Are you a marketer looking to sharpen your expertise and increase your earning potential?
Great! You’re in the right place.
It’s no secret that individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to find employment and earn higher incomes than those who do not. But did you know that earning a certification can follow this same trend?
Now, I’m not saying that a certification and a master’s degree hold the same weight in the eyes of a hiring manager or a client who’s considering working with you on a marketing project. What I am saying is that having specialized education in your field won’t hurt and it’ll typically help you.
I know what you’re thinking, “I can learn on the job — experience is more valuable than a certificate.” And you’re not wrong — 15 years of experience compared to five years of experience and a certification isn’t exactly a one-to-one comparison. For entry-level generalist roles, promotions, and freelance work, though, certificates can be the fastest and most affordable way to get ahead.
Given the frequency at which new digital marketing technologies and software are developed, it can be overwhelming to continue learning through blog posts and ebooks alone. That's where self-paced online courses come in — but which do you choose?
Don't fret, I’ve done the hard work for you. Below are the best free online courses you can take to strengthen your digital marketing skills. I’ve taken many of them myself and can assure you they’ll be worth your while. Each of these offerings varies in time commitment, but many are self-paced so you can learn on your time. The topics these courses cover include:
The most well-known benefit of earning a marketing certificate is the potential for better pay and career advancement, but there are plenty more rewards to reap by honing your skills. Here are a few of the top advantages of earning a digital marketing certificate.
Specializing in a Marketing Niche
The “jack of all trades, master of none” mantra is the marketer’s enemy. Any experienced marketing professional will advise someone looking to enter or grow into the field to narrow their focus. There are simply too many types of marketing to do all of them well. Certifications come in handy because they’re narrow enough in scope to give you a high-level overview of how the skill fits into a larger marketing strategy but tactical enough to show you exactly how to execute the skill in your day-to-day work.
Communicating Advanced Marketing Concepts
Whether you’re interviewing for a marketing role or pitching a client, one thing’s for sure — you’ll need to sound like a skilled marketer. Sure, you can fake it ‘till you make it, but I don’t advise this route. Shibboleths will only get you so far before someone notices a gap in your experience. Certification courses are comprehensive education tools that will teach you essential marketing lingo and exactly what it all means. Best of all, you’ll be able to communicate advanced concepts confidently without over or under-explaining which can undermine your credibility.
Building Your Resume
When it comes down to it, your resume will almost always precede your presence. Before an interview or a client meeting, people will look to your resume and portfolio first to verify your skills. Adding the certifications you’ve received after completing marketing courses is a smart way to get picked up by resume scanners and it’ll catch the attention of human eyes, too. Even if you have several years of experience, a certificate can still help get your foot in the door so you can speak in detail about your experience during an interview.
Where to Find Free and Affordable Courses
The free courses we mentioned above are amazing resources for budget-conscious marketers. They’ll teach you the basics of the subject and give you some tactical knowledge you can apply right away. If you want to become more competitive in the job market or if you have a bit more time and resources to dedicate to furthering your education, check out the following courses. They’re not all free, but they’re affordable and will provide you with up-to-date course material.
HubSpot Academy offers certification and training courses to teach people how inbound marketing and HubSpot software work. Classes are often taught by marketers at HubSpot and are made up of video lessons, quizzes, and tests. Most HubSpot Academy classes are available free of charge, and if you pass the certifications, such as the two below, you get a nifty certificate and badge to share on your social media profiles.
Copyblogger is a content marketing company that creates content about content (so meta). Its blog provides a ton of great resources about digital marketing, and this class, "Internet Marketing for Smart People," is made up of ebooks and emailed lessons and other course materials. Copyblogger espouses four pillars of content marketing success, which it delves into over the course of this class.
Coursera offers MOOCs (massive online open courses) created and taught online by universities such as Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California system. These courses start at various times throughout the year, so browse the catalog to see when one lines up with your schedule.
Udemy is another online learning platform that focuses specifically on courses related to skill building for working professionals. One thing to note about Udemy: The classes we've highlighted are free, but the site features a myriad of other paid options for as little as $10, in some cases. If you have a good experience with a free course, try a paid one to get even more value from the content on this site.
Wordstream is a search engine and social media marketing software company that helps marketers drive the greatest ROI from their paid search and social media campaigns. These free guides and ebooks distill learnings and best practices for users with varying levels of expertise running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Here are some of its topics and offerings:
Social Lock is a social media consulting, management, and strategy agency that also provides educational content and courses. The Standout Social Content Course is a comprehensive guide for small business owners who want to grow sales through social media. Although this course isn’t free, it’s available at an affordable rate and can even be paid in installments if you’re on a tight budget. If you need free resources that can teach you how to generate revenue that can pay for a course like this, Social Lock offers a Hustle with Hashtags eBook and Social Media Post Ideas.
edX is another MOOC provider that features courses offered by top-tier universities, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boston University. Like Coursera, classes are taught online and start at specific times throughout the year. Here are just a few of the many courses you can find on edX:
Before a marketing campaign is launched, you’ll need to get your design team onboard, and one of the best ways to do this is by developing a creative brief. The four-day creative brief is an online, self-paced course designed to hone your writing skills and help you convey your unique ideas. Advertising and branding expert Yadira Santana-Dowling condenses this process into just seven lessons so that by the end of it, your creative team has all the information they need to bring the campaign to life.
Alison offers free online classes in various professional skills users can take at their own pace. This content repository includes courses that lead to certificates and diplomas — you choose which is best for your goals. For an even more rigorous curriculum, you can choose a learning path that combines several lessons and courses into one learning track that gives you a well-rounded learning experience.
At this point, you probably already know what Facebook is and what it does. What you might not know is that the company offers several training and certification programs. Facebook Blueprint offers self-paced and live e-learning courses for marketers seeking to grow their organizations using Facebook. Blueprint offers classes in different languages on how to use Facebook and Instagram.
quintly is a social media analytics tool that offers courses through quintly Academy. The self-paced course provides an overview of social media analytics, benchmarking, and goaling using downloadable written materials and video lessons. These courses are available to take at no cost — simply sign in to enroll for free.
Google is another company you've probably heard of before, and its digital marketing course offers a ton of valuable information if you plan to advertise on the search engine. You can even take a Google AdWords certification at the end of the process that helps you beef up your resume. Google has expanded its course offerings to include other types of digital marketing, too, so check out the site for up-to-date insights in the marketing world.
Codeacademy offers free, interactive coding classes that take you from bare-bones to building a fully functioning website. The courses we've highlighted below just scratch the surface, though. Codeacademy offers a variety of course topics so you can truly focus on your niche. These classes include lectures and a workspace in the same browser window so you can see the effect of your work as you create it — how cool is that?
Canva helps people easily make beautiful images for web design, and Canva Design School offers design courses that are valuable for any kind of storyteller. The Creativity course explores the challenges of constant creation and innovation and how to do it well — with visuals, of course.
Become a Marketing Powerhouse with These Free Certifications
I’m sure all marketers (myself included) can agree that furthering our education in this field is a worthwhile way to advance our careers or businesses. And earning a certificate from a reputable online course is one of the most convenient ways to accomplish this. Whether you want to take a free online marketing class or you’d like to devote more time and resources to a paid one, you can’t go wrong with one from this list. Just remember to focus your studying on a specific sector of marketing and develop a niche skillset — you’ll be well on your way to success as a consummate marketer.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in May 2018, but was updated in July 2020 for comprehensiveness and freshness.
Originally published Aug 10, 2021 12:00:00 PM, updated March 17 2022