If you’re considering a career in digital marketing, you’re making a good choice. Discover how to learn the basics and where to find support right here.

Digital marketing is a great field to break into:

  • The average salary for a digital marketer is ~ $69k (from Glassdoor)
  • Digital marketing skills are in high demand across industries (which means there’s no shortage of jobs available)
  • Remote work and flexible hours are common
  • Going from zero to career-ready may only take a few months
  • Many job recruiters care more about your skills than a formal degree

There are a lot of guides on the internet about how to learn the fundamentals of digital marketing, but most of them are spectacularly vague, lacking advice that will actually help newcomers get started.

Consider this article, for example, that says “taking risks” is among the early steps to begin learning digital marketing. This advice is not only unclear, but it’s also far from an essential step for beginners who want to learn digital marketing.

Our guide offers a much more straightforward, actionable approach:

  • First, we’ll go over some of the popular digital marketing niches to help you decide which path to take.
  • Then, we’ll outline three different ways to acquire the technical digital marketing skills you’ll need to get a job.

One of those ways is through Climb Hire’s Paid Search Marketing program. Our four-month program is free for all who enroll in 2024 and provides a clear path to landing a job as a digital marketer. Plus, it’s 100% remote, so you can join from anywhere in the U.S.

But before we get too deep into that, let’s begin with the first step in learning digital marketing.

Climb Hire is a non-profit organization that offers structured learning programs to low-income and overlooked working adults to help them start careers in the tech industry. Get notified about our upcoming programs here.

Step 1: Choose Your Digital Marketing Niche

The reality of digital marketing is that it’s a discipline with many overlapping niches. Choosing a specialization is a wise first step in entering the industry—to focus your efforts and gain in-depth knowledge in a specific area.

Since there are several options to choose from, we’ve put together some of the most popular specializations, which we’ve divided into “organic” and “paid” forms of digital marketing. From there, you can find what suits your interests and make an informed decision about which path to take.

* Keep in mind, there are many more digital marketing niches. This list is intended as an entry point to get you started on your journey.

Organic Digital Marketing Specializations

Organic digital marketing includes the strategies organizations use to attract audiences and foster genuine engagement without relying on direct financial investment for promotion. The idea is to create valuable content that resonates with users, boost your online presence to stand out in search engine results, and nurture relationships with your audience through authentic interactions.

Organic methods of digital marketing include:

  • Content Marketing: This involves copywriting interesting and useful content, like articles or social media posts, to connect with people and provide value without directly selling to them.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Fine-tuning web content to help it appear higher in search engine results and attract more visitors to your page.
  • CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization): Tweaking website or marketing strategies to encourage more visitors to take action, such as purchasing something or signing up for a newsletter.
  • Email Marketing: Crafting and delivering targeted messages to a defined group of subscribers to nurture leads, showcase products or services, and create lasting relationships with customers.
  • Data Analytics: Analyzing website and marketing data to measure performance, spot trends, and make data-driven decisions based on what the numbers say.

Paid Digital Marketing Specializations

Paid digital marketing involves investing money to increase online visibility and reach and promote products or services. This type of marketing aims to reach more potential customers quickly through targeted advertising and sponsored content.

Paid methods of digital marketing include:

  • Paid Search Marketing (also known as pay-per-click or PPC): Developing and overseeing online ad campaigns on platforms like Google or Bing to increase visibility, drive targeted traffic to websites, and bring in sales.
  • Social Media Marketing: Using paid ads on social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook to promote products or brands, aiming to catch people’s eye and guide them to your website where they might buy something.
  • Video Marketing: Creating and promoting video content to attract and engage audiences on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

Note: There isn’t a defined line between organic and paid methods of digital marketing. For example, in social media and video marketing, your work might involve creating posts, sharing content, and engaging with followers alongside building and managing paid ad campaigns.

No matter which digital marketing niche you choose, the next step is to learn the technical skills.

Step 2: Learn the Technical Skills of Your Niche

In this section, we share three possible learning paths to take to gain the digital marketing skills you’ll need to enter confidently into the field.

Regardless of the learning track you take, gaining a globally recognized certification is usually an important part of developing your professional skills. Job recruiters often skip over resumes lacking the appropriate certifications. Why? Because those certifications provide a layer of proof that you’re qualified for the job.

Different digital marketing specializations involve different certificate programs. The ones you’ll need will depend on your niche.

For example, Google has nine ad certifications, including but not limited to: Google Ads Search Certification, Google Ads Apps Certification, Google Ads Measurement Certification, and Google Ads Display Certification.

You can earn certifications like these through three main learning paths

  1. Study digital marketing through hybrid learning. This method combines a structured digital marketing course with independent practice, allowing you to apply learned skills in real-world situations.
  2. Teach yourself the basics of digital marketing using resources that are available online. As tempting as this route may seem, it’s worth noting that learning technical concepts on your own is usually much harder than you think.
  3. Enroll in an official degree program at a community college or university. If you choose this path, keep in mind that it’s no small investment. Getting a degree costs tens of thousands of dollars and years of your time.

We think hybrid learning is a smart choice for several reasons. For one, it will prepare you with digital marketing knowledge and certifications without investing nearly as much time and money. It also shows both a commitment to learning and a self-driven work ethic. These are ideal qualities in a field like digital marketing, where keeping up with industry trends is an essential part of the job.

So, we’ll start off by talking about hybrid learning. Then, we’ll show you how this path leads directly to your first digital marketing job in a matter of months. After that, we’ll go into the other learning paths, in case they’re a better fit for you.

Approach #1: Hybrid Learning (to Fast-Track Your Digital Marketing Career)

Hybrid learning has two key elements:

  • The first is a structured learning program led by an instructor.
  • The second element is the work you do on your own, practicing the digital marketing strategies you’re learning in class.

This hybrid method provides you with the knowledge and hands-on skills you’ll need to perform well in a digital marketing role.

We’re going to use Climb Hire’s Paid Search Marketing program as an example of hybrid learning. Throughout our four-month course, you’ll learn the fundamentals to launch a career as a PPC marketer, including preparing you to earn certifications in Google Ads and Meta Ads.

Our program also comes with an active community of like-minded learners, hands-on experience with the latest marketing tools, and dedicated support for your job search.

Study Paid Search Marketing with Climb Hire

The hybrid learning route begins with enrolling in an instructor-led program in your chosen niche, such as Climb Hire’s Paid Search Marketing Program. We suggest opting for a structured program to ensure you cover all the important digital marketing techniques and concepts.

Our Paid Search Marketing program is just that, teaching each student the technical skills needed to earn two key certifications in the field—Google Ads Search and Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate—and become a digital marketing professional:

  • Google Ads Search certification verifies proficiency in using Google Ads to effectively reach target audiences, drive website traffic, and reach marketing goals.
  • The Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate confirms your foundational knowledge in essential digital marketing principles, including advertising strategies and campaign management on Meta-owned platforms (using Instagram and Facebook ads).

Beyond technical training, we also focus on honing essential soft skills and providing a supportive network to help our participants, known as “Climbers,” secure digital marketing jobs.

After finishing the program, more than 80% of graduates land jobs within six months, often with a starting salary of over $50,000.

Why Choose Climb Hire to Study Digital Marketing?

Climb Hire stands out from other online digital marketing courses in many ways:

  • Throughout 2024, all students accepted into a Climb Hire program will benefit from 100% free tuition, courtesy of our generous donors.
  • Climb Hire offers a fully remote program, allowing flexibility for individuals to learn from anywhere with internet access.
  • Our program provides comprehensive training under digital marketing experts to help you master skills and methodologies that will be essential in your future career.
  • You’ll leave our Paid Search marketing program with two industry-recognized certifications: Google Ads Search Certification and the Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate certification. Having these on your resume will show digital marketing recruiters that you’re a strong candidate.
  • You’ll gain valuable hands-on experience through a capstone project involving digital marketing tasks for actual clients. This experience boosts your practical skills and prepares you for entry-level roles in the field.
  • Our curriculum includes teaching you the essential “soft skills” that will help you land a job. This includes actively engaging in networking events, crafting compelling resumes and cover letters, and honing interview techniques to stand out in the job market.
  • You’ll study alongside supportive peers with similar goals. Our Climbers frequently discover job openings through this network. Even after finding employment, you’ll maintain access to our groups indefinitely.
  • Every Climb Hire student benefits from personalized support from a dedicated Career Development Advisor, guiding you through the process of landing a digital marketing position.
  • All Climb Hire students are given access to our extensive professional network, which includes partner companies that have hired our top entry-level talent in the past. While we cannot guarantee job placement, the connections forged within the Climb Hire community offer distinct advantages in pursuing digital marketing opportunities.

Feedback from Climb Hire alumni proves how helpful our programs truly are.

Virginia was raised in a low-income community, but as an adult, she realized she didn’t have to let her circumstances hold her back.

“When I was working as an optician, most of our clients were in the tech industry. Since I was doing a service job, I had to be present or I wouldn’t get paid, whereas they could just grab their computer and go anywhere. I wanted to have that opportunity.”

After graduating from one of Climb Hire’s programs, Virginia started working at Better.com. She loves being able to work from home, and Climb Hire made that possible for her.

To join our Paid Search Marketing program, head over to our website and submit your application. Applicants who meet the qualifications will be scheduled for a 30-minute interview with our admissions team. Successful applicants will receive an invitation to enroll.

Thanks to our generous donors, scholarships cover tuition fees for all Climb Hire programs in 2024!

Practice Your Digital Marketing Skills Outside of the Classroom

Combining comprehensive training with hands-on experience in your digital marketing niche will further prepare you for success as a digital marketer. Plus, having real-world experience can really catch the eye of potential employers.

The capstone project of our Paid Search Marketing is a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience. However, taking the initiative to practice outside of the classroom will build your confidence and resume even more.

The second part of hybrid learning is just this, using the digital marketing skills you learn in class and practicing them on your own. As you work on honing your skill set independently, Climb Hire’s experts will be able to help you along the way, preventing you from developing bad habits in your digital marketing practice.

We’ve put together some ideas for different ways you can practice and advance your paid search marketing skills below:

  • Launch your own blog or website to practice SEO strategy and create real paid search campaigns using platforms like Google Ads with a small budget. This allows for hands-on experimentation with various ad formats, targeting options, and bidding strategies to gauge their effectiveness.
  • Create A/B tests within your paid search campaigns so you can see the impact of varying ad creatives, landing pages, or targeting criteria. Use marketing analytics tools to pinpoint which factors enhance performance and adapt your strategies accordingly.
  • Participate in online forums, communities, or webinars dedicated to paid search marketing, where you can engage with others in the field and gain additional insights, tips, and strategies.
  • Seek out volunteer opportunities to apply your paid search marketing expertise and gain practical experience in a real-world setting. You might try offering to volunteer for a friend’s business, a local company, or a nonprofit organization.

When you combine guided learning with independent practice, it gives you the complete package of digital marketing knowledge, official certification, and field experience.

There are alternative guided learning methods out there, such as hiring a private tutor or enrolling in an alternative digital marketing course. However, they often come at a hefty cost. Private tutoring, for instance, can range from $50 to $100 per hour, totaling up to $13k for the 90 hours of study required for Google and Meta paid search certifications.

In contrast, free digital marketing programs like Climb Hire’s offer personalized mentorship and practical experience within a remote classroom setting over just four months. Sign up now to get notified about our next enrollment period.

Approach #2: Learn Digital Marketing on Your Own

Another option is to study on your own, without teachers or a structured environment. Bear in mind that independent study requires a combination of self-motivation, attention to detail, and a whole lot of commitment to keep yourself focused and accountable.

There’s no shortage of digital marketing information on the internet. Between articles, podcasts, online forums, self-guided certification courses, and video tutorials, you’ll have your hands full navigating it all before you can even get down to learning. Finding useful learning materials is where it can get tough.

Then, you’ll have to practice your skills to build the kind of digital marketing portfolio job recruiters expect from candidates. Here are some ideas for how to go about this:

  • Start a blog that focuses on a specific niche and post consistently.
  • Create and curate engaging content for different social media platforms.
  • Set up and manage Google Ads or other digital marketing campaigns for a personal or marketing blog.
  • Optimize blog or website content with keyword research and analyze search engine rankings.
  • Build and manage an email marketing campaign related to your blog or website.
  • Create and publish video content on social media platforms or YouTube.

Self-guided learning is a flexible way to learn, as you can study when you want and go at your own pace. And thanks to the internet, you’ll have access to all the study materials from home. Plus, many of them are free (at least, until you reach the dreaded paywall).

That being said, staying committed to studying on your own is not an easy thing to do. This can become even more of a challenge considering the complexity of the technical knowledge and skills you’ll have to learn (without any guidance).

And, unlike when studying with Climb Hire, you’ll be on your own for your job search, too. This means no supportive community and no built-in network, both of which can make the process much smoother.

Approach #3: Earn a Digital Marketing Degree

Depending on your budget and schedule, another option for learning digital marketing is enrolling in an official degree program at a community college or university. This path has positive and negative aspects to consider as well.

The Positives

The programs for earning a digital marketing tend to be very comprehensive (as they should be, considering that earning a degree will take between 2–4 years). You can expect to learn about most of the digital marketing niches, like PPC, SEO, CRO, social media and video marketing, and email marketing.

Also, plenty of employers love to see a college degree on your resume, as it presents you as a dedicated and hard-working candidate. Learning at a formal institution can also set you up with a great network of students, professors, or even industry professionals, and those connections can be helpful for finding a job once you graduate.

The Negatives

Right off the bat, there’s the issue of time and money. College, even community college, involves a significant financial investment (anywhere between $5k–$70k) as well as between two and four years of dedicated study and classes. This can be a hard commitment to make, depending on your situation. Also, the speed that technology changes can cause the curriculum of a longer program to lag, which means you might be learning outdated concepts.

Then there’s the issue of certifications. Degree or not, some recruiters may still want you to have official digital marketing certifications. If your program doesn’t include them, you’ll have to get them on your own. The same goes for hands-on digital marketing experience. If it isn’t incorporated into your program, that’s another thing you’ll have to take on separately.

Take the Fast Track to Learning Digital Marketing with Climb Hire

How you learn digital marketing is up to you. Through Climb Hire, you’ll learn the essential aspects of digital marketing, earn the certifications, and thoroughly prepare yourself for entering the job market.

As a reminder, enrolling in our Paid Search Marketing program offers these benefits:

  • If you get started in 2024, it’s a completely free course.
  • You’ll have an expedited path into a digital marketing career since our program only takes four months to complete!
  • You’ll gain both the technical knowledge and hands-on skills to excel on the job.
  • You’ll graduate with an extensive network of peers, alumni, and professional connections.
  • You’ll have dedicated support in your job search.
  • The average full-time income for our graduates is around $50k.
  • Over 80% of students find a job within six months of finishing a Climb Hire program.

Apply now to get started with your digital marketing career!

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