Google the term “digital marketing” and you’ll be inundated with more information on the topic than you could possibly hope to read in this lifetime… let alone have the time left to do anything about it.
It doesn’t help that a lot of the advice is about trend-chasing, rather than simply being focused on fundamental numbers that grow your business and revenue… which is the entire point of any digital marketing you’d be doing anyway.
Because while “trends” might be cool for a short amount of time, “sustainability” and “money” are much cooler in the long-term picture of your business.
And the sooner you can use your marketing to get to that money and sustainability, the better.
Fortunately, there are some great courses that cut through the clutter and help you understand exactly what you need to know about digital marketing… without bogging you down in nonsense trends that won’t be applicable a year from now.
They help you define your goal, figure out exactly what you need to do to accomplish it—and most importantly—execute.
We’ve collected a list of eleven courses we feel are the best in helping you set a solid foundation that performs well and achieves the kind of numbers you’ll need without trend-chasing so you can have peace of mind knowing that the work you’re doing will work both now and in the future.
1. Google’s Online Marketing Challenge
Google’s Online Marketing Challenge happens once per year and requires advanced registration.
The registration for 2016 is already closed, but just because you won’t be able to compete for prizes or get that $250 AdWords budget provided by Google doesn’t mean you can’t use its associated Digital Marketing Course to learn the ins and outs of how to make sure your AdWords budget (yes, even if it’s as little as $250) absolutely rock.
The course includes a pre-course preparation module that takes you through the basics of setting up a Google account and shows you the different kinds of business solutions Google offers to help make your marketing (and your operations) easier to handle and more successful.
Beyond that, though, modules include:
- Intro to Digital Marketing
- Search Engine Marketing
- Search Advertising
- Display Advertising
So instead of being a course that just pays lip service to the idea of online marketing success via paid ads & gets people hyped up to pump more money into the company’s platform, it actually digs pretty deeply into the nuts and bolts of how the different functions work.
And while it might seem “boring” and unsexy at times, it takes you through the backend of their platform operations to show you how to set yourself up for the most success.
Here’s an example:
This is the list of lessons broken down in the Online Marketing Challenge’s Digital Marketing Course’s Search Advertising module.
The lesson “Search 201 – Tools to Build Keywords and Ad Groups” does not sound like my idea of a good time—yours either, probably.
But, from the work I’ve done with auditing AdWords campaigns, I can tell you that ad groups and the keywords associated with them are an essential part of making your ad campaigns as lean and as successful as possible.
Here’s a video testimonial one student created about his experience with the course:
2. 7-Day Plug ’N Play Online Marketing Funnel by Infinitus
Funnels are the backbone of any kind of success you’ll ever see with online marketing.
Without a funnel in place, you constantly have to keep reinventing the wheel over and over again for each and every lead you get via your website.
You have to manually reach out to the person, manually write an email thanking them for signing up, manually ask them if they’d like to work with you, manually send them links to your case studies when they ask for proof that your services actually work.
But with a funnel in place, all of that is automated.
And Infinitus has a great course that teaches you how to set up a funnel in seven days to get all of your email messaging, advertising, social proof, validation, and calls to action automated.
Really, automated… in that you never have to do any of it manually ever again.
Sure, sales calls where you close the deal will still be manual, but can you imagine the kind of time that would free up if you didn’t have to do that kind of stuff manually any more?
And, yes, you probably will refine your funnel and/or build it out over time… but having all of that stuff automated by next week sounds really awesome, doesn’t it?
Plus, with the 7 Day Plug ’N Play Online Marketing Funnel course, the people behind it promise that they’ll help your business out of the feast-or-famine cycle, drastically reduce your cost-per-conversion, and maybe even generate up to 80% more leads.
One of their students invested $3,000 into his funnel and reaped $33,000 worth of sales in less than two weeks.
Another who was on more of a budget only invest $200, but still got a $6,000 ROI.
Frank Bria (who is a business coach in my business mentoring program, and I totally trust him) swears by the system for both small businesses and his Fortune 500 clients.
So, yeah, funnels work. And though this is a paid course, it’s definitely one you should check out.
If you’re a little iffy on the investment, they’ve got a free guide that follows the same framework… helping you set up a funnel in seven days and get 100 leads a week.
3. WordStream’s PPC University
If you’re at a stage in your business where you feel like most of your marketing is either on-point or good enough for now, but you know you’d be totally crushing it if only you could get more traffic or more email list signups, buying traffic via PPC ads is probably one of your easiest, best bets.
But as anyone who’s ever even glanced at a PPC dashboard for a split second can tell you—it might be a great investment, but there’s sure as hell a learning curve to get it all figured out.
WordStream is a company that offers PPC & Social Ads software, along with management services for people who’d rather outsource their ads management to someone else.
But they’ve also got lots of cool education for those of us who either can’t afford those services quite yet, or just genuinely prefer a more DIY approach.
They’ve got a PPC University with four different “classes” that walk you through everything PPC and then they’ve got great webinars and white papers to help you take what you’ve learned one step further.
The PPC 101, PPC 102, Advanced PPC, and Social Ads 101 are all free and freely available without even having to opt in.
The webinars and white papers, however, are guarded via email opt-in access. They’re still free, though, so you can’t beat it.
Throughout PPC University, you can expect to learn things like:
- Optimizing your conversion rates
- Improving your copy in text ads
- How to A/B test
- How to track ad clicks for customer conversions
- Remarketing strategies
- Targeting PPC ads on social platforms
- AdWords bidding strategies for webinars
- What to do if you screw up your AdWords account
- Getting great results in 20 minutes per week
4. MOZ SEO Training
Rather than offering this course on their website, MOZ put their free SEO Training Course on Udemy to help you easily follow through five of Rand’s lectures.
The course gives you the background of what you need to know about SEO—none of that useless theory nonsense so much of the internet’s SEO advice revolves around—and helps you build on that background to map the right keywords to your site for the best success.
The idea behind optimizing your site for SEO, of course, is to get the keywords in place, set up quality content, raise your rankings, and enjoy FREE, effortless traffic from the search engines now and in the years to come.
That’s right, years.
Here’s the curriculum:
- Building a Monthly SEO Action Plan
- 5 Ways to Use Your Social Profiles for SEO
- Keyword Targeting gets Tough
- Link Building with Twitter
- Mapping Keywords to Content
When you’ve gone through those and are pleased with your results, they’ve got another free course on Udemy called Advanced SEO: Tactics and Strategy.
This course is for people who understand the basics and gives them tactics to accomplish some quick wins, earning back links, and identifying problems in your UX that could be hurting your rankings.
It’s laid out in six sections with five video lectures and two reading modules. Videos include:
- How to Move Rankings Up on Older Existing Content
- Remove Unnecessary Steps & Win More Links, Shares, and Conversions
- Top 4 Ways to Use Social Media to Earn Links
- UX Myths that Hurt SEO
- Personalization and SEO
Both courses have 4.3 and 4.4-star ratings, respectively, which is awesome considering they don’t cost you a penny.
5. HubSpot’s Inbound Certification
HubSpot Academy offers all different kinds of free certifications for the public, including email marketing, sales, and design.
But for the purpose of this article, I want to talk about their Inbound Certification.
I went through this certification last summer, and while it doesn’t give you a 1-2-3 step system of tactics to follow to grow your business, it does spell out everything you need to know about the brass tacks and the why behind each stage of an online marketing funnel.
It teaches you how to identify different stages your customers might be in, how to offer them exactly what they’re interested in at the moment, and how to lead them through an effective, helpful online funnel that will bring them to the point of being ready for a sales conversation.
So if you’re already a marketing theory genius with years of experience, this certification course might not be for you.
But if the term “online marketing” seems a little hazy to you and/or causes your palms to sweat in a sort of panic because you have no idea where the heck to start with “online marketing,” going through these modules (or even just watching their videos) will empower you to be a lot more calm and make better decisions about promoting your business online.
Here’s a couple testimonials from happy students on the Inbound Certification’s sign up page:
6. Constant Contact’s Social Media Quickstarter
The Social Media Quickstarter “course” by Constant Contact is a collection of easy-to-follow “101” marketing guides for true beginners.
So again, it’s probably not for you if you’ve already got a somewhat-sophisticated social media strategy in place.
But if you know you want to start to harness social media’s power as a way to get more low-cost marketing and to grow your business’s reach, these videos will hand-hold you through setting up the basics without feeling like you’re in over your head.
Plus, the video animation is really cute, so the videos are actually fun to watch. (You know, rather than feeling like you’re being forced to sit through some kind of boring lecture a la Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.)
Nothing like that.
And they’ve got you covered for everything: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Snapchat, and Blogging. (It’s probably just a matter of time before they add Periscope to the list.)
I’m including this one for the true-blue DIY nerds.
No, code is not digital marketing, but code is what makes the world (erm…. internet) go ‘round.
And if you want to make your website do really cool things without hiring a web developer, learning code via Codecademy is the way to go.
And sure, you can Google things like “HTML code for linking an email address” and find it easily if you don’t know how to do it, but actually learning code like HTML and CSS for making things appear and move around on your website display is entirely different.
It can help you take the free or cheap template you’re currently using and make it look like something that’s completely and uniquely you.
It can help you take an already cool website and make it interactive, turning the visitors who come to your site into loyal users and readers of the interaction you provide.
It might just sound like something that’s idealistic and not really worth your time as a serious marketer, but you might actually want to consider otherwise.
Tommy Nicholas built a website called Coffitivity that was named one of the 50 best websites of 2013 with a friend… and they’d only been learning how to code for one month and three months each.
No time at all.
(For the record, there were approximately 850,000,000 in 2013. So that’s a pretty big deal.)
So if you have an online business idea and can’t really afford a high-quality web developer, you can just learn how to become that high-quality web developer for yourself.
Here’s what the Codecademy learning interface looks like:
(Image: Remake Learning)
On the left, Codecademy gives you instructions on what to do to produce the end result you’re looking for.
Each lesson builds on the last one—you start with web basics and then move up into producing really advanced things.
8. Internet Marketing for Smart People
Internet Marketing for Smart People, sponsored by Copyblogger, is a free 20-part course delivered via email that is focused towards people who know there’s a certain amount of elbow grease involved in online marketing before you can start collecting $200k per month in passive income.
For people that know you might be able to get some good things going in a few days, but it takes a lot more than a few days to build the kind of killer online marketing force field that attracts ideal clients and customers out of nowhere.
The course breaks down into four different pillars that are absolutely essential to the long-term success of any online business trying to build authority and credibility, and those four pillars are:
- Relationships with your audience
- Direct response copywriting
- Content marketing
- Having something worth selling
You get access to it by signing up for a free My Copyblogger membership, which also gives you access to fifteen other guides that help you master your copywriting, develop a content marketing strategy that gets the right kind of attention, and how to use email to grow your business.
At the time of writing, Authority was closed to new members, so forgive me if that’s not still the case.
Authority is another offering from My Copyblogger, but this time, it’s a paid one.
It’s a course that takes you behind the scenes on how Brian Clark and the Copyblogger team were able to grow Rainmaker Digital via content and copywriting, and without things like venture capital, outbound sales, or—get this—even advertising.
Within Authority’s set of resources, they pull back the curtain to show you exactly how they did it, so you can follow the same blueprint to do exactly the same thing for your business.
Access includes 230 hours of content, monthly webinars, monthly coaching calls, monthly Q&A sessions with the Rainmaker staff, learning from other members, and a private forum to get your questions answered.
You also get access to their content marketing certification course, and, if you decide you need them, exclusive discounts on the suite of tools offered by the Copyblogger empire.
Previously, access to Authority cost $399 per year, but pricing on future launches of the platform are unconfirmed.
“The archive of content means I can get information and advice on the topic I need exactly when I want it,” said Ian Shepherd of Production Advice, “the forums are a great place to kick ideas around, and the regular Q&A calls are invaluable—one simple suggestion I followed up on increased my rate of enquiries by over 400% with only a few hours of work!” (emphasis mine)
10. Mediabistro’s Skills in 60 Courses
Priced at just $49 each, Mediabistro’s Skills in 60 courses focus on teaching you the exact skill you need for online marketing, right then and there.
Instead of drawing things out through multiple modules and always starting with the basics (which you might already know), Mediabistro uses these courses to cut to the chase.
With them, you can pay your $49, spend one hour going through the lesson content, and feel fully prepared to tackle whatever digital marketing challenge you have laying in front of you at the moment.
The skills you can learn in 60 minutes include:
- Mobile marketing
- Twitter analytics & goal setting
- Instagram for business
- Headlines & tailgates
- Building a social media editorial calendar
- Creating a brand style guide
- Content marketing
- Engagement on social media
- LinkedIn profile setup
- Brand & product naming
- Email marketing
The course instructors are all proven experts in their field, so you know you’re learning from people who have been there & done it, not just people who like to listen to themselves blowing hot air.
To Learn Digital Marketing, Start Somewhere
Digital marketing is such a huge subject area that if you try to be studious and learn it all before you start, you’ll get so behind that you’ll never catch up to its changes.
There’s no such thing as a perfect, foolproof approach, so it’s best to just learn something and then get started… learning by doing as you go along.
Depending on your company’s needs and the ideas you have about reaching your target audience, pick one of the courses above, go through it, and start implementing.
Courses are great, yes. But there’s really nothing that replaces the kind of learning that happens from actually doing and experimenting.