Do I Need to Learn about Digital Marketing?
Whether you are the owner of a fledgeling startup or the CEO of a successful business, digital marketing will be an essential part of the advertising strategy you or your employees undertake to improve brand awareness and increase sales.
Companies are reliant on successful digital marketing campaigns to gain visibility and sales via their online portals. In the words of Chris Brogan, CEO of Owner Media Group, “marketers need to build digital relationships and reputation before closing a sale.” The traditional forms of one-way advertising no longer work, and you’ll need to engage your online customers in a two-way conversation in order to convert them. That’s where effective digital marketing campaigns come in.
Even if you think that digital marketing is not an essential part of your day-to-day tasks, you might be surprised to realise that, in actual fact, it is. Every time you tweet, post, share or comment on social media, you are marketing yourself and building your own personal brand online. If you tweak the wording of an email campaign, amend the imagery for a banner campaign or reach out to a potential online advertising partner, you are actively engaging in digital marketing.
By learning how to be an effective digital marketer, you can ensure you’re delivering the message you intend to — both personally and professionally — and seeing the desired results. Developing these skills will also help you better monitor the work your employees are putting out so you can understand whether the campaigns your company implements are optimised for success, as well as identify areas of improvement.
Which Skills Do You Need for Digital Marketing Success?
There are many different facets to digital marketing, and providing yourself with a general education in all of these different areas — from Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and social media to email marketing — is essential if you are to understand how different disciplines work together to drive success.
When recruiting digital marketing professionals to join your team, you should look for those who possess this general grounding and also excel in one to two specialist areas. Rand Fishkin, of leading search engine marketing site Moz, calls an individual with this basic understanding of multiple digital marketing disciplines and specialism in one or two areas a “T-Shaped Web Marketer”, and says that candidates like this are valuable assets to companies because they understand how different disciplines fit together and can step in to support in different areas where necessary.
So start thinking like a T-Shape if you want to be able to spot and recruit the best for your business going forward!
How to Learn Digital Marketing at Home for Free: A Step-By-Step Guide
The good news is that learning the skills you need for digital marketing is often possible at home, in your spare time, thanks to the wealth of free online resources available. We discuss our favourite resources below and give our advice on how to get started.
Here are our six steps to digital marketing success:
Step 1 – Study
Acquire the necessary knowledge to become a successful digital marketer by reading free guides online — everything from blog posts to eBooks and course materials created by experienced marketers, marketing agencies and universities.
Step 2 – Practice, Practice, Practice
The best form of education is actively putting into practice what you’ve learned. Create test campaigns, monitor the results, optimise the campaigns and learn from your mistakes. You’ll be following the instructions provided by the study materials you’re using and there’s no risk involved as you aren’t yet dealing with digital advertising budgets for real businesses.
Step 3 – Get Certified and Qualified
Now that you’re confident with the study materials, take the associated certifications and qualifications to test your knowledge.
Step 4 – Start Your Own Digital Marketing Blog
Having your own digital marketing blog will help you practice what you’ve learned and demonstrate your expertise. It will also help you start to make connections in the industry as you seek out guest writers, invite opinions on your posts and offer to write for other publications.
Step 5 – Seek Out Training and Support from Experienced Digital Marketers
Put those new contacts you’ve made to good use. To progress as a digital marketer, you will need support and guidance from experienced professionals who can point you in the right direction.
Step 6 – Keep Learning and Improving
Digital marketing is an ever-changing and evolving field that requires its practitioners to be constantly evolving too. Never stop seeking out new learning materials and opportunities to improve your skills.
Which Certification Is Best for Digital Marketing?
Google Ads certification is a professional accreditation awarded to digital marketers who show proficiency in basic and advanced aspects of Google Ads. It is vital for anyone looking to get started in digital advertising and work in the search, display, mobile, video or shopping advertising space. It is particularly important for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) professionals, who constantly use Google Ads to implement, monitor and track campaigns. Becoming Google Ads certified will require you to pass two certification exams — the Google Ads Fundamentals exam, which covers basic concepts, the benefits of paid advertising and best practices for managing paid advertising campaigns, and any one of its diverse digital advertising courses on offer — you can choose from search, display, mobile, video and shopping advertising.
The Digital Marketing Institute offers perhaps the definitive digital marketing certification, providing those who successfully pass the examinations and complete the course material with Certified Digital Marketing Professional status. There are three distinct tiers of qualification; Professional, Leader and Master. Investing in a DMI certification will set you back around $1,990 per level of qualification, but the accolade will truly make an impression on potential business partners and investors.
Google Digital Garage teaches you the fundamentals of digital marketing and provides a general certification covering building your online presence, analysing performance, setting your website and business goals and much more. It’s a vital first step into digital strategy, analytics and display advertising that provides certification you’ll definitely want.
What Are the Best Free Online Digital Marketing Courses?
There are many free digital marketing courses available online, ranging from general introductory courses to specific qualifications for different digital marketing disciplines. We’ve listed the qualifications and courses that we feel will be most valuable to you as a business owner looking to optimise the effectiveness of your digital marketing campaigns.
5 Free Affiliate Marketing Courses
Affiliate marketing is the practice of selling other people’s products for a commission — known as an affiliate fee. If you are looking to advertise and sell your products via an affiliate network, it is essential to enhance your wider inbound marketing skills and ensure that you are familiar with the principles of effective online advertising. We’ve listed a diverse range of courses below to help you round out your skillset and enhance your understanding of this crucial area of digital marketing.
The Unbounce landing page conversion course is a free online course spanning multiple topics, all designed to help you understand how to get higher conversions from your landing pages; an essential skill in your digital marketing toolkit.
The Google Ads online training course is split into sections spanning digital sales and display, mobile, search, video and shopping ads disciplines. It gives you a fantastic overview of how affiliate marketing works on Google’s network.
HubSpot Academy provides a free and comprehensive inbound digital marketing course with over four-and-a-half hours of information delivered via 38 lectures — entirely free! You’ll learn about inbound marketing and lead nurturing, as well as a wide range of general digital marketing disciplines, from SEO to landing page optimisation
Google provides a free course on how to promote a business using online advertising, which consists of five modules with video tutorials that help you create a successful advertising and marketing strategy comprising email marketing, video and display ads.
Google’s free guide to Google Ads is designed to get you up to speed quickly, with modules on getting started, mobile optimisation and best practices to help you create display ads that convert clicks into sales.
Free Analytics Courses
Without a thorough understanding of analytics, you will be unable to truly ascertain the performance of your digital marketing campaigns. There are several major analytics platforms that digital marketers use to track key metrics for their online advertising and search marketing campaigns, but arguably the most important platform is Google Analytics (GA). The below courses will help you get to grips with GA and start using it to monitor campaigns.
Google Analytics for Beginners is an introductory video course delivered by Google that consists of four units and 17 lessons. You can take the course for free and learn about how Google Analytics works, how to navigate the menus, reporting, and setting up dashboards and shortcuts, among other key areas of learning.
When you feel more confident with the introductory Google Analytics course material, you can take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification, which covers both basic and advanced Google Analytics concepts. Areas of learning include planning and principles, implementation and data collection, configuration and administration, and conversion, attribution, reports, metrics and dimensions. You can choose between beginner and intermediate modules and use the study guides to prepare before taking the exam.
Google Data Studio teaches you how to visualise your data in charts and tables that connect to a variety of data sources, allowing you to share insights and collaborate with your team while speeding up your report creation process with attractive built-in sample reports. Data Studio connects to Google Ads, Google Analytics and other Google Marketing Platform products — including Google Sheets, YouTube and Google Search Console — and a range of databases and social media platforms.
Free Search Engine Optimisation Courses
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the art of optimising your content and technical website structure to gain prominent rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Good SEO is a free way of organically reaching a wider audience and increasing the success of your online offering, but you will need to ensure that you are optimising and marketing your content correctly to see results. These free SEO courses will help you hone your basic skills and start creating effective search marketing campaigns.
The Alison Diploma in E-Business is a certified digital marketing course provided free of charge. While a broad range of topics is covered in the course, a particular focus is on SEO, Google Analytics and Google Ads — areas of vital importance to search marketing professionals.
SEMrush Academy is an incredible resource for digital marketing professionals. The academy provides free search engine marketing (SEM) learning resources and exams. You can take the SEMrush SEO Toolkit exam to gain SEMrush certification.
Backlinko’s definitive guide to Google Search Console management is a fantastic way to learn how to get the most out of the new-look search console and effectively optimise your technical SEO. The guide also provides you with insight into how to get more organic traffic and advanced tips and strategies that will help you be a more effective digital marketer.
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Free Content Marketing / Digital PR Courses
Content marketing is a way of making your brand more visible and increasing its authority online by producing high-quality, compelling content that other websites will want to feature and link to. The best content marketing campaigns are effective partnerships that benefit both you and the websites, social media influencers and businesses you’re partnering with. These free content marketing and digital PR courses will help you start running your own effective campaigns.
Hubspot’s free Content Marketing Certification Course is a great introduction to digital content creation, repurposing and promotion. The course consists of 11 lessons over 32 videos and takes just over four hours to complete in your spare time. By the end of the course, you’ll have learned how to design a content creation framework, create and repurpose optimised content that search engines like Google love, and become a more strategic content marketer. Topics include understanding content marketing, the power of storytelling, generating content ideas and building a content creation framework.
One of digital marketing’s top influencers and New York Times bestselling author Neil Patel has created a free step-by-step guide to content marketing, designed to introduce new digital marketers to the concept of storytelling as a key sales tool. It’s full of useful hints and tips, written in easy-to-digest language.
Optinmonster provides a free beginner’s guide to content marketing and how to use it to raise brand awareness with a targeted audience. The guide covers vital topics such as content marketing tools and measuring ROI, as well as provides content marketing examples and FAQs.
Free Copywriting Courses
Well optimised, user-friendly content that is compelling enough to sell your products and services is an essential part of any website’s structure. Without good copy, your website won’t rank in the SERPs and your customers won’t be compelled to buy from you. If employing a professional copywriter to write your website content is a luxury you can’t currently afford, these helpful copywriting courses will help you get started with writing your own website copy.
Copyblogger provides a free copywriting course that provides members with access to 16 eBooks and a 20-part email series of lessons covering content marketing, SEO copywriting, email marketing, keyword research, landing pages and internet marketing.
Quick Sprout’s definitive guide to copywriting is a complete guide to digital copywriting that covers understanding the product you’re selling, creating a product description, understanding your customers and completing customer research, among other helpful topics.
Eduonix provides a free online course on becoming a professional copywriter that’s packed with helpful tips provided by master copywriters. It’s delivered in five sections and you’ll receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course.
Free Email Marketing Courses
Many businesses still rely on email marketing campaigns as a key revenue driver and an essential part of their digital marketing strategy. You can learn how to optimise your email campaigns to drive clicks to your site, improve conversion rates and increase revenue — these handy courses will help you get started or enhance your existing email campaigns.
Mailchimp provides a free email marketing strategy guide that covers email marketing basics, how to build an email list, maximising ROI, designing emails and testing email campaigns.
Constant Contact offers a free guide to getting started with email marketing, covering how to choose an email marketing service provider, gathering contacts for your email marketing list, creating a reusable email template and writing persuasive messages.
HubSpot’s free email marketing certification course teaches you how to create an email marketing strategy that will grow your business. Topics covered include contact management, segmentation, email deliverability and analysing email sends.
Free Influencer Marketing Courses
Influencer marketing is among the newest digital marketing strategies and it has proven to be incredibly successful for many leading brands and startups alike. Often taking place across social media, influencer marketing campaigns are a partnership between a prominent blogger, Instagram celebrity or Twitter user that involves an exchange of value — often the brand will provide the influencer with products or services to test in exchange for a review. If your target audience spends their time on Instagram or reading blogs, influencer marketing could become a key part of your digital marketing strategy. These free courses will help you get started and really gain the most value from your influencer campaigns.
Coursera offers free online access to a comprehensive Influencer Marketing Strategy course from Rutgers University. Topics include how to tailor an influencer strategy to a wide range of organisations using the two-step flow model of communication, and the right tactics to use to bring about success for your campaigns.
Webfluential’s Introduction to Influencer Marketing course is free to take and covers how to spot an influencer, which metrics to measure, when to use influencers, how to budget for influencer marketing campaigns and more.
Free Pay-Per-Click Ads Courses
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is the practice of placing advertisements on search engine results pages, where they appear above the organic (search) results for a particular key phrase or term. A major digital marketing strategy, PPC is the best way to get eyeballs on your website when you’re a new business and aren’t yet ranking organically in the top positions on Google.
Pay-Per-Click professionals use Google Ads to implement, monitor and track campaigns, and it’s vital to have a thorough grounding to use the platform to its full potential. We’ve selected these free PPC ads courses as a great way to get started with Pay-Per-Click advertising for business owners.
WordStream’s free PPC University, which provides online learning resources to help you build your PPC and digital marketing skills, with modules available for beginners and advanced users. Topics for beginners include keyword selection, ad groups, text ads, quality score, cost per click (CPC) and a wealth of other insights you’ll find invaluable as you kickstart your career. The advanced modules cover areas such as PPC for lead generation and geotargeting.
The Bing Ads Accreditation is a free PPC advertising course that teaches you everything you need to know to become a Bings Ads Accredited Professional, guiding you through the fundamentals of search engine marketing on the Microsoft Advertising network. You can download the free study guide and then, when you’re ready, take the exam.
SEMrush provides a free PPC fundamentals course, consisting of 36 lessons provided by PPC expert Joel Bondorowsky. The course takes just five hours to complete and covers many different facets of pay-per-click advertising, ensuring you gain the knowledge it takes to be able to launch and manage PPC campaigns on your own.
Free Social Media Courses
Social media offers you the single biggest opportunity to reach relevant target audiences online. Before you start spending your precious advertising budget on Facebook ads and Instagram content, make sure that you take a free social media course or two to really get to grips with each of the major platforms you plan to advertise on.
The Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) offers a free 15-minute social selling diagnostic to benchmark your skills against other professionals in the digital marketing sphere. While this isn’t strictly a course in its own right, the DMI will recommend the right social media course for you based on its results, and the diagnostic does provide you with valuable insights into your current performance.
Constant Contact’s Social Media Quickstarter is a free course that teaches you how to integrate social media marketing and email marketing to maximise the impact of both channels. The course consists of a series of step-by-step lessons and includes topics such as digital marketing tactics for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and online listing and review sites. This course is ideal for beginners in social marketing and provides practical examples of how to implement the lessons in real life.
Hootsuite’s free Twitter marketing guide is a comprehensive free guide to getting started with Twitter marketing. Topics include how to create a Twitter marketing strategy, set measurable goals, identify target audiences, audit your Twitter accounts and integrate Twitter with your overall social marketing strategy.
Pinterest provides its own Pinterest best practice guidelines to help you get the most out of your account and advertising spend. Topics include creative best practices, pin strategies and board set-up and organisation.
LinkedIn offers a definitive guide to marketing on LinkedIn, covering everything from how to market on LinkedIn and set up company pages to sponsored content and expanding the reach of your content marketing strategies to share relevant and targeted content with professionals.
Free Video Marketing Courses
Video marketing is often considered a more cost-effective option than shelling out for television ads in our modern digital age. You can invest in YouTube pre-roll ads that appear before a user watches a video they’ve clicked on or you can pop your video adverts on Facebook and have them appear as a user scrolls through their feed. These are just two options when it comes to planning your video marketing campaigns — take a look at the free video marketing courses we’ve selected for more information.
The YouTube Certification programme will teach you how to create, grow, optimise and monetise a YouTube channel. The certification is valid for 18 months from the date you pass your certification and is free to take — an essential step for anyone interested in video marketing as part of their digital marketing career.
HubSpot Academy provides a free course in online video marketing that will help you better attract, engage and retain your audience. It consists of four lessons spread across 28 videos, with four quizzes. At the end of the course, you will receive a certificate of completion.
Skillshare provides a wealth of free video marketing courses to help you improve your video campaigns. Learn about YouTube video ranking factors, video marketing basics, the pillars of YouTube and the five proven ways to increase your YouTube channel’s reputation.
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Is It Worth Paying for a Digital Marketing Course?
If the success of your business hinges on effective online marketing campaigns, like most modern companies, then it is well worth paying a one-time fee for a digital marketing certification that signals your expertise to potential investors and business partners.
The Hootsuite Social Media Marketing Certification provided by Hootsuite Academy costs $199 USD and provides you with an industry-recognised certification that demonstrates your expertise in social marketing to potential clients and investors. For the course fee, you also get a listing in the Hootsuite Certified Professionals Directory and a permanent online certificate you can link to from your blog, website or other online profile.
A Content Marketing Institute (CMI) online certification is the perfect way to demonstrate your copywriting skills. The course costs a little under a thousand dollars but covers a wide spectrum of content marketing topics, such as planning, audience, story, channels, process, conversation and measurement. The programme can be worked through at your own pace and you can take the courses on offer in any order.
If you manage or oversee your company’s social media campaigns and platforms, you should definitely complete Facebook Blueprint certifications. The two Blueprint exams currently available are Facebook Certified Planning Professional and Facebook Certified Buying Professional. These certifications give you great awareness of how social advertising works on the world’s number one social platform and cost less than £150 to complete.
There is a wide range of paid digital marketing courses and accreditations out there. When deciding whether to pay for a digital marketing course, ask yourself how much value the certification or accreditation will bring you personally and professionally, then work out whether the fee justifies the reward.
Should I Buy ‘Digital Marketing for Beginners’ Books?
While it’s great to learn from free blogs and eBooks — so great that we’ve listed our top 10 below for you to read right now — sometimes, the level of detail you need to become a true Digital Marketing Ninja is only available in a full-length, paid-for book. You should get the insights free where you can but invest in paid materials where necessary.
Our Top 10 Free Digital Marketing eBooks
- Learn How to Get Started with Digital Marketing by reading this free extended blog post from Nat Eliason.
- Buffer’s 25 Actionable Social Media Strategies eBook is great for those looking to improve the success of their social marketing campaigns.
- Distilled’s Tone of Voice Guide is a five-chapter-long online book packed with information and examples on developing a clear and consistent brand voice.
- Get a good grounding in influencer marketing with Pulse Advertising’s free eBook.
- Take your pick from the free eBooks on offer from eMarketing Institute, which include Affiliate Marketing for Beginners, Content Marketing for Beginners and Online Marketing for Beginners to name just a few.
- Learn how to use data visualisation to win over your audience in this free eBook from Hubspot.
- The Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting will teach you how to write clear, concise copy for your marketing campaigns.
- Moz offers a handy Beginner’s Guide to SEO that’s packed with plenty of detail to help you get started with on-site optimisation.
- Optimizely’s free Optimisation Survival Guide provides inspiration and best practices for A/B testing and optimisation strategy.
- Shane Barker offers a Step-By-Step Guide to Influencer Marketing that will teach you how to reach out to influencers and build a lasting, successful relationship.
8 Essential Digital Marketing Books You Need to Buy Right Now
- Exposure Ninja’s The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing shows you quick ways to strike up relationships with gatekeepers of prominent publications like Forbes and National Newspapers so you can get your content published in places guaranteed to boost your exposure.
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman is a fantastic guide to copywriting equally suited to beginners and pros. This provides a solid foundation in copywriting based on Sugarman’s years of experience in the industry as well as practical tips.
- This is Marketing by Seth Godin is a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller that gives incredible insight into why consumers make purchases online and how to capture their interest, written by the former VP of Direct Marketing at Yahoo!
- Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis, the CEO and Co-Founder of GrowthHackers.com, provides an essential insight into how growth hacking has led to success for startups all over the world by using disruptive online marketing techniques.
- Not to toot our own horn (again), but we’ve also produced another number one bestseller — Profitable Social Media Marketing. This will teach you how to run social marketing campaigns that actually work, taking you through each step so you can achieve real success.
- Digital Marketing Strategy: An Integrated Approach to Online Marketing by Simon Kingsnorth walks you through every step of creating a digital marketing strategy, from planning to implementation and measurement.
- Digital Marketing For Dummies covers all the elements of modern-day digital marketing, from SEO and SEM to content marketing and influencer marketing.
- Okay, we know; we’re in this list twice already, but no list of digital marketing resources would be complete without Head Ninja Tim’s number one bestseller How to Get to The Top of Google. Written in Tim’s signature Plain-English, no-nonsense style, this book about SEO will give you a thorough grounding in the fundamentals and how to achieve rankings for your website that you’ve previously only dreamed of.
How Can I Practice Digital Marketing?
Get the Ninja Edge
Learn about digital marketing with Exposure Ninja’s easy-to-follow MarketingU video tutorials. Our Ninjas explain their strategies and show you exactly what to do, giving you practical, real-world training you can do in your own time, at your own pace and from any device. You can also read our in-depth digital marketing training guides, prepared for you by expert Marketing Ninjas who really know their stuff.
Test Things out by Starting Your Own Digital Marketing Blog or Personal Project
It’s vital to try out your own ideas and test whether they could turn into viable campaigns for a potential client or your own business. You should try your hand at SEO, PPC, social media, email and content marketing — a great way to do this is to set up your own blog on a topic you’re interested in and test different types of content and campaign to see which are the most effective. This will give you valuable insights into the different platforms and help you really get to grips with using them.
Build Your Personal Brand
According to Matt Sweetwood in his article for Entrepreneur, “Personal branding has become a requirement for anyone looking to grow their business, get a better job, get noticed by the press, take their career to the next level or meet new, high-quality friends.”
Every prominent CEO and business owner needs a strong online presence and an effective personal brand that promotes their achievements and accreditations. In today’s increasingly competitive online marketplace, customers don’t buy from businesses anymore; they buy from people. That’s why Elon Musk’s personal Twitter profile has more than three times as many followers as his three main businesses do and why CEOs like Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson place so much emphasis on their social media profiles.
As a digital marketer, part of your role is to stay up to date with key movements in the industry. You can do this by following news and stories released on major digital marketing sites. This is an essential time investment for anyone truly serious about digital marketing, as Google, Facebook and Twitter regularly tweak their algorithms and platforms to better serve their users, which means the type of content coming out on top in the search results is constantly changing. This is all while big and small players alike make moves that could change the industry in a matter of moments.
Start with our related reading list below. Then, it’s your turn to start researching new digital marketing blogs and websites to help your campaign — whether you opt for SEO, content marketing, PPC or more — be a success.