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Marketing a business online is no easy feat. I can’t tell you how much hair I have lost in frustration when I hear people say something like, “I’m sure that approach in marketing works, I just don’t have time to actually do it.” So often I want to reply back and say, “Well don’t you worry, with that attitude, you’ll soon have plenty of time on your hands once your competitors put you out of business.” However, I usually respond kindly and explain why they should not ignore “the little things” in marketing a business online.

My name is Brandon Hassler and I am the Founder & CEO of Market Campus. Put simply, we teach other entrepreneurs and businesses how they can build a strong online presence and ultimately increase their sales. We started in July 2014 teaching physical digital marketing classes in Utah. Thanks to Thinkific, we expanded our training to online students in December 2015, and currently have students learning in over 40 countries throughout the world.

I’m constantly being asked by course creators how they can get more students to enroll in their course(s). I can tell they expect me to walk them over to a dark corner and whisper the “secrets” of how to market a course online. But in almost every case, they already have the answers. There are no “secret” ways to drive traffic to your course website. The real problem is that too many people simply don’t execute.

I wanted to team up with Thinkific and share what has worked for us. Hopefully, you’ll gain some inspiration and improve the way your course is being marketed.

Here are 6 “not so secret” ways to market your online course that have worked well for us:

6 Not So Secret Ways To Market Your #OnlineCourse. #digitalmarketing @MarketCampus @BrandonHassler Click To Tweet

1. SEO & Keyword Research

You’ve probably read a million times that search engine optimization (SEO) is dead. Wrong. As long as search engines exist, optimization will always exist. Not only does search still exist but billions of searches are happening every day on Google alone. At Market Campus, we’ve put a lot of time and effort into optimizing our pages for search engines, and more importantly, the user.

Before you can optimize your site for search, you first need to figure out what search terms you are going to target. The quickest way to do this is to use Keyword Planner, a free tool from Google. Start by typing in some search terms that you think your target customers are searching for. If your course teaches people how to code, then you might enter phrases such as:

  • “learn to code”
  • “learn to code online”
  • “how to learn to code”
  • “online coding course”
  • “best way to learn how to code”

As you do some searches yourself on Google, you may discover other phrases that you can also add to your list. You can see that Keyword Planner shows estimates on the monthly search volume behind each phrase.

The Not So Secret Ways To Market Your Online Course

Below that section, they’ll suggest other keywords you could target based on the terms you’ve already entered. This data can quickly give you a snapshot of the demand (or lack thereof) for your course. You can also see how competitive some of the search terms are. In the image above you can see that the “Suggested Bid” is on the higher end. While this is often a sign that ranking your course for that keyword could be difficult, it’s also an indicator that consumers are spending money for the product/service. If you are searching for phrases that get a lot of traffic but have a low/blank suggested bid, that could be a sign consumers aren’t willing to pay as much (or at all) compared to something like learning to code.

If you are serious about targeting the right keywords for your course (and you should be) then I would suggest using the Keyword Explorer tool from Moz. While it is a premium tool, you could sign up for a free 30-day trial, do your research, and then cancel before your card is charged.

The Keyword Explorer tool gives you a far more sophisticated report on the likelihood of your course pulling in traffic from that specific search term.

The Not So Secret Ways To Market Your Online Course

We don’t have time in this post to outline the step-by-step process of effective keyword research as well as SEO, but this is something we really dig into in our Market Campus course. For now, this should get the wheels in your head spinning and allow you to do some research to lay the foundation for your SEO efforts.

Related: Optimizing Your Online Course For SEO

2. Hijack Questions/Communities

Remember, you started your course because you saw that a lot of people are trying to learn how to do what you teach. How are they attempting to accomplish this? They are asking questions. 

First thing I like to do is ask Google questions that my potential customers would be asking. In this case, I searched “best digital marketing course”.

The Not So Secret Ways To Market Your Online Course

Notice the #1 organic result? Quora. This is a page that I can influence/change, and it just so happens to be pulling in a lot of eyeballs. I logged into Quora and in my answer, I suggested Market Campus. I even asked some former students of mine to also go onto that Quora question and suggest Market Campus. My answer has had thousands of views. This specific post alone has pulled in countless paying customers. Quora has been one of my favorite (and most effective) places to pull in qualified leads.

I would also suggest visiting and typing your course niche into the search bar. You will find every question on Quora related to exactly what you teach. To help automate the process, I would suggest using Google Alerts and set something like the following: “digital marketing”

You would obviously replace “digital marketing” with your niche. Also, be sure to use quotations around the phrase you want to be alerted about. This allows you to get notifications every time Google finds a new page on Quora that contain the phrase you are targeting.

These are people who are seeking a solution that you offer. It doesn’t get more qualified than that!

FUN FACT: How did we first discover Thinkific? It was because Thinkific’s CEO, Greg Smith, answered a Quora question that we stumbled upon.

What platform is the best to create and sell online courses? | Quora | Thinkific

This same approach works on places like Yahoo Answers, Reddit and many others. I would also suggest taking advantage of Facebook Groups. Simply type in your niche into Facebook’s search bar, filter it down to Groups and you will find dozens of groups full of people who are interested in what you are selling.

Regardless of the community, always provide value in your answers. Always. Also, don’t make every single answer a plug for your course. That is tacky and could make you look like a spammer. In my responses, I always try to add some real meat to the answer and will occasionally plug Market Campus if it makes the answer stronger.

Related: Marketing Your Online Course With Quora

3. Email Marketing

This is so obvious I don’t even need to go into detail. You are losing a ton of revenue by not actively collecting and emailing potential customers. For Market Campus, email is one of our biggest sources of revenue. This is especially true for premium-priced courses. Most people aren’t going to purchase your course on their first visit. Do you have a way to stay in touch with those people?

A simple (and affordable) MailChimp account allows you to easily set up a sales funnel that you send your email subscribers through. One of our most effective emails is an automated message that comes from our Student Experience team that simply asks the potential student, by name, if there are any questions they could help answer. You’ll be surprised how many people are sitting on the fence about purchasing your course and all they need is for you to reach out and ask what you can do to help. Every major email marketing platform can automate this process and it can drive some serious sales.

As for collecting emails, we use the free version of MailMunch and we couldn’t be happier. I would suggest testing different types of boxes (pop up, floating bar, scrolling box, etc) to see what works best for your audience. Another great (and free) service you could try is SumoMe.

If your course offers any type of trial or free sample, be sure to use a free service like Zapier (which integrates great with Thinkific) and automatically import those signups to your “potential customer” group in your email marketing platform.

Related: How To Build An Email List (Complete Guide)

4. Validation (social proof)

There is a good chance that most of the people who stumble onto your course website have never heard of you before. If people are going to be giving you their money, they want to be sure they are getting value. Sadly, the online education market has its fair share of scams and disappointing courses full of mediocre content. Even though your course may rock, you have to first gain the trust of the customer.

Testimonials and reviews are a powerful way to gain trust. They are social proof. We recently started doing video testimonials with some of our former students and have noticed a night and day difference between text testimonials.

Video can draw out so many more emotions than plain text. Humans are naturally drawn to other humans. It’s a simple fact of life. Use that to your advantage in your marketing and do everything you can to gain their trust.

You may also need to put some time/money into a strong design. We’ve had many students sign up and mention that our strong/attractive website design made them feel much more comfortable about purchasing. Market Campus currently uses the X Theme for WordPress for its design and we love it.

5. Show Them The Money

This goes along the same lines as validation and was a big mistake that we made early on when selling our course. Our marketing focused so much on what we teach that we never really discussed why it’s valuable to learn. Take a look at the following phrases:

COURSE A: “Learn the latest digital marketing strategies and improve your marketing!”

COURSE B: “Learn cutting-edge tools and strategies to drive more traffic to your website and ultimately increase your sales.”

Let’s say you were forced to spend $500 on one of those courses. Based on those two phrases, which one would you pick? Many people would go with Course B, but why? Because the phrase focuses on the end result. Remember, your course is an investment. You need to prove to the potential customer that by them investing X dollars into your course they will get X in return. When is the last time you purchased something with the expectation that would you get something less in return? Probably never.

For example, nobody hires a personal trainer because they want to get in shape. Sure, they’ll get in shape, but what they are really buying is that beach body that is going to make them feel more confident in themselves. They are investing in the end result! Exercise is simply the process to get to the end result. Trainers don’t sell exercise, they sell the results. This is why every fitness infomercial you watch at 2 am focuses on how much weight you will lose, and how great you will feel about yourself. Are your marketing efforts focusing on the end-result/value?

When people buy an online course, they're investing in the end result. @MarketCampus @BrandonHassler #teachonline Click To Tweet

6. Retargeting Ads

Much like email marketing, retargeting is a powerful way to remind potential customers that you still exist. Facebook & YouTube are two of my favorite platforms to dump money into when it comes to retargeting. Retargeting is when you place a piece of code on your website (such as Facebook’s Pixel or Google’s Remarketing Pixel) which allows you to “follow” your visitors around the web and display specific ads to them. Ever visit a travel website and notice that for the next week or so you see nothing but ads for that company everywhere you go? You are being retargeted.

YouTube allows you to get more exposure than a Super Bowl ad will for a fraction of the cost. At Market Campus, we pay roughly $0.06 every time somebody watches one of our pre-roll ads on YouTube. YouTube counts a “view” as somebody who has watched 30 seconds or more of the ad, or half of the ad, whichever comes first. That means you don’t pay anything for somebody who clicks on the “Skip Ad” button after waiting five seconds. Free branding!

Facebook is of course very powerful for this. Not only does Facebook advertising offer insanely detailed targeting options, but the retargeting ads work very well. When it comes to ad spend, Facebook is by far our biggest return because we can display specific ads to people who are already familiar with our brand (because we know they’ve been to our website at least once).

Ready to use digital marketing to grow your online course business?

I really hope this post offered some helpful insight as to how you can get some traction going for your online course. There are so many more ways to go about marketing your course, but the ones I’ve shared with you here are strategies that most online course creators can implement relatively quickly.

If you would like to learn about these marketing strategies and several others, I invite you to check out our digital marketing course at Market Campus. This course covers all of this (in much more depth) and so much more and would be a great side companion for you as you go about growing your online course business.

Brandon Hassler is the Founder & CEO of Market Campus, a digital marketing school that has helped students from all over the world upgrade their digital marketing skills. Throughout his career in marketing, Brandon has worked with some of the biggest companies in the world that include Adobe, Vivint, Intuit, Discover, ESPN, and Dell. He has a deep passion for digital marketing and loves to share that passion with others.