DIY Digital Marketing Education: Where to Start

So you’re a small business and you want to learn how to get a proper education in digital marketing to maintain your online marketing plan on your own. Consulting and agency fees are out of the question long term, but you do have a little money set aside for marketing spend and continuing education. You’re in luck. With a little planning and budgeting, your spending can go a long way. Let’s explore some of the resources to learn the discipline of digital marketing, so you can run those programs on your own.

Use an Agency/Consultant for a Short Period of Time

If you have some money set aside that you can invest in online marketing services or consulting, it’s not a bad idea to use these services for a period of time to get on the right path. This is if it’s an agency that’s committed to educating clients along the way on where you are where you should be headed, and why.

There’s no use spending the money if you won’t be able to maintain the site moving forward on your own and/or if you haven’t learned one thing from the experience. Make sure when you’re shopping around for consulting or services that you get a feel for the firm’s attitude about knowledge transfer and what they are offering you as far as tools you can take with you.

Take Digital Marketing Training

Nowadays, many of the well-known online marketers offer some type of training, whether it’s online, classroom or at conferences. Training is a good way to get your head wrapped around key concepts and take away some actionable items you can begin applying to your own site.

When looking for training, keep in mind:

  • Who the teachers are. Are they reputable in the industry? What companies are they attached to? What reputation do those companies carry?
  • What the curriculum is like. What is the scope of what they are teaching? How do they teach – virtually or face-to-face? Are the concepts up-to-date? Will the training actually be applicable and is it right for your business and objectives?

Some of the industry’s best and brightest offer training courses in multiple disciplines. This includes:

  • Market Motive: This training has a host of industry thought leaders and experts teaching everything from SEO and PPC to social media, conversions, analytics and more.
  • SEOToolSet® Training: This classroom SEO training is hands on, and taught by industry veteran Bruce Clay. This training covers best practices in SEO and digital marketing that can be applied to your site immediately. A shortened one-day training course is offered at conferences such as Search Marketing Expo (SMX) and BrightonSEO.
  • aimClear Facebook Marketing Intensive: This thorough full-day classroom course is offered at the SMX conferences and taught by aimClear, a leader in Facebook marketing. The course covers all-things Facebook, from community management to Facebook ads and everything in between.
  • SEMPO Institute: The nonprofit Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization offers one or more courses as needed, by topics such as search marketing, SEO, copywriting, and much more.
  • Local University: This local search engine optimization training brings together experts in local search to teach the basics of digital marketing and optimizing for a local focus online.

Buy Books and Tap into Online Resources

Education doesn’t just start and stop with someone else’s agenda. If you simply can’t spend the money on consulting services or training, there are some really great books out there that are jam-packed with all the info you need to get started on your online marketing and to refer to along the way.

Some great books to get you started include:

  • SEO: “Search Engine Optimization All-in-One for Dummies” by Bruce Clay and Susan Esparza
  • Conversion: “Always Be Testing: The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer” by Bryan Eisenberg
who thinks i have a book problem? (274/365)

To stay on top of the changing face of digital marketing, like really stay on top, you should invest a little time each week in researching new developments. This industry is fast moving, so while the foundational principles will stay the same, not everything in a book is going to be the most current.

Some sites you’ll want to put on your reading list are:

  • Google Search Central Blog: This blog has official news from Google on crawling and indexing sites.
  • Danny Sullivan: Danny is Google’s Search Liaison to the SEO industry, and provides many updates to the world of search from several different accounts, including @SearchLiaison, and @DannySullivan.
  • Google Ads Blog: This is Google’s official blog for info on Google AdWords for paid search.
  • Official Google Blog: Info on Google products, technology and company news.
  • Search Engine Roundtable: Barry Schwartz reports on some of the most interesting threads happening in search engine marketing forums, as well as a wide range of news throughout the search industry.
  • Search Engine Land: News and in-depth coverage of search marketing industry developments.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg. If you take a look to the right of this post in our SEO & SEM blogroll column —–>, you’ll see a wealth of resources from some of the industry’s most active contributors who tackle the issues and changes we face daily.

A note on Most online marketers have an account. If you want to tap into real-time expertise, join the conversation on If you don’t have an account already, make one. Start aligning yourself with online marketers who you can engage in conversations with, exchange information and start discovering new resources.

Attend Digital Marketing Conferences

Conferences are a great way to stay on top of industry trends and how to meet the challenges digital marketers face with hands-on tactics from agency and in-house online marketers. You’ll probably get the most out of conferences once you’ve had a little experience applying digital marketing to your site instead of treating conferences as a starter education.

Some of the bigger industry conferences in the U.S. include:

  • SMX West
  • PubCon South
  • SES New York
  • Ad:tech San Francisco
  • SMX Advanced
  • SES San Francisco
  • SMX East
  • SES Chicago

Both SMX and SES host conferences globally, so if you’re not in the United States, check their websites to see when a conference is coming near you. And if you can’t make it to some of the bigger conferences, check local associations and companies that host digital marketing workshops you can tap into.

Putting it All Together

Some forms of training and continuing education are more appropriate at different stages in your education. Think about the combinations that will set you up for success in the long run. For example, you could use an agency/consultant to give your online marketing a jump start and then take it from there by using that knowledge and mixing it with additional training on your own.

Books can be a good reference for when you need strategies and to know “how to” on your digital marketing plan. Then, continuing education through conferences once or twice a year and reading blogs weekly can keep you up-to-date and give you a new perspective.

And of course, when you need a second opinion or have questions, and discussion forums are a good way to tap into instant knowledge from your digital marketing community.

Now, go forth and tackle your digital marketing plan!

Empower your small business’s digital marketing journey: seize the reins with expert guidance, insightful training, and valuable resources to craft and navigate your online success story independently. Talk to us.

FAQ: How Can I Begin My Digital Marketing Education and Skill Development?

Starting a digital marketing journey can be an excellent decision, whether your goal is to enhance career prospects, expand business offerings, or simply deepen your knowledge.

Step-by-step Process for Starting Your Digital Marketing Education

Step 1: Define Your Goals and Objectives

At the outset of any endeavor, it’s essential to define your objectives. Do you wish to increase website traffic, boost leads, expand sales, or enhance brand recognition online? Your learning journey should be determined by these objectives.

Step 2: Understand the Basics

Learn the fundamentals of digital marketing through SEO (Search Engine Optimization), social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising. Books, online courses, or trusted blogs may assist in this phase.

Step 3: Choose Your Niche

Digital marketing is a vast field. Specializing in a niche field – be it SEO, content marketing or social media – can help you master it more easily while staying abreast of industry trends and innovations.

Step 4: Online Courses

Online courses offer a great way to expand knowledge. Coursera and Udemy both offer numerous digital marketing courses that could benefit you. Look for courses taught by experts and with positive reviews.

Step 5: Stay Updated

Digital marketing is ever-evolving. To stay relevant, follow industry news and blogs, attend webinars, and subscribe to marketing newsletters. Google’s Digital Garage and HubSpot Academy also offer free courses and certifications.

Step 6: Hands-On Experience

Theory is essential, but practical experience is equally crucial. Implement what you’ve learned by working on personal projects, volunteering, or interning with digital marketing agencies.

Step 7: Build Your Online Presence

Build and optimize a blog or website using SEO, social media, and content marketing techniques to showcase your expertise and develop an online brand.

Step 8: Network

Connect with other digital marketers through social media, forums, and local meetups. Networking can provide valuable insights, collaboration opportunities, and mentorship.

Step 9: Measure and Analyze

Track the success of your marketing campaigns using tools like Google Analytics or SEO software to monitor their success and make informed decisions based on data.

Step 10: Obtain Certifications

Consider obtaining certifications from reputable organizations like Google, HubSpot, or Facebook. These credentials can boost your credibility in the industry.

Step 11: Experiment and Innovate

Digital marketing is all about testing, learning, and adapting. Be open to experimenting with different strategies and technologies to stay ahead.

Step 12: Stay Ethical and Compliant

Always adhere to ethical marketing practices and stay updated on data privacy and compliance regulations.

Step 13: Create a Portfolio

Compile a portfolio of your work, showcasing your successful campaigns and achievements. This will be valuable when seeking job opportunities or clients.

Step 14: Seek Job Opportunities

If you’re looking to enter the job market, start applying for digital marketing positions that align with your specialization.

Step 15: Freelance or Consult

Consider freelancing or consulting to gain more experience and build a diverse client portfolio.

Step 16: Continuous Learning

Digital marketing is ever-changing. Commit to lifelong learning to adapt to new trends and technologies.

Step 17: Join Professional Associations

Consider joining professional associations like the American Marketing Association or the Digital Marketing Institute to expand your network and access additional resources.

Step 18: Mentorship

Find a mentor who can provide guidance, feedback, and insights based on their own experience in digital marketing.

Step 19: Measure Your Success

Periodically review your goals and assess your progress. Are you achieving what you set out to do? Adjust your strategy accordingly.

Step 20: Share Your Knowledge

Finally, give back to the digital marketing community. Share your insights and experiences through blogs, webinars, or speaking engagements.

Embarking on your journey of digital marketing education and skill development is a rewarding endeavor. With dedication, continuous learning, and practical experience, you can become a proficient digital marketer and stay at the forefront of this ever-evolving field. The digital world is your canvas, and your expertise is the brush – paint your success story in vibrant digital colors. Best of luck on your digital marketing journey!

This article was updated on November 22, 2023.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (9)
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9 Replies to “DIY Digital Marketing Education: Where to Start”

Hello, if you can’t make it to some of the bigger conferences, check local associations and companies that host Internet marketing workshops you can tap into.

Hi Jessica,

Great post indeed. I got the PPC book by David and the Analytics book as suggested.


Hi Jessica,

Great run down. To add to it I would recommend the book The Art of SEO, I’ve been in the industry for five years, and I still picked up a few tips from that book after one of the juniors in the office purchased it for the “office library”.

Good read.

Hi Jessica, for my case. Books, blogs (RSS) and twitter are my sources of learning SEO. I never attended any SEO training or seminar.

The fastest way is blog and twitter. Very powerful tools to keep myself up to date. :)

Hi, Kent! Thanks you for sharing. Wow, you really are self-taught. Impressive!

Hey Jessica, really enjoyed your article, congratulations! I was watching market motive videos and they are really awesome!

Very glad to hear that! Thanks so much for letting us know!


gee Jessica, while I think that most Canucks and Yanks are dang close in just about everything (except maybe beer!) I was sad to note that you didn’t list either of Toronto’s big marketing shows where we Canucks show the world just what it’s like up here for SEO and Marketing too!




Ah, Jim — you know I <3 Canadians — you crazy bunch of Molson-drinking Internet marketers! Please do share with us — I know you all are kicking butt up there. :)


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