The 6 dirtiest jobs in digital marketing

Did your job make the list? If so, you may want to cover yourself in shark repellent.

I’ve watched Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” tackle smelly, dangerous, and downright strange jobs. I don’t believe Mike ever took a job in digital marketing, which can be as confounding as being a shark repellent tester (season 3, Shark Week special). To illustrate, I’ve compiled a list of the dirtiest jobs in digital marketing.

Before we dive in, it would help to add background. While marketing can be seen as a “dark arts” career, digital marketing has both a halo (compared to traditional marketing, due to digital’s measurability) and a black mark (questionable tactics in a nearly standards-free industry). In an earlier article, “5 marketing jobs that will be dead in 5 years,” I discuss the speed with which digital careers change.

While it’s simple to list digital marketing job titles and argue that they are “dirty,” it’s worth noting that a few responsibilities that make any otherwise clean job dirty-list-worthy. The following qualifiers turn any digital role into a dirty job:

  • A majority of entry-level jobs in digital ( intern, coordinator, or specialist) that do the heavy lifting for more experienced coworkers and often lack recognition or support
  • Working for poorly run companies with questionable products, services, management, or prices
  • Working for companies in denial about their brand’s reputation or out-of-touch with customers
  • Working for a clueless or change-averse owner or CEO or CMO
  • Working with an incompetent marketing team or manager who fails to support, acknowledge, or empower your career in digital
  • Any job that doesn’t match your values, play to your strengths, interests, or communications preferences

Pair these qualifiers with the job responsibilities below and you make many digital jobs challenging for the most enthusiastic marketers. Here’s a list of digital marketing activities that can get you dirty:

  • Building a social media influencer list (tedious and time-consuming)
  • Cleansing large amounts of data (the sources, format, and integrity of the data can make this mind-numbing)
  • Managing Google Shopping feeds (fraught with technical issues like needles 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, but that doesn’t make it any easier)

Now we can get to the meat and potatoes of the issue: the dirtiest jobs in digital marketing. Disclaimer: This is my opinion, backed by the Anvil team’s input.

Local search marketer

Nearly 30 percent of searches have a local intent. That statistic has resulted in a cottage industry of local search. An essential marketing component 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 claiming. Reviews are a different beast, as you’re likely dealing with unhappy customers, not to mention competitors and other haters.

Link development specialist

One of the three Cs of search engine optimization is credibility, measured (in part) by the quality and quantity of links to your website. In order to improve rankings, businesses hire a link development SEO professional to secure inbound links. Although link development is seen as a dead or dying SEO strategy by many experts, it is still a core strategy for many companies and consultants. 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 tenuous.

Online reputation management expert

People make mistakes, and thanks to the internet, everyone else knows. Most people and businesses prefer that mistakes don’t appear in Google results, so they hire professionals like me to mitigate negative results via 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 other human or technology factors. If you’re not careful screening clients or projects, the work can be akin to professional turd polishing.

Sales or business development for search engine and social media marketing

While digital marketing has matured, it is still the Wild West compared to traditional advertising and marketing. Everyone has dipped their toe into the “search and social” waters, creating significant noise and confusion. That makes the job of selling digital marketing more difficult. As the noise increases, so too does the trickery and deception by lazy, morally suspect sales people or those new to the industry who come clueless from traditional marketing. I’ve sold digital marketing services since 1996, and I can tell you it’s more difficult to close deals amid the confusion created by business development professionals inside and peripheral to the industry.

Display ad sales rep

You probably know I’ve been in digital marketing since Al Gore “invented” The Internet. 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 ad sales rep was not respected or sexy. Since then, it’s become increasingly mundane, with little to no change (especially in comparison to search and social media paid placement options). As a 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. Users create data in record amounts, which creates a management challenge. Once reserved to computer scientists, database marketing is now a career for just about anyone. The work is tough. Cleaning and managing customer and prospect contact information is time-consuming. If your job also includes curating and recycling content into endless streams of soulless, annoying automated emails, the job gets even dirtier. A glorified version of the database marketing job now involves marketing automation, which may have a higher salary but many of the same challenges.

I hope your job didn’t make my list. If so, you may want to cover yourself in shark repellent.

Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media, an integrated marketing agency specializing in analytics, search engine and social media marketing, based in Portland, Ore. A version of this article first appeared on iMediaConnection.

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