The Best (Free) Online Courses for Marketers

12 September 2016

A wise man with wild hair once famously said:

“I know that I know nothing”

(Unfortunately, this picture by Jacques-Louis David shows the last moments of Socrates before being sentenced to death by poison for this exact statement (among others) but there are very few alternative images to chose from. Also, I believe society has evolved positively since 399 BC so hopefully this shouldn’t happen to you)

Even if you don’t feel 100% like Socrates, you have to admit that especially in digital marketing you should never stop learning to keep up with new trends, technologies and recover from Google’s latest changes in mood when it comes to algorithms.

Be it blog posts, workshops, webinars, or online courses, there are many ways for you to stay up-to-date.

Working in digital marketing myself, I try to spend at least 2 hours every day learning about new trends and insights; while reading blog posts and research papers usually just costs a couple of minutes to skim, signing up for an online course is somewhat more of a commitment.

I have, therefore, put together an ultimate overview of the best (paid and free) online courses for marketers I have come across so far!

MOZ Beginners Guide to SEO

  1. What will you learn?

The MOZ Beginners Guide To SEO introduces you to everything related to Search Engines, Website Design and factors that influence ranking. Although not very in-depth, it gives you a first overview of SEO related topics and is highly recommendable for everyone starting a career in digital marketing, or businesses that want an easily understandable introduction into SEO.

According to this research, 66% of marketers say improving SEO is their top inbound priority – so make sure your business doesn’t miss out on this opportunity.

  1. What’s the format?

Although the MOZ guide is no online class as such, I, nevertheless, wanted to include it into this list as I think it is a great source for everyone getting started in SEO. The guide itself can be accessed online or downloaded as a PDF and consists of 9 chapters.

Each chapter guides you through different aspects of SEO and the colourful and appealing design of it leads to a great learning experience. There are additional sources for you to read and some interactive examples and exercises to help you understand the world of SEO.

I would recommend checking out the MOZ blog – Rand Fishkin (@randfish) has a very successful series of “Whiteboard Friday” Tutorials where he covers various aspects related to SEO and Content Marketing which are a little bit more specific and a great add-on to the course.

  1. How much time do you have to spend?

The time you spend on the course highly depends on how much you know about SEO already – this guide will give you a nice introduction but if you really want to start SEO for your company from scratch you will have to do some additional reading and studying.

  1. Psssst

MOZ also wrote a great guide on content marketing, which is highly relevant for SEO marketers, too.

Digital Analytics Fundamentals

  1. What will you learn?

In this free course, you can learn everything you need to know to become a Google Analytics wizard. I recommend for everyone somewhat involved in digital marketing to do this course as it shows the importance of data and tracking (“TAG EVERYTHING”, as we’ve learnt on the recent Turing Festival) to make well-informed marketing decisions.

It both introduces you to digital analytics in general and then dives deep into explaining Google’s Analytics tool.

Analytics Fundamentals is the first of various courses offered by Google Academy. There are also more specific courses on the Analytics Platform, Ecommerce Analytics, Mobile Apps, and Google Tag Manager which you can do as a follow-up of the fundamentals course.

  1. What’s the format?

There are 6 Units of approximately 4 Lessons each. Each lesson includes a short video tutorial on the topic covered, as well as additional resources. Furthermore, there are post-class activities (multiple-choice tests) you can complete to assess your knowledge.

At the very end of the course, there is a final assessment, which helps you test your knowledge and gives you the option to revise parts you’re not 100% comfortable with, albeit it does not result in an actual certification.

If you want to get Google Analytics Qualified, you have to sign up for the Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) which includes an assessed exam and is now free for Google Partners. To pass this test, you have to review the material covered in the Analytics Fundamentals and Platform courses (first two courses of the Academy).

  1. How much time do you have to spend?

The course has 22 video lessons, and each video is between 3 and 10 minutes long.

All in all, the course should take you 4 to 6 hours to complete, but this depends on your familiarity with Google Analytics. I would also recommend applying the course content to your own account as this will manifest your newly acquired knowledge much more effectively! Play around with the different tools and create reports that you feel could be relevant to your business and get to know the tool better.

Google Squared

  1. What will you learn?

A lot.

Google Squared covers EVERYTHING related to digital marketing – from digital disruption, the importance of social media, data analytics, branding, and ethics. I am currently enrolled myself and can’t believe how much I am learning.

This course is not free (you’re looking at £1,749) but there is an option to get funded by your employer.

There are people of various backgrounds. Some are new to digital marketing, others have been working in this area for years and want to catch up on the newest trends and phenomena. In my cohort, there are people from all over the world, from the UK to mainland Europe, the US and Emirates, which makes it really interesting to work together as you get to learn various perspectives on different matters.

Google Squared defines itself as “the digital marketing leadership qualification”; it aims at educating students on the newest and most important developments in the world of digital marketing and qualifies them in understanding and applying marketing techniques and concepts to their daily work. As for the leadership part of things, there is a leadership and people stream in addition to the marketing-related content in every module, looking at topics such as people analytics, virtual teams, and disruptive leadership.

Graduates of this programme can be sure to have a thorough understanding and practical experience in everything you need to know to create great digital marketing campaigns and develop both professional and personal skills.

  1. What’s the format?

Google Squared is virtually a real class – there is a virtual campus, online live classes once a week, and virtual teams, with real people! Every lesson has pre-and post-class activities which help you gain further knowledge on the content covered. Often, you are asked to read an article related to what the module is about and write a short essay on some questions into the discussion forum. Other Squares can, then, reply to your thoughts and give you feedback on your work.

Once every week, there are live classes which last about an hour. They are my personal highlights – the presenters are absolutely amazing, lots of fun, and really know what they are talking about. I have never attended online live classes before but I must say I am very positively surprised. If you can’t attend the (interactive) classes, there is a recording available for you to catch up.

Google Squared
In addition to individual coursework and live classes, there are currently three group activities and an individual assessment. The group tasks are quite demanding but very inspiring: you are, for example, asked to come up with an idea for a digital business and present your business plan in a 5-minute video, or create a marketing campaign for a product launch.

  1. How much time do you have to spend?

This course takes quite a lot of commitment – but is definitely worth the effort. You are enrolled for about five months and the intensity of your workload depends on how close your deadlines are (and how organised your group is before that 😉 ) but in general you should be able to dedicate about 6 – 8 hours a week over a period of 21 weeks.

I am doing this course in addition to my full-time job (as many of other fellow Squares) and although sometimes challenging, it is absolutely doable and a great thing to put your time towards as you are rewarded with a whole pile of knowledge!

I hope this post gave you an overview of some of the most important free and paid online courses and made you eager to learn more!

In such a fast-changing field as digital marketing, it is crucial to always stay up-to-date and not to miss out on trends and new techniques as you have to change with how your customers behave.

This can take some time and effort – if you feel that this might be exceeding your resources, working with a marketing agency might be the easier (and sometimes cheaper) option. (Check out this blog post where I try to weigh up both options).

Whatever you decide to do – never stop learning 🙂

Any comments on additional courses you liked or your own experience with these classes are highly appreciated! Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

State of Inbound




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  • Rob Tarling

    As Kathrin says in this post, and as a graduate of Google Squared myself, I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wishes to get a “non-academic” overview of the state of the art in Digital Marketing as it is right now. The course itself is not especially technical (i.e. it won’t tell you how to do digital marketing as a set of discrete disciplines such as PPC, SEO, Display, etc.), but it does explain the why and the what of digital marketing rather brilliantly and in a team-based collaborative way that reinforces the learning. This alone gives one a framework – informed by the way that Google sees the world – that means that you can think about the digital marketing requirements for your particular organisation in a business centric way. If you can afford the fee the course is well worth doing, and the time commitment is completely manageable (if you are organised).

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