Hey there! Let me guide you on learning digital marketing online

Have you been wondering how to get started and build a strong foundation in digital marketing? As an experienced tech leader and marketer, I‘ve trained several aspiring professionals in this high-growth field. In this comprehensive guide, I will share:

  • Why digital marketing skills are highly valued
  • A lay of the digital marketing landscape
  • How to smartly leverage free and paid resources
  • Tips to strengthen your portfolio with real experience
  • Exciting career prospects

I aim to equip you with all the tools, knowledge and insider perspectives needed to become a versatile digital marketer!

The soaring demand for digital marketing skills

Digital is no longer an add-on for businesses – an overwhelming 96% of organizations now have a dedicated digital marketing strategy. This seismic shift stems from tangible benefits like:

  • Measurable ROI – Digital provides real-time analytics on campaign reach and conversion rates.
  • Cost-efficiency – Digital channels allow targeted, personalized communication at scale.
  • Customer engagement – Social media and online ads enable interactive experiences.

With $515 billion forecasted to be spent on digital advertising worldwide by 2023, it is one of the fastest growing domains today.

Here‘s a snapshot of average salaries for digital marketing talent in the US today, as per Payscale:

Role Average Salary
Digital Marketing Manager $68,698
Search Engine Marketing Lead $77,489.00
Social Media Strategist $54,113

And this demand will continue rising exponentially – digital marketing job postings on Indeed grew over 30% YoY in 2021.

So if you‘re looking for a future-proof career with immense opportunities, you can‘t go wrong upskilling yourself in digital marketing!

Key channels under the digital marketing umbrella

While terms like performance marketing and growth hacking might sound fancy and intimidating to the uninitiated, digital marketing simply encompasses promoting products and services using web-based channels and platforms.

Here are 5 core disciplines under its umbrella:

Search Engine Optimization

Also known as SEO, this area entails optimizing website content and architecture so it appears higher in unpaid search engine results for relevant queries. This requires technical work such as site speed enhancements alongside creating keyword-rich articles and building backlinks.

Pay Per Click Advertising

In PPC or paid search campaigns, ads are shown alongside organic results on search engines and other publisher networks. You bid on relevant keywords and only pay when users click or view your ads. Platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising facilitate this at scale.

Social Media Marketing

This involves managing business pages and ad campaigns on leading social media websites like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. The role spans creating engaging posts, monitoring conversations, running paid promotions and tracking performance.

Content Marketing

Content marketing focuses on consistently producing high-quality, valuable content like blog posts, videos, podcasts and newsletters to attract and retain an audience. SEO and social media help amplify such content.

Web/Marketing Analytics

Digital marketers rely heavily on data to track reach and engagement for campaigns across channels ranging from email to shopping ads. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics help collate this data to derive actionable insights.

While specializing in any domain, having an understanding of other aspects provides better context for decision-making.

Decoding paid certificates vs free online courses

With digital marketing knowledge extensively available online, what is the best way to skill up? Should you go for paid certificates from leading universities and platforms? Or will free tutorials and MOOCs suffice?

The route you take depends greatly on your end goal.

Structured certificates — for career building

If you‘re looking to switch professions or accelerate your marketing career, I‘d strongly recommend structured certificates.

Though priced anywhere between $1000 to $5000, these provide:

  • Holistic curriculum – Methodically covers concepts across different modules.
  • Expert instruction – Taught by practicing marketers from top companies.
  • Industry recognition – Certifications valued by hiring managers.
  • Networking opportunities – Cohorts to collaborate with during and post-program.
  • Career assistance – Guidance on resume building, mock interviews etc.

I‘d recommend programs offered by:

  • University of Toronto – Certificate in Digital Marketing Management
  • HubSpot Academy– OMCA Content Marketing certification
  • Google Analytics Academy – GA certified practitioner

In addition to adding credentials, you can showcase certificate projects in your portfolio.

DIY learning — for experimenters

Alternatively, if you wish to dip your toes in digital marketing or supplement existing knowledge, opting for free online courses and bootcamps is worthwhile.

At no monetary cost, these allow you to:

  • Learn basics – Foundational lessons to get started.
  • Explore interests – Check if the field aligns to interests before deeper investment.
  • Learn technical skills – Tool certifications like Google Analytics, Meta Blueprint.
  • Stay updated – Follow latest trends and best practices.

Some reputed free resources include:

  • Google Digital Garage
  • Facebook Blueprint
  • HubSpot Academy blog
  • Moz Beginners Guide to SEO

So whether it is advancing your career or pursuing a personal passion, there are options for every learning style and budget.

Getting vital hands-on seasoning

While gaining bookish knowledge is step one, applying concepts by working on actual projects is key to mastering digital marketing.

Here are some impactful ways to gain experience:

Offer your skills pro-bono

Is there a local restaurant or nonprofit you‘d like to support? Offer to manage their social media accounts for free. This lets you practice devising posting strategies, crafting engaging captions, hashtag research etc. without pressures.

Guest blog about your niche

Volunteer to author a guest post for an industry blog or publication. Pitch a topic highlighting your unique viewpoint, customize content for their audience and adhere to guidelines. Such hands-on content creation and pitching gives great writing portfolio pieces.

Shadow industry experts

Does your network have someone succeeding with digital initiatives for their company? Ask if they‘ll give 30 minutes to explain their strategic process. Most professionals are happy to mentor aspiring marketers. Their real-world perspective is invaluable.

Sign-up for trial software accounts

Before committing to paid tools for social media scheduling, email marketing, SEO etc. sign up for free trials. Create test campaigns, import sample data and explore features. This helps make prudent procurement decisions later.

Google certifications

Google offers free learning paths culminating in accreditations that hiring managers value on Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google My Business. Get certified by passing assessments.

While theoretical knowledge builds the foundation, practical application cements and deepens your skills. Hence get creative in seeking experiential learning besides formal education!

I hope these pointers help you progress faster from unaware to adroit across digital landscapes. Feel free to reach out if you need any other tips!