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.)
Nail Your Keywords
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.
This is the start of identifying your “keywords” – the words and phrases that reflect the search intent of your prospective learners. You are going to want to incorporate the most relevant of these into your course title, description, and any content you publish to help draw people to the course through your blogging and other content marketing efforts.
To go deeper on identifying the most relevant keywords, be sure to pay attention to the related search results that Google displays at the bottom of every search results page. If, for example, you do an initial search on “How to play blues guitar,” you might get related results at the bottom of the page along the following lines:
You can go deeper still by using a range of keyword tools (all with free versions) to help you identify and refine your keywords. For example:
For more guidance, you may also want to see How to Assess Your Market with Search.)
Use Keywords for Content
Use the above knowledge to create content rich pages on your Web site that use your keywords and – this is the critical part – that will be really useful to your visitors. This means not just on your course sales pages) – thought that is definitely important – but also blog posts, video and audio transcripts, and other types of text-based content that search engines can easily index.
Really, this is the core of using SEO to sell online courses – creating content that is truly relevant and useful to your specific audience. None of the “ninja” tricks and gimmicks you may hear about matter anywhere near as much. In the past, there was a focus on creating a high volume of content – i.e., publishing multiple new posts or pages weekly. These days, the quality, relevance, and authority of the content is much more important.
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.)
Choose an SEO-Friendly Course Platform
And, of course, pay attention to SEO when you pick an online 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 is what will usually show up in search results, so it can be very important for sparking their interest and getting them to actually click.)
Most modern online course platforms that are built for selling courses will have these capabilities built in, but it is an area definitely worth double-checking
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 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.
P.S. – Another resource worth checking out: