For newbie digital marketers, it’s not usually necessary — or, really, even advisable — to go back to a brick-and-mortar school to learn the ins and outs of marketing theory. But that doesn’t mean that you should jump in entirely self-taught. The marketing graveyard is littered with the bones of those who thought they “knew enough.” Apart from local seminars and casual webinars, there are a few online courses and certification programs that can help you further your knowledge and present yourself to clients.

glasses-272399_1280Coursera’s Digital Marketing Specialization Certification Path

Coursera offers a Digital Marketing specialization and certification through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This course is essentially a primer that walks newbie marketers through branding, consumer behavior, marketing strategies and data analysis. Each course is $79 (as of 2015), and there are five courses total:

  • Marketing in a Digital World
  • Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Theory
  • Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Practice
  • Digital Marketing Channels: The Landscape
  • Digital Marketing Channels: Planning

The cost of the entire specialization is $474. A self-paced course, each student has 180 days to complete each unit and gain their certification.

Google’s AdWords Certification

A digital marketer interested in running the best PPC campaigns may want to become AdWords Certified Though naturally there are other PPC networks out there, Google’s AdWords remains by far the most ubiquitous. There are five available Adwords Certification exams:

  • AdWords Fundamentals
  • Search Advertising
  • Display Advertising
  • Video Advertising
  • Shopping Advertising

The exams are free, but you need to sign up to become a Google Partner first. Preparing for the above exams will give you a valuable crash course in digital marketing techniques.

board-361516_1280ALISON’s Digital Marketing Diploma Courses

ALISON offers free courses, certification courses and “diploma” courses, all of which are either free or very affordable and completely self-paced. In the area of digital marketing, ALISON offers a Diploma in Social Media Marketing. This course, suitable for beginners, is estimated at fifteen to twenty hours long and includes video, audio, assessments and a final certification.

Modules in this course include:

  • Email marketing and affiliate marketing.
  • Social media tools used for marketing.
  • Social media marketing with Facebook.
  • The end of course assessment.

University of San Francisco’s Online Internet Marketing Program

The University of San Francisco runs a series of online marketing certification programs, ranging from some basic standalone courses to advanced specializations. These courses — and the certifications that are received from them — are accredited and completely online, but they are extremely expensive. Still, they may be valuable for those who want to promote as well as improve their education. Included within this online program:

  • Advanced Professional Certificate in Internet Marketing – 3 Course Series
  • Advanced Specialized Certificates – 6 Individual Courses
  • Specialized Mini Courses – 8 Individual Instant Courses
  • Internet Marketing Courses (Individual)

teacher-702998_1280Avoiding “Scams” and Useless Certifications

Be wary of online marketing courses that aren’t produced by well-known, qualified companies. There are many fly-by-night operations that offer basic digital marketing classes at premium costs. Remember: anyone can set up a website and upload a video. A few red flags to watch out for:

  • Promising “insider secrets” or “secret techniques.”
  • A cult of personality — marketing based on a single “guru” or “expert.”
  • Overly aggressive, “sales pitch” advertising.

And, of course, there are likely some digital marketing classes available at a local community college or university close to you, some of which may allow attendees outside of the university system. Look for outreach programs and local seminars if you tend to learn better in person.

Jenna Inouye
Jenna I. is a freelance writer, programmer and web developer, focusing on the areas of digital marketing, technology, gaming and finance. Hire Jenna through WriterAccess or contact her directly.

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