One day, I’m going to wake up and the only sentence I’m going to be able to utter is: “unfortunately there isn’t really any rhyme or reason when it comes to digital salaries.” I say it that often to both confused clients and perplexed candidates.
Aside from a few key industries where something resembling consistency is appearing – I’m looking at you financial services and your Digital Marketing Acquisition-based roles – there is no market rate in digital. We don’t include Digital Marketing in our Salary & Employment Forecast salary tables because:
  • Digital Marketing is a general term that is as specific as calling a dessert “cake,” and the salaries are just as diverse
  • Similar roles and titles can have a $40K/$50K/$60K difference according to the industry they’re in, a company’s digital investment, other employees’ salaries … and other random factors that combine to create a mostly inexplicable salary range attached to a job description
This creates a lot of confusion in the market when it comes to salary rates. Let me break it down.

What is Digital Marketing?

To keep dragging out the food allegory, Digital Marketing roles are all recipes. Each is unique depending on the channels that apply to the position:
Does the role include social media or PPC or mobile and so on?
Is it hands on? And if so, which channels does the marketer need hands on experience with, and which can they learn on the job or apply existing strategic skills to?
Is the role mostly about managing agencies, with stakeholder and project management listed as key skills?
Of course, in addition to the above, team structure, digital assets and the number of members in the digital team affect the role’s responsibilities and in turn, the salary range.
The combination of skillsets and experiences required for digital roles means that there is no real consistency when determining whether a candidate needs four or ten years’ experience. We’re also seeing huge variations in skill sets. Often, for every hundred Digital Marketers we meet, four might be appropriate for a role.
As most digital skills are picked up on the job, it all comes down to opportunity – jobseekers that learned fast as part of an agency, had a strong mentor, or were the solo digital professional in their company are generally in good stead for career growth opportunities – and this means it’s hard to create a consistent salary growth scale based on number of years’ experience (the way value is tracked in more traditional industries).
Add in the fact that most of the channels are relatively new, so someone with three years of intense experience in social media marketing can be an old hat, whereas a digital marketer would need five years of experience in EDMs to match that. This just further confuses the pot.

So what does define digital salary?

In one word: budget.
Many digital roles are newly created and the dollars to fund them don’t just magically appear – they are pooled together into a budget that determines the salary. The recruiting company might need a team leader at $75K, but most mid-level digital candidates are soloists and few below $120K have strong experience managing a full team (outside of an agency). But if a company doesn’t have $120K for a role, then that’s what they have to go with. The issue is that the amount of budget each company has to play with is anyone’s guess. Traditionally lower-paying industries like fashion, travel and retail have a lower budget to hand out to digital candidates, even for senior roles, while the more budget-rich – think big banks and property – pay more.
I wish I could provide a skeleton key that unlocks the mystery of Digital Marketing salaries but while everyone is paying what they can afford and creating unique roles that are challenging to compare, then that’s about as much consistency as we will see. That said, the only thing consistent in the digital world is change, so watch this space.
Check out the latest digital jobs from Michael Page.

Summary

Digital marketing is a rapidly evolving field and there is huge variance in how companies are valuing these employees.  Factors influencing the salaries offered to digital marketers include:
  • How advanced the organisations digital marketing efforts are
  • The specific skills required in the role and level of expertise
  • The channel they specialise in and how many other 'experts' are out there
  • The biggest influencing factor is budget
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