An Online Marketer’s Role Today And In The Future 7

We’re already more than half way through 2013 and it’s amazing how things have evolved since I started doing some form of online marketing more than a decade ago. Overture was around then, paid placement still existed, and I started learning SEO thanks to Webmaster World. Boy, how things have changed. Since then, I’ve personally learned a ton of skills I would have never imagined and marketing online has evolved immensely. This shit is real now and it has become a required skill of any marketer.

There are various definitions of how people look at the Online Marketing world. Various individuals that lead marketing teams focus on paid, others strictly organic and virality or network effects, and others that are all about traditional/pr. Also, there are various forms of how people position themselves in Online Marketing, from Growth Marketing to Content Marketing. At the end of the day, you can throw all the buzzwords you want at it, but, you’re still marketing products, online, over the internet.

Marketing Products Online Has Shifted Immensely.

You can’t be a one trick pony or have a few shortcuts that might work anymore. Those days are gone. I’ve always been a believer those were things you can use to your advantage. 5 years ago it was Digg for Content/Media websites to generate boatloads of traffic, today it’s the various people trying to hack Pinterest for E-commerce sales. We’ve even seen glimpses of Facebook/Twitter “hacks” (aka shortcuts) to force traffic growth or sales. The problem is, at the end of the day, these are all flash in the pan techniques that will not be there for you in the long run.

You can’t grow a business on shortcuts. Build long term value. Build Real Products. Build Real Value.

We’ve sown the downfall of companies over and over that have used shortcuts for SEO strategies or quick techniques that were meant to generate buzz and have fizzled away. The fact of the matter is that you need some long term value and you need to build a strategic online marketing strategy. Doing so sets all of your strategies and tactics to help one another.

An online marketers role is becoming holistic

Online marketers now need to take on and wear multiple hats, especially at smaller organizations. More and more as the years go on, we start to see product marketers develop their knowledge around email marketing or SEO. As you start tying programs together, at smaller companies especially, being well versed in a variety of online marketing techniques can really help you find out what your growth needs are.

There are similarities to a product manager’s job description, you’re working with a variety of cross functional teams and helping grow users for the company. Where a product manager is focused on shipping the right product to it’s users, you’re focused on finding the audience to drive product growth and clearly communicating the vision to the customer.

I believe as the Internet and technology industries grow, you’ll see less and less of a focus on “SEO Managers” and “Email Marketers” and really a focus on an online marketer with strengths in various skills sets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there won’t be specialization, but, I think diversification of skill is almost as, if not more, important than the diversification of traffic sources. Imagine if SEO died today (which it won’t) and you were stuck in a career transition, how bad would that suck?

We’ve seen many companies fail or values dropped significantly because they were crushed by Google Panda in an effort to value higher quality sites. I’ve been hired as a consultant to help companies dig themselves out of these SEO graves and we’ve helped multiple times over. Correlate that to your career and seeing your salary die for 6-12 months…likely not good news.

Diversification of skills is important, as technologists are able to be nimble and learn new languages, marketers need to be smarter about not pigeonholing themselves. The ability to learn new tactics, find new traffic sources and grow your organization is immensely important today.

I’ve learned many new things over the past 4 years that I would have never been able to do. I was a technologist that learned how to drive traffic and build products, but, I was a one trick pony when it came to growth…it was all SEO. Since 2007 I’ve learned landing page/conversion optimization, the importance of content, social marketing, email marketing, and most recently a deeper understanding of SEM/PPC/Media Buying. But, the key is that I’m always learning and picking up new skillz.

Testing and iterating is more important now, than ever before

SEO will not work for every business, it’s become harder and harder and with local, it takes a long time to drive growth, I’ve learned this with Eventup. Local is hard, takes time to scale, and SEO can’t drive that hockey stick growth for you early on. It might be that down in the trenches work that is a strong hold for you long term, but, you need to think outside the box. Similarly, you can’t rely on social or publicity to be your only growth factor because it can fizzle instantly. Think about all the startups who died when Digg did. Media buying is also great, when you can be ROI positive.

You need to to understand your audience

Audiences for different products and services live in different places and consume content quite differently. No two industries remain the same. Which is why it all comes back to testing and iterating on a variety of techniques, instrumenting data and tracking to verify what is working and what isn’t. Some of this may be qualitative or the correlation might not be a single metric across all channels, like traffic growth. But, once you know something is working, you can start doubling down on that effort. Then, rinse and repeat and try to find new sources or ways to gain traffic growth.

What a marketers job comes down to: GROWTH

At the end of the day, growth is your top priority as a marketer. You should be a champion of growth efforts and ensure that everyone lives, eats, and breathes it. You’re role is just as crucial as a product manager because you need to drive growth so people will see the amazing product built by your team members. You and your product counterpart should be best friends and work together to drive that growth. Build internal tools together to hack through tests, understand and make sense of data, and find new ways of growth through the product.

Product working with marketing, testing and iterating, diversification of traffic, and a culture of growth are the keys to success and what will drive growth for your organization.

I’d love to hear how you you feel online marketing is changing? What do you think is changing? How do you drive growth for your company? Tell me in the comments, I want to hear your story.

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7 thoughts on “An Online Marketer’s Role Today And In The Future

  1. Reply Nathan Joynt Aug 15, 2013 6:24 am

    Hi Adam, first time reading your blog.This is a great article that sums up a lot of the same conversations I’m having with my marketing team members. I love the opportunities that arise from the evolution of the role of SEO in particular, but it is challenging to take the concepts you talk about and form them into strategic action items. At some point we move from talking/writing strategy and get into tactics, but the tactics are evolving as well so in some ways we are forced to reinvent ourselves constantly based on what’s “working” today. “Understand your audience”, yes I agree, but what does this mean in terms of action items to sustain growth short-term and long-term? Are we talking about building a community? Do we want to own it, or are we simply wanting to be helpful part of the conversation? How do we measure these impacts and know where to invest?

    More rhetorical questions than anything else. Appreciate your article all the same.


    • Reply Tony Adam Aug 15, 2013 9:56 am


      I agree, it’s challenging to take something from a concept here, which I’m speaking about in very generic terms to specific action items. It really was meant to be more of a “hey guys, wake up, this stuff is changing”. I find that a lot of people are still pigeonholing themselves into “SEOs” when there is more than SEO out there.

      And even with SEO, since 2002 has changed orders of magnitudes from only worrying about keyword content to links to social to various other signals. Online marketing as a whole has changed too and even in the short time frame, social marketing has become very different than it was in 2008/2009.

      Really the action item is to think about it more strategically by saying “i need traffic” and “where do i find the traffic” and testing and iterating upon ideas/concepts like email, social, seo, sem, retargeting, blogger outreach, etc.

      Start testing, collect data, and iterate on traffic sources — that is your action item.

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  4. Reply Sahil Parikh Aug 19, 2013 3:01 am

    Hey Adam,
    Great post. You summed it up perfectly – “At the end of the day, growth is your top priority as a marketer. ”

    Distilling and learning about what works and what doesn’t should also be a top priority for marketers cause there are just so many channels one can tap into. Try different things but stick to the platforms/processes that work.

    You *might* just be interested in what we are building – – a project management tool to help marketers grow and manage their retainer business. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Have a good day.

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