The 3 best online digital marketing courses for 2020

Whether you prefer “unprecedented,” “challenging,” or a much-warranted expletive of your choosing, it hasn’t been easy.

It’s also certainly not something we, as working professionals, business leaders, or entire industries, prepared for — but we’ve had to manage.

In the pandemic, countless individuals, businesses, and sectors have been forced to pivot and solve for the moment.

Some scrambled to take their operations remote and are now leaning heavily on digital formats, while others had to reimagine their entire product or service offering and delivery model.

Some of us are simply surviving after being displaced from our jobs, while others are ironically thriving. It all depends on how your business and work translated into the “new norm.”

Regardless of your situation, one overarching theme we’ve seen the past few months is a desire (or need) to learn, grow, and self-improve.

These pursuits used to be accomplished through in-person coaching, consulting, or events, but now, they have been forced to move almost entirely online or virtual.

Here at IMPACT, we’ve been working tirelessly to build a new online learning community, called IMPACT+, and launched a series of virtual events designed to educate and support the individuals and businesses we’re currently unable to connect with in-person.

This had us looking at the best of what is currently available, and considering what about these makes them so valuable to the audiences they serve.

Below, I’ve offered a short list (albeit long article) with a few of the best online marketing courses for your consideration.

Whether you’re exploring a new career or simply looking to brush up on much-needed digital marketing skills, these are plenty of options that span a wide range of budgets.

If you’re looking for a program that will take you from the fundamentals of digital marketing up through expert-level implementation and strategy, add this one to your list of options.

Based on a Master’s certificate program, with Simplilearn, you’ll gain everyday, practical knowledge you can deploy in the workplace right away.

However, as the most expensive option on our list, the cost is definitely something to consider here.

This comprehensive program offers students an advanced education on search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social media, PPC, and digital analytics.

As instructors walk you through these areas of specialization, you’ll build competency in planning, managing, and executing integrated, multi-channel campaigns.

While you could gather knowledge in any of these areas from other platforms (aka directly from the source like Google Analytics), here you’ll be exposed to more than 40 different marketing tools and understand how they’re leveraged by professionals in the industry.

The following information was gathered from the Simplilearn website, live chat, and a brief call with one of their sales representatives.

Overview: “This Digital Marketing course will transform you into a complete digital marketer with expertise in the top eight digital marketing domains — search engine optimization, social media, pay-per-click, conversion optimization, digital analytics, content, mobile, and email marketing. Fast-track your career in digital marketing today with practical training you can apply on the job.”

Time commitment: This program is designed for self-paced learning. It is available for 365 days after signup. If you dedicate approximately 10 hours/week, you can expect to complete the course within six months.

Instructors: Program advisors include Paul Lewis, Program Member of the University of Westminster’s Alumni Student Mentor ProgramBrad GeddesExpert PPC Marketer, Founder of Certified Knowledge, AuthorStéphane Hamel, Google Product Strategy Expert, Expert Data Analyst; Matt Bailey, Expert Internet Marketer, President of SiteLogic, Author.

Certifications and credentials: This program comes with the Master’s Program certificate from Simplilearn, as well as individual certificates for each course completed.

Additionally, once you’ve completed all coursework, you’ll also receive a voucher to take the OMCP (Online Marketing Certified Professional) Certification exam. This program also aligns with other certifications from Google, HubSpot, Microsoft Bing Ads, and Facebook Ads.

Other good-to-knows: There are dozens of preview videos you can watch prior to signing up for this program. I highly encourage you to watch several of these previews to get a feel for the instructors, course content, and consider if this learning style/program is a good fit for you.

Also, this appears to be the exact same program offered through MarketMotive, but with slightly different course titles/descriptions. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see the side by side similarities (same reviews, same instructors, etc.).

Keep in mind, while it’s “self-paced learning,” the courses are offered at specific days and times of the week. So, you can’t simply pick up your laptop at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday and knock out a session. What this does offer, however, is a more rigid structure that will force you to attend the class. Some people may prefer this structure to hold themselves more accountable.

Why this made the list: Due to the breadth and depth of information covered. I was also very impressed with the preview videos available through their website, which gives you a good idea of what to expect within the actual instructor-led courses.

Offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this seven-course program is a fit for beginning-level students and requires no previous experience or knowledge to get started.

It covers critical industry topics such as digital marketing principles and tools, marketing analytics, social media marketing, digital media formats, and more.

While the program appears to be free on the program overview page, you’ll quickly find that there is a seven-day free trial period, followed by a cost of $79/mo. So, depending on how long it takes you to complete the program, this falls in the middle-tier of pricing.

Each course includes pre-recorded videos, reading materials, quizzes, and a project, which puts a lot of variety into how you can digest the information.

Additionally, it is an extremely flexible program — take advantage of the seven-day free trial, learn a la cart, pause or stop at any time, and dive into the entirely on-demand material whenever it suits you (no need to schedule or sign up for a particular class).

The following information was gathered from the Coursera website.

Overview: “This Specialization explores several aspects of the new digital marketing environment, including topics such as digital marketing analytics, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and 3D Printing.

When you complete the Digital Marketing Specialization you will have a richer understanding of the foundations of the new digital marketing landscape and acquire a new set of stories, concepts, and tools to help you digitally create, distribute, promote and price products and services.”

Cost: Free seven-day trial, followed by $79 per month. (estimated total cost of $623 for eight months)

Reviews: Courses have individual ratings ranging from 4.3 to 4.7/5 stars

Number of courses/sessions: Seven individual courses that range from an estimated 18 to 27 hours to complete over 4-6 weeks each.

Time commitment: This 100% online program is a learn-at-your-own-pace structure (charged monthly until the course is completed). According to the website, a student dedicating five hours per week to the coursework can complete the program within eight months.

Certifications and credentials: Certificates are given for each individual course after completion of the curriculum and hands-on project, and the capstone project is done in association with Grainger industries.

This specialization is also part of the online Master of Business Administration (iMBA) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and will count towards your degree if you are admitted to the full program.

Other good-to-knows: You can complete this program or individual courses one at a time and cancel your subscription or pause your learning at any time, which offers students a lot of flexibility.

And because all lessons are pre-recorded, you can learn whenever it suits you. Have kids and a full-time job? No problem here. You can dive into the material whenever you have some downtime.

Why this made the list: This is an incredibly flexible, low-commitment paid program. Not to mention that it’s offered by a well-regarded university program and professors. You’ll find that this online program offers a deep dive into each of the seven specialization courses, including 4-6 weeks of coursework (or however long it takes you to complete at your own pace).

A staple for many digital or inbound marketers, sales and service team professionals, website developers, and business owners, HubSpot’s ever-growing academy offers a plethora of learning opportunities and resources.

Related: HubSpot Academy vs IMPACT+: a head-to-head digital marketing training comparison

Students can pick from one or multiple areas of specializations, levels of discipline, and time commitments to create their own personalized educational experience, and at the rate of “free,” you can’t really beat the price.

The fundamentals of the program are great for beginners, but keep in mind that since this academy was developed by HubSpot, it is closely tied to the platform and specific tools within. So, you may find this limiting to your educational experience if you don’t plan to use HubSpot in your day-to-day job.

The following was gathered from the HubSpot Academy website, as well as personal experience taking these courses.

Overview: “HubSpot Academy is the worldwide leader in free online training for inbound marketing, sales, and customer service professionals. We specialize in comprehensive certifications, singular topic courses, and bite-sized lessons for professionals looking to grow their career and business.”

Cost: Free; These courses/certifications are free, however, students need access to paid tools for the more intermediate/advanced courses. You can sign up for a trial, and finish the courses and certifications while you have access to the tools during that trial period.

Number of courses/sessions: Total of 17 certifications with multiple lessons in each.

Time commitment: Varies by courses and the number of certifications you’d like to acquire. Watching the actual video recordings per certification ranges from approximately 1 to 6 hours, plus the time it takes to complete and pass the course exam.

Certifications and credentials: Students of the academy receive a HubSpot certification and shareable badge once they’ve completed a course and the associated exam with a passing score. You can display your badge(s) on your website and LinkedIn profile.

There are currently a total of 17 certifications available within the Academy. That said, there are varying levels of requirements associated (i.e. you must be a HubSpot partner in order to earn the Agency Partner certification) and they last for varying amounts of time. Some certifications are good for a while, while others extend to two years.

Other good-to-knows: In order to start the certifications, you’re required to sign up for a HubSpot account if you don’t already have one. You can gain access to the HubSpot platform and tools under a free trial account.

The certification and course content is updated regularly (bi-annually or annually), but some resources may be slightly outdated as updates are made to the software and various tools showcased within the courses. All around, HubSpot does a good job of refreshing course material as frequently as possible.

If you didn’t notice, the professor lineup is almost entirely comprised of HubSpot employees. Not saying that this increases or decreases their credibility in any way, but it offers less variety than some of the other programs.

Why this made the list: As I mentioned in the introductory description of this program, HubSpot’s training has become a staple within the industry (at least for those within the HubSpot community).

It covers a wide gamut of topics and is directly applicable to use of the software. Beginner-level courses are great for anyone seeking a foundational understanding of digital or inbound marketing, while the intermediate and advanced courses are definitely more applicable to HubSpot users.

Ready to start learning?

Phew — I know that was a lot to take in, but hopefully, you found it helpful!

If you’re still not sure if you’ve found the right program for you, not to worry. Here are a few additional options to explore on your own:

You can also consider a platform or skill-specific training program, such as Google Analytics Academy (through Skillshop)Google Ads Certifications (through Skillshop)Facebook Blueprint CertificationSEMRush Academy, etc. if there is a particular area of interest to you.\

And if you love learning from the IMPACT community, I highly recommend you sign up for a free account on IMPACT+.

We’re literally adding courses daily and have already provided users with access to a 75+ pre-recorded event keynotes, a company roadmap and scorecard, community forums, and more.

I truly wish you all the best of luck in your search to learn new skills and hone in on your craft. I hope it leads you to a newly refreshed and profitable future!

The article was published at The 3 best online digital marketing courses for 2020

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