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Home » OMN London Blog, Training

OM Training: Why is there no decent training for online marketers?

Submitted by on August 5, 2012 – 11:39 am 2 Comments |

This guest post about online marketing training is by Kelvin Newman of BrightonSEO and SiteVisibility fame. Enjoy!

Why is there no decent training for online marketers?

There’s a desperate skills shortage in digital marketing. It’s not hard to find bright people who have a Facebook account and have maybe set up a blog, but it’s much harder to find people with genuine practical experience. On one hand that’s great news, a lack of supply increases demand, which should help my bank balance. Having said all that, now my job is to be finding and training those new people for the company I work for, my opinion has changed slightly.

There are some good university courses out there, like those at Brighton Uni and Manchester Met, which are turning out some great talent, but there’s simply not enough of the best candidates to go round. So instead, what we’ve found ourselves doing is taking people on as interns/trainees/etc. and training them in-house to develop their skills and expand their experience. This has worked well for a number of reasons; you can work with people to build a similar ‘approach’ to digital marketing as the rest of your organisation, and the staff whom you’ve helped to develop their skills often tend to be more loyal in the long-term because the business and the individual have grown together at the same time.

However the problem arises when these talented people go beyond beginners and intermediates. We’ve all been there, you’ve learnt as much as you can from your boss and really want to take a particular skill set you have to the next level. Sure you can probably find some great blog posts about the topic, or maybe find it touched upon in a conference agenda, but I’ve found that’s never quite enough. The only way to achieve true mastery is by learning from the pros directly.

So attending conferences is the answer?

There’s a fundamental problem with how most digital marketing conferences work, which is a pretty weird thing for me to say, as I organise one of the biggest in the UK. They’re pretty good as a way to catch up wit and make friends in the industry. They can also do a good job at inspiring you to learn and try out new things, but having spoken and attended dozens of digital marketing conferences, by and large, they’re not that great at teaching the kind of skills that most digital marketers need and use on a daily basis.

An hour listening to someone on a stage, in front of a powerpoint, simply isn’t the best way to really delve down into a topic like Google Analytics or Schema. You need to be there, live in front of a computer, trying stuff out, making mistakes, asking people around you and figuring out how things work. That simply doesn’t happen in a room of a hundred people, especially if it’s a subject you’re only tangentially interested in. You need time, space and a small group of people to work with on it.

To be fair, there are plenty of workshops and training courses out there that make use of this sort of format, but because the providers need economies of scale they want courses they can run seven or eight times a year, all making use of the same learning material. That’s great news if you want to pick up the fundamentals and basics. However, most of the advanced skills that digital marketers would want to learn are either so specialised that you couldn’t find enough people to make running the course commercially viable, or its so cutting edge and new that a course programmed and written 12 months earlier couldn’t have foreseen the topic.

Learning and sharing go hand-in-hand

So, the obligation falls to you. If you’ve learnt a killer new skill that makes your life easier and helps you do better work, you really ought to document it so you can share it with people, better yet sit down with a few people and help them build up the same understanding of the topic. There’s no set rules to how we do digital marketing, but we could all make each others life a little bit easier if which made it easier to get hold of that esoteric knowledge of how to implement canonical tags on a second tier CMS you tore your hair out learning.

That’s kind of where we were coming from when we put together the BrightonSEO workshops. We wanted to cover topics that were either too niche, or too new, to be covered by the larger professional training companies. We also wanted to use actual ‘do-ers’ as our trainers. Not people who traipse around from one hotel function-room to another, delivering the same tired slide-deck every day of the week.

I found the industry luminaries, with whom I’d love to spend a day to pick their brains on a topic they know inside and out, and which they care about passionately. These types of people are the best to learn from because they love sharing the insight they’ve gained.

We’ve got five coming up in September, and if we’ve done our job properly they’ll be topics you’ll be interested in, but will struggle to find covered by bona-fide online marketing pros anywhere else.


  • Hey Kevin,
    I’m in agreement here, I’ve tried numerous courses over the years, some voluntarily, others not! It’s difficult to get training in advanced areas as you note, the topics change too quickly, and I think the BrightonSEO workshops are a great idea.

    The overall situation is improving somewhat, I’ve just started the Econsultancy MSc, which seems a good one, but is pretty high level and strategic.

    What I do think is missing in our industry is mentoring – if you look to mainstream PR or Advertising they often have this, or things like – I think this is one area we can improve.

  • Julie says:

    Great point! The best way to learn anything is by actually doing it, and going to the source. If I was in the UK I would attend your workshop, but I am quite far away.

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