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5 Must-Know Insights for Digital Marketers from the University of Edinburgh’s Free Short Online Course

Did you know that hiring for digital marketing roles has been growing nearly 33% year-over-yearAs an MSc Marketing student at the University of Edinburgh, I found it no surprise that Linkedin has listed digital marketing as one of the fastest growing sectors in 2021 (source: CNBC).

While the world has already been gradually leaving traditional media for digital over time, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the process. Many marketers immediately scrambled to reach consumers through the internet as people were ordered to stay safe at home and avoid spreading the virusIn a digital landscape cluttered with information, it is often challenging for a brand to stand out and have a meaningful online presence. 

recently had the chance to learn from the University of Edinburgh’s free Digital Marketing Strategy short online course on edX to supplement my current formal education. Being fully self-paced, the suggested commitment is only 4–6 hours per week for 8 weeks, with the option of purchasing a Verified Certificate if one wishes. There are also practical tasks to complete weekly.  

One of the instructors was my own lecturer, Dr. Ewelina Lacka, who taught me Consumer Behaviour last semester! As she mentions in the introduction of the coursethe average person spends more than 24 hours per week browsing the Internet, with the average screen time being 5 hours a day. I think these figures illustrate just how significant digital media is in the daily lives of consumers. One of the fascinating things about the course is that it featured a number of digital marketing case studies from real Edinburgh-based companies 

Here are five insightful tips I have gained from the course that will be useful in my career as a marketer: 

1. Digital value can set enterprise apart 

Imagine that you’re a marketing executive of a phone company. While the core function of a phone is to make calls, there are several ways you can help provide added digital value to a phone: 

  • Videos showing how to use new features of the phone 
  • Providing consumers with additional complimentary products or services online 
  • Mobile applications helping consumers navigate through the phone 
  • Providing consumers with new app-based digital product or services 
  • Online reviews, testimonials, product endorsements, and user-generated content 

In this modern age, it is essential to think about how you can take advantage of digital to help add value to your product or service 

2. E-commerce websites need to be easy to use 

E-commerce websites such as Amazon allow consumers to view and purchase products online. However, your website must be well-designed and easy to navigate. Poor user experience (UX) will leave a bad impression and deter consumers 

Your website must be responsive to mobile devices, since most people browse the internet from their smartphones as well as desktops. Other things to note are protection of consumer data and good product presentation. I personally feel that live chat features on websites are great!  

Major tip from Dr. LackaTo encourage consumers to spend more time on e-commerce websites, firms can add digital value to these sites and introduce experts’ product reviews or blogs. 

3. Marketers must be well-versed in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 

Making sure that one’s firm appears on top of a search results page is almost like a competitive sport for marketers these days! Search engines such as Google and Ecosia play a huge role in online consumption and brand presence, therefore you’d be in high-demand as a digital marketer specializing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 

Mastering SEO helps firms to avoid being punished by search engine algorithms, which change every few months. Some things that could possibly lower a website’s search engine ranking are bad website content quality, too many ads or spam, and manipulative link building practices. Don’t try to outsmart the algorithm or consumers! 

4. It is vital to understand and influence the online consumer journey  

 According to the edX course, an online consumer journey depicts the patterns of how consumers become aware of products, search for products, and purchase themIf you market shoes, for example, a consumer might see an online ad before browsing your company’s website. They might read online reviews but then forget about you for a few days. However, after they receive a reminder e-mail from your companythey make the decision to purchase a pair of shoes online. After that, they may even upload them on social media and tag your brand. 

As you can see, the consumer journey is quite complex, consists of several touch points, and is different for every consumer. In the edX course, an Edinburgh-based digital marketing agency called QueryClick provides more detailed insights on how they used pixel trackers and analytics tools to learn more about consumer journeys 

 5. The shift to digital has made it easier to conduct competitor analysis 

As marketers, we are always striving to offer more value than our competitors. Thanks to digital, it has become much easier to observe what competitors are doing and think about how to achieve stronger competitive advantage 

If you’ve ever been to Edinburgh, you may have visited an attraction named Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions. They provided an interesting case study in Week 7 of the course, comparing data from review sites, social media platforms, user-generated content and firm-generated content. For example, they compared TripAdvisor ratings and Instagram follower counts to other attractions. In short, digital marketing data can provide a better understanding of your firm’s position in relation to your competition.  


“Despite the challenges the industry experienced last year, it’s positive to see the rise in demand for digital marketing and social media talent, as well as creative and digital content freelancers, as companies invest in their brand to support a return to growth,” says LinkedIn head of marketing solutions Tom Pepper (source: Marketing Week). 

Written by Ari Badlishah, MSc Marketing 2020/2021, the University of Edinburgh

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