The world of content marketing constantly evolves and shifts. Often small business clients turn to their writers for help navigating their digital marketing options. The good news is that key players in the online content marketing and social media world offer free courses and certifications covering the fundamentals of online marketing and research.
It seems like a new software as a service digital marketing tool or platform launches every day. Offering free training courses is one way these platforms attempt to differentiate themselves. As writers and marketing professionals, we can make good use of these opportunities to expand our knowledge of the content marketing space.
This round-up of free online training opportunities focuses on big players like Google, HubSpot, Facebook, and Twitter. Each offers courses for marketers or journalists to help expand our knowledge of their tools, online marketing, and online research and fact-checking.
When it comes to free, online training and certification HubSpot is one of the top providers. The inbound marketing app offers certification courses to educate their potential clients on various aspects of inbound marketing including theory, content marketing, social media, use of their platform, and email marketing.
Also since so many marketing agencies are HubSpot partners, these certifications are valued by some of those potential agency clients who prefer to work with writers, social media professionals, and content strategists who understand the theory behind the approach. Gaining the certification requires passing a multiple-choice knowledge test.
1. Inbound Certification
Inbound certification is HubSpot’s entry-level course providing an overview to the theory, concepts, and practices involved in inbound marketing. It is one of the most popular free certifications in the field.
- Lessons: 7
- Total video length: 3 hours
2. Inbound Marketing
HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing course expands on the principals covered in the inbound certification with a little more depth and detail on topics like lead nurturing and creating pillar content.
- Lessons: 10
- Total video length: 5 hours
3. Social Media Certification
Hubspot’s Social Media Certification course covers using popular social media platforms as both a branding, lead generation and lead nurturing tool. Some of the topics include social media strategy, social listening, an introduction to advertising, content creation, and how to build relationships with potential customers online.
- Lessons: 9
- Total video length: 6 hours
4. Content Marketing
Hubspot’s Content Marketing certification is more specialized than the more basic inbound certifications. Based on the curriculum topics, this certification may be a great choice for writers who want to learn to better sell the benefits of content marketing to potential clients. Some selected topics covered include storytelling, ideation, content strategy and planning, and evaluating content.
- Lessons: 12
- Total video length: around 6 hours
5. Email Marketing
A brand’s email list is a key component to inbound marketing since so much of the lead generation tactics focus on building this list. But what do you do with that list of interested potential customers? HubSpot’s Email Marketing certification covers concepts related to building and managing an email list and using email to nurture leads and build relationships through more personalized content.
- Lessons: 10
- Total video length: 4 hours
Like HubSpot, Google is also a leader in offering free online training and certifications for people in the content marketing world. This blog post highlights a few of Google’s offerings, but it doesn’t include everything. Google also offers advertising and YouTube certifications.
Most Google certifications also involve passing a multiple choice test to demonstrate an understanding of the key concepts covered in the coursework.
6. Google Analytics Individual
The Google Analytics certification may be a good choice if you run your own blog or help small businesses with content strategy and website management. This certification course teaches you how to do a deep dive into Google Analytics and how to use that information to improve your client’s website. The certification requires the completion of two units: Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics.
- Google estimates most people take 4-6 hours to complete the coursework
- Beginner to intermediate level
7. Google Digital Garage
Google’s Digital Garage certification provides an overview of the fundamentals of digital marketing, according to Google. They developed the program in partnership with the Open University in the United Kingdom and primarily promote the certification outside the United States. Topics include SEO, search advertising, content marketing, email marketing, and use of Google Analytics.
- 26 modules, 40 hours
- Beginner through Intermediate
8. Google News Initiative (Non-certification)
In addition to the certification programs, Google ‘s News Initiative offers online workshops for journalists on how to best use Google tools and resources. Many of these courses also interest freelance writers and content marketers since we use some of the same skills and techniques as traditional journalists. Some courses offered include Multimedia Storytelling, Data Journalism, and Investigative Journalism. All courses feature the use of both common and more obscure Google tools like Search, Earth, Maps, Trends, Scholar, and Public Data Explorer.
Online Courses From Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
In addition to HubSpot and Google, other platforms offer their own free online training. As a starting point, here are a couple
10. Twitter Flight School
Twitter Flight School is Twitter’s own certification course covering best practices for marketing professionals who use Twitter to promote businesses and brands. Like Facebook’s training program, it primarily focuses on advertising but also offers information helpful for those who create organic content.
- Five units that take 10-15 minutes to complete.
- Beginner level.
Bonus: Facebook Blueprint Training
Facebook Blueprint offers two certifications for marketing professionals as well as a variety of free online courses for small business professionals, marketers, and journalists. Unlike the other courses mentioned here, the certification costs but the online coursework is free. Facebook requires online, proctored exams for each of their certifications and charges to cover the proctor’s fees. Last time I looked, it cost around $300 ton complete each certification since each required two examinations.
Both certifications focus on beginner through advanced techniques in managing Facebook pages, setting up advertising campaigns, and advertising strategy. Some of the free, stand alone courses cover using Instagram to market a business, using Facebook groups to build community, targeting core audiences, and engaging storytelling using Instant Articles.
Facebook for Journalists offer courses on using Facebook for research, engaging with fans, and online security for journalists.
The world of content writing and marketing constantly shifts grows more competitive. By investing time into building your skills, you can more easily adapt to these changes and offer even more value to your clients. As you complete these certifications, be sure to update your Writer Access profile to attract new clients who may be looking for writers with your expertise.
Sam S is an active blogger who manages two publications. Her flagship site covers fitness, food, and lifestyle. She also maintains a book and entertainment blog. In addition to her blogs, Sam is an active guest contributor. She contributes on-going columns for a few publications. These on-going gigs include a weekly consumer tech column, a comparison shopping guide series, and a bylined series on social media marketing and personal branding.