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8 Free Courses For Writers & Content Marketers

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8 Free Courses For Writers & Content Marketers

Increasing online competition and advancements in search technologies mean that writing content is about more than just having a solid grasp of the English language.

Great content that performs well takes into account a variety of marketing factors that not even the most seasoned writers are necessarily familiar with.

Before beginning to write content, you’ll want to consider:

  • How you’re going to optimize the piece with keywords, topical relevance, internal linking, and more.
  • How you’ll write for a diverse audience.
  • How you’ll ensure all of the writing has a consistent tone and style.
  • Whether you should hire writers who are experts in the subject matter, or writers who are experts at writing online content. In certain industries, it can be tough to find both.
  • How much will you pay your writers?
  • How many articles you are able to write and publish per week.
  • Who is going to manage the content when it comes to responding to comments, making sure links are not broken, etc.
  • In terms of marketing, which analytics reports you are going to use to make conclusions about the success or failure of each piece.
  • How you will incorporate different content types – video, infographics, ebooks, polls, reviews, interviews, etc.

It’s safe to say that if you want to write successful content that gets a lot of attention, it’s probably a good idea to get some training on both writing and marketing.

Fortunately, getting the training you need doesn’t have to mean shelling out a lot of money from your budget.

There are tons of free online courses that can help you learn everything you need to know to get the links and shares your business needs.

Read on for some favorites from myself and friends!

Top 8 Free Online Courses On Content Marketing & Writing

Disclaimer: I have not taken all of the courses listed below, but I have taken a few, and I know at least one person who has recommended the others.

They’ve also received numerous positive reviews from the hundreds of others who have taken the courses.

Without further ado, below are some of the best out there.

Skillshare Courses

Skillshare allows you to start free for 14 days, and then after that, it is a yearly fee of $96.00.

Once you pay for the membership, all of the classes are free within Skillshare.

If you don’t want to purchase a membership, the courses below can be purchased separately for anywhere from $10-20.

Still, I’ve added them to the list because you can get quite a few courses done for free during your 14-day trial.

1. Content Marketing: Blogging for Growth 

This course is taught by Eric Siu, CEO of Single Grain and Founder at Growth Everywhere.

This 80-minute class will teach you various blog-writing styles, how to brainstorm a topic, and then develop your notes from a brainstorming session to a full-on blog post. He even goes into detail on how to create an engaging headline and feature image.

This is a beginner course perfect for business owners and marketers, and it has a 95% positive review rate.

At the end of the course, you’ll have written an original blog post to share, which hopefully will be the first in a successful content marketing strategy!

2. Become a Better Blogger: Content Planning

This is a course by Andrea Goulet Ford of Corgibytes, a team of expert developers who not only offer maintenance services, but courses to boot!

Ford was an unknown name to me, but her loyal followers seem to swear by her advice, so I gave the course a try and was very impressed.

She has worked with government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and many more across the board.

This subject matter seems fairly simple, but planning can be very intricate. She helps you create a resource library to refer back to in the future, AND she makes sure that you walk away with three months’ worth of online content all planned out.

Udemy Courses

Udemy is probably the most popular avenue for online marketers when it comes to taking free classes.

They have free options (all mentioned below) as well as paid options and offer more than 32,000 courses, 18,000 instructors, and 80+ course languages.

3. Content Marketing for B2B Enterprises

This course is best for B2B companies, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s one of the few good Udemy classes that are free.

The course is by William Flanagan, CEO and Founder of Audienti, and it’s great because it uses actual scenarios that Flanagan has dealt with in his own business as well as of his clients.

There are six sections to the class, including Creating Interesting Relevant Content, Publishing Content for Conversion, and Getting Content in front of Your Audience.

4. WordPress for Beginners: Create a Website Step by Step

This might seem unconventional, but part of content marketing is knowing how to take advantage of all WordPress has to offer.

This is important for SEO as well as user experience.

The course covers posts vs. pages, the Content Editor, media files, categories and tags, content widgets, and more confusing little options you have.

It’s a basic course and best for beginners, but necessary if you have any questions about what WordPress can offer.

Coursera Courses

Coursera courses are on the rise.

The education platform partners with top universities and organizations worldwide and makes it easy for anyone to sign up (similarly to Udemy, except it’s a bit pricier and works with colleges and universities).

Coursera also has one of the largest libraries of classes in all different categories, so this is one of my favorite platforms.

5. Content Strategy for Professionals Specialization

There are four parts to this course: “Engaging Audiences,” “Managing Content,” “Expanding your Content’s Reach,” and “Ensuring your Content’s Impact.”

The course ends with a final capstone project where you use the knowledge you’ve gained in the prior four courses to design a content strategy package.

The course says that it is designed for entry-level, for-profit, non-profit, volunteer, and government enterprises, and it’s a great way to learn some of the basics of content marketing and how it can relate to a business strategy as a whole.

It’s a beginner-level course, and if you spend approximately two hours per week on the classes, you will finish in about four months.

The best part is it’s completely free, although you do have the option of getting a Verified Certificate from Northwestern University for completing the course for $49.00.

6. High-Impact Business Writing

This is the only course on the list that isn’t free, but it’s only $35 for eight hours of videos, readings, and quizzes, which is pretty inexpensive for a Coursera course from the University of California, Irvine.

This course is unique because it’s one of the few options that put a heavy focus on the actual act of writing as opposed to content marketing.

It teaches you how to write and communicate effectively in the business world.

Naturally, a lot of this is writing for an online audience and online publications (although it does get into writing business proposals, memos, etc.). If polishing up your writing skills is what you’re after, this single-course is a great option.

This course is part of a 10-course series called Career Success Specialization, which you can opt to take from the link above.

General Website Courses

If you keep an eye out, you’ll notice different agencies and businesses around the web oftentimes offer courses taught by their professionals. Below are two of my favorites:

7. HubSpot’s Inbound Certification

This course doesn’t focus on writing or content marketing specifically, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re interested in how those two areas help an online strategy as a whole.

You learn everything from creating landing pages, closing sales, and more.

HubSpot is one of the leading marketing resources on the web with some of the best content featured on their five blogs, so their course is no doubt top-notch.

Once you pass the course, you get a personalized badge and certificate that you can display on your website, email signature, LinkedIn profiles, etc.

8. Online Marketing Institute: Content Storytelling Rules for the Digital Marketer

Much like Skillshare, the Online Marketing Institute offers a free trial that allows you to try any courses you wish.

They have 70 different content marketing classes to choose from all sorted by Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced level.

The Content Storytelling class is pretty unique because it helps you understand storytelling fundamentals and how you can get creative so your content is more engaging.

Creativity is something that many businesses are lacking, so this is a cool course if you’re looking to step outside of your comfort zone.

Conclusion

Good content writers are in high demand, and we don’t see that changing any time soon.

It’s even possible to make a full-time income just through content writing if you take the time to learn the ins and out of the business.

The list above is a great starting point if you’re looking to expand your content writing skills, but it’s by no means an all-inclusive list.

More Resources:


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No Algorithmic Actions For Site Reputation Abuse Yet

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Looking up at an angle at the Google sign on the Head Office for Canada

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has confirmed that the search engine hasn’t launched algorithmic actions targeting site reputation abuse.

This clarification addresses speculation within the SEO community that recent traffic drops are related to Google’s previously announced policy update.

Sullivan Says No Update Rolled Out

Lily Ray, an SEO professional, shared a screenshot on Twitter showing a significant drop in traffic for the website Groupon starting on May 6.

Ray suggested this was evidence that Google had begun rolling out algorithmic penalties for sites violating the company’s site reputation abuse policy.

However, Sullivan quickly stepped in, stating:

“We have not gone live with algorithmic actions on site reputation abuse. I well imagine when we do, we’ll be very clear about that. Publishers seeing changes and thinking it’s this — it’s not — results change all the time for all types of reasons.”

Sullivan added that when the actions are rolled out, they will only impact specific content, not entire websites.

This is an important distinction, as it suggests that even if a site has some pages manually penalized, the rest of the domain can rank normally.

Background On Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Policy

Earlier this year, Google announced a new policy to combat what it calls “site reputation abuse.”

This refers to situations where third-party content is published on authoritative domains with little oversight or involvement from the host site.

Examples include sponsored posts, advertorials, and partner content that is loosely related to or unrelated to a site’s primary purpose.

Under the new policy, Google is taking manual action against offending pages and plans to incorporate algorithmic detection.

What This Means For Publishers & SEOs

While Google hasn’t launched any algorithmic updates related to site reputation abuse, the manual actions have publishers on high alert.

Those who rely heavily on sponsored content or partner posts to drive traffic should audit their sites and remove any potential policy violations.

Sullivan’s confirmation that algorithmic changes haven’t occurred may provide temporary relief.

Additionally, his statements also serve as a reminder that significant ranking fluctuations can happen at any time due to various factors, not just specific policy rollouts.


FAQ

Will Google’s future algorithmic actions impact entire websites or specific content?

When Google eventually rolls out algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse, these actions will target specific content rather than the entire website.

This means that if certain pages are found to be in violation, only those pages will be affected, allowing other parts of the site to continue ranking normally.

What should publishers and SEOs do in light of Google’s site reputation abuse policy?

Publishers and SEO professionals should audit their sites to identify and remove any content that may violate Google’s site reputation abuse policy.

This includes sponsored posts and partner content that doesn’t align with the site’s primary purpose. Taking these steps can mitigate the risk of manual penalties from Google.

What is the context of the recent traffic drops seen in the SEO community?

Google claims the recent drops for coupon sites aren’t linked to any algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse. Traffic fluctuations can occur for various reasons and aren’t always linked to a specific algorithm update.


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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

WP Rocket, the WordPress page speed performance plugin, just announced the release of a new version that will help publishers optimize for Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), an important Core Web Vitals metric.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a page speed metric that’s designed to show how fast it takes for a user to perceive that the page is loaded and read to be interacted with. This metric measures the time it takes for the main content elements has fully loaded. This gives an idea of how usable a webpage is. The faster the LCP the better the user experience will be.

WP Rocket 3.16

WP Rocket is a caching plugin that helps a site perform faster. The way page caching generally works is that the website will store frequently accessed webpages and resources so that when someone visits the page the website doesn’t have to fetch the data from the database, which takes time, but instead will serve the webpage from the cache. This is super important when a website has a lot of site visitors because that can use a lot of server resources to fetch and build the same website over and over for every visitor.

The lastest version of WP Rocket (3.16) now contains Automatic LCP optimization, which means that it will optimize the on-page elements from the main content so that they are served first thereby raising the LCP scores and providing a better user experience.

Because it’s automatic there’s really nothing to fiddle around with or fine tune.

According to WP Rocket:

  • Automatic LCP Optimization: Optimizes the Largest Contentful Paint, a critical metric for website speed, automatically enhancing overall PageSpeed scores.
  • Smart Management of Above-the-Fold Images: Automatically detects and prioritizes critical above-the-fold images, loading them immediately to improve user experience and performance metrics.

All new functionalities operate seamlessly in the background, requiring no direct intervention from the user. Upon installing or upgrading to WP Rocket 3.16, these optimizations are automatically enabled, though customization options remain accessible for those who prefer manual control.”

Read the official announcement:

WP Rocket 3.16: Improving LCP and PageSpeed Score Automatically

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Redesign.co. Used with permission.

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