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[Source: This article was published in marketingland.com By Careerplay - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jason bourne]

In this fast-growing era, digital marketers are expected to be skilled in a variety of areas, including analytics, creative direction, sales, digital media and more. Here's how to keep your skills sharp and gain new ones

With more brands than ever relying on digital marketing as their main form of advertising, it’s no surprise that professional digital marketers are in very high demand. In fact, Reuters reports that in 2017, digital marketing spending increased by 44 percent in the United States and to $52 billion in Britain. Globally, digital marketing spend is estimated to approach $100 billion. If you’re looking to work in an industry that continues to grow and provide numerous opportunities, digital marketing may be the perfect career path for you.

What is a digital marketer?

Digital marketing uses many traditional forms of classic marketing and sales techniques, but is coupled with technology for a more modern approach. Depending on your interests and goals, you can train as a digital marketer who is well-rounded in all types of online advertising and marketing, or you can choose to focus on one specific area.

What is a digital marketer

Why should you become a digital marketer?

Even if you don’t have any experience working in digital marketing, this is an industry that offers tremendous opportunities for all skill levels with the right training. It is a fast-paced field that is constantly evolving and as such, new roles that need to be filled pop up quite often. If you’re creative, interested in data, curious about how the consumer mind works, can work well independently and as part of a team, and you’re eager to learn, consider taking the next step toward becoming a professional digital marketer.

Another great advantage of training to become a digital marketer? Although training is often necessary for those new to the field, and a huge plus for those who have some experience, obtaining a four-year degree is often unnecessary. If you’re looking to train in a field that doesn’t require a significant upfront investment, digital marketing may be just what you’re looking for.

The demand for digital marketers is high

Burning Glass Technologies reports that for every four out of 10 marketing job ads, digital marketing knowledge is required. They also report that:

  • Multi-channel marketing and mobile marketing offer some of the higher salaries.
  • Digital marketing positions take approximately 16 percent longer to fill when compared to other roles.
  • Marketing positions that call for digital marketing skills typically offer almost $7,000 more annually.

These numbers are expected to continue to go up as the demand for digital marketers grows as well.

How to become a digital marketer?

The first step to becoming a digital marketer is to enroll in a training program that offers the skills needed to succeed in this field. It can also be helpful to know if there’s a specific area of digital marketing you’d like to focus on, as there are many training programs that target specific types of digital marketing. But it’s always an option to just learn about some of the digital marketing fundamentals initially, and then decide later on if there’s a specific area you’d prefer to concentrate on. 

Enrolling in digital marketing courses

Enrolling in an online digital marketing course is typically the most economical, quickest, and most convenient way to learn about digital marketing. Some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the industry teach these courses, which also include hands-on projects and assignments, allowing students to get a real feel for working in digital marketing. Because the digital marketing field is so competitive, getting certified can get you one step ahead.

Learn from the industry’s best

Whether you’ve already completed a digital marketing course in the past, or you have experience working as a professional digital marketer, it’s important to remember that the industry is constantly changing and evolving. Even the most experienced digital marketers need to keep up with these changes and trends, and by enrolling in an online learning program, you can be sure that you’re always staying on top of these industry changes.

On-the-job training

Without training and earning your digital marketing certification, you may still have a chance at landing an entry-level digital marketing job. Although you can gain some invaluable experience while on the job, you’ll still be at a disadvantage compared to those with several years of experience and/or those who are certified. You may overlook what seems like a minor detail or misunderstand an industry term, and as a result, make a major mistake that potentially costs you your job.

Learn by following the top digital marketing blogs

From learning the basics to fine-tuning advanced skills, following some of the top industry blogs can be a great way to learn about what’s happening in the digital marketing world. There are a lot of great digital marketing blogs to follow; two notable mentions are Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal.

While these blogs can be a great resource for any skill level, they shouldn’t replace a structured online learning program if you’re serious about a career in digital marketing. They are a good supplement to any online course, but don’t provide the organization that online learning programs provide, nor do they provide certifications.

Learn the basics from free online courses

Similarly to following industry blogs, signing up for a free course can be a good way to supplement an accredited course, but it shouldn’t be a replacement. These courses are often not as structured as accredited programs, and usually won’t be able to prepare you for a certification exam. Students in these courses also don’t often have access to the same types of resources that paid programs provide, such as live lectures and hands-on assignments.

Choosing a path

When you’re ready to enroll in an online digital marketing program, we recommend beginning with the Simplilearn Digital Marketing Certified Associate (DMCA). Students learn all digital marketing fundamentals in this program, and can then choose a path to pursue upon completion. Some popular digital marketing paths include PPC specialist, SEO specialist, and social media marketing specialist. Alternatively, you can decide not to focus on one specific area and pursue a career as an all-around digital marketing specialist.

Let’s explore these different paths in a little more detail.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Specialist

Whenever you search the web for any given term, you’ll often see top results in the ad space above all of the organic results. PPC specialists set up these ads, and it’s their goal to bring in as much qualified traffic as possible with their provided budget. In order to succeed in PPC, individuals need to be analytical and organized. Prepare for a career in PPC by enrolling in Simplilearn’s Advanced Pay Per Click (PPC) Certification Training.

In this course, students will learn various components of advanced PPC, including web analytics and display advertising. As a PPC specialist, learning about display advertising is essential. This skill prepares you to work with ads, third-party agencies, remarketing campaigns, browser cookies, optimization conversation rates, landing pages, microsites, and much more.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of any digital marketing campaign, and an essential skill for a digital marketing professional. A good SEO campaign is what helps any given website perform well in search engines, and companies are often looking for experienced and trained SEO specialists to add to their teams. Sharpen your SEO skills with Simplilearn’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Training Course, which teaches advanced SEO, web analytics, content marketing, and other essential components of SEO.

Social Media Marketing Specialist

With social media becoming extremely widespread across several channels, more and more brands are taking advantage of these platforms for advertising purposes. Aside from creating paid advertisements that are tailor-made for specific audiences, social media marketers also manage company social media accounts to engage current and potential customers organically. This can include a wide range of responsibilities, from curating and posting eye-catching content, to analyzing and reporting on data.

Simplilearn offers several different programs that give students the opportunity to learn social media, from the basic fundamentals to advanced principles. The social media course is designed to teach students not only how to draw traffic to social media pages, but also how to protect a brand’s reputation in the process. Students learn how to plan and execute strategic social media marketing plans, as well as how to analyze data for improving and planning for future campaigns. 

Digital Marketing Specialist

If you like all aspects of online marketing, you don’t necessarily have to focus on one specific area for your career path. As a general digital marketing specialist, you’ll get the opportunity to dabble in a little bit of everything when it comes to digital marketing. With this well-rounded approach, you may have the opportunity to lead a marketing team once you have enough experience. Becoming a digital marketing specialist, manager, or director can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also important to stand out amongst the competition by receiving the right training and certification.

Become a sought-after digital marketer

Simplilearn’s catalog of digital marketing courses offers a wide range of programs for all skill experience levels, whether you’re just starting out or have worked as a digital marketer for some time now. Learn more about the various programs offered and enroll today.

Categorized in How to

[Source: This article was published in techdirt.com By Julia Angwin, ProPublica - Uploaded by the Association Member: Dana W. Jimenez]

The East German secret police, known as the Stasi, were an infamously intrusive secret police force. They amassed dossiers on about one quarter of the population of the country during the Communist regime.

But their spycraft — while incredibly invasive — was also technologically primitive by today's standards. While researching my book Dragnet Nation, I obtained the above hand drawn social network graph and other files from the Stasi Archive in Berlin, where German citizens can see files kept about them and media can access some files, with the names of the people who were monitored removed.

The graphic shows forty-six connections, linking a target to various people (an "aunt," "Operational Case Jentzsch," presumably Bernd Jentzsch, an East German poet who defected to the West in 1976), places ("church"), and meetings ("by post, by phone, meeting in Hungary").

Gary Bruce, an associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo and the author of "The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi," helped me decode the graphic and other files. I was surprised at how crude the surveillance was. "Their main surveillance technology was mail, telephone, and informants," Bruce said.

Another file revealed a low-level surveillance operation called an IM-vorgang aimed at recruiting an unnamed target to become an informant. (The names of the targets were redacted; the names of the Stasi agents and informants were not.) In this case, the Stasi watched a rather boring high school student who lived with his mother and sister in a run-of-the-mill apartment. The Stasi obtained a report on him from the principal of his school and from a club where he was a member. But they didn't have much on him — I've seen Facebook profiles with far more information.

A third file documented a surveillance operation known as an OPK, for Operative Personenkontrolle, of a man who was writing oppositional poetry. The Stasi deployed three informants against him but did not steam open his mail or listen to his phone calls. The regime collapsed before the Stasi could do anything further.

I also obtained a file that contained an "observation report," in which Stasi agents recorded the movements of a forty-year-old man for two days — September 28 and 29, 1979. They watched him as he dropped off his laundry, loaded up his car with rolls of wallpaper, and drove a child in a car "obeying the speed limit," stopping for gas and delivering the wallpaper to an apartment building. The Stasi continued to follow the car as a woman drove the child back to Berlin.

The Stasi agent appears to have started following the target at 4:15 p.m. on a Friday evening. At 9:38 p.m., the target went into his apartment and turned out the lights. The agent stayed all night and handed over surveillance to another agent at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning. That agent appears to have followed the target until 10:00 p.m. From today's perspective, this seems like a lot of work for very little information.

And yet, the Stasi files are an important reminder of what a repressive regime can do with so little information.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in bbntimes.com written by Issac Thomas - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Rebecca Jenkins] 

A content strategy is a segment of your marketing plan that deals with the management of any media that you create and own – written or visual. Along with content curation, one needs to form a deliberate strategy and execute this plan in an efficient manner to attain the desired results.  

If you’re looking to drive more traffic to your website, spread awareness, and build a profitable online business, you need to start paying attention to your content marketing strategy. When you have an effective strategy in place, content marketing challenges won’t be as overwhelming – in fact, it will actually help you gain confidence in your work and take a critical step towards success.

Having a content strategy in hand opens a business up to a plethora of benefits, including higher domain authority, search engine rankings, and increased conversion potential. This form of marketing is undoubtedly a long process, and you need to be persistent enough to get the best results. Here are the five things that should be kept in mind before you draft a content marketing strategy.

1. Why do you want to do content marketing?

Before you decide to adapt content marketing for your business, the first thing you need to determine is why you even want to do content marketing in the first place. Your goals should be defined, as knowing what you want to achieve gives you a better direction and focus. Your goals can be anything – from better traffic to your website to more email subscriptions for your blog, there is no barrier to setting up your business goals.

2. Who is your audience?

Your customer should be the focal point of your content marketing strategy. It is critical to developing a broad and substantial understanding of who your customers are to gain access to their buyer’s journey. By producing content that is of value to your readers, you are more likely to gain their trust and initiate conversions. Even if you are an experienced marketer, make sure to revisit your audience parameters by conducting market research from time to time.

3. What type of content do you want to promote?

After figuring out the objectives, the next thing up for debate is the kind of material you need to create. You need to figure out the type of relevant and personalized content that can be consumed by the audience. Now, in the digital era, there are several social media platforms with a wealth of content, designed specifically to entertain and inform the audience. You can present content in the form of articles, blogs, memes, infographics, case studies, and e-books. However, before you start creating content, you should know the buyer persona for which content is being created. Knowing your customer will help you understand the way they think and the type of content they will like to read. You will sync your marketing message better with the content you create.

Try mixing and experimenting with different forms of content to see which style is producing the best results. If you have been crafting only blog posts till now, it might be a good idea to switch. For example, you can create an e-book that lists out all your previous work into one ultimate guidebook. This is a great way to offer the same information in a creative format – something that your readers will find efficient as well.

4. How will you promote the content?

Creating content is not enough – you need to make sure that your content reaches the maximum number of people as well. Promotion is as important as creating content. There are three primary mediums through which you can promote your content on various digital channels. Depending on the kind of strategy you follow, you need to choose one of these channels and make sure that your content reaches the maximum number of people. After all, without sufficient outreach, great content cannot explore its real potential.

There are three ways in which you can promote your content:

  • Influencer Marketing: To put into simple words, influencer marketing is taking the endorsements of socially influential people and utilizing it in a modern-day content-driven marketing strategy. When one collaborates with influencers, it leads to a 3-10 times increase in the conversion rate since they have a large and diverse follower list. You can approach these influencers easily, but keep in mind to perform thorough research and then provide them with a tailor-made strategy, along with your budget details.

  • Social Media Snippets: Ideally, your content should include numerous snippets such as quotes, statistics, and images, among others. These snippets can be shared multiple times over a period across various social media platforms.

  • Guest posting: Sharing your content as a guest post that has a massive number of readers will help increase the authority of your brand. Once can use channels like RedditBiz Sugar, and Business 2 Community to fulfill this purpose.

5. How Can You Stand Out?

The digital space is overflowing with content that’s almost begging for views and engagement. So, when you enter this digital space with your content, how will you stand out? Simple – you need to be innovative and smart enough to outsmart this wealth of content on the internet. The best thing to do in this regard is, to be honest with your audience. Create content that is useful to them and they will definitely engage with it.

6. What Content Ideas Can You Utilize?

If you wish to make your website more SEO-friendly and discover new content ideas, you can use HubSpot’s Website Grader to help you optimize and enhance each area. This tool effectively grades your marketing areas and provides its users with a detailed report on how they can improve and streamline their marketing efforts.

If you're having trouble sparking content ideas, ‘What To write’ is a tool that asks you questions to jumpstart your brain with diversified ideas. BuzzSumo is a similar tool that uses social media to determine if a particular form of content is popular and well-liked.

7. How Will You Build an Email List?

“Content marketing is useless if you’re not getting it in front of the right people.” There’s a lot of truth in this seemingly simple quote. The most important part of the content distribution is emailing since it lets you directly communicate with your subscribers and find a place in their inbox.

An email service provider (ESP) is a helpful tool since it lets you build and maintain your subscribers' list. It also allows you to check reports on how your campaigns are performing. An ESP also ensures that your emails aren’t automatically rerouted to the spam folder. MailChimp and ConvertKit are a few options you can start with, especially if you have lower startup costs.

8. How Will You Measure the ROI?

Knowing the progress of your content marketing efforts is very necessary to track the direction of your lead. In the online space, following the results of the investment you made is important to understand how useful it is. A content piece is considered successful when it has generated a good number of views, clicks, and engagement. Now, with modern online tools available at the disposal of every marketer, measuring the success of a content piece is not that difficult. You can easily track how your marketing efforts are faring and constantly make improvements in your content marketing strategy.

Keep these things in mind before you go through any content marketing strategy to adopt it for your business or brand. These points, if executed well, will lay the foundation for a robust content marketing strategy and help in the attainment of better marketing results.

Online research involves collecting information from the internet. It saves cost, is impactful and it offers ease of access. Online research is valuable for gathering information. Tools such as questionnaires, online surveys, polls and focus groups aid market research. You can conduct market research with little or no investment for e-commerce development.

Search Engine Optimization makes sure that your research is discoverable. If your research is highly ranked more people will find, read and cite your research.

Steps to improve the visibility of your research include:

  1. The title gives the reader a clear idea of what the research is about. The title is the first thing a reader sees. Make your research title relevant and consistent. Use a search engine friendly title. Make sure your title provides a solution.
  2. Keywords are key concepts in your research output. They index your article and make sure your research is found quickly. Use keywords that are relevant and common to your research field. Places to use relevant keywords include title, heading, description tags, abstract, graphics, main body text and file name of the document.
  3. Abstract convince readers to read an article. It aids return in a search.
  4. When others cite your research your visibility and reputation will increase. Citing your earlier works will also improve how search engines rank your research.
  5. External links from your research to blogs, personal webpage, and social networking sites will make your research more visible.
  6. The type of graphics you use affects your ranking. Use vectors such as .svg, .eps, .as and .ps. Vectors improve your research optimization.
  7. Make sure you are consistent with your name across all publications. Be distinguishable from others.
  8. Use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to publicize your research. Inform everyone. Share your links everywhere.
  9. Make sure your research is on a platform indexed properly by search engines.

Online research is developing and can take place in email, chat rooms, instant messaging and web pages.  Online research is done for customer satisfaction, product testing, audience targeting and database mining.

Ethical dilemmas in online research include:

  1. How to get informed consent from the participants being researched?
  2. What constitutes privacy in online research?
  3. How can researchers prove the real identity of participants?
  4. When is covert observation justifiable?

Knowing how to choose resources when doing online research can help you avoid wasted time.

WAYS TO MAKE ONLINE RESEARCH EASY AND EFFECTIVE

  1. Ask: Know the resources recommended for your research from knowledgeable people. You can get information on valuable online journals or websites from an expert or knowledgeable people.
  2. Fact from fiction: Know the sites that are the best for your research topic. Make sure the websites you have chosen are valuable and up to date. Sites with .edu and .gov are usually safe. If you use a .org website make sure it is proper, reliable and credible. If you use a .com site; check if the site advertises, bias is a possibility.

Social media sites, blogs, and personal websites will give you personal opinions and not facts.

  1. Search Smartly: Use established search engines. Use specific terms. Try alternative searches. Use search operators or advanced search. Know the best sites.
  2. Focus: Do not be distracted when conducting an online research. Stay focused and away from social media sites.
  3. Cite Properly: Cite the source properly. Do not just copy and paste for plagiarism can affect your work.

When conducting research use legitimate and trustworthy resources. sites to help you find articles and journals that are reliable include:

  1. BioMedCentral
  2. Artcyclopedia
  3. FindArticles.com
  4. Digital History
  5. Infomine
  6. Internet Public Library
  7. Internet History Sourcebooks
  8. Librarians Internet Index
  9. Intute
  10. Library of Congress
  11. Project Gutenberg
  12. Perseus Digital Library
  13. Research Guide for Students.

No matter what you are researching the internet is a valuable tool. Use sites wisely and you will get all the information you need.

ONLINE RESEARCH METHODS

  1. Online focus group: This is for business to business service research, consumer research and political research. Pre-selected participants who represent specific interest are invited as part of the focus group.
  2. Online interview: This is done using computer-mediated communication (CMC) such as SMS or Email. Online interview is synchronous or asynchronous. In synchronous interviews, responses are received in real-time for example online chat interviews. In asynchronous interviews, responses are not in real-time such as email interviews. Online interviews use feedbacks about topics to get insight into the participants, attitudes, experiences or ideas.
  3. Online qualitative research: This includes blogs, communities and mobile diaries. It saves cost, time and is convenient. Respondents for online qualitative research can be gotten from surveys, databases or panels.
  4. Social network analysis: This has gained acceptance. With social network analysis researchers can measure the relationship between people, groups, organization, URLs and so on.

Other methods of online research include cyber-ethnography, online content analysis, and Web-based experiments.

TYPES OF ONLINE RESEARCH

  1. Customer satisfaction research: This occurs through phone calls or emails. Customers are asked to give feedback on their experience with a product, service or an organization.
  2. New product research: This is carried out by testing a new product with a group of selected individuals and immediately collecting feedback.
  3. Brand loyalty: This research seeks to find out what attracts customers to a brand. The research is to maintain or improve a brand.
  4. Employee satisfaction research: With this research, you can know what employees think about working for your organization. The moral of your organization can contribute to its productivity.

When conducting an online research give open-ended questions and show urgency but be tolerant.

Written by Junaid Ali Qureshi he is a digital marketing specialist who has helped several businesses gain traffic, outperform the competition and generate profitable leads. His current ventures include Progostech, Magentodevelopers.online.eLabelz, Smart Leads.ae, Progos Tech and eCig.

Categorized in Online Research

Privacy, brand safety, and other factors will make paid search even more attractive to marketers going forward, according to Forrester Research.

Forrester Research says that search marketing is poised for “a late-stage renaissance.” The firm, which also expects significant mobile, video and social media advertising growth through 2021, cites a number of factors behind its prediction for search-marketing gains.

Among them, it says that privacy measures — especially the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) and ePrivacy regulation in Europe and Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention — make paid search more attractive because it is “relatively less vulnerable” to these measures. The company also cites brand safety as a major issue that’s not a problem in search but has become a major issue with social, traditional display and video advertising.

Forrester also points to Amazon’s growth as a product search engine and as an advertising channel for product sellers. Voice search and virtual assistant growth should also benefit paid search marketing, according to the company, because it’s the ad model perhaps most aligned with consumer behavior and the intended future uses of smart speakers. (I would argue that smart speakers are as much a branding and discovery tool as they are a search vehicle.)

According to the IAB, search advertising in the US led all other categories with $19.1 billion in the first half of 2017. It captured 47 percent of all online ad dollars, which was down from 49 percent in 2016 (though real dollars were up).

The growth of mobile has also propelled search marketing. Mobile ad spending was 54 percent of the first-half ad revenue total ($21.7 billion). Mobile paid search represented roughly $10 billion of that figure.

 Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Greg Sterling

Categorized in Search Engine

Captain Information to the rescue! OK, you probably shouldn't put that on your business cards, but clients will recognize your heroic powers of research when you start an information consulting firm.

In the past, information consultants were generally ex-librarians or full-time librarians who moonlighted by doing extra research for clients. Things have changed a lot in the past 10 years. Now, primarily due to easier access to information online, information consultants can come from virtually any profession. Medical receptionists can become medical researchers. Magazine editors can become expert researchers in topics they used to cover in their magazines. Paralegals or legal secretaries can take their knowledge of legal matters into business doing research for lawyers. It's even possible for you to become an information consultant without any experience in the field by subcontracting work from established consultants. The possibilities are endless. Why, then, isn't everyone with any sense doing this type of work? The answer is simple: Many people are just not cut out for it. In the next section, we'll take a closer look at what it takes to be an information consultant, so you can decide whether the profession is right for you.

The Thrill of the Search

First, if you're planning to become an information consultant because it sounds like easy money, forget it. While you may get lucky and find information for a client quickly every once in a while or find out that two clients want similar information, you'll have just as many jobs where you'll be pulling your hair out trying to find information that doesn't seem to exist. The key to surviving in this field is to enjoy the work. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine whether you're cut out for information consulting:

  • Do you like to read?
  • Do you like research?
  • Are you a "people person"?
  • Are you a logical thinker?
  • Are you organized?
  • Are you disciplined?
  • Are you self-confident?
  • Are you computer-literate?
  • Can you handle the financial demands of starting a new business?

Finding Your Area of Expertise

Most information consultants start their businesses by doing work in fields they already have some experience in. As we mentioned earlier, people involved in the legal profession frequently start their businesses by doing research for law firms, and those involved in medicine often start off doing medical research. We all have to start somewhere, and beginning with something you already have a background in can be a big plus. Many people even leave their jobs (on good terms, of course) and start their businesses with their ex-employers as their first clients.

If you don't think you have an area of expertise, do a little research. You'll be surprised at the variety and extent of the information that companies need. Take a look at the websites for organizations devoted to information professionals. A good one to check out is the Association of Independent Information Professionals' website . There you can look at a list of AIIP members and the type of work they do. Many organizations like the AIIP have websites that also feature links to their members' sites. A look at the membership lists of those professional organizations and a quick visit to some of their members' sites will show you that information professionals specialize in everything from arts and humanities to zoology.

Do a little more searching, and you'll find that organizations such as the AIIP will allow you to join as an associate member. The AIIP offers a mentor program, where you can get advice about starting and operating your business from seasoned professionals. It's not free, but it could be a good place to get started. The organization also has a referral program for members.

The combined listings of The Burwell World Directory of Information Brokers and the membership of the Association of Independent Information Professionals amount to less than 2,000 people. Even if there are twice that many information professionals currently working in the field, that only amounts to the population of a single big-city high school. Certainly, there's plenty of room for more information consultants in the Information Age.

Target Market

In decades past, information consultants were considered dealers in obscure information. Companies hired them to dig through dusty old libraries and spools of microfiche to locate information that was difficult or too costly in terms of personnel hours to locate. Times have sure changed. Such a huge amount of information is now available that those who hire information consultants are often paying to have the information narrowed down to a few key topics. If the Web keeps expanding as it has in the past 10 years, it won't be long before clients start hiring information consultants to find other information consultants (just kidding, but you get the idea). So much information is available that those trying to find it can't see the forest for the trees. The talent shared by those who pursue information consulting as their life's work is the ability to enter that same forest and return in a reasonable amount of time with a list of the location and size of all the pine trees.

Filtering information has become such a big business that in some areas--especially the fast-moving high-tech world--there is a large enough market for specialized information that some consultants make their living by researching specific topics and offering their findings for sale on the Web. They use the information itself to attract customers. Some even collect data on specific industries and charge customers a subscription price to receive weekly bulletins via e-mail.

Many companies don't have the resources to do their own research. They may also not need research done regularly enough to justify taking on an employee to perform it. It's generally far more expensive to hire an employee and provide the needed equipment and benefits than it is to hire outside help. Here are a few of the types of clients you can expect to work for, should you decide information consulting is for you:

  • Lawyers looking for the historical background of a particular type of case.Lawyers constantly need to sort through old lawsuits to find precedent-setting decisions. Smaller firms are more likely to need outside help with this task. This type of information consulting is particularly fitting if you have a background in law--if you've been a paralegal or worked in the research department of a large legal firm, for example.
  • Corporations looking for information on competitors and potential suppliers.Believe it or not, many large companies really aren't all that knowledgeable about their competitors. Some will hire you to find out everything from the specifics of another company's product line to figures that show how profitable a company has been over the course of the past few years. Some use this information to make sure they remain competitive, and others use it to scope out potential strategic partners, suppliers and even companies to buy.
  • Companies or individuals looking for patent information. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel, right? That's why many companies hire information consultants to find out about potential patent and ownership conflicts. This is an especially important subject for high-tech developers, whose ideas may be considered intellectual property even if they're not patented.
  • Magazines compiling buyer's guides. If you've ever seen a 50-page buyer's guide in a magazine, chances are it was put together by an information consultant. Most publications don't have the time or the resources to put together a complete listing of products and services for their readers. This can be a good place to start for information consultants with knowledge of a particular industry.
  • Publishing companies looking for untapped markets in hopes of starting new magazines or newsletters. Publishing companies, especially ones that publish several magazines that each serve niche markets with small numbers of subscribers, are constantly trying to identify new markets. Once a new market is found, the search for competitors begins (to be sure there's a need for a new publication), and research is conducted to find out whether the market is valuable enough to warrant launching a new publication.
  • Investors seeking company background information. Sometimes the stock market numbers don't give the entire story, and providing financial and historical data on companies can help investors decide where to spend their money.
  • Individuals looking for personal information. For reasons that range from checking the truth of someone's resume to locating a long-lost relative, people often want to find personal information about other people. This type of research is performed for clients that include lawyers, private investigators, employers and even people digging into the pasts of potential spouses. Researching personal backgrounds is not for the faint of heart. While the information you're providing to the client is generally available in public records, there's no guarantee that the client's intentions are honorable. Before you start conducting personal research for clients, be sure to talk to a lawyer about potential liabilities.

Finding a Market for Your Services

Reading the examples of the different types of information people and companies are willing to pay for may lead you to wonder if there's anyone who doesn't need the services of an information consultant. The fact of the matter is, just about anyone can benefit from having more information. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.

As an information consultant trying to make a living, you'll need to find out not only who needs information, but also who has the financial resources to pay for it. Hopefully, the suggestions given in this chapter will get the old gears turning in your head. If you have a background in general research or library science, you've got a head start into just about any area of research. If not, it's probably a good idea to keep your focus fairly narrow when you're starting out. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What subject would you be considered an authority on?
  • Is there a need for research in this area?
  • Are you willing to spend some time up front to find out whether those who need the information you can provide actually pay for research?
  • Is there a related field that may be more lucrative that you could learn more about?

All of these questions are important. If you intend to support yourself by being an information consultant, you need to find paying customers. Unfortunately, the areas that information consultants serve are extremely diverse, which makes it difficult to describe the actual procedure you'll use to find out whether there's a need for your talents.

A good first step is to become a voracious reader. Read absolutely every magazine and book available about your subject of choice. Become an expert. Becoming an expert on a particular subject is not as difficult as it sounds once you realize that most people are too busy doing their jobs to really learn everything there is to know about the field in which they work.

Once you've picked an area of expertise, test your research skills by finding contacts at companies you can provide services for. Call them up and introduce yourself. If they've never hired an information consultant, just knowing that someone is available may entice them to use your services. As you engage in this little exercise, you may be surprised by the number of companies that enlist the aid of information consultants.

Another way to find out more about the market for information in your area of expertise is to join an organization such as the AIIP. This kind of organization gives you access to people who have years of experience as information consultants. The AIIP also provides a listing on the internet where you can display your area of expertise and find others who do similar types of research. The key to taking advantage of this type of resource is to become a resource yourself. You may need information on starting a business, and someone else may ask your advice on issues in your area of strength. You'll reap as much as you sow.

Established information consultants rarely turn down a job--even if it isn't in their particular knowledge niche. It's entirely possible that another consultant may hire you as a subcontractor based on your background or skill set. While the client may not know who you are, it's a foot in the door and a great way to get experience.

Startup Costs

There are two ways to go about buying the equipment you need to launch your information consulting business. Your first option is to upgrade your office and equipment as needed. You can get by at first with an inexpensive computer, a few software programs, the least expensive internet access you can find, and the furniture and office supplies you have around the house. From there, you can slowly work up to a DSL line, a super-fast computer and the chair that looks like it came out of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Your second option is to start out spending a bunch of money and be prepared for just about anything. If you have the money, get the best equipment you can right from the start. Why? Upgrading any part of your business will cause downtime--time when you're not doing work that you're billing for. Even switching to a new desk will probably cost you a day of work while you rearrange your office.

Here's a list of the average startup costs for an information consultant who's working from a home office (which is usually the case). Because it's assumed that you'll be starting out from the comfort of your home, this list of expenses does not include office space or equipment for additional employees. The costs shown are estimates based on reasonable expenditures for computer equipment, furniture and the like. For example, if you're buying a $3,500 computer and spending $2,000 for a Chippendale desk and chair, your expenses will be higher. If you're using a computer you already own and an old kitchen table for a desk, your costs will be significantly lower.

Item Price
Office Furniture $350
Computer Hardware $1,500
Computer Software $700
Phone & Fax Machine $200
Printed Collateral
(Business Cards, Letterhead Stationery)
$100
Phone Line Installation (Two lines) $150
Other Communication Devices (Cell Phone, Pager) $100
Miscellaneous Expenses
(add About 10% of Total)
$310
Total Startup Costs $3,410

Ongoing Costs

The monthly expenses for an information consultant are really pretty minimal when compared to other types of businesses. Assuming you're working at home, expect your electric bill to increase about $25 per month from running your office machines. Your ISP will charge around $25 per month for unlimited web access and e-mail. Throw in paper for your fax machine and consumables for your printer, and you're looking at about another $15 per month. Each phone line will cost you about $25 per month. So without including long-distance phone calls and high-speed internet access, you can expect to pay a little under $200 per month in expenses. With cable modem or DSL access included, it still comes to under $250 per month.

Depending on where your clients and contacts are located, your phone bill can sometimes be a frightening surprise. Keep an eye on it. Send faxes at the least expensive times of day (some fax machines have this feature built in), and bill your clients for any long distance calls you make on their behalf. You may also want to shop around for the least expensive long distance service available in your area. The difference between seven cents a minute and ten cents a minute may seem small, but it really adds up if you spend a lot of time with the phone attached to your ear. Some long distance companies even offer perks like frequent flier miles that can make them even more attractive. You have to take a vacation some time, don't you?

Operations

What can you expect to deal with each day as an information consultant? Well, as with any job, each day will bring its own challenges and rewards. When you're self-employed, as most information consultants are, discipline is required on a daily basis. You'll only be "making your own schedule" as far as your projects will allow. Sure, you may have a few days or afternoons when you can take a little time off, but you'll more than likely spend that down time drumming up business--unless you're so far ahead financially that you can afford to nap in the hammock for a while.

In this section, we'll take a look at a typical day in the life of an information consultant. This little synopsis assumes you're taking on an entire consulting business on your own. If you're going to be working with another person who takes on some of these tasks, you'll have more time to spend on your portion of the work--but you'll also need to get enough work to support the two (or more) of you.

9:00 a.m. Check Your e-Mail and Phone Messages
E-mail is the communication method of choice in today's business world. You'll need to check your e-mail constantly throughout the day for messages from clients. It's a good, quick way to send off brief notes, questions and project updates.

One of the many advantages of e-mail is that it allows you to keep a record of the correspondence you have with clients. With a little software savvy, you can create for yourself an electronic paper trail that shows what was requested by whom. Many e-mail programs will even sort your messages into different folders as they come in, so that you can keep the correspondence you have with each client separate.

Check your phone messages next. If you're on the West Coast, clients on the East Coast have a three-hour head start on you (unless you're a really early riser) and may already have been waiting a few hours for the answer to a question by the time you're having you morning cup of coffee. Follow up on any calls you've received from clients about current and future work--especially future work. When you're first starting out, it's quite possible to miss getting a job by not responding fast enough.

9:30 a.m. Primary Research
Unless a client specifically asks only for what you can find on the web or another online resource, you're going to have to do some primary research to fill out what you've dug up electronically or from libraries or wherever else you've been researching. Primary research means going straight to the horse's mouth by calling companies or people who have written articles about the topic you're researching.

Primary research frequently involves interviewing experts about a subject. You'll need to find these experts first, but they can be very helpful in keeping you up to date. If you're focusing on a particular area of research, developing good relationships with experts can be very valuable. Are there magazines or newsletters devoted to your area of expertise? Subscribe to them, and try to develop relationships with the editors. Are there conferences devoted to your research specialty? Attend them (cost permitting) to keep up to date with new developments and make other important contacts.

11:00 a.m. Contracts, Bills, Invoices and Project Scheduling
Ahh, here we are. The inevitable (and usually least favorite) part of running any business: paperwork. Establishing contracts with clients is important; it ensures that both you and the client know what to expect. Is there a limit to the number of hours you'll work? Are there limits to where you'll do the research? Is it clear how much you'll be charging for the job? All those things need to be reviewed carefully and put in writing to prevent you and the client from having misunderstandings later on.

Pay the bills. You don't want your phone shut off in the middle of a project, and you don't want your ISP to stop your e-mail service. Have you subcontracted any work to other information consultants? If so, pay them promptly, just as you would expect a client to pay you. Are any of your clients late paying you? Give them a call after 30 days to check on the status of your payment. Have you sent out invoices for the work you've completed? Have you paid for your magazine and newsletter subscriptions? Have you tracked all this information so you can pay the required quarterly income tax installments? If not, you have some work to do.

Check your schedule to make sure you know what your workload is going to be like in the next month or two. Too much or too little work can be equally damaging to your business. To avoid financially devastating down time, you need to make time to find work even when you're in the middle of a project. Make sure you set aside time for this no matter how busy you are, especially when you're starting out.

12:00 p.m. Lunch?
OK, go ahead and raid the refrigerator. You may want to take this opportunity to review the status of projects you'll be tearing into after lunch or to read the industry magazines and newsletters you subscribe to. You'll have to make time for these tasks at some point during the day, so you might as well do your reading and eating in the kitchen to keep the crumbs out of your keyboard.

1:00 p.m. Start Searching!
Finding information is your business. Spend the next two hours online, whether it's on the internet or one of the commercial online databases. You'll become more proficient at deciding which one to use as time goes on. You'll also realize that much earlier when you've spent too much time on a wild goose chase. Sometimes you can gain more information from making a single phone call than from spending hours online. Make a list of calls to make tomorrow.

3:00 p.m. Errands
Do you need to go to the post office to mail out invoices and/or contracts? Are there any urgent packages that need to be sent FedEx? Do you have blank cassettes for interviews? Ink and paper for your printer? Make a quick run out to take care of these tasks.

3:30 p.m. Search Some More
After getting out for a little fresh air on your way to the post office, etc., your eyes will be a little less bleary than they were when you left. Back to work! Find that information!

5:00 p.m. Organize
Spend the next half-hour backing up any work you've done using your method of choice. If you wake up in the morning to find that your computer won't start, at least you'll have the data in some form (like on disk or tape). Now spend some time organizing the piles of printed material you've generated during the course of the day.

5:30 p.m. Miller Time!
Time to sit back and sip your brew of choice? Maybe, but not necessarily. There are a number of things we haven't fit into our day:

  • Phone calls can come in at any time, delaying your other daily activities.
  • Meetings with clients can easily eat up half a day.
  • Trips to the library can set you back a few hours but are sometimes necessary.
  • Quarterly taxes will take a day out of your schedule four times a year.
  • Emergency rush jobs may come up. (These often pay well, but don't let them ruin jobs you're doing for other clients.)
  • Marketing, in whatever form you choose (mailings, maintaining a web page, and so on), must be attended to.
  • Making yourself more visible by writing articles or speaking at conferences can take up considerable time.
  • The information you've gathered for your clients has to be formatted into a readable report.

All this, of course, is assuming you're working full time as an information consultant. It's possible to get started in this profession working part time or even just evenings (though it can make contacting clients a little tricky). You can also partner up with someone who has complementary skills or subcontract work to other information consultants. But as a full-time information consultant, the key is to keep all the balls in the air at once.

Income & Billing

There's really no set pricing for information consultants. Figuring out what to charge is something you'll get a feel for with time, but even then you'll occasionally underbid a job and have to work your butt off for less than your services are worth or overbid a job and not get it at all. As you gain more experience, you'll eventually reach a point where these situations will occur less frequently.

Joining an organization like the AIIP can be a tremendous help in figuring out how much your work is worth because becoming a member gives you access to consultants who have years of experience. Depending on your skills as a researcher and your knowledge of the field you'll be serving, you may decide to work as a subcontractor while you get a feel for how much to charge. That disclaimer aside, we'll hazard some estimates of what the pay is like by profiling information consultants at different skill levels:

  • $25 to 30 per hour. You're just starting out and haven't worked in an information-gathering field before. You're either working part time while you hold on to your day job or you have some other means of financial support. You've picked up some of the research skills you need by taking classes, or you're using skills you have from previous jobs. You feel comfortable searching for information on the Web but aren't an expert. You're primarily looking for subcontracting jobs where you're doing work for someone who's already established in the field.
  • $50 per hour. You've become an expert at conducting web searches and are comfortable but not yet an expert at finding information using online databases. You've proven yourself by subcontracting work from others and are beginning to get work on your own. If you were doing information consulting part time, you're now getting enough work to quit your day job. This pay rate is also the starting point for consultants who have worked as librarians or researchers but are just beginning to work independently.
  • $75 per hour. You're now getting enough work on your own that you are doing little or no subcontracting unless it's because you are being hired by other consultants for your knowledge in a specific field--and then only accepting projects when you can make close to your standard pay rate. You're comfortable with Web searching, database searching and telephone interviews, or you know your own skills well enough to begin subcontracting work outside your area of expertise to others. You haven't had to seek out work in six months to a year, and you have more than one regular client.
  • $100 per hour. Besides the skills you had at the previous pay level, you are becoming well-known as an expert in the industry you serve. You're probably being asked to speak at conventions and write articles for magazines. You have enough work to confidently subcontract certain tasks to others--mostly because you've worked with enough subcontractors to know whom to trust.
  • $150 and up. You're an expert in the field you serve as well as an expert in information consulting. You're being asked to not only find information for clients, but to consult with them to help them figure out what questions they need answers to and why. You're a frequent speaker at conventions, contributor to magazines, or author of books, either about the subject you specialize in or about information consulting itself. You may be training others or giving seminars about the skills you've gained as an information consultant. You probably analyze the data you gather for your clients and may even go on site to present the information.

All of the hourly rates we've listed are estimates and can be affected by many factors. Maybe you were already working as a researcher for a large corporation and left your job while continuing to serve that corporation as an independent consultant. Or maybe you're already an expert in a particular field and will be looking for clients among people who already have a lot of respect for your skills. Perhaps you were a librarian. Any of these factors will increase the amount you should be charging for your services. The amount you earn will be affected not only by your skills, but also by what the market will bear in the field you serve.

Billing

Here's the fun part--payday. You can bill the client immediately after the work is completed to their satisfaction. Be sure to charge for online database access, long distance phone calls on the client's behalf, and your hourly or flat rate. Your monthly ISP charge is counted as one of your business expenses because you also use it for e-mail and personal web access. Putting a note on the invoice that says the payment is due in a specific number of days gives you a set time after which to call the client if you haven't received your payment.

Other scenarios will require you to make financial arrangements with the client before starting the job. For example, if a job is going to continue for an extended period of time, you may want to make arrangements to send the client an invoice once a month. Some information consultants also work on a retainer fee just like lawyers. They're paid once a month to be available to the client for a specified maximum number of hours, whether or not they actually do any work. In this case, you may not even need to send an invoice, depending on your agreement or contract.

Expected Annual Income

An information consultant in the $50-per-hour range can make about $40,000 a year. The top salaries will be earned by those who are considered experts in their information fields--those who write articles, speak at conferences and consult. These experts bring in $100,000 a year or more, depending on the length of time they've they've worked as information consultants and the size of their client base.

One more thing to keep in mind before multiplying your hourly rate by 40 hours a week is that a lot of the work you do, including bookkeeping, studying, attending conferences and looking for work, is stuff you don't get paid for--and that's pretty time-consuming, to boot. Being an information consultant takes a lot of work. The work is rewarding and pays well, but it's definitely not for those looking for a get-rich-quick scheme.

Marketing

How do you let potential clients know that you exist? Welcome to the wonderful world of advertising. If you're an independent information consultant, it's quite possible that you walked away from your previous place of work with a potential client--maybe even your former employer if you played your cards right. However, even if you come out of the chute with one or two clients, it's unlikely that they'll bring in enough work for you to rest on your laurels and wait for them to call every week. You need exposure.

Before you get started, you'll need to do a little bit of work. Figure out what industry would be most interested in your services. Next, compile a list of companies in that field, along with contact information for the person in each company who is most likely to need your services. If you're a legal researcher, you'll need a list of law firms and contacts. If you're a high-tech researcher, you'll need a list of software and hardware companies.

Because there are so many fields in which information consultants provide services, you're pretty much on your own in finding an initial list of potential clients. Do some research. Leaf through magazines. Click around on the web. Even flip through the Yellow Pages if you think that's where the information lies. Still no list of clients? Not to worry. The following marketing ideas should help you find those first clients.

It's in the Cards

Ah, the lowly business card. It's an often overlooked but extremely effective marketing tool. It's also just about the cheapest form of marketing you can do. Having a professional-looking business card makes your business look like it means business. Keep your card simple. Be sure to include your phone and fax numbers, e-mail address and website address (if you have one). If you work out of your apartment, you might consider using "Suite 340" instead of "Apt. 340." Most information consultants will tell you that a homebased business usually appears less legitimate to clients than a business run out of a suite in an office building. It's all about perception.

Keeping professionalism in mind, you may also want to invest in things like letterhead stationery and envelopes. While these kinds of printed products may seem like they fall into the category of office supplies, they're really marketing tools. You're trying to sell your services, so you need to live, eat and breathe professionalism. Even when you're talking to potential clients on the phone or meeting with them for lunch, you're marketing your business.

Snail Mail Potential

There are all sorts of nifty promotional pieces you can mail to potential clients, from simple sales letters to brochures. First off, you'll need to know what companies to mail them to. Getting information about companies in your field of expertise and finding out to whom exactly you should send printed materials is an excellent exercise to sharpen your research skills before you actually go into business. Search the web. Buy magazines. Go to libraries. Do everything you can to find out who and where your clients are. Got your list? OK, now let's take a look at what you can send potential clients.

  • Sales letters. Letters describing your services and your background are great, especially if you have other information to include with the letter, such as magazine articles you've written on a subject pertinent to the client (more on writing magazine articles later). Keep the letter brief and to the point, and be sure to make it clear that you're an independent contractor. Make the letter as businesslike as possible and be sure to have a resume ready if asked.
  • Press releases. Everyone likes to keep up to date with his or her profession. So another effective way to get noticed is to send out press releases. You can't use information that you supply to clients in your press releases, but in the downtime between jobs or in the months before you start your business, you can do your own research and perhaps come up with key information and conclusions about the market you intend to serve.

You'll want to send press releases not only to potential clients, but also to magazines that are related to your area of expertise. You should send press releases out on a regular basis--maybe once a month--at least until your business is prospering. Be careful not to give away all your findings at once.

Does It Pay to Advertise?

If you're thinking about placing a print ad in a magazine that targets the same field as your information consulting business, take the time to do some research to make sure you're advertising in the right place. If you're hoping to have computer software companies as clients, find a magazine that addresses them specifically. But be careful here. If you want computer software companies as your clients, it won't do you much good to place an ad in a magazine for software consumers. Likewise, if your targeted clients are pharmaceutical companies, it probably won't be in your best interest to advertise in publications for pharmacists.

If you decide that a particular magazine is an appropriate place for you to buy print advertising space, look to see whether the publication has a "marketplace" section. That's the section in the back of the magazine where companies place one-eighth--or one-ninth-page black-and-white ads--in other words, the inexpensive section. Ad space in this section is often very reasonably priced at $100 to $400, depending on the circulation of the magazine. Add in another $250 or so to have a designer create a little text-only, black-and-white advertisement. Keep the ad simple and to the point.

You'll have to test the ad to see if it works for the market you're targeting. Try it out for a month or two and see what happens. Every field is different, so don't sign a contract to run your ad for a year at a reduced monthly rate until you see some results. Even the smallest market that is profitable for a publishing company to serve (around 15,000) adds up to a lot of eyeballs that may see your ad and need your services. So keep in mind that, unless you see tremendous results from advertising, a small black-and-white ad will be just fine.

The World Wide Web: Your Own Private Infomercial

Just about everyone has a website these days. A website can be a valuable marketing tool for information consultants who have enough information about their business and capabilities to fill a computer screen. Since most ISPs give you a limited amount of space for a website, it makes sense to use this space to advertise your business. Remember that your website doesn't need to be complicated. You can hire someone to put together a bare-bones, information-only site for around $500 to $1,000.

Seizing the Limelight

Your goal in all these marketing endeavors is to be an expert in your field of choice, someone who can not only gather information but also make sense of it. In this vein, there are two major steps you can take to show that your skills are up to par: writing magazine articles and books and speaking at conferences. If neither of these things is in your repertoire, that's OK. It's tough to get in front of people at a conference assuming that you know more about a subject than they do. However, even if you don't feel up to the title of "expert," you're not completely cut out of the limelight. Most conventions have panel sessions in which people in the industry you serve discuss situations they've encountered, and the audience gets to ask questions. You don't need to have an expert opinion to be the moderator (read: referee) of a panel discussion; you just need to know enough about the subject to keep the discussion flowing.

There are also alternatives to writing full-fledged articles for publications that serve your industry. Many magazines publish annual buyer's guides that list products that are available to a particular industry. You should be subscribing to these magazines anyway, so why not offer your services to them as an information consultant? If you do a good job, you may be offered other opportunities to contribute to the magazine as a researcher or a writer. However, if you decide to write for magazines, keep in mind that most trade publications don't pay very well. You accept assignments from them based on the fact that they're giving you a byline and exposure to thousands of readers, essentially a free advertisement for your services.

Resources

Associations

Books

Magazines and Other Periodicals

Mentor Programs and Seminars

 

Source: This article was published entrepreneur.com

Categorized in How to

A local plumbing contractor trying to get his business found online.

A recent college grad who just accepted a marketing position in a manufacturing company and is in charge of increasing the brand’s social media reach.

digital marketing agency content manager who is tasked with creating a content strategy for her clients but has no background in search engine optimization.

What do all of these people have in common?

They all need to learn the skills that it takes to be successful in digital marketing.

A recent article by HubSpot, 5 Essential Skills Marketers Need to Succeed This Year, included an infographic from TEKsystems listing the skills that are in demand by marketing leaders. Organizations investing in their marketing strategy are seeking knowledge and experience in key areas of digital marketing.

It was an eye-opening look at the vast array of skills needed to pull together a complete digital marketing strategy. The marketing subsets of digital advertising, social media, content development, web design and mobile marketing top the list of the most prized skills. Like many of the readers who commented on the article, I was left wondering, “so where do we go from here?” We now know what organizations want but where do we get those skills?

According to TEKsystems’ research, here is a list of the skills that marketers need to succeed.

Digital Advertising:

  • SEO/SEM
  • Digital business analytics
  • Digital project management
  • Graphic design
  • Pay-per-click analytics

Social Marketing:

  • Social media management
  • Digital business analytics
  • Content strategy
  • Creative direction

Website Design/Development

  • UX design
  • Front-end development
  • Web development
  • Content creation and management
  • Consumer/behavioral analytics
  • Product management

Content Development

  • Content management
  • Digital project management
  • Web/traffic analytics
  • SEO/SEM
  • Content creation and management

Mobile Marketing

  • Mobile design
  • Mobile development
  • Web/traffic analytics
  • E-commerce analytics

You’ll notice that some skills are important in more than one subcategory of digital marketing, for example, analytics, project management, and content creation and strategy. If you are working for a small agency or local business, you may have responsibilities in several areas of your firm’s marketing department and will need a broad range of skills.

Many of us come into digital marketing from other areas of business. And individuals with a traditional marketing background may transition into the world of online marketing with no experience in it. So, where do we turn to fill the skills gap?

Fortunately, you don’t need to go back to college to learn digital marketing. The good news is that learning about marketing on the internet can be done on the internet, for free, in your spare time. There are many online sources from which to learn web design, social media marketing, content marketing, SEO and inbound marketing. Some of them are structured courses and certificate programs. Others are tutorials that can be found on the websites of digital marketing tools. If you’re like me, you’ve been thrown into this crazy, exciting industry and you’ll learn it on the job!

Free Digital Marketing Training

SEO

Moz.com is the bomb dot com if you want to learn the essentials of SEO. Their free online training guides you through the basics of SEO and link building. They also offer low-cost bootcamps and seminars if you want to take a deeper dive into search engine marketing.

Analytics

Google’s Analytics Academy provides free training and resources to learn Analytics and data analysis tools. If you’re brand new to utilizing Google Analytics to monitor your website’s reach, the beginner course will walk you through setting up a dashboard, navigating the reports, setting up goals and tracking campaigns. The Advanced Google Analytics course will instruct you on setting up reports and metrics for your business.

The Analytics Academy also prepares you for AdWords certification. Visit Google Partners for more information on joining the Partner program and taking the free certification exam.

Another option for learning web analytics is Alison’s Diploma in E-Business. It covers how to develop and implement an online marketing strategy, including using Google Analytics, AdWords, Adsense and Webmaster to help you attract customers online.

Inbound Marketing

HubSpot provides exceptional video courses in several areas of inbound marketing. Their free certificate courses in Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, Sales, and Content Marketing are like taking mini college classes. They are very thorough and provide an in-depth look at the inbound methodology and its application to the way consumers use the internet today. Visit the HubSpot Academy for more information.

Social Media Marketing

Hootsuite, one of the leading social media management platforms, offers free social media training courses covering every aspect of social media from optimizing your social media profiles to developing a social media strategy to social media advertising. Should you want the credentials, for a fee you can take a certification exam based on the training.

Constant Contact’s free Social Media Quickstarter program offers “101” courses covering all social media outlets. There are separate training modules for each platform, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat. You’ll learn to set up your profile, use the platform to increase exposure and sales, analyze your reach, and advertise.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is more than just writing blog copy. It’s is an integral part of digital marketing and is intertwined with SEO, inbound marketing and social media promotion. So it’s no surprise that several online digital marketing or inbound marketing courses include content marketing in their mix. As mentioned before, HubSpot’s certification training offerings include content marketing. Their in-depth course covers every aspect of content marketing and will give you a strong foundation on which to build and carry out your content strategy. Moz also offers a beginner’s guide to content marketing.

Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People (love the title!) is founded on the principle that “Internet marketing builds authority using content to inform and build trust with prospects and customers.” This free online course is delivered to your inbox via 16 eBooks and 20 emails. One section of the course is devoted to Content Marketing.

Email Marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to connect with your prospective buyers and continue the relationship post-sale. There are a lot of moving parts in email marketing. Taking an online course that covers the basics will serve you well. HubSpot offers an email marketing certification course that includes list segmentation, writing engaging email copy, lead nurturing and analytics.

While not an online course, Constant Contact’s blog provides a wealth of information on email marketing and automation. There are many email marketing platforms available. Whichever one you choose should provide ongoing training and support. For example, MailChimp sends weekly tips on effective email marketing and has a training and support portal on their site.

Web Design

Not every marketer needs to know HTML and CSS, but some basic knowledge of web design will help you understand the mechanics of your website and allow you to fix little issues yourself without calling your developer. Codeacademy comes highly recommended and is teaching the world “to code interactively, for free.” Give it a try and release your inner computer geek!

Not Free But Worth a Look

Coursera is an online education platform that offers courses in many professional disciplines, including marketing. They partner with universities to offer flexible learning opportunities to busy professionals. From single courses to multiple course series to online degrees, they offer it all. They have a huge library of courses available at various price points. Their Content Strategy for Professionals is a 5-course program developed by Northwestern University and culminates in a capstone project and certificate exam.

Online Marketing Institute (OMI) has a strong reputation in the industry and is perfect for busy small business owners who want to select from a broad range of courses. OMI has courses in everything digital marketing, including email marketing, web analytics, search engine marketing and mobile marketing. You can select a group of courses based on your skill level and your marketing channel or hand-select individual courses. The basic membership is $27 per month which includes unlimited access to their video course catalog.

One thing is certain, advances in technology and the way we promote our businesses online will continue to evolve. Staying up-to-speed on effective ways to market your business will help you be successful and set you apart from others in your industry. Whether you are new to digital marketing or want to expand your marketing skill set, there is sure to be a free course available online.

Have you taken any online digital marketing courses? What do you recommend? We’d love to hear your suggestions.


Source: This article was published business2community By Rhonda Bavaro

Mobile has changed everything, but it's only Act One. Machine learning in marketing is set to drive the industry's next revolution. Google's Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, reflects on the implication of this change and how leading brands will navigate the shift.

What's the next big thing? What comes after mobile? Where is marketing headed?

I often get asked these types of questions. Many of us who work in ad tech do. And while fortune teller is a job title most of us wouldn't claim, I am increasingly confident about what the future will hold because it's coming so clearly into view.

Here's why: The future coming into view is an acceleration of what we see today. It's unfolding before our eyes. And if we press pause and reflect for a moment on what's happening, it's as exciting as anything I've witnessed or worked toward during my 14 years at Google.

For consumers and marketers alike, mobile has forced a rewriting of the rules.

Reflecting on the big picture reveals—in an equally obvious and striking way—just how much of a game-changer mobile really is. For consumers and marketers alike, mobile has forced a rewriting of the rules. Consumers have become more empowered than ever to get what they want, when they want it. Waiting has become a thing of the past. That translates into today's pervasive micro-moment behavior—immediately turning to a device to know, go, do, and buy. To capitalize on that behavior and win over consumers, marketers have been forced to rewrite the rule book. You've had to double down on addressing the needs of consumers in the moment, committing to being there and being useful each and every time you can help advance the journey. In short, marketers have had to start being a lot more assistive.

But mobile isn't just an epic game-changer. It's a prerequisite, Act One. Just one critical leg of the journey. Pick your analogy, but I like to think of mobile as the force that's accelerating a train we're all now aboard. It's critical to get it right—because strategic shifts made today lay the groundwork for what's coming.

As new smart devices continue to emerge and as consumers embrace new, more natural ways to interact with those devices (like voice commands), the micro-moment behaviors mobile kick-started will only multiply. And as data and machine learning become more sophisticated in enhancing everyday consumer experiences, the expectations for relevant, personalized, and assistive experiences will continue to skyrocket. We're heading toward an age of assistance where, for marketers, friction will mean failure, and mass messages will increasingly mean "move on."

We're heading toward an age of assistance where, for marketers, friction will mean failure, and mass messages will increasingly mean "move on."

In this new age, it won't be enough just to be present across more micro-moments. We'll all be expected to stay a step ahead of consumers—to know their needs even better than they do. Successful marketers will have a much deeper understanding of their customers at every encounter. They'll focus on acquiring a detailed, data-driven view to really know them and help them along their individual journeys. That's the assistive mindset that will be required to win.

If I didn't believe so much in the role of technology, I might get worried. How can we as marketers possibly scale relevant messages and experiences across all devices at all moments? How can we possibly deliver smart marketing that recognizes each customer is unique, while simultaneously driving the bottom line? But I'm not worried. I'm thrilled. It is precisely technology—specifically the promise of data and machine learning—that will enable us to get this right.

Some organizational change will be required. And it will be necessary to embrace new standards for business as well as invest for the future. Here are three things to focus on as we navigate this shift together:

Raising the bar on mobile: To delight and be useful, we need to deliver fast, relevant, assistive experiences. It's important to lay the groundwork early with incredible mobile experiences.

Being smarter with data: A better understanding of consumers, coupled with smart automation, will enable personalization at scale. The ability to connect first-party data to media execution will be foundational to success.

Embracing omnichannel assistance: Leading brands will bridge online and offline, delivering seamless experiences throughout the consumer journey.

There's much work to be done. But in many ways, this future is what we at Google have been building toward for the last 18 years with Search. We can apply our data, intelligence, and scale to help marketers deliver the most useful messages for each and every micro-moment. I'm no fortune teller, but I believe the future is going to be pretty exciting, and I'm thrilled to be on this ride with all of you.

Source : This article was published thinkwithgoogle.com by Sridhar

Our recommendations on the top 10 free sources for Global, European, UK, US, Asia and Latin America marketing statistics

Online marketers love statistics about digital marketing. Us too. They allow us to review customer adoption of the latest digital platforms, make the business case for investment in marketing and allow us to benchmark our performance against competitors.

This post is aimed at helping you if you're looking to compile your own stats by sharing, the best, most reliable free and paid sources. Everyone has their favourites, but I thought it would be useful to share the ones that I go back to most often each week as I research the updates for Smart Insights members and readers of my books.

We have been keeping this post updated for nearly 5 years now since the best sources change. I've also tried to make the best international marketing sources for different regions and countries clear.

To help readers of our blog keep 'up-to-speed' with the most significant, best sources of marketing stats we have daily 'Chart of the Day" posts we feature in our digital marketing statistics post category and flag them as #DigitalInsights on social media and in our e-newsletter. From reviewing thousands of stats sources over the years, we've found that there are a very small number of quality online marketing statistics sites and sources which are updated at least annually and have a representative sample size from different countries.

For Expert members, we compile a regularly updated set of usage statistics to use in presentations - it's updated each quarter so all the latest stats are categorised in a single place for including in presentations.

Quite a few readers have added to the suggestions in the comments - thank you for adding to this free resource with your recommendations!

Top 10 sites for digital marketing statistics

These sites cover global stats including UK, Europe, US, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Thanks for adding the other suggestions to the comments - well worth checking out for anyone searching for statistics sources who passes this way. I've added these to the custom search engine too.

1 Global and country Internet usage breakdown - International Telecomms Union

www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics

ITU is THE global and by country source with the biggest sample size for the big picture of digital device usage and trends by continent and use of fixed and mobile broadband access by country per 100 people. This is their latest release from the end of 2016 showing the growth opportunity for Internet accesst and higher-speed smartphone use across the world.

2 Global use of social media sites and devices - Global WebIndex

Global Web Index is a paid service giving insights on consumer use of social network sites globally and different countries from their own panel of 18 million (which they claim to be the largest worldwide), but they regularly feature very specific social media stats on their blog (although they stopped releasing reports on Slideshare to encourage purchase of their subscription product).

This research shows the potential of video marketing in 2017 by looking at consumption across different age groups.

3  For benchmarking sites within a sector for sources - Similar Web

SimilarWeb is a freemium tool for benchmarking the number of visits to sites and mobile app usage. It shows traffic sources for individual sites (good for student projects)  with categories and keywords in the paid Pro version. This example compares US online retail popularity in one sector, clothings.

4 Consumer media use in individual countries - comScore

For detailed insights of consumer Internet usage and ad spend by country, The comScore press releases summarising their panel data are one of the best sources of the latest stats releases. Their blog can also be helpful - I have included within the custom search engine. A similar service based on panel data included in this search engine is Nielsen Insights.

comScore have a Digital Future in Focus series of reports covering the UK, US, several European countries, Canada and Brazil - these are released each year and can be accessed by their articles tagged demographics. This result from the panel shows the importance of multiple platforms although some, such as Google follow a 'Mobile first' mantra which can be misleading in our experience.

5 European Union Digital Marketing Statistics

The EU statistics site Eurostat is the best source for overall European use of digital technology and in individual countries. The Information Society page is the best starting point.

6 Best UK source for consumer Internet usage statistics - Ofcom

The Office of Communication Communications Market Report Statistics has in-depth reports on adoption of digital media including telecommunications and the Internet (including broadband adoption), digital television and wireless services in the UK. They also have comparisons to other major developed countries in their international benchmark report. For example, here we can see the relative popularity of different social networks in different countries.

7 UK National Statistics and consumer trends

The UK Government Office of National Statistics site is an alternative source - there is no themed area on Internet use any longer, so search on 'Internet access' or 'Ecommerce'

8 US digital marketing statistics - Marketing Charts and Pew Internet

Marketing Charts is a long-standing aggregator of information about consumer and business adoption of technologies and approaches. Care has to be taken of sample sizes and it tends to focus on US data - it's rate for it to include any of the sources above.

They often feature Pew Internet Statistics which are one of the best sources for the latest statistics on how Americans use digital media and technology.

9 eMarketer

Emarketer.com is another well-established compilation of digital statistics for online marketers - more US oriented. It includes a paid option, but many free statistics are published on their blog.

10 Ad Spend and media investment - IAB Research

Research reports on online advertising effectiveness from the UK IAB US IAB and European IAB (AdEx) and IAB Europe (AdEx).

Recommended Smart Insights marketing statistics compilations

Using these research sources and others we have these compilations of benchmarks to compare the effectiveness of other channels which we will keep updated through 2017:

Digital marketing statistics search engine

To save myself time sourcing the latest stats for Smart Insights and my books I have created a custom Google search engine covering all these sources and Smart Insights. I hope you find it useful too:

We will keep this list updated as sources change. Here are some that were formerly useful, but where less digital marketing research tends to be shared today:

Source : smartinsights.com

How can businesses stay on top of the digital marketing ecosystem and achieve the optimum balance of technology and human intervention?

What does the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) conjure up in the mind of the consumer? Will our children be replaced by fun-loving androids as the eponymous 2001 Steven Spielberg film A.I. suggests? Or perhaps grown adults will suddenly be replaced by robots in the workplace? 

While all of that may seem a little far-fetched, in reality, AI is already integral to many consumers’ daily lives – in the form of image and voice recognition on mobile devices; personalised viewing suggestions on streaming platforms such as Amazon Video or Netflix; or voice interaction/recognition analysis incorporated into search engines such as Google. 

AI has also gained recognition in the healthcare sector – machine learning applications that have the potential to assist hospital staff in routine tasks such as keeping a patient’s treatment records up to date are being tested and the voice-controlled Amazon Echo device, Alexa, can assist patients at home with tasks such as reminding them to take medication or arranging a GP appointment. AI also made news within the gaming industry. Earlier this year, a bot named Liberatus learnt the rules and strategies associated with poker before going on to beat four world-class poker players over a three-week tournament. 

And in the digital advertising industry, AI is also emerging as a necessary tool for marketers to better engage with their customers. So, with AI firmly on the agenda, how can businesses stay on top of the digital marketing ecosystem and achieve the optimum balance of technology and human intervention?

The current role of AI in digital advertising

In recent years, the digital world has become increasingly aware of, and reliant upon, AI technologies. To ensure the responsible and transparent development of AI, technology giants including Google, Facebook, Amazon and (most recently) Apple established the ‘Partnership on AI’, which aims to promote the benefits to marketers and consumers, and alleviate any concerns about the impact of AI on daily life. But amid these times of speculation, marketers are beginning to realise that one thing is for certain: AI is a reality, and will inevitably have an impact on the digital advertising industry. 

The first thing for marketers to understand is how AI is already influencing digital advertising. Several ad platforms already incorporate machine learning technology and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to enable the delivery of more relevant content to consumers, as well as creating more cost-effective targeted algorithms and campaigns. NLP works by semantically analysing data at a granular (i.e. page) level – in real time – to comprehend and process words, emotions, and context just as the human brain would. By making use of these sophisticated technologies, marketers can make decisions in seconds as to when and where they should be placing their ads to best reach and engage their target audience. 

Taking digital advertising to new heights with AI

With the proven potential of AI growing daily, many industry experts are making predictions about its role in the future of online advertising. So exactly how will AI impact areas such as data processing, brand alignment, and ad placements for marketers?  

Honing in on the data with first-party propensity profiling 

With programmatic set to account for more than three-quarters of UK display advertising in 2017, marketers are placing more and more importance on the use of first-party data to target audiences through the delivery of quality ads – despite the quantity of impressions served. Machine learning can already be used to filter and refine large volumes of data  – and when used to its full potential, it can analyse and predict customer moods, tastes, and needs to build a propensity profile based on their tendency to interact with a brand or specific message.  Marketers can use these first party profiles to adjust and optimise accordingly for their campaigns. 

For brands, building up first party data sets with customer feedback and digital interactions is a base for AI. As a starting point, brands can match customer interest/behaviour profiles in response to brand campaigns with first party data - we’re not far from the day when all major brands will “learn” from their daily digital customer interactions to create their own propensity profiles. This will help ensure the most effective and continuous buyer-seller relationship using a programmatic environment to deliver personalised messages at scale.

With access to such rich data to stimulate and capture interest from the consumer, the process of lead generation can be revolutionised by AI. The abundance of information readily available online has made it more important than ever to break through the noise in ways that mass-untargeted advertising cannot. 

Understanding a consumer’s need

Knowing what resonates with a consumer is the holy-grail of digital advertising. Taking the information on what interests and content a consumer likes to engage with means digital publishers can produce a content recommendation engine to understand what content they are likely to engage with in the future. Ultimately, this means advertising yields can be maximised as inventory can be sold based on audience segments, dependent on the interests and likelihood of consumers to engage. 

AI-driven advantages 

There are many ways in which AI can help – and is already helping – optimise campaign results. Such advances include optimisation engines that support campaigns from the perspective of the best buying/purchase and delivery solutions, understanding the best contextual placements, and dynamic creativity solutions where AI is used to determine the most effective creative.

Through cognitive and semantic technologies, AI can be used to determine how appropriate a brand’s ad placement will be within a certain contextual environment, and therefore how relevant the ad will be to that particular audience. With video becoming one of the fastest growing ad formats today, as highlighted by research from IAB/PwC, contextual video placements in particular are benefiting from AI technology. Outstream and in-read formats – which can appear anywhere on the page – compared to traditional video ads, which run before, during or after an online video – now account for 40 per cent of total video ad spend. 

With the help of machine learning capabilities and looking beyond simplistic keyword classifications, marketers can detect trends in user traffic and behaviour to enable contextually relevant ad alignment.

Unifying omnichannel marketing

With the rise in omnichannel marketing strategies to harness the explosion of consumer data now available, AI will play a key role in the integration of several different messaging platforms to create a unified user experience that will one day include the use of chatbots and virtual assistants as standard. Marketers will move away from focusing on each channel separately and, with the help of AI, start to assess their marketing campaigns as a whole.

While chat bots are not yet capable of sentience to provide a realistic human experience, AI enriched bots and customer engagement tools can be effective. However, for the full benefits to be realised, AI must be deployed transparently and in a way that is relevant to consumers.

So while it is safe to say that we are still a world away from technological singularity – i.e. androids knocking at your door – now is the time start to thinking about how AI can and will affect your business, and how you can use machine learning and semantic technologies to deliver more relevant campaigns than ever.

Author : Giovanni Strocchi

Source : http://www.itproportal.com/features/ai-technological-singularity-or-simply-the-best-thing-to-happen-to-digital-marketing/

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