The 11 Best Online Marketing Courses in 2020

If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.

Like it or not, that’s the way it goes in digital marketing (or really, in most industries).

Things move quickly. New emerging fields open up all the time. The best marketers are multi-disciplinary (T-Shaped, they say).

It’s hard to keep up, let alone get ahead.

Luckily, however, it’s never been easier to get access to high quality education. There are tons of digital marketing courses available online, both free and paid options.

More than that, you can find free podcasts, blogs, cheap books, and free content from Twitter and LinkedIn thought leaders.

It’s a great time to be an autodidact.

I’ve personally taken a ton of courses. I’ve also helped create several, both at my current company Omniscient Digital and when I was working at CXL.

Despite there being a lot of content available, I’ve got to be honest: a large majority of courses (as well as books, podcasts, blogs) just aren’t that good. We’ve all got limited time, so I wanted to outline my favorite marketing courses.

This list will feature the best of the best from my vantage point. Of course it will be limited by my experience, but I vouch for each of the courses here.

Note: some of these use affiliate links. 

The 11 Best Online Marketing Courses in 2020

  1. Content Marketing Strategy Course by Omniscient Digital
  2. Growth Marketing Minidegree by CXL Institute
  3. CRO Minidegree by CXL Institute
  4. Reforge Growth Series
  5. Udacity’s free analytics and coding courses
  6. Introduction to Machine Learning on Coursera
  7. SEO That Works by Brian Dean
  8. Traffic Think Tank community
  9. Copywriting Course by Neville Medhora
  10. Joanna Wiebe’s copywriting course
  11. DataCamp’s free data and coding courses
  12.  The DIY online education path

1. Content Marketing Strategy Course by Omniscient Digital

Up front, you should know: I created this course. Well, I created it with my co-founders David Ly Khim and Allie Decker as well as with Irina Nica and other guests.

Anyway, I think it’s the best content marketing strategy course ever created.

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Sure, there are great comprehensive courses on how to do content marketing, but I’ve found them to be too basic and too broad.

The same course shouldn’t have to cover personas, production, promotion, optimization, strategy, ops, and management.

That’s a whole lot to cover, and I’m highly skeptical of courses that purport to teach everything.

So we deliberately excluded content production/writing quality, content promotion/link building, etc. from the curriculum and just went super deep on strategy. It includes strategic frameworks that will “unlock” a sort of 6th sense when it comes to content planning. You’ll be able to see through the plateaus that plague most programs and build content programs that drive consistent ROI for years.

It’s the most business-focused course, too. Don’t really care for vanity metrics like impressions, social shares, and pageviews. This course is for those who want the meat of the subject.

Take it if you’re serious about content, relatively intermediate or advanced, and want to scale a content program. Probably not for beginners or those hoping to grow a personal or hobby blog.

2. Growth Marketing Minidegree by CXL Institute

Again, I’m biased here as I used to work at CXL and program managed Growth Marketing Minidegree up to its initial launch.

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Actually, side note: every item on this list suffers from my bias. That’s the point of the list. In fact, every list you read is biased, but most lists are just prioritized by which affiliate pays them the most. I’ve actually taken the courses on this list, and though I’m definitely going to drop affiliate links where possible (including this one), I 100% vouch for the content itself. No favors have been done by including anyone on this list.

CXL Institute is where the growth nerds go to learn. It’s for the advanced, or at least the ambitious. No fluffy frameworks, no bullshit basic material. Lots of screenshares and true practitioners teaching classes (instead of big name thought leaders who are years removed from the actual work, or worse, random instructors that have never done the thing they’re teaching).

The Growth Marketing Certificate was deliberately designed to create T-Shaped Marketers (I know because I designed it). It covers the gamut of modern day growth marketing:

  • Growth foundations and frameworks
  • Running experiments
  • Data and analytics
  • Channel expertise (SEO, PPC, content, influencers)
  • Program management

And much more.

It would be genuinely difficult to create a more comprehensive growth program while maintaining the depth and quality that they do. I cannot recommend this program enough.

Though do be warned, it’s dense and long and requires a time commitment. This isn’t for the low commitment casual course taker (may I recommend to you Masterclass for good edutainment).

3. CRO Minidegree by CXL Institute

Ditto all of the above that I wrote about the growth marketing minidegree, but add one additional positive: CXL is famous for their conversion rate optimization education.

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Every company that runs A/B tests or has a CRO program has almost certainly read and been influenced by an article published on the CXL blog. It’s the singular place that most practitioners go when they want to learn more about testing and CRO.

Of course, the minidegree is going to be good.

Again, like the growth marketing minidegree, it’s super comprehensive as well as technical and deep. It takes a long time to go through, but it’s worth it.

Working with Peep Laja at CXL turned me into a conversion rate optimization expert and I started with basically zero knowledge. This minidegree’s goal is to do the same for everyone who takes it.

I like this course so much that I’d probably have trouble justifying hiring a conversion rate optimization professional if they haven’t taken this course (or rather, at the very least, having taken the course would be a plus for a candidate).

Not for the faint of heart; takes a long time and a lot of dedication to finish.

4. Reforge Growth Series

Reforge is another premium deep dive growth course that I like a lot. I’ve taken both the original Growth Series and the Advanced Growth Strategy programs.

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This one is set up differently from the above courses: it’s not overly technical, but you’ll learn insanely valuable frameworks and get templates to help you build out your company’s growth strategy.

There are less screenshares and technical exercises, and there are more thought exercises and case studies. Frameworks like the “Acquisition Channel Matrix,” micro-loops and macro-loops, and product/channel fit will change how you think about and approach growth.

I find this is best for growth leaders and those hoping to enter leadership roles. It’s not overly hands-on, but will help if you’re looking to run a program, get buy-in internally, or step into a management or strategic role.

5. Udacity’s free analytics and coding courses

Udacity pioneered the “nanodegree,” and they have great ones available.

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I, for example, took the AI Programming with Python nanodegree and loved it (though it was quite difficult). I’m leaving those off of this list, because I think most are not great for marketers, and the one that is good for marketers looks to be very basic (granted, I haven’t taken it).

What I do like, though, is that you can take a ton of their individual courses for free.

Here are some free online courses that I think digital marketers would love:

6. Introduction to Machine Learning on Coursera

This may be a stretch for many marketers, but if you really want a leg up, it’s best to understand machine learning (at least from a high level).

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Coursera’s introductory course is the best one I’ve found.

It’s got some math, but it’s not too advanced. Most can get by with their math abilities and enough applied force and time.

What you’ll get is a very good overview of machine learning from a theoretical underpinning as well as a survey of the landscape of machine learning techniques (as well as some of their typical applications).

Machine learning can be a useful tool for analytics, marketers, product managers, and anyone hoping to optimize the quality of their decisions. It’s best to understand how it works. Doing so will unlock a sort of superpower, or at least a new tool in your toolbelt for solving problems creatively.

7. SEO That Works

I love SEO as an acquisition channel. It’s one of the few scalable channels, and I like this loop in particular because it’s compounding and hard to compete with as you build it out. Contrast that to paid acquisition, where you often see an arms race that ends up increasing CAC, lowering efficiency, and resulting in ad fatigue.

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SEO is broken up into two broad areas: technical SEO and content. Brian Dean’s course is the best one I’ve encountered on the content components of SEO.

It covers link building, how to identify PR and outreach targets, how to create linkable content, how to design a content roadmap based on SEO, etc.

If you’re interested in getting really good at content marketing, I recommend pairing this course with my course on content marketing strategy. After taking these two, you’ll have a deeper level of knowledge than most about link building, keyword research, and other SEO and content marketing topics.

8. Traffic Think Tank

Traffic Think Tank (TTT) is both a course and a membership community, and it, too, is mainly focused on SEO and content.

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The trifecta of a true content expert would really be taking SEO That Works, Omniscient’s Content Marketing Strategy Course, and then joining TTT.

Slack groups are the conference bar of the internet world, and it’s where the real discussions happen and the secret tactics are revealed. Paid ones are even better because the curation and quality of conversation is better.

If you’re going to join one digital marketing community and course, make it Traffic Think Tank.

9. Copywriting Course by Neville Medhora

Neville Medhora is one of my favorite thinkers when it comes to modern copywriting.

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First, he’s hilarious, both in person and on paper. Education is easier when it’s entertaining, and Neville is incredible at making his content engaging and funny.

Second, he’s adapted his lessons for the modern world and online-first copywriting. He takes the tried and true principles from decades of research, experience, and theory, and he applies them to practical digital scenarios.

Copywriting Course is a gem. If you’re trying to learn copywriting – and if you’re a digital marketer, you should be – then I’d definitely check out this course. It’s equally good for beginners as it is for more experienced copywriting professionals and marketers.

10. Copyhackers’ copywriting courses

Joanna Wiebe is my favorite person to follow when it comes to copy and writing in general. Where I look at CXL as the go to place for “technical marketing” or CRO, I look at Joanna as the one-stop-shop for all things copy and content.

I like her approach because she’s also a no-BS practitioner; she doesn’t waste a ton of time on the overly basic, fluffy stuff, and instead just gives her most practical and advanced frameworks, techniques, and tips for writing high converting copy.

That’s the other reason I really like Joanna’s work: she places the emphasis on business results and conversion, not just flowery writing that is “engaging.” The original conversion copywriter.

Anyway, you could get a million dollars in ROI just by reading her blog, so taking her courses and masterminds is a no brainer. When one opens up, just do it.

11. DataCamp’s free data and coding courses

There’s no such thing as a non-technical marketer. You don’t necessarily need to know python, but marketers become way more valuable if they know some coding basics, particularly data-related languages like SQL (or at least Excel!)

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DataCamp has a paid plan for serious learners, but they’ve also got a generous amount of content available completely for free.

I’ve taken a ton of their stuff, from their introduction to SQL and the more advanced SQL courses, to a few on R programming (I liked Hadley Wickham’s course on writing functions)

I look at DataCamp as the total opposite of theory; I go there when I need practice or very specific skill development.

In that sense, it’s an incredibly practical platform. If you need a quick brush up on a language, I actually greatly prefer this to Codecademy and other freemium tools (especially for data languages).

12. The DIY online education path

This list has been all courses, and most of them have been paid ones.

You don’t actually need to pay for a program if you don’t want to or can’t afford it, though. With the abundance of podcasts, blogs, forums, and free tools available now, you can piece together your own DIY education. In fact, I prefer this method as it’s more erudite and you typically retain a lot more knowledge when it’s “just in time” and not “just in case”

The first thing you need to do when you embark on the DIY path is map out a plan of what you need to learn.

Make a plan: “just in time” learning or strategic planning

There are two ways to do this.

First, you can learn what you need at the moment and in the near future (I love this method).

Second, you can use a framework like the T-Shaped Marketer path to figure out what you need to learn and spend more time on. You can also take a path with a mixture of both; some of it structured, and some of it ad hoc and situational (that’s what I do – typically take one official paid course per year, and the rest is DIY and ad hoc).

If you’re learning moment by moment, you can get a lot of value from knowing which resources and forums to visit. Different places for different things:

If you’re taking the T Shaped path, read an article like this one. Then you can decide which channels or areas you’d like to take a deep dive on, and form your own path with books, media, podcasts, etc.

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As an example, I went deep down the CRO and a/b testing path. To do this, I needed a deep and broad base that included things like database querying, statistics, user experience, and behavioral psychology.

I read a massive amount of books on CRO and A/B testing, took Peep’s courses (as well as learned a ton from working with him and with agency clients).

I also went to dozens of conferences including Growth Marketing Conference, CXL Live, Elite Camp, and CXL Live. I regularly listen to podcasts like The Digital Analytics Power Hour and Not So Standard Deviations, and I’m an active member of Slack groups like Measure Slack and CXL’s Facebook group.

At this point, the backdrop of my professional life and much of my internet time is surrounded by CRO and A/B testing related content. It’s easy to soak up knowledge when it’s the water you’re swimming in.

Conclusion

The path you take will probably be different, and that’s a good thing. No education path should look the same. You don’t want to simply copy what others have done, but rather, forge your own unique skills, experience, and identity.

Hopefully this article helped you get a start, but if you ever want to ask more questions or chat about education and skill development, shoot me an email (check the About page).

Alex Birkett
Alex Birkett is a Growth Marketer and Content Strategist based in Austin, Texas. He's a proud UW-Madison graduate and enjoys craft beer, lifting weights, and sailing.

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