Online Marketing for Elearning Part III: Advertising

Are you ready to put some money behind your marketing? Here’s how to start.

For many online educators, especially those who are starting out on a small budget, the concept of putting money behind an advertisement can feel like a big risk. They would much prefer to continue with their content marketing strategy—and for good reason.

Content marketing is low cost but highly effective. It has a longevity that outlasts any advertisement, and is more effective at building and retaining a strong customer base. If you had to pick only one, content marketing would be the right choice for online educators every time.

But you don’t have to pick only one. And if you use it correctly, online advertising can actually boost your content marketing strategy. By using advertising dollars to promote your content, you can get it in front of more people more quickly. And because digital advertising can be highly targeted, those dollars are going to be more effective than old advertising methods, such as running a billboard or a TV spot. (Not that you would use those for your online course.) Even better, you have plenty of metrics to use to track the effectiveness of your ads.

However, you shouldn’t walk into advertising blind. The first step is to have the right strategy.

1. What is the goal of your campaign?

At first, running an online ad campaign sounds pretty straightforward: you simply create an ad and let it run, right? Well, there’s a few things you need to decide first, and the most important is what are you trying to advertise?

You could advertise your course directly, and that would be a fine strategy. You’d start by creating a landing page for that course, then directing all ad traffic to that page. But what if you don’t have your course completed yet, and are still trying to generate enough traffic for a beta test or pre-launch sales? Again, you could do landing pages for each of these, but you can see how it can quickly grow complicated.

Here’s another problem: what if you have a number of courses, and want to run a general ad to raise brand awareness? What then?

To be clear: none of these are bad strategies, but your best course will depend on many factors. If you’re just getting your feet wet and want to have a sense of what online advertising is like, I would recommend promoting a blog post or some other piece of high-value content to get started. This is fairly easy, especially on Facebook, which suggests you boost just about every post you make. Your goal in this case would be to raise your brand profile and draw interested visitors to your blog. Once they’re on your site reading your content, you’ll have a better opportunity to introduce them to your course.

2. Where will you run your ads?

I touched on Facebook just now, but there are actually a number of platforms for online advertising. Here are the top ones you should keep in mind:

  • Google Ads: Formerly AdWords, Google Ads are the simple text-based advertisements you see when you search for things on Google. A Google Ad is usually Pay-Per-Click, meaning you set an ad budget and a bid to have your advertisement appear when someone searches for a keyword. Google Ads are great because they’re based on keywords: you’re only going to be showing ads to people searching for specific search terms.
  • Social Media Advertising: These usually appear as “sponsored content” (or some such term) in social media feeds. They look just like any other post, except that they’re tagged as an advertisement. Social media ads aren’t keyword based, but you can set them up to run based on highly specific demographics. So, if you’ve done the research and know your audience demographics well, this is a great option.
  • Placement Ads: Placement ads are the ones that appear as advertisements on the websites you visit. There are different ways they operate, but these days a lot of them run through ad distribution networks.
  • Remarketing: Remarketing ads are a subset of placement ads. They’re the kind that “follow” visitors around after they leave a website. In reality, the website isn’t following them at all—they’ve just left a remarketing cookie in your browser that lets other websites see where you’ve been and adjust their display ads accordingly. This can be off-putting to some people, but it can also be good brand reinforcement.

3. How will you measure success?

Finally, have a way to track the ROI of your advertising plan. The last thing you want is to sink a bunch of money into an ad campaign and not know whether it did you any good or not.

A lot of the ad platforms we mentioned will include metrics that help you see how successful your campaign was in terms of drawing new visitors to your site. But the extent to which those new visitors translate to closed sales is largely in your hands. Think through how you want their visitor experience to be when they land on your site, and if you don’t have a way to convert those visitors into sales or into subscribers, it’s wise to reconsider why you’re putting dollars into an ad campaign with a poor chance of profitability.

If you’re going to advertise your e-learning course, be sure you have a good strategy in place.

Online advertising can be a great way to boost the visibility of your course. Ad campaigns are also faster to put together than a long-term content marketing strategy, and in that way, they can seem like an exciting option.

But they work best as a supplement to your content marketing strategy. Have that in place first, and it will not only bring in plenty of traffic on its own, it will contribute to the success of your advertising campaigns as well.

Author

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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