7 Ways to Market Your Online Course
Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or looking for inspiration, here’s a place to start.
For a lot of course creators, marketing is a love it or hate it activity. It takes time, thoughtfulness, and a lot of brainpower to do right, and it can be discouraging if your efforts don’t seem to be paying off. However, if you’re serious about building your online course, there’s no way around it: this is not an “if you build it they will come” situation. You have to get out there and tell people about your course if you expect to grow an audience.
How do you do that? Here are a few ways.
1. Flesh out some landing pages on your website.
When someone comes to your website, what’s the first page they land on? Here’s a surprise: It may not be your home page! A lot of home page visits come from people who already know your brand. They searched for your name online, they followed a link from your social profile page, or they went directly to your web address from your business card.
Meanwhile, a lot of organic traffic will land on your site through some other page—a blog post or a product page, for instance. You can capture and retain more of this traffic if you design pages for specific audiences, and then optimize them for more search traffic. To rank, these pages will need to have a lot of text, as well as images, headers, and other rich content (infographics and videos, for instance). Give them love, and position some nice calls-to-action to encourage them to sign up to your course or newsletter.
2. Write a piece of high-value content and give it away in exchange for email addresses.
Another way to grow leads (meaning: grow a list of people who have given you their email address because they like your content) is to create a high-value PDF download. This may be an infographic, a worksheet, an article—whatever you like! Just so long as it’s something that will feel “worth it” to your visitors after they go through the trouble of downloading it.
Once your content piece is made, gate it by putting it behind a download form. Ask for a name and email address, and include a check box to ask if you can send them more marketing materials, such as your newsletter or other offers. (Note: For EU users especially, asking permission is essential for staying on the right side of GDPR compliance.)
3. Begin a blog and include an email sign-up form.
Designing landing pages is important for your most valuable key terms, but your blog is another important gateway to your site where each page is its own landing page, of sorts. Blogging lets you touch on a rage of niche topics, and over time, it becomes its own valuable resource of content. Be sure to link to your old posts so that prospective learners will stay on your site, and include an email form for your newsletter to retain interested learners.
4. Email your list regularly with well-designed, thoughtful content.
There’s a lot of resistance to email newsletters, mostly because a lot of people feel tired and overwhelmed by bad email marketing content. But at the same time, email content that’s good is often popular. There are some newsletters out there with dedicated readers who will swear by it as a resource. That’s the kind of newsletter you want to create.
Remember, people who gave you their email address and agreed to receive your newsletter want to be contacted by you. They want your resource to be a good one. All you have to do is deliver quality as promised.
5. Choose a couple social media channels that fit your niche and get active.
You don’t have to be on every social channel. Your audience won’t be everywhere, and you don’t want to waste your energy where it won’t do you any good. But if there’s a channel where you feel comfortable and where you think you can grow an audience, start creating posts.
Remember that each channel is different, and that you may find your audiences on each channel are unique. Audiences on Facebook tend to skew older, and are more likely to comment. Instagram uses a lot of hashtags, and it is worth your time to research which ones are popular for your area. Twitter works best for people who want to build a personal brand, but it takes a lot of savvy to maintain. Choose wisely and be careful where you put your energy.
6. Put ad money behind your best social posts.
You can draw more attention to your social media content by “boosting” social posts. You don’t want to do this with every post, but it’s a good idea for special announcements or extra valuable content.
You can also create ads designed to link back to your site’s landing pages. Depending on the social channel, your targeting tools can narrow down those who see your ads to very specific audiences, letting you run niche ads with high conversion rates.
7. Build networking opportunities at events.
As you break into your industry, you can raise your profile by reaching out to others in your network. It is hard to do this via cold email (I’ve discarded enough requests to know), but it is possible with personal connections.
Industry events—whether in person or online—are one way to do this. Social media is another avenue. If you’re building connections on Twitter, for instance, you might be able to reach out to someone with whom you’ve had a positive interaction to work on something together. You might ask about guest blogging on each other’s sites. WordCamps, for those in the WordPress sphere, offer opportunities to pitch speaking topic. Do a good job, and you might find someone who wants to interview you for their podcast.
Your own industry may have similar events where speakers can submit topics, although in most cases this is done by invitation. Avoid anyone who is asking you to pay them for an opportunity to speak at their event.
What NOT to do.
Finally, there are lots of ways you can go wrong with online marketing, mostly by following bad advice from pushy, old school sales tactics. The Internet is a different space, where most people are quick to block you, mark your emails as spam, or report your content for violating forum rules. If you don’t want to find yourself black listed, here are a few major don’ts.
- DON’T start hijacking other people’s content channels. This includes their blog, their social media channels, and their private forums.
- DON’T spam professional groups with your course. Speaking of hijacking forums, don’t do this on professional groups, either. Groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Quora are especially quick to call out self-promotion.
- DON’T start adding everyone you know to your email lists. Email marketing tools will blacklist you if too many people mark your emails as spam.
- DON’T throw your ad money after generic key terms. High profile key terms are expensive, and often have low conversion rates. Focus on niche terms that are easier to win.
Online marketing takes time, so start early and be consistent.
The best online marketing focuses on the long term. Reputations online have staying power, and if you start off with bad tactics that focus on the hard sell or make you look unprofessional you may have trouble ever getting off the ground.
On the other hand, if you focus on quality from the beginning and demonstrate your expertise through your marketing from day one, you will not only capture the attention of the people you most want to attract, you will keep them around for the long term.
Read Our Blog Series: Online Marketing for E-Learning