A good friend of mine recently quit his 9-5 for freelance digital marketing.
He’s making 5x what he made at his salaried job, and has much more flexibility.
He learned digital marketing for free, at home, at his own pace, and in just six months.
So if you want to learn digital marketing–whether to improve your skillset in hopes of a promotion, to help you do your current job better, or so that you can quit your job to take on clients – this guide has everything you need to get started.
We’ll cover some basics everyone needs to know about digital marketing, the best resources for learning each type of digital marketing, some certifications you should consider to improve your resume, and a few secrets to mastering digital marketing (these are crucial).
Here’s how to learn digital marketing in 2021:
- Learn general digital marketing basics
- Choose a field or channel to focus on
- Start learning using reputable resources
- Get certified in your field
- Join a community and find mentors
- Start experimenting and testing
Digital Marketing Basics
If you want to get started in digital marketing – whether to improve your skills, enable you to quit your current job, or to get a job at a digital marketing agency – it might make sense to pick a single type, channel, or platform to specialize in. But before you start down that path, there are some skills everyone in digital marketing should excel in. These basic skills will set the foundation for your digital marketing journey and help you make the most of it.
Trying to become an expert in SEO, for example, without some of these foundational digital marketing skills could lead you to failure down the road.
So what do you need to know before diving into a specific track?
#1. Experimentation & The Scientific Method
Do you remember the scientific method? You make an observation, come up with a hypothesis, test your theory, draw conclusions, and then run another test?
It’s used in digital marketing all the time (or it should be).
Occasionally you might find yourself working on a campaign in an industry where you know exactly what will work. You’ve done it hundreds of times, and you just need to replicate your past strategies and tactics.
But most of the time, digital marketing is a game of trial and error. It’s all about testing, drawing conclusions, and reworking your tactics.
So if it’s been awhile since you did a science project, re-familiarize yourself with the scientific method, and start practicing it.
#2. Understanding People
At its core, digital marketing is all about people.
This might seem like a funny “skill” to have, but it’s everything in marketing. If you’re going to sell someone a product or service, you need to deeply understand them: their wants, needs, challenges, aspirations, etc… And you need to understand how to influence and persuade them.
And most importantly, you need to get to know your audience.
Even if you don’t go into copywriting or content marketing, the ability to write good copy is a game changer. Whether you specialize in digital advertising, SEO, email marketing, or video marketing –there will be copy involved.
And in an age where just about anyone can set up a Facebook advertising campaign or publish a blog post, good copywriting makes the difference.
There are some books you can read on copywriting (like Everybody Writes and Ogilvy on Advertising) and courses to take (like these from Udemy), but the best way to get better is to practice. Even if you don’t have a client to practice for, just start writing.
Many successful copywriters claim they got started by handwriting ad copy and emails from successful campaigns over and over until they understood why and how they worked.
The Best Digital Marketing Resources for Learning
There are countless free and paid digital marketing resources on the internet – perhaps more than any other industry in the world. The digital marketing industry loves to share. There’s plenty of content right here for learning.
The best SEO blogs to follow:
The best SEO courses to take:
The best content marketing blogs to follow:
The best content marketing courses to take:
- Hubspot’s Content Marketing Course (Free)
- Blogging for Business by Ahrefs (Free)
- Udemy’s Content Marketing Masterclass (Paid)
- Coursera: Strategy of Content Marketing (Free)
Social Media Marketing
The best social media blogs to follow:
The best social media courses to take:
- HubSpot’s Social Media Certification (Free)
- Facebook’s Blueprint (Paid)
- Hootsuite Academy (Paid and Free Courses)
Google Ads and PPC
The best Google Ads blogs to follow:
The best Google Ads courses to take:
The best email marketing blogs to follow:
The best email marketing courses to take:
- Hubspot’s Email Marketing (Free)
- Udemy’s Start Growing Your Email List (Paid)
- ClickMinded’s Email Marketing Course (Paid)
Other Digital Marketing Resources
Other digital marketing blogs you should check out:
Plenty of the resources mentioned above also have great newsletters and social media accounts. Sign up for some email lists and start following big names in your field on social – you’ll start getting better at digital marketing without even realizing it.
Some might group skills like web design or branding in with digital marketing as well, but we feel these are more important for a creative career at a creative agency. Though there is definitely overlap, there are some major differences between digital and creative agencies.
8 Online Marketing Certifications to Improve Your Resume
Once you’ve learned the basics of your desired field, getting certified is a great way to test your knowledge and bolster your resume.
Most of these certifications involve a comprehensive course followed by a test. These tests usually require you to get at least 70% – 80% of the answers correct to be rewarded the certificate.
Once you get the certificate, you can add it to your resume, your LinkedIn, and your website to increase your credibility. Most of them expire somewhere between one year and two years, so be sure to keep up with your certification and re-certify before it expires.
- HubSpot Inbound Marketing (Free)
- Google Analytics (Free)
- Digital Marketing Institute (Paid)
- Google Ads (Free)
- Facebook Blueprint (Paid)
- SEMRush SEO Fundamentals (Free)
- Hootsuite’s Social Media Marketing Certification (Paid)
- Content Marketing University (Paid)
Two Keys to Mastering Digital Marketing
Now that you have some basics down, learned from top resources, and earned a certification – it’s time for next steps. Here are two vital keys to mastering digital marketing and becoming a marketing expert:
#1. Start Practicing
One thing to know about digital marketing – and any field for that matter – is at some point you have to move from learning about it to doing it. Reading blogs and watching YouTube videos can only take you so far.
So how can you get started doing digital marketing?
- Start your own project. Start a blog, create a YouTube channel, build a drop shipping eCommerce site, or try to grow your social media following. This is (in my opinion) the best way to learn digital marketing fast. You’ll make some mistakes – but that’s okay. Just make sure you learn from them.
- Intern at an agency. There are marketing agencies in every city in the world. Find an agency hiring interns and give it a shot. If you’re still working a full-time job, perhaps you could intern remotely on nights and weekends for a flexible firm. If you feel good about your craft, you may be able to get hired for a junior role. Most agencies are incredible environments to learn in.
- Take on your own freelance clients. If you feel ready, consider taking on your own clients. Just be up front about your experience level, and consider offering a low rate at first until you have a good case study or two.
#2. Join the Community
Digital marketing is full of people willing to collaborate, share information, and build relationships with other practitioners. If you want to grow and learn digital marketing, take advantage of this.
Here are a few ways to do so:
- Interact on social media. This is a great way to plug into the digital marketing community. Follow others in your field, share learnings, comment on their learnings, and make some friends.
- Join groups. There are plenty of digital marketing Facebook groups, Slack communities, and meetups that are always open to new members. These are great environments for marketing newbies.
- Find a mentor. If you’ve found someone in your industry who is a few steps ahead of you, consider asking them to mentor you. It doesn’t have to be all that formal – maybe just a Zoom call once a month. Ask questions, share your work, and receive feedback.
Enjoy the Journey
More than anything else, enjoy the journey as you start learning digital marketing. There’s no feeling quite like logging into analytics or your dashboard and seeing more followers, traffic, leads, or sales. It really is amazing.
That said, award winning campaigns are hard to come by. Don’t get discouraged if your first campaign doesn’t result in 10x growth.
Keep trying and keep learning.
Best of luck on your digital marketing journey. Enjoy it!