How to Market Online Courses on Your Website: 7 Ideas to Try

Wondering how to market online courses?

Online courses are an effective way to scale your business, but only if your target audience knows about your course. Marketing online courses isn’t always easy in a crowded marketplace. But we’ve got you covered!

In this article, we’ll share some simple online course marketing ideas that you can try today.

Why You Need to Market Your Online Course

If you believe some of the hype you hear on the Internet, selling online courses is basically like printing money. You build the course once, then sell it an infinite number of times. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, that’s just a little too good to be true. Like any other product or service, your online course can’t sell itself. You have to do the work to sell a course just like any other offer you’re selling.

Because of the popular belief that online courses are an easy form of “passive” income, the online learning marketplace has gotten very crowded. So your course marketing strategy has to be solid if you want your course to become a reliable revenue generator.

Of course, the best marketing in the world can’t cover up a mediocre product. Your course needs to deliver the results you promise and an enjoyable learning experience. Check out these tips on how to create a successful course.

But assuming you’ve got a solid online course ready to go, let’s start marketing it!

How Do You Sell an Online Course With No Audience?

To sell an online course with no audience, your best bet is simple: build one!

It’s highly unlikely that customers will just randomly find your course and decide to buy it.

For starters, getting your online course to the top of the search results for your niche takes a lot of effort. Boosting your search ranking is beyond the scope of this article, but here’s a guide to SEO ranking factors to help you get started.

Furthermore, most online course leads need to be nurtured before they buy. How do they know you’re qualified to teach what they want to learn? Will they get the same results that the glowing testimonials on your website promise? It takes time to build that trust before a customer is ready to buy your course.

Fortunately, there’s a simple and (nearly) free way to build an audience of qualified leads for your course: email marketing.

There are so many advantages of email marketing we can’t go into them all here. But for course creators, building an email list is great because:

  • Your list belongs to you. Social media algorithms are changing faster than ever, but you’ll always have access to your email subscribers.
  • Your leads are warm. By opting into your email list, subscribers show that they’re already interested in your niche and your specific perspective.
  • You can build trust. Ads and social media posts come and go in seconds. But you can email your list every week with helpful content that shows your expertise and reliability.

To learn more, check out our beginner’s guide to email marketing.

Now, let’s look at some specific ideas for marketing online courses!

How to Market Online Courses on Your Website

For this article, we’re going to focus on how to market your course on your own website. There’s certainly a time and place for external promotion, which we’ll cover briefly at the end of the article. But your website is completely under your control, so we’ll start there.

1. Create a Lead Magnet

Lead magnets are always great for building your email list. And it’s easy to serve a lead magnet for your online course with OptinMonster.

How to market online courses with OptinMonster

OptinMonster is the best course marketing tool in the world that makes it easy to build a list full of warm leads for your online course.

With OptinMonster, you can show a course-specific lead magnet to your most interested visitors.

With its drag and drop builder, you can create eye-catching popups and other lead generation forms that are optimized to deliver the highest conversion rates. We’ll show you more course marketing campaign ideas later in this article.

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So what are some lead magnets you can offer to build an audience for your online course?

You could take some of the material from your course and turn it into a free email course. This has an extra advantage of training new leads to open your emails. We want them to get used to hearing from you!

Another great lead magnet for online courses is a webinar. Again, you can take some of the material from your course and present it at a specific time. You can also teach a webinar on a related topic to stoke interest. For example, if you sell a personal finance course, your webinar could teach your audience how to do a quick budget audit. Some of those webinar participants may realize that they really need your help!

Of course, you can also offer a more traditional PDF download as your lead magnet. Put together a checklist or cheat sheet based on your course material. Because a PDF download is less interactive than an email course or webinar, make sure to follow up with an email autoresponder series introducing yourself and providing other helpful resources.

2. Start a Waitlist

One lead magnet that works especially well for marketing online courses is a waitlist. The optin incentive is simply access to the course itself! This is an incredibly powerful way to generate leads that are most excited and ready to buy.

If your course is very popular and limited to a certain number of participants, promising early access can be enough motivation to get people to sign up.

If you’re launching a new course, consider offering early registration pricing to those on the waitlist. Again, this is a way to motivate the warmest leads to take action quickly. The sooner you can fill all the seats in your course or meet your sales goals, the less marketing work you have to do. So it may be worth offering a small price break to sell your course faster.

OptinMonster makes it easy to add a countdown timer to your popups and floating bar campaigns. Simply drag a Countdown Timer block to your campaign in our drag and drop Campaign Builder.

3. Run a Presale

If you already have an audience on your email list, blog, or social media channels, consider running a presale.

A presale is similar to a waitlist in that you grant early access to your online course. The difference is that in a presale, customers actually purchase the course before it’s available to the public.

Some course creators use presales to gauge interest in the course before it launches, or even before they build the course itself. Creating an entire online course isn’t easy, so you want to make sure you’re creating something that your audience actually wants and is willing to pay for. Plus, the infusion of cash from a presale can help offset some of the production costs of creating the course.

It’s a great way to reduce your risk when creating a new online course.

You can easily collect presale payments without setting up an entire shopping cart or course platform using a plugin like WP Simple Pay. With WP Simple Pay, you can issue special presale coupon codes, customize payment confirmations, and even accept Buy Now Pay Later payments.

4. Conduct a Prelaunch Survey

Another way to test the market for your course before you start marketing it is with a prelaunch survey. You can even use a prelaunch survey before you start building your course at all.

Keep your prelaunch survey short and sweet. Start with a polite request to participate in your survey using OptinMonster’s Yes/No feature:

Then ask a question about their needs, such as, “What’s your biggest challenge related to [YOUR TOPIC] right now?”

Once they answer, you can ask if they’d like to be notified when your online course launches.

It’s easy to create these conversational forms with WPForms, the best WordPress survey plugin you can find. And it’s just a few clicks to embed your WPForms survey in OptinMonster. That way you still have access to all of OptinMonster’s best-in-class designs and targeting rules.

5. Persuade With Social Proof

Social proof is the habit everyone has of looking to others to decide what to do. Think of it as the positive version of peer pressure.

If a customer sees lots of people signing up for your course, they’re more likely to think that the course is good and sign up themselves.

The easiest way to display social proof on your website is with TrustPulse, the best social proof app available on WordPress and any other course platform you might use.

With TrustPulse, you can show a live feed of recent activity on your site, including course signups. This can persuade potential customers that your course is worth buying.

You can also use TrustPulse to build urgency. If you haven’t launched yet, you can show how many people have joined the waitlist or browsed your sales page.

For courses with limited availability, you can show how many people have signed up or joined the waitlist in a certain period of time. By showing that your course is popular and in demand, you remind your website visitors not to wait if they’re interested in buying.

6. Target Engaged Visitors

As tempting as it is to market your online course to anyone who will listen, you’ll get better results by targeting your course marketing only to the right visitors.

How? By using visitor behavior on your website as a way to understand their intent.

For example, if someone reads multiple posts from a single category, chances are they want to learn more about that topic. If you have a course on that topic, that would be a perfect offer for that visitor. But it might seem pushy or just plain irrelevant to someone who’s about to leave your site after only a few seconds.

You can use OptinMonster’s advanced display rules to target the most engaged visitors. Here are some display rules you can use to find visitors who might be ready to buy your course:

  • Time on page or Time on site: Visitors who spend a long time reading your content are prime candidates for your course.
  • Pages viewed: If a visitor is clicking around on multiple pages, they might be looking for more detail on a topic that’s covered in your course.
  • WordPress category: Market your course on the most relevant content pages.
  • Has seen or Has converted: If they’ve opted into another campaign related to your course topic, they’re probably interested in learning more about your course.

OptinMonster lets you combine and connect display rules in an almost infinite number of ways.

7. Build a Course Sales Page

Finally, we recommend building a landing page dedicated to selling your online course.

This gives you a specific place to drive targeted traffic. You also have plenty of space to explain the benefits of your course.

Here are the top 5 things you need to include on your course sales page:

  • The name of your online course
  • The problem your course solves for them
  • What participants will be able to do by the time they finish your course
  • How their life will be better and different after your course
  • Price, meeting times, and other logistics

For more detail, we’ve written a full guide on how to write a sales page that converts.

You can use SeedProd to build your course sales page. SeedProd is the best landing page builder out there. Just like OptinMonster, it has an intuitive drag and drop builder so your landing page can be ready in minutes, not hours.

drag and drop blocks in seedprod

Bonus Tips: Marketing Online Courses on Other Platforms

We recommend building your own audience first, but you can complement that by promoting your online course on external websites as well.

As promised, here’s a few ways to market online courses on platforms other than your own:

  • Affiliate marketing: Pay a small commission to affiliates who promote your course for you using affiliate codes and links. This strategy is especially effective when past customers of your online course become affiliates. Read our complete guide to affiliate marketing to learn more.
  • Guest blogging: Build brand awareness and SEO backlinks by writing content for influential blogs or publications in your niche. Check out the ultimate guide to guest blogging for more details.
  • Podcast guesting: Reach a bigger audience and gain credibility by appearing on relevant podcasts that your audience listens to. Share a link to your course or even a special coupon code just for podcast listeners.
  • Conference/summit appearances: Offer to teach an abridged version or preview of your course as a workshop presenter or speaker. Make sure to ask about the conference’s self-promotion policies.

We hope you enjoyed these ideas for marketing online courses!

A successful online course can be a valuable revenue stream for your business. But like any other product or service, it won’t sell itself. Now you know how to market online courses at low or no cost.

If you want to find a better way to host your online course, check out our list of best LMS plugins.

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Jennifer is a content writer and course creator. She has a passion for helping small businesses grow sustainably and ethically. In her spare time, she enjoys writing fiction, cooking, and exercising.


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  2. Christian Lutz June 1, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Awesome content! Thank you Nathan!

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