Digital marketing has become an essential part of the marketing mix. The reason is simple: more than two-thirds of the world’s population is online, and individuals increasingly research products and services online. Companies are aware that to succeed, they must have a strong, competitive online presence. In fact, a study conducted by the direct marketing association showed that the digital marketing industry is currently worth $62 Billion and growing.

Marketers today need to understand digital strategies for their careers, even if they do not specialize in online marketing. Luckily, it is easier than ever to learn digital strategies and find the right tools. Many companies have developed cutting-edge technologies to help digital marketers increase conversions and strengthen their brands online. A lot of the same companies, along with free online resources, will also teach you how to become a digital marketing expert.

The wealth of free online sources can be daunting, and we often get questions from many of our clients about the best resources to learn digital marketing. As the questions and answers are relevant for almost anyone starting an online business that is new to digital marketing, we decided to share some of the most frequent questions from these conversations below.

Q1: I'm starting a business and don't know much about how to market online. Do you have recommendations for how to get started?

A1: Yes! The most important, first step, is to make sure you have a great website that is set up properly. You should invest time and energy into working with experts and learning what makes a great website. This will be slightly different depending on your business. For example, VBOUT, which is marketing automation software, needs a website that clarifies what the software does, how it will impact your business, and how to sign up. For an eCommerce site, you should think about what products or aspects of your brand you want highlighted, and how the checkout process is handled. Look at your competitors, see what’s out there, define your branding, and think about how your website will communicate that. This should be decided before you engage with a professional web developer to create the site. We highly recommend working with a developer. If you’d like to be more heavily involved in the process, we recommend reading up on that topic, or learning the basics here:

Here are few sites we recommend for courses on web design and development:

The most critical factors when setting up a new website are web, UX and responsive design. Your website should encourage visitors to take action and return. Giving them reasons to return is very important since most visitors do not purchase on the very first visit. These two single factors will, therefore have the greatest impact on your conversions.

After you have set up your website, we suggest learning digital marketing. Some of our favorite sites for online courses include:

Even at VBOUT, we’ve developed our own free, online digital marketing course that you may want to check out.

Most of the courses and sites above are free, except for Udemy, which has both free and paid courses. The courses at Udemy that do require a fee, are generally more extensive and advanced.

Q2: There are a lot of resources out there. How do I choose the best one? Do you think the paid courses are better? What about university courses? I noticed a lot of colleges offering digital marketing courses now.

A2: Paid courses are not necessarily always better. You should do a fair amount of research to find the best free sources for your specific needs. Always start by thinking about your exact goals and what you want to achieve. We tend to repeat this a lot, even in our marketing courses. A lot of free resources out there may be better for B2B, or B2C. They may be targeted for eCommerce or the tech industry. The courses coming from some companies may be tailored for clients using their products who have specific needs. After you find resources that address your goals, review the time commitment, and what you will get out of the class. At this point you will know if it will be worth your time. If you are having trouble finding the right course, go to some online forums for your industry and ask around. People love to share feedback, especially if they had a good experience. Read reviews, and always keep in mind that you need to carefully evaluate if the focus pertains to your business challenges.

A couple of resources will be universal for all businesses with websites. The main one is Google academy. No matter what you are doing online, knowing the basics of Google, search engine optimization (SEO) and analytics is necessary for all digital marketers. You probably will not need to dive deep into the section for developers, or the very advanced lessons, but the courses for beginners are fairly essential.

Q3: So, analytics are that important?

A3: Only by understanding how your online marketing is performing, can you improve it. Translating your data analytics into meaningful conclusions helps you understand your audience better. This is an important foundation for any business engaged in digital marketing. Understanding the data also means there is a lot less guesswork about your campaign performance. This is one of the main differences and benefits over traditional marketing. As a result, it is also something that traditional marketers, even with a lot of experience, are lacking.

Q4: Are there other areas that you see as part of the foundation for me to learn, after building the website and analytics?

A4: The name or our own free online course is “Digital Marketing Foundations.” A quick and easy way to see the topics we think are important is to look at the list of our course titles:

  1. The basics of digital marketing
  2. Best SEO and analytics practices
  3. Successful PPC practices
  4. Best email marketing practices
  5. Successful email automation
  6. Mobile marketing best practices
  7. Content marketing best practices
  8. Video marketing best practices
  9. Create an effective online brand
  10. Generate leads with landing pages
  11. Managing social media on different channels
  12. Lead generation best practices

Q5: That seems like a lot to learn!

A5: It is! That is also just from our course. There are additional resources online to help you dive deeper into each of those topics. There are also others that may be relevant to your particular business challenges. In our course, we try to address the needs of both B2B and B2C, however, most of our examples come from our own experience with B2B marketing. A lot of our clients are in the B2C space, however, so our courses do address those needs as well.

Other courses and resources we like for learning a lot of these foundation topics include a lot of industry blogs and forums, such as:

In addition, there are sites that provide well-structured courses specifically for social media and blogging. These sites explain how to use social media tools and how to build your personal brand and thought leadership in your field. These sites include:

Q6: So, there are also different types of resources – blogs, courses, online discussion groups. Which do you think are the best to use? How useful are online digital marketing courses in your opinion?

A6: If you are new to digital marketing, then nearly all this information will be good for you. The advantage with courses is that many give you a broad overview of several different topics. For example, in Vbout’s course, you will learn many different topics from one source and you will be able to pace your learning. You will also be able to track your comprehension and knowledge with quizzes. Many of these online course platforms also give you a certificate at the end, as with Google and Vbout. The certificate will allow you to market your skills to your clients and potential employers. A lot of courses also source the experts for you and will provide different instructors who are experts in a particular subject. When learning from individual blog posts or sites, you have to do the vetting yourself and evaluate if the expertise of the writer or source will match your needs. One positive is that often times these articles will drill down into detailed tactics for a particular task that you want to learn. Our favorite source for this in analytics tends to be Kissmetrics. Their articles typically provide very detailed instructions that show you how to achieve a singular goal.

We hope these answers help you get started on your path to becoming a digital marketing expert! If you have additional questions, or resources you feel should be added to our list, please let us know! We would love your feedback at