by Eric Siu
“The Valley skill set that should be in highest demand and greatest scarcity is neither engineering nor design, but rather internet marketing.”
– Dave McClure ranting about what startups are missing
Makes a lot of sense, right? Internet marketing has only been around for a little over 15 years while design and engineering have been around for far longer. Given the relative infancy of Internet marketing, there still isn’t a solid training/education available. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of information out there — you just need to be able to find the right resources by filtering through a lot of noise on the net.
Where To Start
The hardest part about doing things is starting. Internet marketing is no exception. The trouble in this space is that there are a lot of people writing content for the sake of gaining search engine rankings or for quick affiliate marketing wins.
The big takeaway with learning Internet marketing today is being able to discern signal from noise – getting the right information from the right people and taking action on it. I’m going to cover the areas that I think are most important in Internet marketing below as well as link to one blog that you should be reading if you want to learn more about it. I’m only linking to one blog for each category so you can focus on that blog and not get overwhelmed.
Blogs To Read
Organic search (SEO) is still the top growth channel in most cases today. It takes the most time and effort, but if you can execute well it brings the most long-term value.
Pay-per-click (PPC) has evolved quite a bit from just text link ads in search results. Now there’s access to social ads, retargeting, video ads and much more. It might seem overwhelming, but if you have the basics down for AdWords, you should be able to transition into other forms of pay per click.
One blog for PPC: PPC Hero – PPC Hero has great how-to posts that provide lots of utility to the reader — their popular posts are a good place to start. They also have a series of guides and whitepapers. Bonus: I also recommend Brad Gedde’s Advanced Guide to Google AdWords. You can either pick up his book or the video training.
If you’re not looking at the numbers, you’re not going to get anywhere. Average order value? Bounce rate? Engagement? Traffic? Conversion Rates? All inside your analytics.
If you’re at a tech startup, you’ll probably be paying attention to lifetime value, churn and more.
One blog for analytics: Occam’s Razor – Avinash Kaushik is the Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and really knows analytics. Most of his blog is Google Analytics related, but it’s great for anyone that is just starting out.
Email is still one of the best acquisition channels today. Just think about it — it’s essentially the world’s biggest social network.
One blog for email: E-mail Institute – Includes a plethora of email marketing best practice tips.
Writing great headlines is one of the easiest ways to generate more click-throughs and eventually more conversions.
One blog for copywriting: Copyblogger – Great for improving your copywriting skills. Take a look at the headlines for their posts and try to mold them into your own. They say that the headline is worth $.80 of the $1 you spend on your content because if people don’t click on it, your content is almost worthless.
At the end of the day, social media is all about connecting with people that care about what you do. There’s new platforms coming out every year and it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on.
One blog for Social Media: Social Media Examiner – Provides valuable, actionable social media posts to emulate.
Content marketing is a new buzzword but the practice has been around for ages. The short explanation is that content that brings utility to your readers helps build brand awareness, likability, trust and more. Like SEO, content marketing takes a lot of time, money and effort to see results but it compounds over time.
One blog for content marketing: Content Marketing Institute – Up-to-date tips and tricks on doing content marketing effectively.
Startup marketing is a different beast from typical marketing. It’s very metrics driven and requires a lot of testing through different channels. It’s also a different mindset because there’s a finite amount of time to hit numbers. Most startups need full-stack marketers (re: growth hackers) to help with growth but there unfortunately aren’t many around today. You’ll also learn about customer development, product market fit and driving growth with little to no budget.
Affiliate marketers are sometimes seen as shady, untrustworthy marketers, but I have found that untrue. They’re actually some of the most creative marketers because they tend to just make things happen by doing anything it takes to get the job done. Learning how to do affiliate marketing is just one piece of the puzzle. If you’re trying to grow a startup and you start an affiliate program, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of managing an affiliate program.
One blog for affiliate marketing: Affiliate Marketing Navigator – Geno Prussakov’s blog on affiliate marketing. He’s a leader in the affiliate marketing space and has written a highly rated affiliate program management book.
Let’s look at some YouTube stats since it is the world’s second-largest search engine:
- 600 million views come from mobile devices every day
- 500 years of YouTube video are viewed on Facebook every day. 700 YouTube videos are shared each minute on Twitter.
- Over 800 million unique visits to YouTube each month
Video will continue to grow as people shift more of their attention online. It’s a good idea to get in now while it’s still the Wild West.
One blog for video: ReelSEO – For video advertising and YouTube tricks.
Start Out With One Channel
Clearly, there are a lot of channels and a ton of information to dive into, so here’s my recommendation on how to actually get started: Choose the topic that you find most interesting and dedicate your time to it. Don’t spread yourself thin.
For example, I started off with SEO and created a few websites to test out different strategies/tactics. Once I started getting a hang of it, I tried running some affiliate marketing campaigns. One thing led to another and I was eventually helping large publishing sites and Fortune 500 companies with SEO.
But that wasn’t enough. I decided that I needed to branch out into other online marketing areas so I could become a well rounded marketer. So I picked up PPC. I learned more about Analytics. Then I learned how to do social media effectively. Then I layered on copywriting and so on.
A good full-stack marketer understands that they need to keep learning because things move so quickly in the Internet world. Become complacent and you’ll quickly become average. Keep testing, keep reading, keep asking questions.
Although I wanted to keep the number of blogs recommended to one per channel above, I felt that it would be helpful if I shared some of my other favorite sites:
- David Skok’s Entrepreneurship blog – Posts on growing a SaaS companies, includes great metrics.
- Quicksprout – The blog of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg co-founder Neil Patel. He covers topics from entrepreneurship to Internet marketing. He also has created some exceptional free ‘advanced online marketing guides’.
- KISSmetrics blog – Widely viewed as a the best all-around online marketing blog.
- Inbound.org – The Hacker News of Internet marketing. A good place to find the latest information.
- And if there’s one post you need to read on acquiring customers, it’s Paul Graham’s essay on doing unscalable things to grow your business.
There’s a lot of information about Internet marketing online and it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to learn everything at once. Start small and then branch out into other areas. Don’t be afraid to take risks every once in a while and you’ll be well on your way into becoming a full-stack marketer.
To me, a full-stack marketer is a growth hacker. But that’s up for debate since there are multiple interpretations about what a growth hacker actually is and isn’t. What do you think?
A version of the post originally appeared on the author’s blog.
Eric Siu is the CEO of San Francisco-based digital marketing agency Single Grain. He also interviews entrepreneurs on his podcast, Growth Everywhere.