Do you have a healthy obsession with detail and numbers, strong communication skills, and an interest in human behavior? If you love in-depth analysis and experimentation, there’s a place for you in marketing—many places, in fact. Thanks to the ever-growing importance of digital marketing across all industries, there are more seats at the table than ever for data-savvy professionals.
Here are four of the best data-driven marketing roles for people who love numbers:
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist
Search engine optimization specialists focus on getting more eyes on a website. They determine the keywords and topics that potential customers are searching for and figure out where the business can provide useful products, services, or information. They help businesses appear higher in relevant search results on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. And they ensure that their strategies are meeting the ever-changing guidelines of major search engines.
SEO is an ideal role for someone with a strong interest in and comfort level with data and research; someone who can dive deep into the weeds and extract meaning—and then strategy—from the numbers.
According to Mason Stout, SEO Specialist for SeniorLeaf, “the most important responsibility for an SEO specialist is to completely understand your data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and any other analytics platform you use.” An SEO specialist should be intimately familiar with their website traffic performance and should be able to interpret any trends they see in the numbers. This type of analysis isn’t something you can just breeze over, explains Stout. “You also need to be curious about data and be willing to keep diving deeper and deeper to find what is actually happening with your site.” Otherwise, a quick glance can lead to some faulty assumptions.
So what’s a typical day like? It can present a “very nice mix of technical and creative work,” according to Marshall Simmons, an SEO specialist and content marketer at ProjectManager.com, and will likely include a combination of both on-page and off-page activities.
On-page activities might include restructuring a website, creating new content based on popular keywords and search topics, or updating and optimizing old blog posts. For example, Simmons’ team is currently auditing a “backlog of old content and either rewriting or repurposing it to perform better in SERPs [Search Engine Results Pages].”
Off-page activities, on the other hand, may include “link outreach”—pursuing backlinks to a website by being quoted in the media or by guest posting on other sites. And it’s important to maintain those links, says Joseph Piñeiro, SEO Manager at 360Training.com. “Today, I’ve focused on fixing broken backlinks pointing to our website by looking up all our 404 [error] pages, checking who linked to them, and redirecting the ones with the most referring domains to a relevant page that’s live.”
What Makes a Good SEO Specialist?
An analytical mindset, strong research skills, and a “leave-no-stone-unturned” investigator’s spirit will help you thrive in an SEO role. SEO specialists are expected to always be learning and staying up to date on trends and changing algorithms, says Piñeiro. “You need to be a lifelong learner, as the field changes fast. If you don’t read SEO articles, listen to podcasts, and attend conferences, you’ll be left behind.”
Because of the amount of on-page writing and off-page outreach involved in the role, most hiring managers prefer SEO specialists who are also effective and confident communicators.
2. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) Specialist
If the SEO specialist’s job is to drive more traffic to a website, the CRO specialist is responsible for making the most of that traffic by getting those visitors to take action—whether it’s making a purchase, scheduling a call, or signing up for an email newsletter.
A CRO specialist might focus on trying to get their clients better returns on ad spend. For example, if a business is running ads that are successfully driving traffic to their website, but they’re not seeing a large enough increase in sales to justify their expenditures, a CRO specialist will take a look at the website to analyze why people aren’t buying once they arrive. The role involves continual analysis of consumer behavior; understanding what influences a person to buy or to leave a website without buying is the crux of successful optimization, and much of that comes from your comfort and agility with data.
What Makes a Good CRO Specialist?
Effective CRO specialists bring multidisciplinary talents to the table. On the technical side, hiring managers will likely want to see that you have experience gathering and analyzing data using testing platforms and digital tools such as Hotjar, Visual Website Optimizer, Optimizely, Oracle Maxymiser, Google Optimize, Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Omniture, or Tableau.
But while the position is data-centric at its core, the CRO role calls upon many different competencies, including strong copywriting skills, effective communication and people skills, and an understanding of the sales process. And just as with the SEO role, a relentless curiosity and love of learning go a long way and will help position you as a standout candidate.
Marcus Clarke, founder of Searchant.co, who recently brought a CRO specialist onto his team, explains that “it was important to find someone who could collect accurate data and make sense of how that data impacted KPIs [key performance indicators].” But what helped set the winning candidate apart was that “we really appreciated the person's curiosity—that's what helped us make our choice.”
Curiosity is important because the CRO will sometimes need to analyze the entire customer journey and user experience, understand the most effective ways to turn a prospect into an actual customer, and make adjustments based on findings. Depending on level of experience, the CRO might be making these adjustments themselves, or they may need to tell a compelling data-driven story to convince other members of the company to agree to their strategy. Either way, understanding which data to look at and how to analyze and interpret it is crucial to your success in the position.
3. Growth Marketer
Growth marketing, also known as growth hacking, can be a catch-all title, depending on where you work. Some growth marketers will work on driving traffic through SEO as well as acquiring new customers through CRO. But while CROs and SEOs are laser focused on a particular aspect of growth, a growth marketer has an eye on the business’ bottom line, and a zoomed-out, big-picture understanding of what can contribute to increasing that bottom line at every stage of the marketing funnel. They work cross-functionally throughout the organization with design, operations, and product management, among other departments, to identify growth opportunities. Depending on the organization, a growth marketer will likely report into the marketing department, the product department, or directly to the CEO.
Growth marketing roles will appeal to well-rounded marketers who are comfortable diving deep into data. Because they must also analyze and grow existing marketing channels while identifying promising new ones, it’s important for them to be nimble and adept at using data to understand both consumer behavior and the market as a whole.
They must also be able to create and execute hypothesis-driven experiments, explains Max Caldwell, Growth Manager for HOVER, Inc. On a typical day, this might look like experimenting with ways to increase “acquisition, retention, and monetization of your customer base…and then helping to create a cohesive growth model and communicate that to the team so that everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction.”
Another day, according to Alisha Chocha, growth marketer and cofounder of Your Marketing People, might find you “running website analytics to see which channel brought in the most sales last quarter and then comparing that year-over-year to get insights on how the company is trending.”
What Makes a Good Growth Marketer?
A great growth marketer will be what’s often referred to as a “T-shaped marketer,” meaning they possess the broad understanding of a generalist (the horizontal line) as well as an in-depth understanding of a marketing speciality (the vertical line). “I think being a general all-around athlete is important for the basics of a growth role, with a deep focus in one specific area,” Caldwell says. Successful growth marketers are accustomed to working across different types of teams, and it helps to have past exposure to a variety of different roles.
Growth marketers tend to be highly analytical, but creative and strategic thinking and leadership skills are also highly valued and well-used in this kind of role. Beyond analyzing data, a growth marketer must also be able to clearly and effectively communicate their findings. It’s not enough to be able to understand and interpret data and to run experiments. Growth marketers must then be able to “translate” these findings into compelling recommendations that will bring together cross-functional team members to take action. “Being able to understand what users are doing, why they are doing it, and then being able to work with designers and developers to test new ideas is critical for this role,” says Harrison Stevens, VP of Growth Marketing for Bambino Sitters.
It can be difficult to find an entry-level position in growth marketing, as most positions require at least a few years of demonstrated success in a digital marketing role. But growth marketing internships are out there. If you’re not in a position to take an internship, pursue a position in consumer marketing that will expose you to digital marketing practices, such as brand management, advertising, CRO, or consumer insight roles.
4. Marketing Data Analyst
As the name suggests, the marketing data analyst’s primary responsibility is to analyze data and develop reports, charts, and compelling presentations that the less numerically inclined can understand. But it’s not just about slinging numbers. Among other things, your analysis may shed light on marketplace trends and consumer behavior, help evaluate and optimize the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, and track competitor marketing activities. Ultimately, your models will be at the core of what drives many internal business decisions.
While this vaguely titled position can mean different things to different people and might vary widely across companies, it’s arguably the most quantitative of all four jobs we’ve covered. If you’re a numbers person through and through, understand programming languages like Python, and can create regression models in your sleep, this might be the role for you.
A typical day might include designing a customer survey, collecting competitive intelligence, or testing digital ad campaigns and tracking each sale back to a specific campaign. The specifics of the role will also depend in part on what industry you’re in, and in which internal department your role is housed, but “reporting is almost always a part of daily life,” says Matthew Seltzer, Market Research & Strategy Consultant and owner of S2 Research. “You're always running ad hoc analyses and trying to find succinct but meaningful ways to tell the story. The best analysts I've worked with always view that part as fun, because they think about it as a very creative exercise.”
What Makes a Good Marketing Data Analyst?
Whereas the first three roles above require marketers with an understanding of numbers, the traditional marketing data analyst role requires a numbers wizard with an understanding of marketing. In fact, many marketing data analyst job listings call for a degree in a quantitative field such as applied mathematics, statistics, economics, or data science.
And once again, communication skills are key. As a marketing analyst, you’ll be translating raw data and technical terms into insights and strategy recommendations that will help inform business decisions. Being able to explain the technical aspects in “plain language” is critical to making a persuasive presentation.
If you thought you noticed some similarities among these roles, you’re right! They’re all perfect for someone who has a comfort with numbers and loves to measure, test, and analyze data, and then do it all over again. They also all require strong communication skills, creativity, curiosity, and “outside-the-box” thinking. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a marketing role that doesn’t place a premium on being an effective communicator.
Marketing is no longer the sole bastion of 1960s-era Madison Avenue ad men, sipping bourbon and telling stories for TV and print advertisements. Sure, there will likely always be a place for this kind of clever and creative storytelling, but now there’s a lot more room for people who love numbers, too.
Now, as marketers, we can test, measure, and turn on a dime. In this digital marketing era—to the delight of the data geeks among us—almost everything is quantifiable and measurable.