At this point in your online course creation journey, you have already recorded and edited your first online course, and you have already created an online course website to sell it.

So what's next? In order to build a successful online course business, the following things need to fall in line:

  • you need to know a lot about your topic
  • You also need to be able to create content about it, but this can be easily learned
  • you need to be able to create your online course website (using for example OnlineCourseHost.com)
  • you need to know how to effectively sell the course to an interested audience
  • But before all of that, you need to know how to even find that audience in the first place!

All of these things need to be done correctly, in order for an online course business to thrive. If any of these things fail, then the whole business won't succeed.

In this guide, you will learn everything that you need to know to successfully grow an audience from scratch that will buy your courses and ensure the long-term success of your online course business.

I will talk about what worked for in terms of audience growth, and what didn't. 😉

Table Of Contents

In this guide, we will cover the following topics:

  • Why not just use an online course platform, with a pre-built audience?
  • Why marketplace platforms don't really give you a pre-built audience
  • When to start growing an audience?
  • What is the best way to grow an audience?
  • Advantages and disadvantages of a blog for online course promotion
  • How to grow your audience with a blog
  • How much maintenance does a blog require?
  • How to get an initial audience for a blog?
  • Can the blog growth process be accelerated?
  • Advantages and disadvantages of a YouTube channel for online course promotion
  • How to grow your audience with a YouTube channel
  • Blog vs YouTube Channel: which one is best?
  • What worked best for me, a blog or YouTube?
  • How to write high-quality long-form content?
  • How to generate income from your blog?
  • Build a long-term audience through Email Marketing
  • How to create high-converting educational emails
  • How to get sales from educational emails?
  • How to use an email marketing sequence to promote online courses
  • One-time coupons, Bundles, and Subscription Coupons
  • Summary

If you are looking to learn more about online teaching in general, you can find all of our guides on the Academy home page, in the recommended reading order.

The previous article in this series is: how to record and edit your first online course.

So without further ado, let's get started learning everything that you need to know to promote your online course effectively!

Why not just use an online course platform, with a pre-built audience?

You might think that building an audience is too much trouble for what it's worth. Why not just use an online course platform, that already has a built-in audience?

Let the platform take care of the audience-building aspect so that you can focus on online course production only.

This is a huge pitfall that is very easy to fall into, and that condemns many online course businesses to failure from the very beginning.  It's just so easy to get that decision wrong.

One of the problems with marketplace platforms, that we discussed in detail in the article Online course self-hosting vs marketplaces: pros and cons, is that the platform commissions are typically huge.

We are talking about 50% to 75% easily, plus they encourage you to sell your courses at a very low price, typically $10 or so via a one-time sales model.

This means that it's very hard to make a living selling courses via a platform, because the typical organic traffic that you will get, combined with the low prices, the one-time sales model and the high platform fees makes it very difficult to make a full income long-term.

Why platforms don't really give you a pre-built audience

This idea that a platform will be able to build an audience for you is an illusion that is easy to fall into.

This will only be true almost by accident, if there are not enough courses on the platform for your topic, or if the existing courses are of low quality and you happen to make a much better one, or if the platform just happened to decide to actively promote your topic.

Even then, most likely the platform will contact established content creators, and try to bring them to the platform together with their pre-built audiences.

In order to successfully make a living in a platform, you will have to do what the most successful online course creators do: build your own audience and point them to your platform courses.

But if you are going to have to spend a portion of your time creating content to build an audience anyway, why send all your audience to a platform and therefore drastically reduce your income and your customer lifetime value?

Instead, make the direct sale yourself, and keep the totality of the sale for yourself, plus the student's email so that you can sell them your future courses as well.

This is another thing that it's easy to forget: if you build an audience in a platform, it's not really your audience: it's the platform's audience!

You will not have access to your students emails, or be able to contact them when you need. The platform will even use the student email to send them to competing courses, without you being able to do anything about it.

In summary: if you are going to have to spend time building an audience anyway, you might as well build an audience for yourself, and not for the platform.

This will make your online course business much more sustainable in the long-term, due to the much higher customer lifetime value that you will get by doing direct and recurring sales, with no middleman.

When to Start Growing an Audience?

We have left this article to the final part of our series of guides, but actually maybe this should have been the very first guide on the list.

And this is because ideally you should start growing an audience from the very beginning, as soon as possible, even before starting to record a single video lesson.

And this is because growing an audience is a slow process that simply cannot be rushed in any meaningful way.

There are best practices for growing an audience over time, but there are no quick hacks or tricks that will allow you to fast-track this process.

In fact, a great way to ensure that an online course business is successful, is to start the audience growth process before even launching the business, sometimes even years before.

What is the Best Way to Grow an Audience?

There are currently two very effective ways of building an audience for a given online course topic:

  • very high-quality written content, under the form of a blog
  • self-contained, instructional YouTube videos

In order for any of these methods to work, you will need to combine them with Email Marketing.

You can pick any of the two, or even try to do both. But typically, your efforts are going to pay off the most if you choose only one content form that you feel the most comfortable with, and focus on that exclusively.

Creating a blog or a YouTube channel is a lot of work, and you will also have to spend a lot of your time producing online courses.

So it's better to focus your efforts on one content form only. We believe that a documentation website or blog (similar to this one) is still the best way to build an audience, but a YouTube channel also works great, and might be a better fit for you.

We are going to explain in detail how to create these two forms of content, but right now before diving deeper into each one, let's compare their advantages and disadvantages, to see what suits you best, and to explain why we think a blog is a better choice.

Advantages and disadvantages of a Blog for building an online course audience

The reason that we believe that a blog is still a better way of growing an audience for educational courses than a YouTube channel, is that a blog is much more evergreen and requires minimal effort to maintain.

With a blog, you take the time to write your content once, add an email marketing form to ask for the student email, and that post will consistently get you new students and potential customers over time, without any further intervention from you.

Furthermore, if you had links to your courses for example in the top menu or in the body of the text, you will get direct sales from the blog post.

The more posts that you write, and the more in-depth the posts are, the better the blog will perform as the website authority builds up over time.

Once you have a sufficient number of articles that cover the main topics that your students are looking for on search engines, you don't have to continuously create new content on a weekly basis.

In fact, you can go for months and even years without touching any of the blog posts, and the traffic will remain rather constant, often for years.

Here is an example from Google Analytics of a blog post with several years of age from my own blog:

Page views over time for a typical educational blog post

This long-form blog post took me somewhere between 1.5 to to 2 days to write in May 2017. Once I wrote it, it was only briefly reviewed and updated once in almost 4 years.

After an initial acceleration period, it has consistently brought over 5000 page views per week for years in a row, without any further work needed to maintain it!

If you are curious, those short drops in traffic that you see on the chart correspond to the Christmas holidays period.

And this is just for one blog post, imagine if you take the time to write tens of high-quality posts! 😉

To give you an idea, here are the page views per week for the whole blog, since its beginning:

Page views per week for a blog over time

As you can see, after an initial period of acceleration, the traffic has remained relatively constant for years at a time.

How much maintenance does a blog require?

For this blog, I did add blog posts periodically for the first few years, around 2 or 3 per month, until I got to about 60 posts. These are long-form, in-depth posts with a lot of useful information for my audience, and insights that are hard to find clearly explained elsewhere.

I did start recently adding more posts to my blog again. But between mid 2018, and for the whole of 2019 and 2020, I did not add a single blog post!

During that whole time period, my blog has constantly found new students for me, ensuring the long-term success of my business.

What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of a blog, for growing an audience?

The biggest advantage of a blog is that you get by far the most for your upfront work. Blogs don't require constant maintenance, you write a post once and it brings you customers for years to come.

Your blog traffic will remain relatively constant dependent only on the number of persons that are looking for your topic on search engines, and your position on search rankings.

Of course, you will have to write high-quality content to ensure a high search ranking, but we will talk about how to do that later in this guide.

The bottom line is that high-quality educational content is hard to reproduce, and it can't just be bought. So once you get your rankings and domain authority well established, you will keep them for a very long time.

So what about the disadvantages of a blog? The only major disadvantage of a blog compared to other content types is that it can take a long time for the blog to reach its full traffic potential.

Imagine that you are creating a new blog, from scratch, on a completely new website that search engines don't know about yet. You go to the Google Search Console, register your site and inform Google that the content is available.

You submit a site map using the search console, and wait for traffic to arrive. For a brand new website without any links from other websites, it might take anywhere from 6 to 8 months for Google to decide to start sending any traffic to your blog.

And from there, the traffic should steadily accelerate until it reaches the maximum traffic potential of each blog post, and remain steady, as you can see on the charts above.

The problem is, it might take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 years for the traffic of a given blog post to reach its maximum potential.

Can the blog growth process be accelerated somehow?

You can post links to your blog on social media, and even ask other websites to link to yours, in a process called link building.

You can even pay for ads to get traffic to your website, search Ads on Google work particularly well.

If there are online forums like reddit or quora where you think you could post your content, then go ahead and do so, but ever being spammy.

Other than that, the best thing that you can do with your time while waiting is to create more content, even if no one is reading your blog yet.

But don't disregard the promotional aspect either: try to get your post out there on social media or forums as soon as possible, especially if the topic is not new.

If there is a lot of competition for the topic, search engines will not show your content to users, just because there are already so many established pages with thousands of backlinks that say the same thing.

So unless the topic is new, you will have to do quite some effort for getting some eyeballs in front of your posts.

If a topic is new, it means that there isn't a lot of content about it yet, so then search engines won't wait for months before showing your content to users, as there isn't much else available.

How to get an initial audience for a blog?

Do make a conscious effort to put your content in front of as many people as possible, and a good way of doing that is to answer related questions on Quora and other forums like Reddit, and add a link to your blog.

The comment that you make should add value and answer the question directly, and the link to your content is for helping out further.

I personally found that Quora works especially well for this, because each question has a list of people that will be emailed when you provide a new answer, and also Quora has a lot of traffic as it's one of the largest sites on the web.

What you can do when your blog is first just getting started, is to spend an hour a day or so answering questions in a helpful and relevant way and providing links to your blog.

Notice that these links won't help with SEO, as in most forums the links in the comments are of type "nofollow", meaning that they won't be counted for SEO.

But they will provide some initial traffic, and if people like your blog they will read other pages, come back to the website, share it, subscribe to your newsletter, check out your courses, etc.

Other than that, there is nothing else that you can do other than waiting. And as you can imagine, waiting for months in a row can be demotivating, and not a lot of people will be able to keep writing high-quality content without seeing any short-term results.

Many people will give up and abandon the idea, only to find out months later that there is a traffic surge on their website as the search engine traffic finally kicks in.

This might happen 3 to 6 months down the road if you promote very actively and effectively, or even up to one year or a bit more if the topic is super competitive.

This means that building a blog and creating an online course business is a long-term project.

Ideally, you should create a blog as soon as possible and start posting regularly, even if there is not much traffic coming in.

If you are considering a career change to online instruction, you could ideally start your blog even years before going full-time as an online course creator.

We will talk about how to create a blog for your online course business later on in this guide, but right now let's talk about the other alternative, an YouTube Channel.

Advantages and disadvantages of a YouTube channel for building an online course audience

Let's start with the advantages of using YouTube for building an online course audience.

The YouTube search engine behavior is much different than the Google search engine behavior. With YouTube, there is no initial waiting period of 6 months.

As soon as you publish a video, that video will be given an immediate chance to gain some traction, and you will start getting views, that accumulate over time.

Here is a typical total view chart for one given video of my channel over time:

As you can see, a video gets at least some views since the very day that it was launched, and then it will keep accumulating views at a steady pace, as long as the topic covered in the video remains relevant.

The views might not be much initially, but at least there will be something, unlike a blog where you will see no traffic at all for months.

It's a lot more motivating for you to keep creating new content in a YouTube channel, because at least you will get some immediate results and feedback.

Another advantage of a YouTube channel is that the viewers are already looking specifically for video content on your topic.

So they are much more likely to be interested in paying for premium video content when compared to the average blog visitor, because they already like to learn via video.

So these are some very solid advantages of choosing the YouTube path. But what about the disadvantages?

The disadvantages of choosing YouTube to grow your online course audience

The first disadvantage is that, unlike with a blog, your YouTube traffic is not really yours, it belongs to the platform.

Having viewers in your YouTube channel is very different than having visitors on your website, via a blog.

It's much harder to convince a YouTube viewer to leave Youtube and go to your course sales page, when compared to a blog page where they are already on your website to start with.

More than that, if you try to bring viewers to your website with every video that you publish, by pitching a course at the end of the video, this will trigger a YouTube session termination.

The problem is that YouTube prioritizes videos that not only create user engagement, but also that tend to make the user continue their YouTube watching session, by watching other related follow-up videos.

So bringing the viewer to your website at the end of each video is not a good idea, and will harm the growth of your channel. Instead, you should direct the user to other videos, and only bring them to your website strategically, only in certain videos.

Another disadvantage of YouTube is that it's very easy for the user to get distracted by other content, unlike in your website where you have the user's full attention.

Also, on YouTube currently there is just less educational content traffic than on normal search engines like Google. When students want to learn something, the first thing that they will do is to simply Google it.

Only a smaller percentage of students will have as a first learning reflex to go to YouTube and search for a video. Typically they will reach YouTube through normal search, only in case that search engines recommend a YouTube video, which is rare.

The problem is that Youtube videos usually don't rank high in Google search recommendations. Typically, Google will only show a YouTube video in the top search result if other types of content (like blogs) or user forums are not available, which rarely is the case.

In fact, the preferred type of content that Google displays the most often in top search results are blog posts, because these tend to contain more information and are easier to index and match closely with user searches.

All of this means that it will be much easier for your target audience to find your website via Google than via YouTube, simply because there is more traffic on Google.

A Blog or a YouTube Channel: which to choose to build an online course audience?

So which one to choose? Both in-depth blog posts and educational YouTube videos take a lot of time to create.

The truth is that if you spend a certain amount of time creating a YouTube video, and you spend an equivalent amount of time creating an in-depth blog post, for the lifetime of the content your time will be better spent writing the blog post.

With a blog post, you will on average get more traffic, simply because there is more educational search traffic on Google, at least for now.

If your students find you on Google, they are already on your website, so it's much easier to convince them to sign up for your newsletter, create an account or check one of your course sales pages.

You also don't have to compete with other creators for the user's attention while they are on your website, unlike in YouTube.

Also, a blog can go for years unattended while keeping about the same traffic, while a YouTube channel tends to slow down a lot if new content is not produced regularly.

So if you are looking at it from a purely practical perspective, it makes more sense to focus on a blog and get your traffic that way.

Advantages of YouTube vs a blog

The only major disadvantage that a blog has compared to YouTube is the initial waiting time, which might be too long for a lot of people. But if you start to create your audience let's say a year before launching your online course business, this shouldn't be a problem.

The problem is, maybe you don't like writing, and love making YouTube videos instead. Then in that case, go ahead and pick YouTube istead, it will work better for you.

Growing an audience through either a blog or a YouTube channel is a long-term project that is going to take you years, so you should go with the way that you enjoy the most, as that will make it the most sustainable for you.

But bear in mind that, in practice, there is simply more traffic available in Google than on YouTube, in general.

In the remainder of this guide, we are going to lay out some of the best practices for growing your audience and promoting your online courses using both of these methods.

What worked best for me, a blog or YouTube?

In my personal case as a course creator, my blog worked much better than YouTube.

This might come down to my preference for writing, and due to the fact that I already had a blog going on other software development topics, with an established audience.

Also, I never created videos specifically made for YouTube, optimized for the YouTube algorithm.

Instead, what I did was to take free sample videos from my courses and publish them straight up.

And because the courses are highly sequential in nature, watching a video in isolation without watching the prior videos might not make as much sense for the viewer, so the videos do less well then they could.

Still, what I noticed is that many times my YouTube videos will rank well in specific searches in both YouTube and Google.

So my YouTube channel, despite not having a ton of views, is a great source of SEO traffic  that helps me a lot, and it gives me minimal work because I just repurpose my existing course videos.

This is of course just my personal case, for you YouTube might work better. 😉

How to Grow Your Audience with a Blog

If you are going for the most long-term approach, and you are looking to get the most out of your initial time investment, then a blog is the way to go.

To create a successful blog, you need to first have a very solid understanding of what your target audience is looking for in Google, and then write posts that target those commonly searched queries.

The same SEO techniques that you have used for finding a viable online course topic will also help you find the topics for your blog posts.

To identify your blog post topics, head over to our guide on this series How to find the best online course topics (that sell), and use those same techniques to identify 10 to 15 of the most commonly searched terms for your course subject.

You are going to have to use your knowledge of the domain at hand and think about what your students are typically looking for, and then cross-match that with the results that you get from your SEO investigation.

This should help you to determine at least 10 or so blog posts that match queries that are typically searched for by your potential students.

How to write high-quality long-form content?

You then need to go ahead and write those first 10 high-quality posts for your blog. Long-form content is the way to go, try to pick a topic and answer almost every question that a student might have about it, give examples, show graphics if applicable.

Ideally you should take the best post that you can find on the topic, and write a better and more useful version of it. Try to pack in a post as much value as possible while focusing on a single topic.

You shouldn't target a specific word count, simply answer in detail the most common questions and take as long as you need to provide the best possible answers, but not more.

You shouldn't write long posts for the sake of being long, but for the sake of making the post as useful as possible for the largest amount of people as possible, while sticking to a single search topic.

The importance of adopting an over-explanatory style in long-form content

In order for a post to be useful for the largest possible audience, it's important to make a minimal amount of assumptions about what the reader already knows.

Even if you believe that your readers already know something and feel tempted to gloss over it, you would be surprised at how many students both beginners and intermediate alike are looking for an answer for precisely what you thought that was obvious.

Even those readers that already know a bit about the topic might have learned it by gluing together tens of different blog posts with partial information, plus reading through hundreds of comments in forums.

Those readers are looking for confirmation for their understanding of the topic, as they are not sure about it and would like to read a comprehensive explanation somewhere.

So don't be afraid in your content to explain everything in detail, ideally you should adopt an over-explanatory approach and leave no stone unturned.

Once you have those initial 10 blog posts, your blog is launched and it should consistently bring you traffic for years to come, once the Google search traffic starts coming in, which will take months unless the topic is brand new.

How to make the most out of every blog post?

Make sure to optimize the title of your blog. The title of your blog will alone determine your post click-through rate in the search results, which is a search ranking factor by itself.

Blog posts with better titles will be clicked more often by users, which will put them higher in the rankings. This happens because human users will be attracted to certain titles, and click on them more often.

For educational content, titles with the use of parentheses tend to perform better, as well as titles with attention-grabbing words like: "Complete Guide", "Comprehensive", "In Depth", "Practical Guide", "Step-by-Step Guide.", etc.

The click-through rate of your titles is itself a ranking signal in search engines, so you can bring a post from page 2 to the middle of page one of search results literally just be changing the title, this has happened to us many times.

By the title of the post, we mean not only the visible title on the page. We mean mostly the invisible "title" HTML meta tag that is present on the page, and shown in search results.

You can edit this title hidden meta tag which can be added to any blog post (or web page in general) by using the metadata configuration of your blog in your blogging platform.

What blogging platform to use?

If you have a technical background and want to have full control of your blog look and feel and behavior, we recommend the Ghost blogging platform, that we use ourselves.

Otherwise, you can't go wrong with any of the major blogging platforms out there, like wordpress or wix. You will find tons of themes for them, and also freelance professionals readily available to create a unique branded blog theme for you at a very reasonable price.

How to generate income from your educational blog

Just writing great content is not enough. In order for the blog to be an effective support for your business, you need to brand it according to your courses, so that the readers can easily remember the blog and your brand in general.

It's essential to have some sort of fixed top menu, that scrolls together with the page and remains visible on top of the page at all times, just like in the case of this guide that you are reading.

In that scrolling top menu, you will have links to several of your courses, and to your website homepage. These top links convert at a very high rate and are not considered as scrolling ads by search engines, but instead they are considered website navigation elements.

It's also essential to link to your courses at the bottom of each blog post in the summary section, in order to send traffic to your courses that way as well.

How to collect student emails with your blog

Besides linking to your courses in various ways, you should also try to collect the student email so that you can retain that potential student for later, in case that they don't buy anything immediately, which is the most common case.

You can collect student emails very easily by using a web marketing software like for example Mailerlite. We don't have any commercial affiliation with them, we just use them because they provide an equivalent set of features for a fraction of the price than other more bloated companies with poorly maintained software and bad user experience.

With this or similar products, you can embed forms and popups in your blog, and collect user emails in an effective way. You can then email your audience weekly and have them come back to your site to read future articles, and potentially buy your courses via temporary promotions.

We are going to cover more in detail what types of coupons to send, and how to automate your email marketing for your online courses later on in this guide.

How to Grow Your Audience with a YouTube Channel

The other significant alternative that you have for bringing traffic to your online courses is to create a YouTube channel.

This is a very natural fit for online courses, as the audience on YouTube already knows that video is perhaps the easiest way to learn.

The big advantage of building a YouTube channel over a blog, is that you will get at least some traffic instantly.

The importance of thumbnails and titles in YouTube

For a video to work well on YouTube, a good thumbnail and title are just as important as the content. The thumbnail and the title will together determine your video click-through rate, meaning the percentage of users that click on the video to watch it after the thumbnail is displayed to the user.

But it's the content of the video that will ultimately determine the long-term success of the video. A video with a great click-through rate and poor watch time will fall quickly in search rankings.

For getting the most engagement, don't start your videos with an intro, but instead go straight into the topic at hand and explain in the first 15 seconds or so what the video will be about.

After those first 15 seconds, you can then show a small 3 second or so intro with your brand logo and your website address. Ideally throughout the video there will be some branding element that will make your videos easily recognizable, like a logo or powerpoint background.

Then provide an in-depth, self-contained answer about the topic, trying to answer the most common questions that the student might have.

At the end of the video, there should be a customized pitch with a call to action, ideally to watch another related video or click to view your website. In the case of online courses, you should mention that the topic of the video is covered much more in-depth in a related video course.

Best practices for growing your mailing list via YouTube

Unlike the case of a blog, in YouTube you are penalized for directing traffic to your online course website. This is because YouTube favors watch time and session watch time.

Your video is ranked not only on its own individual watch time performance, but also on its ability to encourage the user to keep watching other videos on YouTube, by prolonging the viewing session and keeping the user as long as possible in YouTube (and therefore making it possible to display more ads).

This means that YouTube videos that break systematically the viewing session by leading the user away from YouTube are going to be penalized over time, and perform worse.

In order to allow your channel to grow properly, it's essential to try to redirect the user to another one of your YouTube videos most of the times, and ideally to a whole playlist, and encourage the user to keep watching your channel as much as possible.

Only in occasional videos, you can then invite the user to exit YouTube, and direct them to one of your online courses.

As we can see,  this is a pretty big limitation of YouTube when compared to blogging, and one of the main reasons why we prefer blogging.

Either with blogging or YouTube, it's essential that you build an email list of potential students.

Build a long-term audience through Email Marketing

One of the most important assets that your online course business can have is its mailing list of potential students.

This mailing list is built either via a blog or a Youtube channel, and only contains persons that are interested in the topic that you teach, and that have already interacted with your brand at least once, but typically multiple times.

With this mailing list, it's very simple to  turn a percentage of these potential leads into paying students by following some simple email marketing best practices.

Using an email marketing tool like Mailerlite, you are going to start sending once a week or so an educational email to your audience, containing useful information about the topic that you teach.

One of the most important things to set up in your email marketing flow is a lead magnet. You can read all about how to to this in this separate blog post - The Perfect Lead Magnet for Your Online Courses?

How to create high-converting educational emails

If you want to learn how to write an effective educational email, I've written about it in detail here: Ethical Email Marketing For Online Course Creators.

The same techniques for writing great blog post titles or YouTube titles also apply here for writing email subjects.

Once the student opens the email, there should be some sort of branding element, like for example the thumbnail of one of your courses.

The goal of the email is to be educational, while at the same time make the student aware of your courses. The text of the email should be by itself useful and helpful to the student, but not too long.

Explaining one single concept or key takeaway about your course topic in your email in a few sentences will be sufficient. Another great idea for email content is to ask a question in the email subject and then answer it briefly in the email body.

Your email text should not just be a call to action asking the user to click on a link to watch a video or read a blog post, there should be enough value in the email itself for the student to know that the next email that they get from you is always worth opening and reading.

How to get sales from educational emails?

Besides some useful text content, it's important that the email contains a link to a sample video lesson, that you have freely available on your website, covering the subject of your email in even more detail.

The linked video will be a free sample lesson that is part of your premium video course. If the user watches it and is interested in checking what other lessons are available, it's all right there on the course playlist.

If the user wants to visit the course home page, it's all right there linked on the video lesson. This is a great way to get sales from each educational email without coming across as salesy at all.

All that you are doing is sending helpful information, and sending links to helpful free videos.  This type of educational videos should be sent out once a week, and should make for the largest percentage of your emails.

You can then monitor your emails performance, and you will notice over time that some emails do a lot better than others, in a way that is quite hard to anticipate.

How to use an email marketing sequence to promote online courses

The emails that are particularly successful can then be scheduled to be regularly sent to new subscribers of your email list, via an automated email scheduler functionality that is available in most email marketing tools.

An email scheduler can be used to send your best performing emails to your new subscribers weekly, in a predetermined sequence. This way, the work that you put into writing a weekly newsletter email is going to be reused over and over again.

This feature is known as an email sequence, in email marketing terms. We don't recommend that you build your full email sequence upfront, as it's very hard to anticipate what your audience likes the most.

Instead, it's recommended to only write your first email of the sequence, which will be your welcome email. This is the email that is going to get the highest open rate of your sequence, so it needs to create a great first impression.

In this email, you can give the student an important resource that they are looking for. In the case of an online course business, the best thing that you can give them is a link to a free course.

This free course will be available in your website, right next to your premium courses.

How often to send educational emails?

We don't recommend that you send more than one automated email a week, for example on Tuesday.

Then on another day of the week, for example on Friday, you can send your weekly newsletter, pushing new content to your students. If one of these weekly emails does particularly well, then you can add them to the email sequence to have it sent to new users.

This way, you are building your email sequence based on your student's feedback, and by monitoring the statistics of each email, as opposed to spending a lot of time upfront coming up with the whole email sequence.

Remember, by adding a link to a free lesson on your course website, each email should help with sales by itself.

But besides these weekly educational/product awareness emails, you can also occasionally send commercial emails with discount coupons.

When to send promotional emails?

Emails with promotional coupons should be sent only every once in a while, typically separated by several months.

If you start sending these emails regularly, then your audience will tune you out. Worst, email software like Gmail is probably going to systematically send you to the Promotions folder, which has a much lower open rate.

Explicitly promotional emails are better sent ideally only a few times a year, in special occasions like for example Black Friday, Cyber Monday, New Year, or some other yearly event, or other rare occasion in general.

How to promote a course launch via email marketing?

Another option is to send this type of email every time that you publish a brand new course, and send educational emails in-between while the course production is ongoing.

As the course gets recorded each week, you can then publish the available lessons on your website, and send a weekly link to a free sample lesson.

You can even pre-sell your course, with no lessons being available initially, and then publish new lessons weekly as they become available.

One-Time coupons, Bundles, and Subscription Coupons

So what type of coupons should you be sending to your students in these occasional emails? If you are using a one-time sales model with no subscriptions available, then you can send a fixed-price launch coupon:

OnlineCourseHost.com fixed-price coupons

Why use course bundles?

Fixed price coupons work great initially, when you only have a couple of courses available.

But once you have at least 3 or more courses, you can start creating course bundles, and go for higher ticket sales.

For that, you can bundle several courses together and sell the bundle at a higher price, comparing the bundle price with the total price that the student would have to pay to buy each course separately:

OnlineCourseHost.com - creating a course bundle

If you are wondering how to price your bundle, it all depends on the value of each of the courses.

But to make it very concrete, you need to propose a huge discount that is still believable. Let's say that you are selling 4 courses at $50 each, for a total of $200.

A bundle price that works very well for higher ticket online sales is for example $89, which would be a 55% discount. This would typically bring a ton of sales in a single email!

In fact, it's in the day that you send one such email and you get a couple of thousands of dollars of sales overnight that you are going to fully realize the power of email marketing for course promotion.

To understand the psychology behind this $89 price, we recommend reading our guide How to sell online courses? A complete marketing strategy, as well as this pricing psychology guide.  

Why use subscription coupons?

As we explain in that same guide, we believe that a subscription-based model is the way to go for selling online courses, while still using one-time sales mostly as a comparison point.

This means that subscription coupons are even better than bundles, because they are recurring! And discount coupons for yearly subscriptions instead of monthly will naturally lead to recurring higher ticket sales.

A great strategy is to send these subscription coupons only at certain times of the year, for example at Black Friday, New Year, and other unique occasions:

OnlineCourseHost.com Subscription Coupons

Note that all of these promotional tools (one-time discounts, bundles and subscription coupons) are available for free on the OnlineCourseHost.com platform.

We have presented here a series of closely related techniques, but let's now consolidate and summarize everything that we have learned.

Summary

So what is the best way to promote your online course?

The most effective way to promote your online course is an educational blog combined with email marketing. A blog is by far the best long-term investment of your initial content creation effort.

A blog, if well executed, brings more traffic than any other traffic source, including social media in general and YouTube in particular.

However, creating a blog is a long-term game as it might take 6 months or more for search engines to start bringing regular traffic to your website.

You can accelerate this process by posting links to your posts on forums like Reddit (without  spamming), or Q&A websites (like Quora).

This process will take a lot less if the topic is new and there is simply not much content available. If Google can't find any established blog posts on the subject, it will serve new blog posts instead.

Make sure to inform Google of the existence of your website by reporting it via the Google Search Console.

Note that installing Google Analytics will not serve that purpose. That is for tracking website performance metrics only, but it does not help with SEO.

The blog needs to link to your online courses via a top menu and on the body of each post, at the end in the summary section.

The blog should also have email marketing forms, for getting the student email. From there, you can send weekly educational emails which are useful by themselves, linking to free video lessons on your website.

Periodically, you can send promotional coupons in special yearly occasions. If you are using a one-time sales model, then course bundles are a great way to get higher ticket sales.

But for the long-term sustainability of your online course business, subscriptions are the way to go. If you are using subscriptions, you can send Yearly subscription coupons that offer a discount for the first year, and then from the second year forward the student pays full price.

We hope that this guide will help you get started promoting your online course, and that you will find your ideal audience!

If you want to learn more about online course creation, sales, and marketing in general, check out what else is available at the Course Creator Academy Home Page.

And if you are looking for a platform to host your online courses, create an account at OnlineCourseHost.com. Our free growth plan gives you access to all features.

To get notified when new content is available at the Course Creator Academy, you can subscribe here to our weekly newsletter:

The next recommended guide in my series is: How I started my online course business.

Any further questions?

If you have any other questions about online course creation in general or online course promotion in particular, please post them in the comment section below, or in our Course Creator Academy Facebook Group.

Either way, our team of course creation experts is happy to help you out.


Vasco Cavalheiro

OnlineCourseHost.com Founder & Online Course Creator

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