Traditional advertising requires two ingredients: popular media and ads that interrupt it. Content marketing, its more streamlined cousin, blends promotion and entertainment into single product — be it a company blog or a Colonel Sims dating sim. Seems like a simplification, right? One is simpler than two.
But content marketing also consolidates all of traditional marketing’s complexities under one roof. Content marketers must act as both entertainers and marketing strategists, blending creativity with data analysis and a sixth sense of what might go viral. They also need to build audiences, a vague mandate that involves three distinct tasks: attracting, delighting and engaging people online. Each requires different techniques.
Top Content Marketing Courses
- Content Marketing University
- Hubspot’s “Content Marketing”
- Google’s Digital Garage Certification
- University of California, Davis’s “The Strategy of Content Marketing” on Coursera
- Moz’s “SEO Training Course” on Udemy
- “Content Marketing Foundations” on LinkedIn Learning
- The University of Pennsylvania’s “Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content” on Coursera
- Marketo’s Content Marketing Bootcamp
- SEMRush Content Marketing Toolkit Course
- Online Marketing Institute’s “Content Marketing”
Clearly, content marketing can get pretty complicated. For novices, especially, it can be overwhelming. Specialized training, like the opportunities detailed below, can come in handy. Here are 20 courses and webinars that dissect the art of content marketing.
Content Marketing University
Cost: $595 and up
If the Content Marketing Institute is the industry’s leading light, Robert Rose is core to its circuitry. A content marketing superstar, he has worked on campaigns for more than 500 companies, including NASA and Microsoft. Presented by the CMI and created by Rose, this 12-month self-paced sequence consists of six required online courses, in which Rose walks students through the fundamentals of content marketing: the underlying business model, the industry’s key metrics and the art of attracting attention. More than 50 electives complement the core courses and delve into related topics, like creating reader personae.
Hubspot’s “Content Marketing”
Ironically, this 14-module course functions as content marketing for Hubspot, a popular growth platform. It’s also an illuminating resource. Hubspot gets a huge swathe of its customers through content marketing, and it’s not shy about sharing in-house strategy. One course module delves into the SEO techniques that have earned Hubspot’s blog posts No. 1 slots on popular search engine results pages. Featured snippets help, the course notes, as does optimizing old blog posts for new search algorithms. After roughly six hours of video instruction, this course closes with a one-hour exam and a certificate of completion.
Google’s Digital Garage Certification
This course sequence from Google covers all of digital marketing, from analytics to online storefronts. Content marketing, however, gets ample attention. During a 35-minute video-based section specifically focused on the subject, users learn to answer basic questions like, “What content format makes most sense in my situation?” (a blog post? a webinar?) and, “How do I measure my content’s success?” Other relevant modules delve into key distribution channels for content marketing, including social media and email. Users can skip around within the 40 hours of coursework or complete it all to earn a professional certificate.
University of California, Davis’s “The Strategy of Content Marketing” on Coursera
This online course gives students a bird’s eye view of content marketing strategy, covering everything from consumer journeys to the various strategic functions of content. (Fun fact: There’s a difference between “affinity content” and “action content.”) Taught by Sonia Simone, chief content officer at Rainmaker Digital, the roughly 17-hour class emphasizes the importance of understanding and empathizing with your audience.
Brad Merrill’s “Content Marketing Masterclass: Create Content that Sells” on Udemy
A mix of on-demand video and readings, this comprehensive course takes students from total novices to competent content marketers. Along the way, it covers a bit of everything: classic marketing principles, copywriting, buyer personas and content promotion (because, yes, it’s important to market content marketing). Taught by Brad Merrill, CEO of Merrill Media, it takes 3.5 hours to complete.
Moz’s “SEO Training Course” on Udemy
This 3.5-hour video course delves into the process of making content that rises to the top of search engine results pages. It builds from basics, like what SEO professionals do all day, into trainings on content auditing, keyword research and featured snippets. The final section focuses on using data to prove that SEO pays, which it certainly does — especially at Moz. Even amongst fellow content marketers, the company is known for its strong, informative SEO content.
Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing”
Ideal for anyone seeking a format more searchable than video, this nine-chapter guide to content marketing (also from Moz) falls somewhere between a short e-book and a series of blog posts. Don’t let that intimidate you, though — far from dry, it’s full of animal cartoons, highly-scannable formatting and essential insights. Kicking off with the acknowledgement that content marketing rarely leads to an overnight traffic spike, it proceeds to lay out a long-term game plan, touching on how to hire a stellar content team and choose a content management system.
“Content Marketing Foundations” on LinkedIn Learning
Cost: Free with a LinkedIn Learning subscription
This video-based online course is a bit deceptively named. Yes, it covers foundational aspects of content marketing — what it is, how to get started, the whole “writing” thing. But the curriculum goes far beyond that, delving into technical topics like crafting a brand voice and ensuring that content guides users seamlessly from their first site visit to their first purchase. The class takes two hours to complete, and students can watch lessons at their own pace.
Northwestern University’s Content Strategy for Professionals Specialization on Coursera
What do audiences want? How can you make the most of existing content? What fonts convey that perfect cocktail of hipness and trustworthiness? Led by a trio of Northwestern professors, this five-course sequence covers those questions and more. Thematically, it moves from audience engagement to content management to visual strategy, and then on to measuring content’s business impact. The fifth and final course focuses on a capstone project: building a web presence for a fictional travel guide.
University of Pennsylvania’s “Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content” on Coursera
The best content marketing goes viral. It gets coverage in mainstream news outlets, and people talk about it on their lunch breaks. What sets this content apart? Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger explains exactly this in his seven-hour online course, a mix of video tutorials and quizzes. In the process, he lays out the six elements that define “sticky ideas,” the dynamics of word of mouth and more.
Hubspot’s “Video Marketing”
Back in 2015, Facebook extolled video as a silver bullet — the secret to massive reach and consumer interest. That didn’t exactly pan out. At this point, it seems like every media and marketing company has “pivoted to video,” and plenty have pivoted back.
Done well, though, digital video can be powerful. This HubSpot course digs into video strategy, some highly successful video marketing case studies, production tips and key metrics to watch. The case studies alone can spark new ideas; the instructors highlight not only overtly promotional videos, but exemplary how-to videos, animated clips and livestreams.
Run by a clutch of entrepreneurs, Quick Sprout is a compendium of free how-to guides geared towards users who are launching their first websites. Covering a host of topics, including content marketing, it’s perhaps more advice archive than traditional class. Still, it’s very educational and includes everything from case studies — like this one dissecting the appeal of a viral Dollar Shave Club video — to tips on expanding organic reach. And it’s all presented in a highly searchable format.
Marketo’s Content Marketing Bootcamp
This hour-long webinar blends serious content marketing insight with playful Will Ferrell memes and turkey infographics. The result is compelling video on how to staff and run a content team, with an emphasis on lean methodology, a cornerstone at Marketo. (The company’s core business is streamlining marketing workflows with automation.) Though the instructor focuses primarily e-books, she also touches on the other types of content, like photography and blog posts.
SEMRush Content Marketing Toolkit Course
SEO plays a vital role in content marketing. Appearing at the top of the nearly five billion search results for “content marketing,” for instance, can bring in a steady stream of traffic that’s both unpaid and long-term — a powerful combination. As one of the top SEO platforms on the market, SEMRush helps marketers capture that kind of traffic, and this three-hour course details exactly how. Broken into nine lessons, the curriculum covers SEMRush tools like SEO templates and an SEO writing assistant, which suggests search-friendly phrasings as you type.
Online Marketing Institute’s “Content Marketing”
This introductory-level course is compact and to-the-point: a sequence of six video lectures, each one followed by a short quiz. Each lesson focuses on a different aspect of content marketing, from budgeting to user personae. By the course’s end, students will understand how to build a cohesive content strategy across multiple digital channels, and tailor a piece of content to a specific distribution method. Requiring four hours to complete, the course culminates in a final exam and the awarding of a completion certificate.
Northwestern University’s Content Strategy Certificate Program
Cost: Roughly $10,500
This certificate program was designed with top-tier professionals in mind — eligible applicants need a graduate degree and at least three years of relevant professional experience. The curriculum consists of four required courses, ranging from a strategic writing workshop to a course on persuasion. Led by an eclectic faculty that includes a novelist, a marketer and a designer, the sequence unfolds online — though many courses allow for real-time interactions with classmates and instructors, which forges a sense of community.
Arun Nagarathanam’s “SEO: Complete SEO Training + SEO for WordPress Websites” on Udemy
In this course, students peek under the hood of Google’s search engine and find a slew of constantly-updated algorithms. Though their exact parameters are a closely-guarded trade secret, this course introduces users to the algorithms’ public intricacies. For instance, they assess quality through metrics like PageRank, or how often other sites link back to a given page — though not all backlinks are equally valuable. Google also demotes pages that use spammy practices like keyword stuffing. Walking users through 40 key factors in SEO, this course also helps them apply what they’ve learned while building sites on popular content management system WordPress.
Nielsen Norman Group’s “Making Every Word Count”
Dr. Ginny Redish is an expert on words. Not only does she have a Ph.D in linguistics, she runs her own communications consultancy and is the author of Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works. In this 60-minute online seminar, Redish teaches students to plan and execute content strategies in a world where many people own multiple connected devices. As she does in her book, she emphasizes concision because it plays well on mobile. She also advocates for a conversational style, a clearly-labeled FAQ page and a strong underlying sense of what readers want from their web-browsing experience.
Steve McDonald’s “Content Is King: Writing Killer Content for Web and Marketing” on Udemy
Steve McDonald, who writes prolifically in various digital formats, spends this intro-level course breaking down the power and potential of content. The only prerequisite is familiarity with writing, whose importance McDonald addresses before jumping into the nitty-gritty of improvement. During three hours of video tutorials, he teaches students how to execute and edit written projects, connect with their audiences and monetize their work. He also visually illustrates his core concepts, making the lessons easy to follow.
Contently’s “The Art of Storytelling”
Great storytelling can be borderline addictive. After all, the CEO of Netflix has claimed the company is beating its main competitor: sleep. This hour-long webinar brims with actionable insights on using the same techniques that make people binge shows (or zip through books) to tell engaging brand narratives online. The course also features case studies from major brands like Marriott, whose thriving content team prompted the hospitality company’s CEO to say, “We’re a media company now.”
Images via Shutterstock, social media and company websites.