The Top 10 Digital Marketing Courses in 2021 (Free & Paid)

The Top 10 Digital Marketing Courses in 2021 (Free & Paid)

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  • It's true when they say the best way to learn something is by doing it. That said, it's definitely worth taking some courses if you're looking to learn and improve your application of digital marketing.
  • From SEO, social media and paid search, there's a plethora of resources out there to start learning and improving your skills (many of which are free).
  • We take a look at the top 10 free and paid courses that will help you build a solid foundation for digital marketing success.

Digital marketing is a vast field that encompasses many domains, from search engine optimization (SEO)—the segment I love most—and email marketing, to social media and paid search advertising. 

Digital marketing is also a dynamic field where things can change overnight. But if you build a strong foundation and keep up with best practices, you’ll overcome any challenges (and be sure, challenges will come). 

What Is the Best Way to Learn Digital Marketing?

The best way to learn anything is by doing it. 

If someone throws a project at you, most likely, that’s a great way to learn. You’ll fail at the beginning (that goes for almost everything in life), but it’s essential to make mistakes and fail fast.

Don’t expect to learn digital marketing in six months. It’s a continuous process that spans over the years—and that’s the beauty of it! There’s always an opportunity to learn something new every day. 

One common misconception is that SEO is about what happens on the website. It’s equally important what happens outside of it, so inevitably, you’ll deal with social media, email marketing and sprinkle some paid advertising over the mix. Videos and podcasts are also very common today.

Although you don’t need to be a website developer, having a standard and basic understanding of coding will also help you along the way.

That being said, over the last couple of years, the internet has provided everyone with the opportunity to learn from industry experts who willingly share their knowledge. It’s part of their business model: they establish themselves as authorities in the field by sharing their experience. 

What Are the Best Digital Marketing Courses in 2021?

Here are the best free and paid courses and resources to learn and improve your application of digital marketing:

  1. CodeAcademy
  2. SEMrush Academy
  3. HubSpot
  4. Canva
  5. Google’s Courses and Platforms 
  6. Coursera and EdX 
  7. Craig Campbell SEO
  8. Facebook
  9. Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning
  10. The Community—Offline and Online Digital Marketing Resources

1. CodeAcademy

I’ve put Code Academy at the top of the list because it’s like learning the ABC of everything that happens online. It’s not about digital marketing per see, but it teaches you the fundamentals of the web/internet. You don’t need to become a developer, but if you start learning how HTML, CSS and JavaScript work early on, it will help you tremendously in the future. 

You can easily sign-up for an account. There are options for paid courses, which will give you extensive training and access to private groups, tutors and other perks. However, with their free courses, you will gain the knowledge and confidence you need to work across a website. 

2. SEMrush Academy

SEMRUSH (pronounced 'sem-rush', not 'ess-ee-em-rush') is my favourite SEO tool. It’s too complex to go over all its capabilities here, but inevitably you’ll hear the name once stepping into the industry. Keyword research, competitor analysis, rankings, links, website audits, content analysis, social posting and monitoring—to name just a few of what this tool does.

This paragraph is not about the tool; it’s about the information they offer to help you advance in your digital marketing journey. 

For the past couple of years, they have put tremendous effort into educating people regarding all digital marketing aspects through great articles, podcasts and videos. They have a great YouTube channel where industry experts from all over the world share their knowledge, and—my favourite type of video—live site audits (from which I learn the most). 

The SEMrush Academy is the section that brings significant value to the table. They offer various free courses - from SEO (especially technical SEO) to content writing, agency management, social media management, paid advertising, and of course, their SEO tools. 

Top industry professionals share their knowledge and expertise for both beginners and SEO experts, but I would have paid money for these free courses, anyway. 

After you finish a course, they give you a certificate (which you’ll have to renew each year) - which is a benefit to your resume since you have something to show for the knowledge you accumulated. 

Top 10 Free Digital Marketing Courses in 2021

3. HubSpot

HubSpot is the number one resource portal for anything regarding digital marketing. Just search on Google and find out for yourself. If you write anything similar to the article you’re reading right now, there’s a high chance a HubSpot article would be your direct competitor. 

HubSpot also coined some industry terms ('inbound marketing' being one of them) and they are the reference in many digital marketing resources.

HubSpot used to be a CRM tool, but over the past couple of years it has become so more than that. I use their free CRM, website chatbots and landing page builder for some campaigns I work with, but there’s so much more you can do with it. 

Besides their tools and blog, HubSpot has its own Academy where—similar to SEMrush—you can find free courses and certifications. I would look into their email marketing courses to start with.

4. Canva

As you can already see, top industry tools are the best resources for free online education courses in the business.

I’ve included Canva because it’s a tool I use daily for image design. Although a digital marketer is NOT a graphic designer, you need to know the design basics. From a technical perspective, you’ll need to create some basic designs yourself, or at least be able to recognize excellent and practical designs.

You'll also need to have a basic understanding of graphic design best practices, what tools to use and key design vocabulary so that when you work with a graphic designer, you can give them precise directives on what you need, instead of babbling on and using words that only you understand in that specific context. 

5. Google’s Courses and Platforms

I would have named this sub-chapter Google, but learning from Google would mean you actually type in Google’s search section—the search engine. That’s something I often do, and most likely, I’m not the only one. 

Google is more than just a search engine. It’s one of the biggest companies on the planet that shapes the way we think (not always in a positive way) and live. For the search engine itself, it’s best to remember that its purpose is to serve its users with the best possible answer/result for their query. 

Once you have that in mind, you’ll be successful in SEO. Google will reward you by showing your page to its users if you serve them the information they are looking for. That being said, take everything from Google with a grain of salt, especially how they tell you how to do certain things. 

The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing is an excellent place to learn from Google’s perspective. 

The Google Skillshop offers free courses like Paid Advertising and Google Analytics Academy (courses with certificates that I renew every year), YouTube advertising and many more. They are fundamentals to learn how to use Google tools and platforms. 

Again, the best way to learn something is by doing it. After taking some of Google’s courses and starting to gain some experience in the field, you’ll soon discover that things are not exactly as they seem!

Some companies require these Google certifications, plus you have something to add to your resume and LinkedIn profile. In Google Analytics, they even give you access to a mock account populated with massive data (something that most digital marketers won’t manage in their work). 

Besides, agencies need at least two or three employees to be certified when applying to become Google Ads Partners. So take the opportunity and get your free Google certifications. 

Google - one of the best free online digital marketing courses

6. Coursera and EdX

These two platforms are giants in the education industry. They are pioneers in taking online education seriously. Through them, you have access to courses from universities all over the world and a chance to connect with international teachers and instructors.

Coursera and EdX offer a series of digital marketing courses from different educational institutions. Most of them are paid courses but affordable. While some are free to attend, you just need to pay for the certification. 

Top world universities offer courses on these platforms, and some of them recognize these courses and certificates as credits if you want to pursue a complete program. They also add some weight to your resume (but don’t rely on any course to get yourself hired). 

They can also offer scholarships and financial assistance, so definitely consider these before making a purchase. 

7. Craig Campbell SEO

Craig Campbell is a Scottish SEO expert who is open to discuss the so-called 'black hat SEO techniques'. I prefer the term 'search engine hacking' because 'black hat' refers to practices against a search engine's (read Google) guidelines. By those guidelines, if you ask someone to link back to your website, then you’re violating them.  

Craig has put together a series of courses (both paid and free) and I can honestly say that I learned more about how digital marketing and SEO work than from any other source. He’s transparent about sharing techniques and tools that others don’t even mention.

Craig’s courses, among his YouTube channel, are extremely helpful resources for anyone looking to learn about the world of SEO. 

Top 10 Free Digital Marketing Courses in 2021

8. Facebook

Facebook is an entire universe by itself. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Workplace from Facebook and Facebook for Business are all separate entities within the same conglomerate that is Facebook. 

Facebook by itself is a search engine and a platform that requires some time to understand fully. 

I use Facebook a lot, but I’m not fond of some of their features - the video experience on Facebook is not the best (in my opinion). It can also get confusing when switching between Facebook Business and regular Facebook, not to mention the UX for the Ads Manager! You need to re-learn the interface every six months or so, but let's hope things will improve. 

That being said, it’s important to understand the platform. Facebook offers a full suite of courses to help you in your journey, from how to build apps and integrate your business (or better, how Facebook can integrate with your company using a live chatbot on your site, for example) to paid advertising (Facebook’s revenue source). Facebook certification is a must-have in your digital marketing certification portfolio. 

9. Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning

I will add Lynda to this list, which is now LinkedIn Learning. Although Lynda is a paid service, check with your local library if they allow free access to all Lynda courses through your library card. Some universities also give free access to Lynda courses if you’re enrolled in one of their full-time programs.

That’s how I got access: in Canada, if you have a membership card with your local library, you get free access to Lynda courses. I’m sure libraries have many other useful resources available. 

Also, some libraries ask for volunteers to help manage the website—this could be an opportunity to get some hands-on experience with digital marketing.  

10. The Community—Offline and Online Digital Marketing Resources

I saved the best for the last. Learning digital marketing is a journey, and you can’t do it alone. Fortunately, there are a lot of communities where people are willing to help you in your endeavours. Sometimes, just by asking, you’ll get a complete answer in a few seconds, compared to hours spent researching the topic. 

I’ll add to this list podcasts, YouTube videos and channels, Facebook groups and following industry experts. Don’t hesitate to ask directly - John Mueller, for example, who is the Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, often answers directly on Twitter. 

Attend events, conferences and join groups. I know that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down things a bit, but some events are still happening online. I can’t emphasize enough how important the network and the connections developed through these events are and how they can positively impact your knowledge and career.

Final Note

I’ve written this article as if I would have talked to you directly. Take everything with a grain of salt and be patient. Nothing happens overnight. But in time, this type of information will help you build the solid foundation you need to succeed in all areas of digital marketing. 


Emanuel Petrescu

SEO Specialist at

Digital Marketing specialist from Toronto, Canada. SEO, Email Marketing, Social Media, and Paid Advertising. With 10+ years of experience in the field. More at https://emanuelp.com/


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