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When we look at where to focus our free blog content at Smart Insights, our main aim or filter we use is that the content must help digital marketers plan, manage and optimize their business results or improve their digital skills. This is also what our member content, in our guides focuses on too - starting with digital strategies and planning templates then more specialized marketing tactics like email marketing, social media, SEO, video and many more digital skills.
Of course, there is a lot of great free, structured online courses around developing digital skills, so we thought it would help to share our thoughts on this - and give a shout out for our free online course content.
We agree with the Co-founder of Moz Rand Fishkin that modern marketers and particularly hands-on Content Marketers need to be ‘T-shaped’, that is they should specialize in one area but also have a good understanding and basic skills across the many different areas of digital marketing today.
The T-shaped marketer needs many skills, which once would not have been needed for marketers but are now key to being able to perform their roles effectively. For example, knowing the basics of HTML is essential to my role, and I’d be useless without it. I’m no expert, and if you told me to code a website it would look like a dog's dinner (there are probably nine-year-olds that know more about CSS than me) but the point is that although it is not an area I specialize in, I know enough to have a basic comprehension and make tweaks when they are needed. Similarly, I’m no Photoshop wiz, nor am I a master of InDesign, but being able to use these design tools is essential to my role and so, I need to know how to use them.
Marketers need to hone their skills in many different areas to give them a basic grasp of how to use many different platforms and tools. We think good training is worth paying for, but whilst it’s definitely worth paying for learning resources in the areas you are trying to learn in-depth, if you are on a tight budget then it may be expensive for you to pay for training in all of the many areas the modern marketers needs to know about, plus resources on how to handle all the different pieces of software you’ll need to be able to use to be an excellent ‘T-shaped’ marketer.
That's why we're recommending these free online courses to you to improve your digital marketing skills.
It’s no good being up to date with all the latest marketing tools and ancillary software if you can’t put it into practice as part of a well thought out marketing plan. That’s where our RACE Digital Marketing Planning Elearning Module comes in.
It will show you how to create a Digital Marketing Strategy using the Smart Insights RACE Planning system, and help you learn the fundamentals of successful digital marketing, to create a long-term plan to grow your business using 25 key digital marketing techniques.
It’s designed to be super-practical – as you complete each topic, you can create a Digital Strategy or Plan for your business or your clients.
Only the first topics are free, but somewhat obviously, we think it’s worth letting you know about it!
Knowing where your organization is currently 'at' in terms of digital marketing and discovering the next steps to improve this can be really helpful to businesses no matter how basic or advanced their current use of digital marketing. Our free interactive benchmarking tool will do just that. You have to be a member to access it, but basic (free) members can still use it once to see where they rate and how they can improve. Expert members can use it as often as they like.
Watch our 15-second video to see how the tool works:
Codecademy is great for taking you through the basics of HTML and it really guides you through and holds your hand when you are starting out and code just seems confusing. Often free learning is okay but not the same quality you would get if you paid for it, but Codecademy is genuinely really useful and rivals paid tools for functionality. It does much more than just HTML, so if you want to take it further you can learn CSS, Java Script and even PHP, Python and Ruby if you want.
This free course is perfect if you’ve used Photoshop before but need to update your skills. 29 lectures take you through new features and productivity enhancements and will be useful whether you are brand new to Photoshop or if you’ve been using it for years.
This course takes you through the basics of this powerful but often intimidating design program. Over 11 hours of content split up into 105 lectures take you through your first steps right up to more advanced features. Plus the author has included more than 2GB of work-files so that you can work alongside him as he teaches you the ins and outs of this powerful desktop publishing software!
Google Analytics is a great tool, and getting to grips with it is essential for all digital marketers. Even if you think you’ve got a handle on it, there may well be features you don’t realize exist that you could you to generate insights which could help you increase your conversion rate or attract more visits. The Google Analytics Academy is a great free resource to help improve your skills. You can view lessons from experts and test your knowledge. Whilst it is great for learning how it works, it isn’t always easy to infer insights and how to apply Google analytics to improve results without further training.
On the topic of Google, Google Digital Garage is great for beginners wanting introductory fundamentals of different marketing channels. They offer free online starter courses on search, social media, mobile etc. and many more in their library of topics. These are only a starting point and more advanced training will be needed to specialize in any marketing channel.
This free online course is more of a very well put together reading list than a course per se. But it is a great way for digital marketers to get to grips with the basics of UX design, which can help them in many different elements of their role.
Our Research Analysist with over 5 years experience in insights and UX, Robert Jones, recommends Interactive Design Foundations on Lynda. This course includes topics covering:
This podcast from the Open University is delivered by Ben Harrex of Final Cut post production studios, and gives you a good idea how important editing your video is to how the final product looks – important to bear in mind for your video marketing. He makes a lot of good points, but it is not always the most actionable advice. On the plus side though, the podcast format means you can listen on the bus, or when out for a run, so no time wasted!
This quick online marketing course is designed specifically for those looking to market start-ups and want to get the most out of their marketing budgets. It will teach you a valuable marketing system to make your efforts much more effective, helping you gain traction and grow your business.
Wordstream have created a series of free PPC courses to help you get more bang for your buck when using Google AdWords or other PPC options. The courses cover all levels, from introductory to advanced, so you can learn more no matter what your current level.
By Robert Allen
I was the Editor of Smart Insights between 2015-2017. I managed the blog and you will find blog articles on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. The new Editor is Carolanne Mangles.
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