7 Sales Funnel Optimization Strategies For Online Course Businesses

Sales Funnel Optimization For Online Courses
Summary: There are numerous factors that determine the success of your endeavor into education. Here are 7 key tips that could make a significant difference in your path to success in the wide and varied world of online education.

How To Track And Optimize Your Conversion Funnel

Online learning has experienced sustained growth [1] over the past decade. The recent arrival of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has caused something of a boom in online courses that looks set to continue even after the rollout of a vaccine brings something of a return to "normality."

Online platforms like Udemy, Teachable, and Skillshare make the construction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) relatively straightforward for individuals looking to capitalize on their knowledge and experience or businesses aiming to find a new revenue stream through selling expertise.

With the upheaval of COVID and the larger swathes of free time that individuals are experiencing due to working from home, we may be set to embark on a golden age in remote learning. However, the act of simply creating a course and opening it up to users can be just as difficult as it is to release a product into a new market or optimize your website for more conversions.

There are plenty of new factors that determine the success of your endeavor into education, and here are 7 key tips that could make a significant difference in your path to success in the wide and varied world of online course creation.

1. Monitor Your KPIs

Of course, your ideal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will depend heavily on the nuances in how you’re marketing your online course and where it’s located.

If you’re listing your course on an online learning platform like Udemy, you’ll be looking at your course impressions, conversions, and bounce rates. Whereas, if you’re listing your courses on your website, you’ll need to study things like site visits, cart abandonment, conversions, bounceback, and revenue. Page loading speed needs to be considered too for web-based learning platforms—one of the golden rules of marketing is that any page taking more than three seconds to load [2] can kill campaigns before they have a chance to start.

Regardless of where you position your online course, it’s worth undertaking some SEO to make your service discoverable. Your search engine marketing will display KPIs that need to be monitored, too. Track your ad clicks, impressions, click-through rates, and the costs of each acquisition. This tracking process should be undertaken on a daily basis to ensure that you’re not throwing money away.

Measuring your KPIs and the conversions they leverage is imperative in aiding you to make more intelligent decisions about how you market your courses. Given that 2020 has been a chaotic and tumultuous year, there’s plenty of new room to be explored in the world of online course marketing and after a few campaigns, you may find yourself in an advantageous position to make smarter advertising decisions than your competitors.

2. Keep Track Of App Conversions

KPIs can also optimize your conversions in mobile marketing, and depending on the platform you use, you could monitor factors like a user’s average daily session time on your app or that of the platform owner. Other KPIs can involve the rate of free users who convert to a premium subscription or the average time each user spends on your app. These can help you fine-tune your service and ensure that you continue to win customers without losing valuable ground to competitors.

It’s possible to utilize Google Ads to promote iOS or Android mobile apps [3]. You can use conversion tracking in order to see how effective your ad clicks lead to app installs and in-app activity too. Simply set up an advert that links to the app and then sign into Google Ads and select App Campaigns to view factors like "engaged-view conversions," "clicks," and "engagements."

As the COVID pandemic gives way to a vaccine, we may see even more mobile users looking to continue their educational courses as they revert to using public transport on a more regular basis. With this in mind, it could be worth spending more time on tracking mobile conversions moving forward.

3. Check Your Source And Cost Attribution

If you’re in a position to set up your analytics and CRM to display where leads come from and when they occur, then you can comfortably monitor your source attribution and the breakdown of where the leads were generated. This can help you to understand where campaigns can be improved and which sources are performing better than others.

Whether you’re looking to promote it across online course platforms [4] or your own website, knowing the channels in which your leads originated and the money you spent in winning them can be significant in financially optimizing your campaigns.

From a financial perspective, it’s important to match up the money spent with the month in which the leads were generated. This is essential in working out how cost-effective your lead sources are. Each source will have different lead numbers and costs for comparison.

You can also take the financial breakdown as a key indicator as to what you should optimize next for the best returns as well as what’s underperforming to the extent that it should be cut.

4. Consider Releasing Free Content

When it comes to sales funnel optimization, one of the best ways in which you can entice a user into the precipice of your funnel is through the medium of free content. In the industry of online learning, this is particularly important because it’s difficult to market an experience in an industry where courses can be so varied depending on the subject matter.

Your online courses will no doubt cover a wide range of topics, so here it’s worth identifying a certain aspect of your course that potentially solves a common problem within your target audience. Next, you could either copy this snippet of help into a sample from your course or create content around the problem and its solution.

The idea behind this optimization technique is to provide value to your target audience [6] upfront for free by sharing the sort of content that’s designed to help them. This can earn their trust and position you as an expert in the field.

Your content doesn’t have to be limited to a blog post or course snippet. You could prospectively create a podcast showcasing your expertise, or even a video to upload to YouTube. The content itself isn’t the most important thing here. The biggest factor is that you’re demonstrating value and opening up the range of ways you’re making yourself discoverable to audiences.

These new sources for potential traffic can easily be tracked using web analytics tools like Google Analytics later on.

5. Refresh Your Approach To SEO

On the topic of free content, it’s vital that you adapt your SEO approach to the more nuanced needs of online learning and the marketing that surrounds it.

Be sure to monitor what keywords users are searching for that could feasibly draw traffic back to your own pages. There are tools like Ahrefs that are excellent for identifying prospective keywords to encase within the content to draw new visitors to your pages or uploads. If you’re making videos on YouTube, you can also verbally mention keywords and later automatically transcribe the video to make its content more discoverable.

Here, you’re effectively maximizing your chances of being discovered by users online through keywording. This can be conducted just about anywhere, whether it’s on your own website, blog, or via social media accounts. It simply builds the exposure users have to the tip of your sales funnel [7] and invites them in.

6. Build Audience Segments

Google Analytics is a great tool for understanding your audience. The platform is great for learning audience interests, browsing behavior, and demographics. With the knowledge that you gain from these insights, it’s possible to build more fitting campaigns and convert better.

Building audience segments in Google Analytics can be done by navigating to Audience > Interests > Overview. In this overview, you can access a broad range of demographics that you can gradually fine-tune by gender, age, and the various interests of your existing users.

Based on what you discover, you can set up segments to target your campaigns better. Each segment represents a subset of your Analytics data; for instance, all users based in the United Kingdom, or all users aged between 31-39.

It’s also possible to create custom segments based on user behavior,  like how often they’ve visited your site or course information page, your traffic source, or demographic information. These insights can not only be great for winning new like-minded customers, but it can also be an effective means of retargeting.

Once you’ve created a segment, it can be used to market towards a new audience. Subsequently, that new audience can be targeted through AdWords for more specific and rewarding campaigns.

7. Track Your Source Of Revenue

Although it’s a little bit more advanced, Google Analytics also helps you to better track your revenue sources and gain a comprehensive understanding of where your money is actually coming from [8].

This can be done through the use of unique client IDs and Google Analytics Measurement Protocol [9]. When integrated, it can allow developers to measure user activity, match online and offline behavior, and send data to both the data and server.

The process involves getting the Analytics client ID from the cookie at the time of form submission, saving the ID with your CRM, and sending data for each closed sale back to Analytics with the client ID using the Measurement Protocol API.

Revenue sources can also be forensically tracked using Urchin Tracking Module parameters and the level of funnel analysis offered by analytics platforms like Finteza and Google Analytics, where each stage of sales funnels can be tracked based on hover events, click-throughs, file downloads, and checkout journeys.

The world of online courses has grown exponentially in recent years, and it looks set to continue booming even after the arrival of COVID vaccines bring a certain degree of normality back into everyday life.

To effectively tap into this world of potential revenue streams for educators, it’s vital that you effectively optimize your sales funnels and track conversions in order to fend off mounting competition. In a market that’s still developing, you could position yourself as a leader in your field of expertise with the right blend of insight, organic search, and targeting.


[1] The Rise Of Online Learning

[2] Conversion Tracking 101: What It Is, and Why It's Important

[3] About mobile app conversion tracking

[4] 17 Best Online Course Platforms

[5] Want More SEO Traffic?

[6] How to Create a Sales Funnel to Sell Online Courses

[7] Create a Sales Funnel for Online Courses – 10 Steps


[9] Measurement Protocol Overview

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