5 Coding Skills All Digital Marketers Should Learn
2 Mar 2016
7 minute read
Basic coding skills make a great supplement to marketing knowledge. They will help you be more effective at your work by giving you a better understanding of the capabilities of technology. We've selected the five most critical coding skills a digital marketer should equip themselves with to guarantee career longevity and future success.
Here are the 5 coding skills we think it would benefit all digital marketers to learn:
HTML (AND CSS!)
HTML tells the web browser how it should define and display content. For content marketing, it is essential to understand how to find and edit meta descriptions, title tags and keywords. If the software you use to upload content lacks a Markdown or WYSIWYG interface, for good formatting it’s useful to learn how to create hyperlinks, headings, paragraphs and spacing, images and lists (and consider upgrading).
This could be Bash, Python or even Perl. Bash is a command line interpreter, Python is a dynamic language, while Perl is general purpose. All of them support scripts – programs written to automate tasks that could also be executed manually by a human.
There are many things you can do with basic scripting ability. You can automate the tasks that Zapier or IFTT can’t take care of. You can quickly build prototypes of internal tools to assess effectiveness before farming out to a dev. You can quickly clean data for data visualisation and analysis tools. Python regex is more extensive than Excel search and replace.
This is SQL & Excel. SQL is a coding language designed for managing data held in a relational database management system. They have data definition, manipulation and control languages. As a marketer, you would be using the manipulation language, or querying. Excel (or Libreoffice Calc) are spreadsheet programs with data manipulation function. Using those may require you to learn VBA or Python to run macros, which are rules that specify how an input sequence should be mapped to a replacement output sequence.
It’s a good idea to learn how to manipulate data in at least one of these. Learn how to query SQL, or if it’s just too text heavy for you, macros. However, SQL is able to handle more data and more complex queries. When you start to learn data analysis you’ll start to look after your data collection processes more carefully, and develop basic skills. This means that when you bring in developers to do analysis, you’ll be able to ask better questions about what you want to know, and save both of you from having to spend most of the budget on cleaning data. Having basic skills in this also makes report writing easier, as you don’t have to wait for a developer to answer starter questions for you. You can pull raw data from your sales records, marketing automation and analysis tools and get to work.
Data visualisation is the presentation of information in a graphical format, usually a chart, sometimes a pictorial representation. They enable decision makers to see analytics visually and draw conclusions at a glance. They can convey a lot of information in a relatively small amount of screen real estate.
If you understand how to create data visualisations, you will be able to convey to stakeholders more easily what you want to do, and avoid things getting lost in translation. Data visualisation is also useful for content marketing, if you want to create a graphic to illustrate an argument, and making dynamic reports for information sources where that isn’t already provided for you.
Understanding of coding concepts
It’s very useful to understand the applications of different coding languages and the complexity of various tasks. You should also understand, for example, the capability of APIs and multivariate testing. At a small or medium company, you might end up doing hiring for roles you have no knowledge of. In those cases it’s hard to know who to go with. If you are better able to understand how someone who is bluffing talks, you’ll be able to make better hiring decisions. You’ll also know if something can’t actually be done or it’s just incompetence because you’ll be able to ask the right questions. It’ll also be easier to explain to stakeholders and technologists why decisions should be taken, as marketer who at least understands the terminology will be able to communicate better and so make more useful suggestions on web strategy.
Putting it all together
You can use SQL to make some interesting findings, write a script to transform your SQL for a data visualisation program, then use said data visualisation to show off your findings. Then, persuade your team to test out the data using Oauth, after finding out the majority of your users are from a demographic that prefers using Oauth over authorisation systems. Lastly, use HTML to write up a blog post about the results. Now, you're golden!
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