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Free online courses to improve your digital marketing skills

Author's avatar By Carolanne Mangles 18 Jul, 2018
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Improve your skills to become a 'T-shaped Marketer' via these free online courses and tutorials

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 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.

T shaped marketer

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.

Free online marketing training resources

RACE digital marketing planning module Planning Digital Marketing – RACE Digital Marketing Planning Elearning Module - free introductory topics

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!

Assessing Digital Marketing - Smart Insights' Interactive Benchmarking tool

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 free members can still use it once to see where they rate and how they can improve.  Premium members can use it as often as they like.

Watch our 15-second video to see how the tool works:

Code academy HTML – Codecademy

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, JavaScript and even PHP, Python and Ruby if you want.

GDPR and privacy laws - Trailhead 


We know that GDPR is still a scary concept to some businesses. There's been a lot of confusion around what companies can and can't do and we see GDPR related questions pop-up on our community forum often. Trailhead has an excellent introductory course on GDPR and European privacy laws and US privacy laws.

If you're wanting a more comprehensive material on GDPR, check out our GDPR Briefing for Marketing Professionals, Our round-up and recommendations on practical steps to comply with European Union data protection and privacy legislation.

UdemyPhotoshop – Photoshop In-Depth: Master all of Photoshop's Tools Easily

This free course is perfect if you've never used photoshop before or if you want to brush up on your skills and all its functionality. 45 lectures take you through all the different features of Adobe Photoshop and how to best use them.

UdemyInDesign – Free course on Udemy

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 Analytic Academy Google Analytics – Analytics Academy

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. There are 5 free courses:

  • Google Analytics for Beginners
  • Advanced Google Analytics
  • Getting Started with Google Analytics 360
  • Ecommerce Analytics - From Data to Decisions
  • Google Tag Manager Fundamentals

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.

UX Design – Hack DesignHack Design

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:

  • Understanding the origins of interaction design
  • Understanding gestalt principles
  • Designing with grids
  • Understanding design patterns
  • Exploring how people respond to motion and color
  • Communicating through labels and icons and more

Although this course is not free, you can sign up to Lynda for a free month.

Video editing - Skillshare


Only the introduction to the course is free, but Slideshare offers you a free 30-day trial. This course takes you through different elements of video editing using Premiere Pro CC and is ideal for beginners wanting to learn the basics of video. Modules are broken downi into bite-size videos and easy to understand.

Bluemint Marketing Marketing for Startups- BlueMint Marketing

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.

Pay Per Click Ads - PPC University

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.

Author's avatar

By Carolanne Mangles

Carolanne Mangles Dig DipM is the Digital Marketing Executive for Click Travel, an award-winning corporate travel booking platform. She is a specialist in B2B SaaS and enjoys planning and optimizing the full customer journey across all digital channels to create brand awareness, great user experience and copy that really sells the benefits of the product. She was previously Digital Marketing Executive for Smart Insights where she was involved with multiple digital channels to manage fully integrated membership campaigns to boost new customer acquisition and current membership retention. She has spoken and given masterclasses at B2B Expo on Search and Content Marketing, holds an IDM award in GDPR and loves a glass of red wine. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

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