11 internet marketing skills you must always be learning

Ian Lurie

In spite of reading my blog, you want to go into internet marketing. Welcome to the asylum, my friend.
Time to start learning. This is a list necessary skills for an internet marketer. Warning: I do not necessarily know all these as well as I want to. I’m still learning:

  • Writing. I’ve beaten this one to death. If you can’t write, don’t even put the word ‘marketer’ in your title. DON’T. I hear you starting – “mar…” BZZZZT. Stop right there.
  • Statistics. You don’t need to be an expert statistician. But understanding a rolling average, statistical significance and confidence interval is required.
  • SEO. Yep. Search engine optimization. This of course leads to a whole new list of stuff. That’s for another blog post.
  • PPC. Pay per click marketing. See SEO, above.
  • Information Retrieval. I separate this from SEO and PPC because it’s central to a lot of stuff you may end up doing to dig through/mine/organize data when you do everything from social media monitoring to reading your client’s last 3 years of sales brochures.
  • HTML and CSS. Please. For the love of all that’s good in the universe. You can’t help people market on the internet if you can’t even fathom how it’s all built.
  • Design. You don’t have to be a professional designer. At least I hope not – I can’t design to save my life. But you should understand some basic principles: The Golden Ratio, typography, use of color, how to do a layout using a grid. Don’t be a native, but at least speak the language.
  • Social media. Shudder. It pains me to use this stupid phrase. Still, you need to understand how people connect online. It’s a (sarcasm here) teeny little aspect of online marketing (end sarcasm). Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and a bunch of others.
  • Math. Quick: What’s .1 X $10,000? If you answered $100, then I’ve interviewed you before. Fail.
  • Business sense. I can’t easily categorize this. But you need to understand what makes a business ‘tick’. Little stuff, like earning more money than you spend, can really make a difference.
  • Diplomacy. Yeaaahhhhhhhhh I’m still working on this one. Learn to advocate, strongly, for controversial points that you know for certain are critical to your client. Without alienating every single person in the room. ‘Diplomacy’ is the ability to tell people they’re totally wrong, and make them smile at the same time.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more here, Ian. Some people giggle when I ask them if they are familiar with HTML or stats as if I’m asking them to fry a burger instead of something Internet marketing-related.
    It’s almost like it’s cool for some not to extend their boundaries and become a more well-rounded Internet marketer. Thanks for putting it down on paper… er, the Interwebs.
    Could you go even a step further and remove the “Internet” from your post title? I’m of the mind that all marketers should strive to learn more about these Internet marketing skill sets, not just Internet marketers.

  2. Excellent post Ian, and not a moment too soon! Now if non-marketers could just see this post and tailor their expectations accordingly…….

  3. The world of internet marketing requires many skill sets, and yes you have highlighted many. As an internet marketing specialist you must know all aspects of the trade, content writing, seo, etc..but you also have to know how to connect with your clients, so that they trust in you and your abilities.

  4. Great stuff in here Ian.
    It’s good to point out that all of these should be known, but you also learn more about each as you actually do it. I know I’m still learning a lot of these things even though I already work in the industry.
    So far my favourite has been the HTML and CSS which I just finished a course in. I always knew a bit about them, but now I have more knowledge and more knowledge will lead to more interesting things I can do with them. I think that kind of learning holds true to all the things on your list.
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  5. I would add a 12th – TIME MANAGEMENT. As curators of information we often slip into a state of unproductivity: overwhelmed by email, meetings, projects, task and I strongly feel that it is essential that today’s marketers are thinking at the highest level possible and doing the right things at the right time.

  6. I was giving a talk yesterday to a group of brain dead (mostly) high school sophomores on the subject of career choice. I told them that the most important skill they can develop is writing because it will help them in any position they have. I explained that finding a good writer in my business (marketing agency) is very difficult.
    The bigest problem I find with people who call themselves “Copy Writers” is that they think they are writers. They seem to like the sound their words make in their own heads and can’t get a particular point across in less tha a couple of hundred thousand words. I have also (big shock here) received many “writing” samples with mis-spelling and punctuation errors. Sure, I’ll hire you!
    I also told the mostly brain dead sophomores (2 of whom reported NOT being on Facebook!)that the best way to learn how to write is to READ! Read everything they can get their hands on, fiction, non-fiction, biography, whatever. I hope I planted a seed.
    I am also grateful for the two copy writers I have on my staff. They actually have a clue.

  7. Great article.
    I would be tempted to add Integration as another. I’ve seen too many internet marketers who see their work as existing in a bubble, separate from the rest of the organisational marketing. Integration with the rest of the organisations marketing strategy and the core organisational goals is fundamental to success. The line between online and offline shouldn’t really exist (although it still does in many places) so a deep integration of these should be a key focus, in my opinion.

  8. In the “Social Media” paragraph, did you just invent a new tag? If you did, I’m going to use it all the time, because it’s a really great idea.

  9. I agree with this 101%. I would add up some more skills and maybe break them down in details, but I will add three more things:
    -put your face out there: video = marketing
    who reads anymore?
    -voice – do podcasts, if you can’t manage those, who’s gonna listen to you?
    and third: MANAGEMENT!
    Management skills are crucial for ANY business. It’s something that’s gonna separate you from home one man business, to empire.

  10. It’s very interesting post. And I want to add one more “Have a tutor”. I think we can learn a lot of knowledge about IM and our online businesses are grown very slowly. Because the newbies have no experience. That’s why we need a tutor who had experience and made money online. They will help us to build business faster!

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