Definition to: What is a Digital Marketing Engineer?

DEFINITION 1.0: A Digital Marketing Engineer is a technical-abled marketing person that strives to achieve business goals through a web presence and digital marketing channels.  A Digital Marketing Engineer focuses on the inner-workings of digital marketing and a digital marketing presence.  Digital can refer to website, email, apps and mobile distribution platforms.

Some areas a Digital Marketing Engineer may focus on include: sales and marketing goals, product marketing goals, community/audience development, website creation, landing page creation, content management systems, numerous KPIs, analytics, user experience, conversions and conversion optimization, search engine optimization, paid search, banner/display advertising, social media profiles and integrations, mobile integrations, podcasting, content marketing, email marketing, marketing automation, etc.

[Please comment below to help refine this definition.]

Now, let me walk through this a bit to give an idea on how I arrived at the description above.

Have you ever struggled to explain what you do?  It is this struggle that led me to create what I believe will become a new title: Digital Marketing Engineer.

Marketing and technology are two areas that have become much more intertwined, yet our language does not fully account for this recent integration.

I have lived in the overlap of technology, marketing and online media for 10 years.  In that time, I have had many different job titles: webmaster, web director, director of web services, web marketing manager, interactive marketing manager, manager of interactive media operations, director of [digital interactive media] product development, and digital sales manager.  You’ll notice we can’t even agree on the main term – web, interactivedigital.  Somehow online never really made the cut, which is ironic when you consider I used to say “I work in online” to broadly describe what I do.

While it is “par for the course” to struggle for clarity and definition in an emerging and rapidly developing area like the web, it is still nice to be able to say a few words and have people understand quite a bit more.

Let’s try this: What do you think of when I say…. dentistdoctorlawyerauto mechanicstay-at-home momCEO.  See, it is all pretty cut-and-dry.

Now let’s try this: What descriptor or job title would you use to describe someone who is involved with creating websites (design, development, content management system, content grooming, project management) and marketing the website and business through digital marketing channels (search engine optimization, conversion optimization, content marketing, podcasting and audio/video, social media, paid search, email marketing, marketing automation, text messaging, the mobile web, etc)?

Perhaps you come up with some of these: webmaster (too technical), web designer (looks aren’t everything), web manager (are they focused on business growth?), web marketing specialist (too junior), online content producer (too focused on content), email marketing manager (email only), social media manager (manager or producer? still too niche though), director of user experience (still too focused), digital marketing director (close, but not as directly involved with the services), IT guy (hey, get out of the dark ages), etc., etc.

What do you call the person that works with the inner-workings of a digital marketing presence?

In the old days, people used to call up their radio or TV station, or newspaper or magazine, or direct mail company and say “hey, I want to place an ad.”  From the business owner’s perspective it was much easier (it was much easier for the ad sales folks too!).

But today, marketing is much more dynamic, participatory, conversational, platform agnostic, and yes, technical and detail-oriented.  I can engage my target audience in a number of ways, but many of these ways involve newly emerged technical or complexity factors.  Enter the Digital Marketing Engineer.

For comparison, let’s look at some engineering definitions:

  • Engineering — the discipline, art and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize solutions to the needs of society.
  • Structural Engineer — analyze, design, plan, and research structural components and structural systems to achieve design goals and ensure the safety and comfort of users or occupants. Their work takes account mainly of safety, technical, economic and environmental concerns, but they may also consider aesthetic and social factors.
  • Civil Engineering — a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works such as bridges, roads, canals, dams and buildings.
  • Electrical Engineer — Electrical engineering has many sub-disciplines; electrical engineers may focus exclusively on one of these sub-disciplines or deal with a combination of them.
  • Software Engineer — a person who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, testing, and evaluation of the software and systems that make computers or anything containing software, such as computer chips, work.

And now, the definition of Digital Marketing (which continues to evolve) —

  • Digital Marketing is the promoting of brands using all forms of digital advertising. This now includes Television, Radio, Internet, mobile and any other form of digital media.
  • Digital Marketing is the practice of promoting products and services using interactive digital distribution channels to reach consumers in a timely, relevant, personal and cost-effective manner.

Here are key points that help bring it all together:

  • Marketing and technology are much more intertwined than they were even only five years ago.
  • Marketing methods have become much more fragmented, complex and technical due to the internet.
  • Digital refers to web, email, mobile, apps and even other interactive channels like radio and TV.
  • Engineering is the discipline, art and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize solutions to the needs of society.
  • An engineer can focus exclusively on a sub-discipline or a combination of them.
  • Sub-disciplines of digital marketing include, but are not limited to: display/banner advertising, paid search, organic search, social media, email marketing, mobile marketing, user experience, conversion optimization, content marketing, and website creation.
  • There is a need for a broad term that describes someone who focuses on the technical side of digital marketing, with the marketer’s and business owner’s interests in mind.
  • Marketers and business owners have a need for a technical minded and able person who can help them success online (or more accurately, through digital channels).

So with all that, I offer the definition provided above.

Based on what I see online today, it looks like this term has not been defined or meaningfully used yet.  There are a number of job sites that seem to use the term, but it seems to derive from a script.

Digital Marketing Engineer search results on October 27, 2010

While I hope I am offering something new and meaningful, I am sure there are varying opinions.  Let the digital marketing community know what you think by posting your thoughts below…


  1. I’m reinventing my business and have been struggling for the past year to reposition myself as more than a web designer and to be clear in what I do. It’s been a long road of reviewing what I’ve done, how my process differentiates from other “Web Designers” along with recognizing the value in my offerings. With that said, it is clear that I have a very strategic process starting all the way from defining a businesses’ USP, target audience, message tone TO determining the most appropriate marketing channels and systems to communicate their message easily and impact fully AND THEN building the systems, training them to use them and then optimizing everything so they evolve (Shwew!)

    Until I read your article, I was convinced that I was a Digital Strategist & Designer. However, that does’t speak to the marketing or technical/ development side of what I do. You said it right on and are speaking my language. However, “Engineer” seems so dry and I don’t think most people would acknowledge the fact that I am a creative thinker first and foremost.

    Thoughts? Thanks again!

    • Thanks for your comment, April. I would argue that engineers are highly creative since they are often the central means in creating something new or solving complex problems. They look at the world from the perspective of how to make something real happen. Not theory, but how to actually make it happen. Perhaps their creativity is so rooted in reality that it hides some of the creative nature. Where a pure strategist or designer may stop after their upstream deliverable, and not feel the full consequence of their work, the engineer continues on toward completion in pursuit of the desired result. This also makes the engineer highly accountable to the success of a project.

      If you were going to build a bridge, would you hire the person who tells you to build a bridge and why, or the person who can make a pretty drawing of the bridge, or the person who can actually deliver the final result of a useable bridge?

      My $0.02.

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