • Start blogging with Medium or LinkedIn (or on your new website!)
  • Build a following on social media and show your interest in marketing by posting relevant articles and following specific hashtags.
  • Start engaging with thought leaders and potential employers (using the channels you might use in the job).
  • Market yourself / your website, targeting specific people on social media (e.g. hiring managers in your area).


Looking for some further reading on any of the above digital marketing components? Below are some lists of resources to get you started.

Courses, Qualifications & Communities

Blogs to follow

Books to get started

Influencers to follow (Twitter profiles)

I hope this post has been useful in outlining the different components of digital marketing and giving you somewhere to start with further resources and reading. If you’re completely new to digital marketing, I’d love to hear your thoughts and if there was anything I haven’t explained well enough, I’m always happy to help. Also, if you’re not new to marketing and you know of any resources or influencers that you think should be included, please feel free to let me know.

Note: This post was originally published on 6th May 2016.

The Zealify Blog

Actionable advice on job searching and career growth

Liam Nolan

Written by

Currently seeking Product & Inbound Marketing opportunities. Head of Product Marketing @Zealify. Inbound Certified. #Tech, #Product, #Marketing #Inbound

The Zealify Blog

Actionable advice on job searching and career growth

Liam Nolan

Written by

Currently seeking Product & Inbound Marketing opportunities. Head of Product Marketing @Zealify. Inbound Certified. #Tech, #Product, #Marketing #Inbound

The Zealify Blog

Actionable advice on job searching and career growth

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