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Best Resources for Learning Digital Marketing in 2021

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Whether you’re looking to learn to do your own digital marketing for your business, get into the life of a digital marketer, or add new skills to your existing arsenal, there are plenty of free and affordable resources out there to help you learn your CPCs from your CPMs, and how to master the tools of the trade.

Below is a list of our favorite resources and certifications to help you learn digital marketing in 2020!

Guides + Blogs

Moz

Search Engine Optimization is key to any digital marketing strategy, and Moz is the go-to free resource for all things SEO. It’s got everything you need whether you’re a complete newbie to keyword research and optimization, or an experienced digital marketer looking to refresh your skill set.

Best for: SEO

Our pick: The One Hour Guide to SEO is a quickfire lesson in 6 easy-to-digest videos, covering all the need-to-know SEO essentials in just one hour.

Content Marketing Institute

Explore blogs, resources, and guides on all things content marketing with the Content Marketing Institute. They also have a killer daily newsletter that you should definitely sign up for to keep on top of all the latest trends in content marketing.

Best for: Content marketing

Our pick: Getting Started in Content Marketing is a “back to basics” series designed to get you started, offering content marketing essentials, processes to implement, and helpful templates.

Ahrefs 

Ahrefs is one of the best hubs full of tutorials, case studies, and opinion pieces from some of the best in the industry. Check out some of their great free tools for when you’ve mastered your SEO skills!

Best for: SEO

Our pick: Once you’ve learned the SEO basics, one of the best free tools out there is the Ahrefs SEO toolbar, a chrome extension that allows you to do top level SEO audits of any website with the click of a button.

Neil Patel

An icon in the digital world, Neil Patel hosts an amazing comprehensive suite of educational content on anything and everything you need to learn digital marketing.

Best for: SEO, content marketing, email marketing, social media, e-commerce, and search.

Our pick: Instagram Unlocked is part of the free digital marketing training series, and offers a free two-week training module to help you learn social media marketing strategies specifically for Instagram growth — something everybody wants.

AdEspresso Academy 

AdEspresso Academy includes step-by-step guides to learn both Facebook and Google Ads that are easy to understand, as well as regular webinars, blogs, and downloadable ebooks full of great free content.

Best for: Facebook Ads and Google Ads

Our pick: On the Academy page, there’s a great list of 6 easy steps to getting on top of Facebook Ads; start with an eight part guide that covers everything from setting up an account, all the way through to reporting and optimisation.

Social Media Examiner

With guides, studies, webinars, and a great podcast to help you keep up to date with the world of social, Social Media Examiner is your hub for social media knowledge. 

Best for: Social media marketing

Our pick: While we typically hear a lot about Facebook and Instagram, it’s not often people talk about the power of social media marketing on LinkedIn — a no brainer for B2B companies. This guide to LinkedIn ads is a great starting point for anyone new to LinkedIn ads, and provides a huge number of helpful Linkedin articles and strategy templates.

Search Engine Land

What started as a major resource for all things search-related, Search Engine Land has now branched into email, social, and retail. It offers free webinars, how-to guides, handy resources, and tools for auditing to help you understand almost all aspects of digital marketing.

Best for: Search, Email, Social and Retail

Our pick: Google Ads can be confusing (don’t worry, we get it!) but this beginner’s guide to paid search is incredibly easy to follow and understand, with things like glossaries for common terms and how to do keyword research — a must read for those who are new to paid search!

Unbounce

UnBounce is a landing page building platform, but also has a very good resource and learning centre to help you understand everything you need to know about landing pages, conversion optimisation, and where landing pages sit within the wider digital marketing landscape. 

Best for: Landing pages and conversion rate optimisation

Our pick: Never given landing pages a thought until now? This 8 module introduction is a great way to understand the fundamentals of landing pages, why they matter, and how to use them.

Certifications

While there’s plenty of free guides, resources and blogs out there, a certification can help you stand out from the crowd when looking for a job as a digital marketer, or give you an easy to follow holistic overview of a topic, coming out with the confidence to action your learnings. Here’s our picks for the best online certifications out there:

Google Analytics Academy + Google Digital Garage

Get certified in Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Google My Business while also completing non-certification short courses in more niche areas, or explore courses on topics like Google Shopping and YouTube.

Cost: Free

Facebook Blueprint

After utilising the library of free resources Facebook offers through their learning centre (there are over 90 courses!), you can apply your knowledge of social media marketing and beyond to their Blueprint Exams and obtain a Facebook certification in a few key areas. The best part? They’ll guide you through exactly what you need to learn for each course.  

Cost: $150 USD

Hubspot Academy

With both short courses and certifications, HubSpot Academy is globally recognised, and has many different digital marketing courses to help you learn digital marketing essentials, covering almost all areas including social media marketing, SEO, and business analytics.

Cost: Free

Hootsuite Academy

Hootsuite Academy offers socially focused certifications and courses with an exam at the end of each certification. As a leading social media platform, the Hootsuite brand is very well respected within the industry, and their certifications are too.

Cost: $99–$999 USD

And lucky last, we can’t go past one of the best resources for learning digital marketing — General Assembly! GA offers part-time and full-time digital marketing courses, as well as short hands-on workshops across all areas of digital marketing, and is one of the industry’s most respected education providers. Want to know more? Get in touch!

Learn Digital Marketing Online

11 Types of Digital Marketing Campaigns

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Digital marketing can’t be ignored, no matter what industry, business, or location you’re in. However, there isn’t just one option — the opportunities are endless. Whether you’ve got a small budget and are looking for something incredibly cost efficient to help launch your new startup, or a big brand with even bigger budgets looking to make some serious noise, there are many different channels, platforms, and types of digital marketing you’ll be able to use for your digital marketing strategy and learn while becoming a digital marketer yourself.

Before we jump into the different types of digital marketing, it’s important to know why this space is so exciting, and why you should care about the wide world of digital marketing. What makes us so excited?

  1. It’s affordable. Most forms of paid digital marketing are incredibly cost efficient, and allow a much more targeted approach to your marketing spend. While costs can vary across platforms, there’s something that fits everyone’s budget. Facebook ads start at a low $1 per day! If you’re not utilising digital marketing for paid (e.g. content marketing — we’ll get to that), you can distribute your content for free through your own digital marketing channels.
  2. It’s targeted. Speaking of targeting, digital platforms take advantage of the ability to know exactly who’s online and to show them specific messaging. Traditional marketing involved a lot of hoping your message was seen by the right people, but digital gives us the confidence to know
  3. It’s full of data. Ever seen a television advertising report? There’s not a lot of reliable data, nor actionable data. Digital platforms give you the ability to see who’s seeing your content in real time, whether it’s through running a paid campaign on Google Display Network, or checking your website data through Google Analytics.
  4. You’re where the people are. It’s no surprise our lives are online (the average internet user now spends 6 hours and 43 minutes online each day — eek!), so it’s a no-brainer that we should put our efforts into reaching people where they spend so much time.

Yep, there’s plenty to be excited about (we could write a whole article just on that!), so where do you begin? Below are 11 types of digital marketing to consider.

  1. SEO
  2. Content marketing
  3. Social media marketing
  4. Paid search
  5. Display advertising
  6. Email marketing
  7. Messenger marketing
  8. Affiliate marketing
  9. Influencer marketing
  10. Video advertising
  11. Audio advertising

1. SEO

Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most important tools in digital marketing — so what is it? It’s optimising your online content to appear higher in search engine result pages (SERP), and it’s free. SEO tactics are used to increase your organic search position on sites like Google and Bing, and take advantage of one of the best things about search: incredibly high intent levels. When thinking about intent, there aren’t many traditional or digital marketing channels out there that give you the ability to get in front of potential customers who’ve shown such high intent to convert (we’re talking way down the funnel). Customers are telling you what they’re looking for, and SEO helps your business give them exactly what they need in that moment.

A quick crash course on SEO. Search engines rank results by three main factors: quality, relevance, and authority. So we’re making relevant content, giving users a quality experience, and building authority throughout — simple right? SEO is generally split into two types, content-related and technical, both of which are of utmost importance for your digital marketing strategy and for gaining what’s considered golden in digital: free traffic to your website.

2. Content Marketing

Content marketing actually encompasses a lot: social media, blogs, video content, and emails just to name a few. However, it’s the concept of content marketing that many are referring to when looking at jobs in this field, or building out a digital marketing strategy for their business. Content marketing is simple: it’s giving information and solving problems through high quality and useful content; whether that’s a blog just like this one, or a quiz on what type of bread you are (maybe not so useful!), it all falls under the field of content marketing.

Generally used as a “top of funnel” approach within marketing, content marketing is a way to establish your authority and influence user behaviour later on in the journey. It’s also a part of many other digital marketing tactics like blog posts for SEO (did someone say authority building?). Ever heard the phrase, “content is king”? There’s a reason for it. Almost all types of digital marketing rely on good content at the core, and you’ll find better success across the board if you start with your content first.

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media isn’t new (we’re sure you’ve read your fair share of content on social media marketing), but there are constantly new platforms entering the market, new formats, and new ways to make the most of one of the most popular platforms out there (more than half of the world’s population are on there!). You’ve got two options: where to play and how to play.

Let’s start with the where. With so many platforms out there, picking the right social media platforms depends on your digital marketing strategy as well as where your customers typically are. Are they a younger more savvy audience spending their days scrolling through TikTok, or are they an avid Twitter user? Figure out who your customers are, and you’ll know where it makes the most sense to put your efforts. Wondering what the top social media platforms are? We’ve got you:

  1. Facebook 
  2. Instagram
  3. Twitter 
  4. Snapchat
  5. TikTok
  6. LinkedIn 
  7. Pinterest

Secondly, the how. You’ve got two options when it comes to social: organic (publishing your content on social media regularly for free) or paying for ads to reach specific audiences.  Organically, using social media helps brands build their community, keep their audiences updated, and humanize the brand (for a level up, read about social listening as a business tool), while paid social advertising gives brands a way to reach very specific audiences in a social context, and to push them to complete a desired action, all for a very affordable cost. As one of the most long-standing and in-demand skills in digital marketing, social media marketing is a must have for any business or aspiring digital marketer.

4. Paid Search

We’ve covered SEO; paid search operates on the same premise. Paid search is used for immediate returns when you don’t have time to invest in a long-term digital marketing strategy like SEO, and encompasses paying to get your business in front of people when they search for specific related terms. Most of the time, this is a PPC (pay per click) solution, meaning you only pay when someone clicks on your search listing. Sounds great right? It definitely is. However, with users showing such high intent, it means big competition for that top spot, which can often come with a hefty price tag depending on the terms your bidding on. You’ll need to think about things like quality score (yep, Google is judging you) and specific landing pages to ensure you keep your costs down.

Still confused? Let’s say I want my business to show up when someone searches for “digital marketing services”; I’d bid on the chance to be seen for that keyword and tell the search engine how much I’m willing to spend to get someone to click, which will be cheaper if I have a quality website. Think of it as an almost instantaneous auction between advertisers that happens every single time someone searches.

5. Display Advertising

You know the banners you see on websites encouraging you to take notice of whatever they’re selling? They’re utilising display advertising! Advertising your business through any sort of visual — images, video, GIFs, text — on publisher websites can be one of the most effective types of digital marketing for reaching the masses in contextually relevant places. Want to show your banner to a female business-savvy audience? Buy up some banners on women’s networking websites!

Typically, display advertising happens either through a network like Google Display Network, the biggest ad network in the world where you can take advantage of advertising across a variety of publishers and websites, or through a publisher of your choice that aligns with the audience you’re trying to reach. It’s great for brand awareness, and a type of digital marketing that’s constantly evolving too. Read about native advertising, it’s a winner!

6. Email Marketing

Often referred to as “more valuable than gold”, an email list is the holy grail for any business. Build a strong email list, and you’ve got a free platform to reach a qualified audience every single day. The question is though, what do you do with your email list and how can you make the most of it? That’s where email marketing comes into play.

Email marketing allows you to keep your subscribers updated with useful and relevant content — new collections, sales, or sharing your blogs each week for example, are all great ways to help you find success on the platform. The biggest rule to remember? While promoting your products and services seems like a great idea, there’s a fine line between useful emailing and spamming your audience, so use email marketing strategically! Start with the basics, newsletters and updates, and work your way up to creating a powerful automated and segmented email series, built for purposes like onboarding, or winning back lapsed customers.

7. Messenger Marketing

We hear a lot about 1:1 marketing, and digital platforms helping brands achieve more personalised messaging to their audiences. Well, messenger marketing takes that to a whole new level. Rising in popularity over the past few years, brands have utilised conversations to build personal relationships with their customers in a place where they feel comfortable, helping push them to convert, or answer any questions that might influence their decision.

Messenger marketing is something that can be used either manually, or in combination with chatbots to automate much of the conversational workflow. With the proliferation of messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, plus the fact that almost all social media platforms have their own direct messaging features, many brands are using messenger marketing as a way to qualify leads, or to provide 24/7 customer support without needing to pay a team to be available at all times. With over 2.6 billion people using messenger apps worldwide, it’s imperative to think about how your brand can utilise the medium to connect with your customers.

8. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing sometimes sits within influencer marketing, content marketing, or both, and involves paying commission to content producers for any conversion events that are attributed to them. Let’s say we ask a publisher to write a content piece for our business with a link to buy our product. We might offer the publisher 10% off all sales that come through their site, and they become an affiliate for our business.

You may have seen this happen through tracking links (e.g. the long URL string that helps a business track where their sales come from) or a special discount code. There are many affiliate marketing networks globally, some more general and some specific to a niche like fashion or tech. There’s also the option to start your own affiliate network, which takes a bit of work, but can cut out the fees that go along with signing up with a pre-existing network.

However you choose to do it, affiliate marketing is loved by digital marketers. It encourages publishers and content creators to produce original content for your brand, and you only have to pay if a sale happens. How good does that sound?

9. Influencer Marketing

We’ve all heard of the Kardashians making millions of dollars per post. So where does influencer marketing fit within the digital marketing landscape? Typically influencers help a brand with social proof and brand awareness, almost like a paid form of word-of-mouth referrals. We’re hoping that if an influencer tells their loyal audience to buy a product or service, they’ll trust the recommendation. Digital Marketers have found a plethora of uses for influencers, whether it’s the typical payment for posting that many are familiar with, a collaboration on a product, or a guest writer on a company blog. Any time you’re using someone for their credibility and audience, you’re engaging in influencer marketing.

When selecting influencers, think about who influences your audience. Who do they listen to or turn to for advice? Align your passions and brand values with someone who feels the same way — this is where the magic happens! Want to make the most of your influencer marketing efforts? Call out your influencers in your paid advertising to further push the social proof for your brand.

10. Video Advertising

Ever find yourself in the black hole of YouTube? You’re not alone. Over 2 billion people per month are right there scrolling with you. Often falling under the category of content marketing, utilising video as part of your marketing is an easy way to reach people not only when they’re looking for content to watch (#dogvideos anyone?) but also when they’re looking for reviews, how-to guides, and product information. The same way people use search, they’re using video!

As with many other types of digital marketing platforms, you have two options: paid and organic usage. With organic, we’re treating video similar to how we would our website and our socials — keeping people up to date, and sharing useful relevant content. With paid advertising however, we’re taking advantage of contextual moments to deliver relevant video content. For example, if I’m a new health food company, I could target people watching workout videos with a relevant message.

11. Audio Advertising

With podcasts on the rise, and music-listening habits shifting thanks to major players like Spotify and Apple Music, we’ve got a new medium to play in and for reaching our audiences. Branded podcasts can fall under content marketing, too. With more basic options like inputting audio ads within podcasts relevant to your business, or more advanced options like audio ads targeted to specific demographics, interests, or contextual moments on Spotify, the world of digital audio advertising is only just beginning. While we’re still looking at ways to track listens that result in purchases or sign ups, there is a big opportunity in audio advertising that opens up a new creative way of thinking and reaches audiences in key moments throughout the day.

Conclusion

The world of digital marketing really is endless, with new platforms, ideas, and new types of digital marketing popping up daily. While it’s always hard to know where to start, we recommend starting with you, your business, and your customer. Who are you talking to, where do they spend their time, and what makes sense for your business? There’s plenty out there, and now is the perfect time to jump in!

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How to Build a Digital Marketing Strategy

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Whether you’re a business owner that’s ready to begin marketing your product or service online, or you’re a marketer looking for guidance on how to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, this guide is for you. Creating a digital marketing plan is critical to success for any and all businesses in today’s digital world. No matter your industry or vertical, your target audience is online in some capacity. If your brand isn’t out there to seize the opportunity, your competitors will be. According to Google, 54% of consumers say they made a purchase from a brand that was new to them in 2020. That new brand could be yours! Developing a strong digital marketing strategy allows your brand to be there at the right time, in the right place, with the right message, for the right target audience.

Before you can develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for your brand, there are a few things you need to know to build a strong foundation. Let’s cover the basics.

The 3 Digital Marketing Pillars

There are three different pillars within digital marketing, all of which are important to invest in and tap into when developing a full-funnel digital marketing strategy: paid media, owned media, and earned media.

  • Paid media: Any advertising you can put money behind.
    • For example: paid search, social media, youtube, display ads, affiliate marketing, influencer marketing, print, radio, etc.
  • Owned media: Marketing that your brand has complete ownership and control over.
    • For example: email marketing, your website (think: SEO and content marketing), social media such as your brand’s organic Facebook page or Instagram page, your physical store, events, etc.
  • Earned media: What you earn for being a good brand. It’s the hardest to obtain, but sometimes can be the most powerful.
    • For example: word of mouth referrals, reviews, good PR, etc.

Within the owned media pillar, one large area of focus for many brands is SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. At a high level, SEO allows search engines to understand what your website is about (Check out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO). This way, when someone searches for something that is relevant to your website, the search engine is able to show your site as one of the many “organic” results. Organic simply means it’s not a paid listing; rather, it’s a listing occurring “organically” from Google or whatever search engine you are using. Within SEO, there are two big branches: technical SEO and sitewide SEO (this can encompass on-site SEO, off-site SEO, and local SEO). It’s critical to your digital marketing strategy to incorporate SEO optimizations and learnings, alongside considering your site’s user experience and design, as your website is typically at the center of all digital marketing efforts and it is the cornerstone to online success. As they say, “All roads lead to Rome.” Your website is Rome. 🙂 Prioritize it.

The Digital Marketing Lingo

There are a few key terms you’ll want to become acquainted with and consider with regards to your brand before developing a digital marketing strategy:

  • Conversions: The ultimate goal you are trying to achieve (sale, lead, call, appointment)
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of people who visit your site (or click on your ad) and convert
  • CPA/CPL: Cost per action/acquisition or cost per lead (take total cost of advertising and divide it by the total leads or sales you have acquired)
  • ROAS: Return on Ad Spend (typically a ratio or percentage. For example, if $1 in ad spend results in $4 in revenue, that’s a 400% ROAS; a 4:1 ratio)
  • CPC: Cost per Click (in paid search advertising, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad)
  • Impressions: The number of times your ads are shown or served
  • Bounce rate: Percentage of site visitors who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page (you want this percentage to be below 50%)
  • Target audience: The predetermined qualities and aspects of people who are most likely to want or need your products or services
  • KPI: Key Performance Indicators, used to evaluate the success of a digital marketing campaign based on predetermined objectives 

Media Mix Diversification 

Think about your own digital behavior. Do you search for things on Google or Bing? Do you use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, or all four? Do you scower your email for coupons and deals? Use affiliate sites like RetailMeNot or Rakuten? It’s likely that you didn’t answer yes to just one of these questions, but that you participate in many of these activities across these channels. One of the key aspects of building a successful digital marketing strategy is diversifying your ad spend and marketing efforts to create a well-structured media mix.

“Media mix” refers to the different channels and platforms your brand is investing in. Think of it like you would the stock market. You never want to put all your eggs in one basket. No successful advertiser is only on social media or only does email marketing or only does content marketing. Rather, successful brands develop marketing strategies that span multiple platforms, allowing them to reach their target audience no matter where they are.

Considering “The Funnel”

If you look back at your most recent purchase, it’s likely that you purchased from a brand you were familiar with, rather than one you’ve only heard of once. Brands with successful digital marketing strategies know that there’s value in being patient and taking time with their prospects by “bringing them down the funnel.” As digital marketer Martin JoJarth says, “repetition is effective communication.” In essence, most people tend to explore and consider for a little while before they commit. That’s how successful brands approach their prospects; they consider the three key phases of the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, and conversion.

  • Awareness: This is the phase in the funnel where brands are getting in front of their target audience for the first time. The ad copy and CTA (call to action) are not going to be too direct or aggressive (e.g. “Learn More” or “View Options”). Brands are working to show prospects that they exist, and that they are the solution to problems or needs that consumers have. 
    • Digital marketing campaigns brands could leverage: prospecting or brand awareness campaigns across social media, YouTube, or display
  • Consideration: In this phase of the marketing funnel, brands are reminding users of their existence (often called “remarketing” or “retargeting”), and sharing more reasons as to why users should choose their brand over the competition. CTAs may include verbiage that indicates that the brand knows the consumer has already engaged with the brand in some capacity, for example, “come back and shop.”
    • Digital marketing campaigns brands could leverage: non-brand search, email marketing, local, or social media remarketing campaigns
  • Conversion: This is when brands can get very customized in their approach to advertising. This is oftentimes when you see a specific product you’ve recently viewed or you’re being offered a specific coupon based on your most recent digital behavior. Calls to action will be more direct, and asking for the sale (ex: “Buy Now” or “Try Today”).
    • Digital marketing campaigns brands could leverage: brand search, dynamic remarketing campaigns across social media, display, or youtube

One of the common pitfalls brands encounter is serving the wrong message to the right audience. This can occur when a brand develops ad creative to incorporate into their digital marketing campaigns before they consider the target audience, or the phase in the funnel they are working to nurture. This is why when brands develop their marketing strategy, it’s critical to first pin down the target audience, determine what phase of the funnel is being used, then develop ad creative for execution.

Learn From Others

As you wrap up the development of your digital marketing plan, be sure to take advantage of resources within the industry.

  • Take a look at case studies from brands who have succeeded in executing their digital marketing strategy.
  • For social media, take a look at what other brands are doing from an advertising perspective. Use this tool to view other brands’ ads. What ad format are other brands using on social media? How frequently are they posting new ads? What verbiage or CTAs are they leveraging?
  • Continue to learn from industry professionals via General Assembly classes.

Putting Your Digital Marketing Strategy into Action

Every digital marketing strategy will be different for every business. It will take time to learn, improve, and tweak your strategy once it is initially developed. In a world where things can change from one day to the next, it’s important to be versatile and willing to learn. Digital marketing strategies evolve over time as the brand grows and evolves over time.

The key things to remember are:

  1. Tap into all 3 digital marketing pillars: paid, owned, and earned media
  2. Diversify your media mix. Your prospects are on multiple channels. Don’t develop your strategy around a single marketing channel. Find the balance across multiple tactics. 
  3. Consider the funnel. Create a content marketing strategy that caters to each of the three primary phases in the marketing funnel. The more people are aware of your brand, the more people search for and consider your brand, the more people buy or choose your brand. Take your time to educate your target audience on how your brand is a solution to a need or problem they have.
  4. Learn from others. There are plenty of free classes and resources out there for brands to learn from. As you build out your digital marketing plan, take the time to dig in to other brands’ approaches that led to customized, integrated, profitable digital marketing campaigns.
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About the Author

Ashley is a Senior Specialist on the Atlanta Paid Search team at Tinuiti. Tinuiti is the largest independently owned performance-driven digital marketing agency in the US. Tinuiti enables brands to accelerate their business across the triopoly of Google, Amazon, Facebook, and beyond. Within the Digital Marketing industry, Ashley specializes in paid media strategy and execution for b2b and b2c brands with $1M-$15M+ annual media budgets. She builds and executes integrated digital marketing campaigns across search, display, shopping, video, social, and email. Her passion is to work with her team to help her clients’ businesses thrive. At General Assembly, Ashley has taught more than 70+ Digital Marketing classes over the last 2 years covering topics including: Digital Marketing, Google Ads, Paid Search, Paid Social, and YouTube. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband, family, and friends. Ashley enjoys traveling and documenting her adventures and money saving tips on her travel blog, Travel Cash With Ash. Ashley and her husband will be welcoming their first child into the world in October 2020.

Top 15 Skills Every Digital Marketer Needs to Master

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Tech is booming, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for organizations of all sizes to move away from traditional marketing and establish a competitive online presence as swiftly as possible. This need fuels the demand for skilled digital marketing professionals worldwide.

In fact, at this very moment, there are over 150K digital marketing jobs available on LinkedIn alone, which makes digital marketing a perfect opportunity for young professionals and career changers to enter the tech industry and future-proof their job prospects for the years to come. But what is digital marketing? What are the digital marketing skills needed to get started? Is digital marketing a technical or creative skill?

First of all, digital marketing is not a monolith, but rather a collection of skills and competencies. As a senior digital marketer, you need to combine creative analytical and technical skills to communicate the right message at the right time to the right audience. At the same time, you need to understand the nuances of how various digital channels work to be able to track, analyse, and optimise your marketing plans.

Digital marketers come in many shapes and sizes. As a digital marketer, you will be required to wear many hats and work on a diverse range of projects and challenges during your career. In principal, there are two broad types of digital marketing:

  1. Performance Marketing
  2. Content Marketing

Each type requires digital professionals with a different set of skills to succeed. However, there are some digital marketing skills that both types need to “check” as prerequisites for the role. Here’s a digital marketing skills list that every digital marketer needs to master:

Digital Marketing Foundational Skills

Required for performance, content, and social media marketing roles.

1. Search Engine Marketing and SEO

Understanding how search engines index websites and rank pages will not only enable you to grasp one of the most sought-after digital marketing skills in the market, but also provide you with all the foundational knowledge required to project manage web development and content marketing projects. Moreover, SEO skills are essential for optimising product pages within e-commerce ecosystems such as Amazon, Lazada, and eBay.

2. Copywriting

Copywriting is an absolute essential skill for every digital marketing professional. Digital marketing is all about communicating the right message to the right audience at the right time. The art of crafting compelling messages is at the heart of everything a digital professional does. Whether it’s for social media advertising, building landing pages, developing banner ads, or crafting paid search ads, there is always an element of copywriting involved.

3. Data Analytics and Visualization

Data-driven marketing is not only a recent buzzword but an essential digital marketing skill. Every digital marketing activity comes with data, so at minimum, digital marketing professionals ought to know how to work with and visualize data using tools like Excel or Google Analytics. In today’s digital marketing industry, every role comes with a wealth of data to be collected and analysed. For example, a social media marketer will need to report on the effectiveness of social media campaigns, the same way a pay-per-click (PPC) executive is required to report on paid media performance.

4. Basics of Business and Finance

Understanding the basics of business and finance is an absolute must-have to succeed in the digital marketing industry. The end objective of digital marketing is to generate profit for the business. Upon entering the digital marketing space, you will be bombarded with jargon such as CPA (cost per acquisition), CPL (cost per lead), CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) and more! The ability to understand these metrics and connect them with the “big picture” is one of the very first skills you will need to master.

Performance Marketing Skills

Required for media buying and analytical roles.

1. Pay-per-Click Fundamentals

Pay-per-click or PPC covers the most popular kinds of digital advertising such as Paid Search, Facebook Advertising, Amazon advertising, etc. Every digital marketer needs to understand the PPC advertising auction logic as well as some platform fundamentals to be able to set up and optimise PPC campaigns successfully on various digital marketing channels.

2. Media Planning and Buying

Media planning and buying are some of the oldest advertising skills that are still relevant in the market. Understanding how to purchase media inventory directly or via programmatic advertising, the targeting options, as well as the pros and cons of each approach, is essential for every marketer who wants to build a career in the numerical side of digital marketing. Lastly, being able to deliver a complete media plan is an absolute must for both agency and in-house digital marketing roles.

3. Digital Tracking and Analytics

Performance marketers need to be experts in digital tracking — meaning they should be able to put together and implement a digital measurement plan. Moreover, they should understand how to set up conversion tracking on various platforms, make use of UTM tags or various tracking codes effectively, and how to take advantage of third-party tracking tools if necessary.

Content Marketing Skills

Required for content marketing and social media roles.

1. Social Media Marketing Know-How

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. At the same time, the social media marketing landscape is constantly expanding and evolving. Every content marketing professional should understand the basics of how social media algorithms operate to be able to conceptualise and develop impactful, relevant, and attention-grabbing social media content. Moreover, as a social media professional you should be the first to embrace and explore new social media channels and tactics.

2. Intermediate Design Skills

In an ever-expanding digital marketing ecosystem, the need for marketing visuals is greater than ever. The ability to ideate, develop, and modify marketing assets and collateral on the fly is a must-have skill for every content marketing professional. Experience with tools like Photoshop and online platforms such as Canva or equivalent will give you a competitive advantage in the digital recruitment market.

3. Endless Creativity

Marketing and creativity go hand in hand! As a digital content marketer, you should be able to conceptualise, project manage, and implement creative digital marketing campaigns as needed. Furthermore, you should familiarise yourself with concepts such as marketing seasonality and campaign-thinking, as well as being able to deliver click-worthy creatives for various advertising purposes. Experience with video production and editing will be a huge plus in the years to come.

How can I improve my digital marketing skills?

Digital marketing is evolving fast! No matter how senior you may become, always remember that every digital marketer needs to upskill and reskill on a yearly basis to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry. On this note, it’s worth pointing out the skills required to improve your digital marketing know-how for future trends:

1. Project Management and Collaboration

Digital marketing is a fast-paced and multi-faceted job. You’ll need to be on top of various projects, channels, and marketing initiatives at the same time. Moreover, you’ll have to communicate effectively with a diverse range of internal and external stakeholders. Consider actively investing in and growing “soft skills” such as teamwork, empathy, adaptability, and problem solving.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

As mentioned, data is at the heart of every digital marketing initiative. The ever-growing data protectionism and the rise of marketing automation means that the internet will be a safer place for all of us, but it also fuels the need for customer relationship management (CRM) as a key skill within the digital marketing space. Understanding how to work with first-party data, the media opportunities they open, and the fundamentals of marketing automation, is an essential skill for all senior digital marketers.

3. Email Marketing

Email is still the number one most effective digital marketing channel. Why? There is a lot more than meets the eye to strategizing and implementing an effective email marketing campaign. Crafting an intriguing subject line, writing an engaging click-worthy email, and leveraging marketing automation in the context of email marketing are extremely valuable skills in the digital marketing industry.

4. User Experience Design (UX)

UX or user experience design is a relatively new entry in the long list of digital marketing skills to master. UX is the area of digital marketing or product design that ensures intuitive, meaningful, and positive interactions throughout a customer’s journey. Think of UXers as the architects of the digital space. Understanding how to best structure a website or mobile app, the empathetic design thinking involved, and what a good user experience entails is a very practical must-have skill for any senior digital marketer, product manager, or project manager.

5. Presentation and Communication Skills

Last but not least, whether you end up working in-house, within an agency environment, or running your own business, you will always have to present your ideas to various stakeholders, teammates, clients, or investors. The ability to deliver clean, clear, and impactful presentation documents, as well as being able to communicate with confidence, are key skills you should aim to master.

Conclusion

Digital marketing includes a diverse collection of skills and competencies you should aim to develop depending on which part of the industry you’d like to build your career on. Assuming you are a beginner in the space, the safest way to land your dream digital marketing role is to invest in a structured course, launch your own side-hustle to gain practical experience in the above areas, or both! As an experienced digital marketer, you should aim to regularly upskill yourself through credible workshops, seminars, and industry-specific events.

Explore Marketing Workshops and Events

What Is an Income Share Agreement? (ISA)

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Financing education is a huge decision at any point of life—even more so in such uncertain times. That’s where an income share agreement (ISA) might be a great option to invest in yourself. In professional education, an ISA is not a loan, but rather a financial structure where tuition is repaid as a percentage of your monthly income for a fixed number of years.

At General Assembly, our ISA, Catalyst, allows students to learn in-demand tech skills in our full-time immersive courses and land a job with the help of our career services team. Repayment begins only once you secure a role earning at least $40,000 per year. After you’ve reached the minimum income threshold, you’ll start paying back 10% percent of your monthly earned income over 48 months.

Learn More

Going Back to School at 40+: The (Mostly) Pros & Cons

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On the first day of school, I wasn’t used to wearing my new big red backpack. Within five minutes of walking in the door — late — I had managed to swing it around, knock over a glass of water on the table behind me, send a flood toward my teacher’s materials, run out of the room to get paper towels, and somehow get lost on my way back to the classroom.

I was 54 years old and just starting my User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly.

My grandmother used to say, “If you eat a bug for breakfast, nothing worse can happen to you the rest of the day.”  I closed my eyes and hoped she was right as I sank into my seat next to a tiny 20-something personal trainer.

Grandmas are always right. The personal trainer was friendly and funny and just as new to the tech curriculum as I. General Assembly’s well-documented ethos of inclusivity went well beyond race and gender, and I felt genuinely welcomed as an older student. The course itself was a transformational one. My learnings at GA sent me into a new career in UX design that has been far more fulfilling than I expected — I’m proud to say that I’m now also part of the GA instructional team.

But my concerns about heading back into the classroom as an adult learner were real, and took time and effort to overcome. Sure, I had decades of experience in nonprofit management, even leading tech organizations… but I hadn’t been in a classroom as a student since grad school, nearly two decades before. Did I even remember how to study? I was used to getting a good night’s sleep (knock wood) and not plugging all-nighters. ( Do “the kids” even call them all-nighters anymore?) I was comfortable using technology, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between a megabyte and a megabit without sneaking a look at Wikipedia. And while I’d heard of Zoom, the first image that came to mind was a bunch of PBS kids in striped rugby shirts (“I’m Houli!”)

Going back into the classroom in your 40s and 50s can cause a lot of anxiety, from uncertainty about whether your hard-won professional background is the right fit for a course of study, to concern whether you’re up to both the pace or the technology.

Are you the same person you were on your first day of high school? No. But that’s a good thing. Read on to see why this may be the best time in your life to learn and master the skills you need to change careers successfully.

Your Energy is Different

A recent article in Forbes  quoted healthcare CEO Angela Bovill’s answer to a question she’s frequently asked: “Why do you hire people over 60 to be on your team?” Bovill’s response is a powerful one. She says, Having older people on staff creates a calming force for an organization. There is less panic. They have seen a lot and are less jittery, less anxious than they may have been earlier in their career.”

A piece from the AARP  — an organization that knows something about the group in question — goes even further:

“Researchers at the University of Kentucky surveyed large and small companies to assess how employers evaluate their older workers. The respondents said that workers 50 or older are more reliable than the younger generations; they show up for work on time. They have a stronger work ethic, too; the younger worker is more likely to arrive late and leave early. Older workers’ experience makes them better able to manage problems and respond to emergencies, and it makes them valuable mentors to younger people in the firm. Plus, they know how to deal with people and provide better service to customers.”

Your life experiences and earned perspective can help you keep moving toward your educational goal, where others may give up. Consider the story of Brenda Echols, who went back to school for a master’s degree in nursing at age 58. Brenda says, “My biggest challenge was overcoming breast cancer while working on my degree. It almost took me out of school, but when I thought about it and talked it over, I decided to hold on and hold out as strong as I could…Being a student helped me maintain my focus during my challenges. My dream sustained me, along with family and friends. I never missed a beat.” 

“Some of my most dedicated, organized, and successful digital bootcamp students have been single moms, who have made an art form out of prioritizing and delegating.”

Your Brain is Different

As a returning older student, you’re probably not going to pass for a digital native (a term coined by educator Marc Prensky to describe someone born after 1980), but you have other very significant strengths.

  • You’re more likely to know what you want to do, and you’re ready to focus. Your commitment to continued learning makes teaching a pleasure for instructors and can inspire younger students. You’re also experienced at juggling multiple high-stakes commitments; some of my most dedicated, organized, and successful digital bootcamp students have been single moms, who have made an art form out of prioritizing and delegating.
  • Older learners tend to be more comfortable with ambiguity and subtle distinctions between complex concepts. In my experience, more seasoned students are less likely to ask narrow questions like “Will this be on the test?” and more likely to ask broader ones, like “Why is this important to know?” Instead of passively attending lectures, older learners actively engage, seek relevance, and look for ways to apply their learning to real-life situations — great practice for job interviews.
  • As we grow older, we tend to become stronger at tasks that demand crystallized intelligence. The ability to use previously attained information, facts, knowledge, and experiences to solve new challenges comes with time. This ability to conceptualize new contexts is incredibly useful and frequently seen in adult learners, but virtually impossible to teach.

Side note: Prensky has since abandoned the term “digital native” in favor of “digital wisdom.”

“In the near future, the most successful products and services will likely be built and designed by older adults with a keen understanding of and lived experience within the 40+ plus demographic.”

Your Opportunities Are Different (& Better Than Ever)

The coming “silver tsunami,” also known in more positive terms as the longevity economy, ranks as one of the most significant forces shaping the U.S. economy and society. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that individuals 65 years and older will account for more than 21% of the country’s population as soon as 2030. Older Americans live longer, on average (cheers for that!), and remain active in the workforce.

The next adjacent age group is deepening its relationship with work as well. In 1994, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of working Americans age 55 or older was just 11.9%; by 2024, that number is expected to rise to 24.8%, at that point becoming the largest age cohort in the workforce.

Of course, older Americans represent more than a portion of the workforce; they’re also an enormous, growing market for a variety of products, goods, services, and experiences — many created or enabled by technology. The benefits of the diverse workforce that so many companies are striving to create include advantages that only come from hiring older workers. In the near future, the most successful products and services will likely be built and designed by older adults with a keen understanding of and lived experience within the 40+ demographic.

Numerous studies demonstrate that older, tenured people are more successful entrepreneurs, more reliable workers, and more profitable employees. Contrary to popular belief, not all startup founders and visionaries are fresh out of college: a Kauffman Foundation study found that 26% of all startups in 2015 were created by people ages 55–64; in 1997, the figure was just 15%.

The Downsides & Upsides

Age bias, or ageism, is still a real issue. It can be hard to find an internship or apprenticeship if you haven’t just graduated with an undergrad degree.  In addition, imposter syndrome, the feeling that you’re inadequate or a failure despite an abundance of evidence that you are both eminently qualified and undeniably talented, comes for us all. It can be discouraging to the point of debilitation, if not countered with persistent hard work and support from family and friends.

For experienced professionals accustomed to scheduling their days (and their coffee breaks), it can be an adjustment to go back to a conventional academic schedule, and  accredited educational schools like General Assembly are appropriately rigorous about timeliness and attendance. The new guidelines about public contact during the age of COVID-19 means you won’t just be learning the software programs on your syllabus — you’ll also be learning how to navigate a virtual classroom, how to access materials and tutorials online, and how to schedule class projects with teammates in different time zones — while remaining in the safety and comfort of your environment.

The good news is that GA is one of the pioneers in remote learning, long before the pandemic, and we continue to evolve. We’ve continued to make significant investments not just in core technology, but also in curriculum development and instructor training.  Our classroom instructional teams are experts in the latest techniques and best practices to make your student experience seamless, engaging, and fulfilling — both online and in person.

If you look at it one-dimensionally, there are definite concerns you could worry about when pondering a return to the classroom after an extended time away. However, if you look at the opportunity with a growth mindset, a commitment to lifelong learning, and undertake it with clear eyes and trusted support, the sky’s the limit.

***

Need more encouragement? Consider this quote: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.” (This was, in fact, not my grandmother, but rather French philosopher Michel de Montaigne in the late 1500s.)

Not convinced by philosophy? Consider science: studies show that as many as 85% of things that we worry about don’t come true.

Even if some of your worries actualize, my grandmother advises that you write everything off as a bug before breakfast. Kick imposter syndrome to the curb. Use that big, agile brain of yours. Learn something new and change the world. We’re ready to help you create a career you’ll love.

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The State of Hiring Tech Talent & What Job Seekers Can Do Today

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As the global job market has slowed down in the wake of COVID-19, career changers and job seekers face challenges like never before — from virtual networking to making their LinkedIn profiles stand out amongst candidates. As a pioneer in the bootcamp space, General Assembly has learned to pivot and reinvent the train-to-hire approach to help full-time Immersive program graduates get hired. That’s where our global career coaches come in: they know the hiring trends of their cities better than anyone at GA. In this year of great uncertainty, we asked them to share what they’re seeing and how they’re encouraging their students. (Note: These observations represent a collective pulse check of many — not all — of our hiring markets.)

What hiring trends are happening right now?

  • Late summer 2020 has shown some improvements, with companies removing hiring freezes and, in some cases, slowly beginning to climb back toward pre-pandemic levels. 
    • Industries that are picking up include computer software, InfoTech, FinTech, marketing and advertising, and EdTech. Companies that are well-funded and have high potential to increase staff are in FinTech, e-commerce, infotech, AI, healthcare, BioTech, robotics, education, cloud computing, and cybersecurity.
    • Companies are also investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, big data, automation, SaaS (software-as-a-service), and FinTech solutions.
  • Competition is intense and  there are fewer roles: read below for tips on how to stand out (hint: network, network, network).
  • There’s an abundance of freelance and contract work available, and companies with under 50 employees can be opportunistic places to apply to. Many smaller companies appear willing to take on junior talent, especially if they have additional projects in their portfolios. 
  • Despite job opportunities starting to open up in many locations, a large number of them are remote-first or remote only, and it can still be incredibly challenging to get an interview.

What’s the best thing job seekers can do right now?

  • Network, network, network. Trust and own your worth and talk to people about what you want to be doing and the value you bring. Believe in word-of-mouth power, and practice as many mock or informational interviews and coffee dates as you can.
  • Work on projects, pro bono work, or contract work with a real client or with professionals outside of your discipline. This will help build your resume and create standout applications that show your continuation of technical competencies and collaboration skills.
  • Take what you can as quickly as you can. Now isn’t the time to be highly selective or aspire to multiple offers. Because it’s more competitive than ever, the goal is to get started as soon as possible.
  • Keep an open mind! Don’t close off any opportunity — everything is worth exploring.
  • Consider finding a mentor. You may not get traditional guidance at a startup, but a mentor can be that person to give the support you need. Most mentors are self-found, so there’s never a bad time to start looking.
  • Focus on continuing to develop and grow your new skill set while applying and networking, because when you do land an interview, you will need to discuss what you’ve accomplished over the past few months.
  • Stay motivated and find time for self-care. Remember that ambiguity is one of the toughest things about a job search. Be consistent about following up if you don’t get responses to initial applications. Make connections with peers and colleagues in the area you’re searching. And remember that it’s ok to be deflated and disappointed by rejection. Once you accept that, you can move onto what you can influence: other opportunities. 

What is GA doing differently to support students in this highly competitive job market? 

  • GA has streamlined its job sourcing strategies to work globally and has created a team of 30 network builders to support the cultivation, engagement, and job sourcing for our students.
  • The launching of global initiatives is to benefit all graduates regardless of location — post-course regional networking and coaching sessions are being made available.
  • A partnership with our sister company, Vettery, allows GA grads to create profiles and put them directly in front of over 8,000 hiring organizations.
  • Our career coaches continue to be deeply invested in their 1:1 coaching and strategy work with grads.
  • Teams in our local markets regularly provide pulse checks of cities’ hiring trends, jobs particular to the region, and the landscape of how tech is evolving in each location.  

Leaping into a new career is daunting at any point in life, especially at this moment, but we hope this advice from our career coaches is reassuring.

Remember, you’re not in this alone!

We are right beside you.

See How Our Career Coaches Work

Free Lesson: UX Design Essentials in 30 Minutes

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Why are UX skills continually in demand by top companies? Spend half an hour with expert GA instructor Javi Calderon to learn why and see if it’s right for your career. He’ll give you an overview of:

  • What the world of UX design encompasses and why it matters.
  • Fundamental tools and techniques used by professional designers.
  • Resources to continue learning about UX.

If you’re ready to go further, explore our upcoming User Experience Design course to cement a foundation in creating digital experiences that power revenue, loyalty, and product success.Or learn how to become a job-ready UX designer with our 12-week, full-time User Experience Design Immersive program.

Dive Deeper Into UX

Upgraded: Our Evening + 1-Week UX & Visual Design Programs

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This month, GA is rolling out major improvements to our evening and 1-week User Experience Design and Visual Design programs! Driven by student and instructor feedback, the Instructional Design team has partnered with the expert faculty members from our Product Advisory Boards to revamp both courses. With InVision reporting that 70% of design teams have increased headcount over the past year1, we want to help you reach your career goals by providing expertly crafted lessons in UX and visual design that meet the moment.

What’s Changing With User Experience Design?

Leveraging the Design Framework in Lesson Design

In analyzing student and instructor feedback, we learned that we weren’t spending enough time on the “How? behind creating UX deliverables at the beginning of the course. Instead of following a typical lesson flow that starts with overarching definitions of design thinking, user research, prototyping, and critique, we now leverage the Double Diamond framework2 to inform lesson progression. By observing the iterative nature of design in our curriculum, students will be able to start user research by Week 1 and begin sketching their designs as early as Week 2, working through the UX design process more than once throughout the course.

Flexible, Accessible Design Tooling

Our Instructional Design team works to strike a good balance between instruction and innovation, and this is evident in how we approach teaching design tools. 

On the one hand, too much emphasis on tools at the beginning of a course can shift the students’ focus away from truly grasping foundational design concepts and skills. On the other, it’s difficult to illustrate how a more technical concept can be applied without the use of design tools. 

In addition to that balance, we also want to account for the fact that different employers require different tools — and the top design tools can change from year to year. So, our end goal is to ensure that our students are well-versed and well-practiced in core skills so that they can easily pick up different tools as required by their employers. 

Our solution is to introduce a design tool tutorial — a companion to the course materials — with resources and weekly design challenges. The tutorial currently features Figma but can be modified to feature another platform such as Sketch or Adobe XD. The tutorial is also mapped to the course’s final project to make pacing and time spent outside of class more manageable and productive. 

Project Choices

The final project now has three specialization tracks: Research, UI, and Generalist. This enables students to customize their learning experience based on personal and professional interests, career focus, and available time. 

See the New Syllabus

What’s Changing With Visual Design?

Leveraging the Design Framework in Lesson Design

We’re using the Double Diamond framework in our Visual Design course to group visual design concepts in a way that illustrates the discipline’s iterative nature and more organically integrates UX concepts throughout the program.

Diverse Projects

We improved the final project prompts to include a broader range of industries, including food, nonprofit, fitness, and connected homes. The company structures and product offerings have also been expanded to account for visual design in both digital and non-digital spaces. This way, students will be able to choose and customize projects that benefit both their career focus and their personal interests. 

Lesson Emphasis

We have reworked the curriculum to place more emphasis on design research and content strategy. This will help encourage students to:

  • Make research-based design decisions.
  • Tell a  holistic story through content.
  • Think more critically about content types and design elements before wireframing begins.

By popular demand, we’re bringing back the course’s imagery lesson and incorporating an additional application-focused imagery session so that students can further refine their wireframes using images, as well as typography and color.

See the New Syllabus

1InVision, 2019 Product Design Hiring Report
2Design Council, What is the framework for innovation? Design Council’s evolved Double Diamond

Free Lesson: Data Analytics Essentials in 20 Minutes

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In 2021, 69% of U.S. executives say they prefer job candidates with data skills.* Spend 20 minutes with expert GA instructor Danny Malter and emerge with a better understanding of:

  • Why data skills are so important to so many fields.
  • Tools that can be used for good data analysis.
  • How to use data analytics to inform business decisions.

When you’re ready to go further, explore our upcoming Data Analytics course to cement your foundation in Excel, SQL, and data visualization with Tableau.

Dive Deeper Into Data Analytics

*Business-Higher Education Forum