October 17th, 2019 Sell Online Courses

Advertising your online course is just as important as creating great content.

You have built a fantastic online course, but right now you have no students to benefit from it. Without a strong marketing strategy your efforts in creating excellent online course content could go to waste. Everyone will tell you to focus on content marketing (and they aren’t wrong), but paid ads are also a good way to bring in students.

There are some online course creators dismiss the idea of using paid ads. Perhaps they have heard that it is possible to build an audience purely through content marketing. While this is true, a pure content marketing strategy takes a huge amount of time and effort to pull off. Paid ads provide a faster, easier way to bring the right kind of students to your online course.

Perhaps you are still skeptical about the idea of spending money on marketing your course through paid ads. Or maybe you are afraid you will lose money. If you are running your online course business on a shoestring budget, any expenditure probably seems like a big deal – no doubt about that. But time is also money, and content marketing takes a lot of time.

Here are a few good reasons why you should take the plunge and invest in paid ads for your online course.

1. Paid ads can be affordable.

You do not have to spend huge amounts of money on paid ads for this kind of marketing strategy to pay off. You can start off with a tiny budget to test out how well paid ads perform for your online courses. Always test before you put a ton of ad-spend behind a campaign. If ads turn out to work well for you, there is always the option of increasing your budget later.

All you need to do right now is to set a comfortable daily budget on the ad platform you choose to use. It can be as little as $5/day (the price of a cup of coffee) just to test the waters with ad copy and targeting. You will not be charged more than this amount, so there is no need to worry about your marketing costs spiraling out of control.

2. Paid ads can be more easily measured than content marketing.

The effects of paid ads are easy to measure. Simply log into your dashboard on the ad platform, whether that is Google Ads, Facebook, or something else, to see how much engagement your ads are generating. You can see how often someone clicks on the ad to go to your online course page. you can even track conversions so that you know how many of these “clicks” turn into paying customers.

It is easy to calculate how much revenue you generate for every dollar that you spend on paid ads. Simply compare the number of people who sign up for your course after seeing one of your ads to the amount you spend on the ad campaign.

In contrast, the effect of content marketing is often much more difficult to estimate. If you are working with a limited budget, it is important to be able to account for every penny and ensure it generates a good rate of return.

3. You can expand your reach by targeting multiple platforms.

A wide range of platforms offer a paid ads service to the businesses that use them. All the major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, allow you to pay to show ads to their users. And of course, there is Google search.

You can use as many or as few search engines and social platforms as you want to deliver your ads to potential customers. Spreading your advertising budget over a range of platforms allows you to reach the widest possible range of people. It also gives you a chance to see which platforms offer the best return on investment.

On the other hand, if you know the demographic groups you want to reach are more likely to hang out on LinkedIn than any other social site, you might prefer to target your advertising budget there.

My only word of caution would be not to diversify too early. Wait until you have some “winning” ads before you start to expand to other networks.

4. You can target the exact students that need your course.

Ad platforms allow you to specify which demographic groups you want to see your ads. The Facebook paid ads program is particularly useful in this respect as Facebook can use the huge amount of information that it holds on its users to show your ads only to those who are most likely to be attracted to your course. Other social platforms use their own demographic information to target ads appropriately.

Google Ads also allows you to target particular users. In this case, you target users based on the keywords they are searching for. This means you can target people who are specifically looking for courses like yours online.

5. Organic reach is decreasing, and paid ads help bridge the gap.

According to HubSpot, one of the go-to sources for data about online marketing, organic reach on social media has decreased as of 2019. This means that it is now more difficult to reach people purely by creating and sharing great content from your social media accounts.

Many Facebook Business Page owners have reported a decrease in views, likes, and other interactions with their posts in 2019 (it appears Facebook Groups are far more effective). If you have been relying on your Facebook page to make potential customers aware of the fantastic courses you have to offer, you could find it increasingly difficult to recruit the students you want in the near future.

In 2018, Facebook made a change to its News Feed algorithm which reduced the amount of content that users saw from businesses they follow on the site. According to Facebook, the aim of this change was to make News Feed more focused on connecting with friends and family, rather than consuming content from businesses.

You can spend money to get around this change. You can pay to boost your posts to show them to more users. Of course, other businesses have the same idea. Spots on the News Feed are in high demand among advertisers, so you will need to be willing to put money into paid ads to make them show up for the people you want to reach.

6. Simply put: paid ads produce results faster than content marketing.

Perhaps you have been so focused on creating a top-class course that you forgot to plan your marketing strategy in advance. Now the launch date has arrived and you have no idea how you will recruit students to take your course. It’s a very common situation, but a difficult one for any new online course creator to handle.

In this situation, paid ads are your best friend. Content marketing can be highly effective, but it is typically slow. It takes time to generate high-quality content, distribute it on various platforms, and wait for potential customers to engage. It is unlikely that your first piece of content will have a wide reach.

On the other hand, paid ads allow you to quickly reach the people you want to reach for your course. You can quickly put together a few ad designs and start using them to bring in your first students right away. You literally can be in front of your target audience within minutes.

At any time, you can change or tweak your campaign to make it perform better. Paid ads give you the speed and flexibility you need to generate quick results with your marketing strategy.

Paid ads can be an efficient and cost-effective method of attracting learners to your online course.

It should be noted that content marketing shouldn’t be ignored. You should do both. In fact, the two strategies work well in tandem. For instance, you can promote your blog content to your target demographic on Facebook as a way to build brand awareness.

Forgetting to develop a marketing strategy is very common among first-time online course creators, but it is not the end of the world. If you have overlooked marketing until now, paid ads give you an easy and effective way to generate awareness of your fantastic new course. Don’t dismiss them before you give them a try.

Justin Ferriman photo

About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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