I've watched Mike Rowe, host and star of "Dirty Jobs" on The Discovery Channel, tackle all types of smelly, dangerous, and downright strange career opportunities. Unfortunately, I don't believe Mike ever took on a job in the world of digital marketing, as the industry can be as confounding as being a shark repellent tester (season 3, Shark Week special). To illustrate my point, I've compiled a list of some of the dirtiest jobs in digital marketing.
Before we dive into the list, I feel it would be helpful to add a bit of background. While marketing can be seen as one of the "dark arts" careers, digital marketing has both a halo (relative to traditional marketing, due to measurability) and a bit of a black mark (based on questionable strategies and tactics in a nearly standards-free industry). In fact, in an earlier article, "5 marketing jobs that will be dead in 5 years," I discuss the relative speed with which digital careers are evolving.
While it can be relatively simple to list a plethora of digital marketing job titles and argue that they are "dirty," I feel it is worth noting that there are a few responsibilities or qualifiers that make any otherwise clean job dirty-list-worthy. The following qualifiers commonly turn any digital role into a dirty job:
- A majority of entry-level roles in digital (typically intern, coordinator, or specialist titles) that do the heavy lifting for more experienced coworkers and are often lacking in recognition or support
- Working for poorly run companies with questionable products, services, management, or pricing policies
- Working for companies in denial about their brand's reputation and/or are out-of-touch with their customers
- Working for a clueless or change-averse owner/CEO/CMO
- Working with an incompetent marketing team or manager that fails to support, acknowledge, or empower your career in digital
- Any role you are in that doesn't map to your core values, play to your strengths, interests, or communications preferences
Factor the above qualifiers with the below job responsibilities and you can make many jobs in digital challenging for even the heartiest of marketers. Here is a short list of digital marketing activities that can fall in your lap and get you dirty:
- Building a social media influencer list (tedious and time-consuming)
- Cleansing large amounts of data (depending on the sources, format, and integrity of the data, this can be mind-numbing)
- Managing Google Shopping feeds (fraught with technical issues that hide like a needle in a haystack)
- Getting any website to work with Internet Explorer (self-explanatory, sorry Microsoft)
- Getting a website out of Google penalty (it may not be your fault in the first place, but that doesn't make it any easier to make nice)
Now that we're warmed up, we can get to the meat and potatoes of the issue at hand: outlining the dirtiest jobs in digital marketing. Disclaimer: This is only my opinion, backed by the Anvil team's input. Feel free to share your own opinions and experiences in the "Comments" section of this article.
Local search marketer
Nearly 30 percent of searches have a local intent. That statistic has resulted in a cottage industry around local search. While an essential component of marketing for location-based businesses, local search can be tedious, frustrating, and thankless. Claiming, updating, and managing local business listings and business reviews relies both on search engines and directories correctly interpreting your business information, as well as employees aiding marketers through the multi-step claiming process. Reviews are an entirely different beast all together, as you're most likely to deal with very unhappy customers, not to mention competitors and other haters.
Link development specialist
One of the three Cs of search engine optimization is credibility, which has historically been measured (in part) by the quality and quantity of links into your website. In order to improve rankings, businesses typically hire a link development SEO professional to secure inbound links. Although link development is considered a dead or dying SEO strategy in many experts' eyes, it is still a core strategy for many companies and consultants. Regardless, the process of securing links is painfully tedious, tactical, and may be rendered obsolete by Google at a moment's notice. Not only is this a dirty job, its future is somewhat tenuous.
Online reputation management expert
People make mistakes, and thanks to the internet, everyone else knows. Most people and businesses would prefer that mistakes are not front-and-center in Google results, so they hire professionals like me to mitigate negative results via a discipline known as online reputation management (ORM). Unfortunately, if you're truly exceptional at ORM, you can't talk about your successes, due to the nature of the work. If you're proficient in the dark arts of SEO and PR, the job can still be stymied by Google, the press, or a variety of other human or technology factors. If you're not careful at screening clients or projects, the profession can be akin to professional turd polishing.
Sales/business development for search engine and social media marketing
While digital marketing as an industry and profession has evolved and matured, it is still the Wild West compared to traditional advertising and marketing industries. Unfortunately, over the years, everyone has dipped their toe into the "search and social" waters, creating significant noise and confusion. That makes the job of selling digital marketing services increasingly difficult. As the noise increases, so too does the trickery and deception perpetrated by lazy and morally ambiguous sales people or those new to the industry from the traditional marketing world and somewhat clueless. I've been selling digital marketing services since 1996, and I can tell you it's more difficult than ever to close deals amidst the confusion created by business development professionals inside and peripheral to the industry.
Display ad sales rep
As you're probably already aware, I've been in the digital marketing world since Al Gore invented "The Internet." In that time, I've dealt with many display (aka banner) advertising campaigns, including media buyers and reps. Even in the halcyon days of 1999 at Yahoo!, the role of the ad sales rep was not particularly well respected or sexy. Since then, it's become increasingly mundane, with little to no evolution (especially in comparison to search and social media paid placement options). As a relatively low value, highly commoditized profession, sales reps have had to become increasingly aggressive and creative. Even the best display sales reps are relentlessly attacked by marketers questioning the validity of ad pricing and campaign performance.
Database marketing specialist
Digital marketing is (or should be) driven by data. Data are being created in record amounts by users across digital devices, which creates a management challenge. Once reserved for computer scientists, database marketing is now a career opportunity for just about anyone. Unfortunately, the work is tough. Cleaning and managing customer and prospect contact information can be extremely time-consuming, assuming the technology platform and database is working properly. If your role also involves curating and recycling content into endless streams of heartless and annoying automated emails, the job gets even dirtier. A glorified version of the traditional database marketing role now involves marketing automation, which may have a higher salary but many of the same challenges.
Hopefully, your current job didn't make the list. If so, you may want to cover yourself in shark repellent.
"Naked man covered in mud" image via Shutterstock.