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Agency Tips for Training New Digital Marketers

Published October 6, 2016
Believe it or not, many of the college graduates of 2017 were born in 1995. They came into a world of constant connection through the Internet and cell phones. Instant messaging, social media, GPS devices and an endless stream of information and entertainment is all they know.
That assimilation can prove to be an advantage. But even though living online may come naturally to this generation, digital business is a completely different ballgame. And it’s up to us to teach them the rules.
When a staff member joins your team fresh out of college, one of your first tasks is training that person to understand digital marketing. Whether they’re specifically learning SEO or PPC, or progressing into a multichannel role, you‘ll need to make sure they have a foundational understanding of what goes into a proper digital marketing campaign.
An eager learner can quickly become a knowledgeable online marketer. However, at the same time, a new marketer let loose in an online world can easily, and inadvertently, make mistakes that can cost search engine rankings, unnecessary ad spend, and real-world sales.
From the start of a new marketer’s time at your company, make sure that you have a clear plan for teaching that person, assigning projects, establishing processes, and helping them progress in their field.

 

Learning is Not Just for School

 

Provide Mentoring

First, start by using your existing resources and prepare your current staff to mentor new team members. Especially in a small agency, you can be tempted to throw any new staff member right into massive projects, no matter what their experience level. You need help, and you’re paying this person to produce work for you. While trial by fire has its merits, to get positive results you need to set a foundation first. More experienced staff members need to be willing and able to provide mentoring

Pair new marketers with experienced marketers who can mentor while assigning the new staff to appropriate projects over time. Ensure that the lead on a project has a firm knowledge of the strategy and can communicate the right tactics to newer team members.

Let your newer employees spend time shadowing people in multiple disciplines. For instance, sit with a PPC manager while he’s setting up a new campaign, or sit with an SEO manager while she’s working through on-page optimization. Seeing an experienced person do a task allows for opportunity to learn techniques properly and ask questions.

After shadowing, let your new staff members take a stab at setting up an AdWords campaign or finding link building opportunities on their own. Critique their work before using anything in a live setting, providing feedback on what they did well and how they can improve the next time around. Be transparent about letting them know perfection is not expected and they can ask questions anytime.

Start Small

Don’t overwhelm new digital marketers by throwing them straight into optimizing a 50,000-page ecommerce site or managing a $100,000/month AdWords account. Assign them to smaller projects to allow them to learn the basics at a low level before building up to bigger scale clients. Perhaps you even have some pro bono accounts that your new staff members can work on.

While you don’t want to set anyone up for failure, it’s much less costly to make mistakes on a small project than on a large one. Of course, having the right supervision in place will ensure senior staff members can step in and prevent errors in the first place.

If your only available projects are larger ones, assign new staff to a team that will be supportive of the learning process. Understand that your newer team members will encounter a learning curve as they begin their work.

There may also be opportunities on bigger accounts to focus exclusively on one piece. Consider research-based activities like reviewing data to provide observations, conducting keyword analysis within a specific niche, or evaluating competitors for techniques worth emulating. These pursuits also create a situation where senior staff can get a sense of how the new employees’ mind works and help assess their unique strengths and thought processes.

Pass Google Certifications

For AdWords professionals, Google certification doesn’t take the place of real-world experience. However, working through the study guides and passing exams proves that a person has at least some understanding of the elements that go into successful campaign setup and management.

Google currently offers an AdWords Fundamentals test, along with 5 more advanced tests in unique specialties: Search, Display, Video, Mobile, and Shopping. All of these tests are free to take, and users who are connected to a company’s Google Partners profile will contribute to the total count of certified employees. At minimum, a new AdWords professional should strive to pass the Fundamentals exam, ideally aiming to pass at least one advanced exam in a relevant specialty to their job. See more details on AdWords certification here.

In addition to AdWords tests, you can take a Google Analytics certification test showing that you understand the basics of how Analytics tracks data and how you can properly interpret metrics. This certification provides a foundation for anyone in digital marketing, since Google Analytics lies at the core of tracking multiple online channels. In addition, the knowledge learned will be crucial for anyone involved in creating client reports.

Outline Processes

Make sure new staff members have clearly defined processes in place to work from. While general principles will carry over for AdWords campaign structure and search engine optimization techniques, your company will also have specific ways of completing tasks for consistency.

For instance, you may need to know to contact a production manager instead of directly contacting a developer to implement a tracking code on a website. Or you may need to know about properly formatting a spreadsheet where you track ad spends to share with a client.

As your company grows, you should document processes and also review them with new staff in-person. You’ll save on future grief if people clearly understand the nuances of doing their job within your company from the start.

Encourage Reading

Point your new staff to guides that will help them understand the basics of digital marketing. First, for SEO, we recommended Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO and Search Engine Journal’s list of SEO resources. Next, start with this beginner’s guide to Google Analytics to grasp a basic understanding of metrics and the Analytics interface. Finally, for PPC, see Wordstream’s list of AdWords tutorials.

Also, encourage those new to the digital marketing world to set aside time for reading industry blogs regularly. If you don’t know the industry, it’s easy to waste hours of time reading mediocre content, so be strategic in pointing people to authoritative resources. The right blogs will provide insight from the broader industry and help new team members learn about proper practices.

Here are some recommended blogs that produce carefully vetted content with at least some articles accessible for industry newbies:

Conclusion

Onboarding new digital marketers can require extensive investment of time and money. However, with the right people, a carefully planned training process can reward you with team members who have a solid foundation in best practices and are willing to learn and grow.

If you’re nearing the point of adding staff to a small agency, take the time to establish a clear process for training before you hire. If you’re looking to improve the onboarding process at an established agency, review these points and make sure you’re implementing them consistently with new staff.

The foundation of doing proper work for your clients is making sure that you have staff members who are capable and knowledgeable in their field. Be sure that you’re giving your new hires the right tools to become valued contributors as you build your agency.

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