Are you using SEO to sell online courses? My guess is “not so much.”
In my experience, most of the people who get into the online course business are – not surprisingly – focused on building courses. They tend to be passionate about their particular area of knowledge and expertise, and very often, much less so about marketing or seemingly esoteric topics like “search engine optimization,” or SEO.
That’s understandable, but it can also be harmful.
Think for a moment about how someone who doesn’t know you and has never heard of you is likely to find your course. She’s likely to (a) go to Google, and (b) type in whatever phrase seems to describe the educational experience she is seeking.
When she does that, will she find you?
That’s very far from a theoretical or academic questions. In fact, it is about as practical, rubber-hits-road as you can get. If she doesn’t find you, the amazing quality of your course really doesn’t matter. (It’s like the proverbial tree falling in the forest.)
When planning for the launch and ongoing sales of a course, put yourself in your prospective customer’s head and really think about the words he or she would use. Literally type variations of these words into Google yourself and see which variations produce results that are most relevant to your course topic. These are your “key words.” (And, to go deeper with this exercise see How to Assess Your Market with Search.)
Use the above knowledge to create content rich pages on your Web site (not just on your course sales pages) that use your key words and – this is the critical part – that will be really useful to your visitors. This is the core of SEO – creating a significant amount of really useful content (like, for example, through blogging). None of the “ninja” tricks and gimmicks you may hear about matter anywhere near as much.
That said, don’t overlook “on page” SEO factors like having a URL (Web address) that contains your keywords or using header tags to help highlight your key words. If you use WordPress, I strongly recommend that you use the free Yoast plug-in to help you stay on top of essential SEO factors. (Just search on “Yoast” in the plug-ins area of WordPress or go to the Yoast site.)
And, of course, pay attention to SEO when you pick a course platform. Always ask, does this platform allow me as much control as possible over my page content? Can I put my keywords into the page URL? Can I edit the “meta” description searchers will see if they find me in a search? (The meta description can be important for sparking their interest and getting them to actually click.)
In general, don’t treat SEO as an afterthought. Indeed, being forward thinking about SEO means that you are really being strategic about both creating and selling your course.
Finally, to help you out with all of this, I highly recommend a new book from Duct Tape Marketing founder John Jantsch called SEO for Growth. This isn’t an affiliate link and I don’t benefit in any way from you getting this book – I’ve just followed John for many years, and I have read the book: it is worth it’s weight in gold. Get it, and make SEO work in your favor.