5 min read

The only 7 skills you need for Digital Marketing in 2021

Spoiler: This list does not contain Facebook Ads, Google Ads or even TikTok
The only 7 skills you need for Digital Marketing in 2021

Spoiler: This list does not contain Facebook Ads, Google Ads or even TikTok

Online marketing today is more multi-disciplinary than ever, with the marketers who perform at the top of their field showing, above all, versatility.

Unlike developers, who have a very narrow focus, us digital marketers employ a variety of skills on a daily basis just to stay afloat.

These are the skills that I've cultivated over my career that I use every day to be successful at my job.

Keeping on top of everything may present a challenge, but the variety helps to keep our work interesting and means we're constantly developing as individuals.

So what are the top skills that every Digital Marketer needs to be effective, productive and creative on the modern web?

1) Copywriting

If I had to forget everything I know today and pick one skill to keep, I would choose copywriting.

I don't even aspire to be good at "marketing". I'd be happy if I was just a good storyteller.

At the end of the day that's all I see this job as. Telling a good story.

With copy you can sell. With copy you can build a business.

Most importantly, if you know how to write, you can instantly tell good copy and bad copy apart.

Without a doubt, your copy is the main factor that drives your conversions. Not to mention the main ranking factor for Google in 2021.

While most marketers will outsource the majority of their content writing to freelancers, it will still pay dividends to have this important soft skill under your belt.

I don't think you should write all the content yourself, far from it. But if you have some solid copywriting skills you'll be much better at editing, and spotting naff content from the rest.

2) Graphic Design

Coming clean, I'm not a natural artist. I once drew a portrait of a girlfriend that made her cry.

But this is one thing I can't get away from. Almost without exception I work with ads as a visual medium.

Whenever I'm spinning up a new Facebook ad campaign, launching a website, or even just publishing a blog post, strong and persuasive imagery will factor in.

Most graphic design should be outsourced to professional freelancers, but even if like me you have no artistic skill, having a grasp of how Photoshop or Illustrator, or some other vector graphics program works will still help you when working with images.

If you have more than a passing understanding of Photoshop you'll be able to resize product photos to fit on your websites better and get those load times down.

If you understand how a vector graphics editor works, like Adobe Illustrator, you'll be able to recycle a lot of your creatives.

That logo you had designed? How about using it to make an eye-catching cover photo for your Facebook page. Those leaflets? You can reuse the typeface and colour scheme to make a nifty infographic. The possibilities are endless.

3) Spreadsheets

This isn't supposed to be a flex, but being good at Excel feels like a superpower.

The swiss-army knife of anybody who works with data, having even a basic knowledge of spreadsheet formulas will open up a world of possibility for the average marketer.

With a Google sheet you have a powerful, and instantly shareable tool for keeping track of influencers, calculating margins, creating reports, or even a basic CRM.

Google Sheets even have a built in scripting language for flexible automation. I've built whole data pipelines in Google Sheets before.

4) HTML and CSS

In ecommerce, time is money. So why sit around waiting for a developer to install some tracking code or make a tweak to your site? Just do it yourself.

While most of the time you'll be working with pre-made themes for Wordpress or Shopify websites, having a basic knowledge of HTML will help if you ever have to make a small modification to your site without asking a developer.

It's rare that you find a theme that fits all your needs right out of the box, and usually it's only a line of HTML or CSS that's needed to fix a problem.

Lots of routine tasks such as adding the Google analytics snippet to a new website will also make much more sense if you know a little code. Setting up conversion tracking becomes a doddle.

Not to forget, any investment in your own education could save you big time when it comes to hiring a developer.

Having some background knowledge of how websites work will give you a great insight into on-page and technical SEO. While page auditing tools are great, there's nothing like clicking "View Source" on a website and diagnosing any issues yourself.

All those SEO "errors" full of jargon about "meta tags", "h1's" and inline javascript will seem a lot more useful on balance if you can read the source code of a website.

While a screen full of code does look daunting to a beginner, the rules that govern how it works are remarkably simple. It might take a day of doing an online course like at Free Code Camp before you have a good enough grasp of coding to work on your websites.

And who knows, learning HTML could be the first step in your career progression if you want to move into a more technical role.

6) Speaking Skills

Speaking is like sex. It's easy with someone you know. But you have to be a lunatic to do it in public.

As a marketer, it's easy to think persuasive influence is our job.

But I've found that usually, it's just the ability to communicate facts clearly that makes both a good ad, and a good advertiser.

For this reason, speaking and communication skills are an indispensable soft skill in any industry, but especially marketing.

Speaking isn't even necessarily just something you do in public.

Take a Zoom call with clients or colleagues, a sales meeting, recording videos or presenting reports, there's countless times every day where having strong communication skills can boost your performance.

Clubs like Toastmasters will help you develop your ability not just to give speeches, but also to organise your thoughts and communicate in a clear and effective way.

7) Quick Maths

Let me be honest, maths was my worst subject at school. I was one of those kids who wrote off every maths lesson as "I'll always have a calculator, why do I need to learn this?"

It turns out the karma coming back for ignoring Mrs. Lamb, my teacher, is the curse of being in a job where I stare at numbers all day.

A good grasp of mental maths and algorithms is indispensable to me now when quickly analysing data.

I don't often sit down and solve algebraic equations, most of the time I just have to interpret data in front of me, and estimate averages and trends.

The most common calculation I do is quickly calculating percentages to estimate ROAS.

This isn't something that came easily to me, and something I had to force myself to learn as an adult. But if you're one of those people with a natural flair for maths, I'm jealous of you. You have a massive advantage.


There's a ton of bros standing in front of Lamborghinis selling courses like "learn Facebook ads" or "learn how to sell on Amazon", as if that's the way to make money.

As usual, the truth is more nuanced.

Yes, I run Facebook ads. But in retrospect, if I hadn't carefully cultivated these skills, I'd be pretty bad at it.

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