I spent weekends in 2019 developing the online Coursera specialization “Digital Advertising Strategy.” With a solid strategy, digital advertising can drive customers all the way from awareness to sales. Digital ads have been shown to work for businesses of all types and sizes, from local coffee shops to car dealers. However, the digital advertising ecosystem is complicated and competitive. This specialization takes a critical look at digital advertising tactics for small business and simplifies the landscape. It also arms students with a toolkit of digital advertising techniques that students can start using immediately to drive business results.

Through a critical look at digital advertising tactics, we assess the viability of different ad platforms for small business. It also arms students with a toolkit of digital advertising techniques that they can start using immediately to drive business results. The specialization starts with a survey course of popular digital ad types, including: display, video, social media, mobile, search, and programmatic. Next, through a set of three courses, this specialization takes a deep dive into digital ad tactics geared for small businesses. Students learn how to generate and launch ad campaigns on small budgets with limited-to-no design skills (e.g., photos, video, and design). These courses include: 1) search (Google Ads), 2) social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and 3) native advertising (Taboola).

Students who complete our search course also gain a résumé credential through the official Google Ads Search Certification as well as a certification from the programmatic leader, The Trade Desk. Students receive feedback on digital campaign strategy through planning exercises. This specialization also provides access to critical advice from industry experts who regularly leverage these platforms for return on investment.


Courses can be taken together as a specialization, or à la carte as individual certifications.

  1. An intro to the digital advertising landscape 
  2. Search advertising 
  3. Social advertising
  4. Native advertising 


The Coursera is a hybrid of video and written lecture content, but heres a few video excerpts.

Google Ads Search Strategy

Consumers search for virtually everything. This includes the things that small businesses do, from restaurants to bespoke products. When consumers search they get organic results along with paid results. Paid search ads are systematically designed to be relevant. As a result, they’re often useful at getting consumers where they want to go. Consumers don’t tune out paid search like other types of digital ads. 

This course shows small businesses how to create and execute search campaigns on Google Ads Search (formally AdWords).

Instagram Ad Strategy

Instagram advertising provides the option to capture audiences and engage them with compelling photos and short videos. Instagram is home to many influencers, and as a result consumers of Instagram use it to digest high quality content based on interests. In recent years, many startups and small businesses have had luck directly selling products on Instagram. This module goes from campaign advice to pro-tips and shows how basic Instagram campaigns are set up in the Instagram Ads manager.