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Want Fast Sales for your Online Course? It’s Time to Use Google Ads (Adwords)

Ever wonder how some course creators have millions of social media followers, and thousands of online reviews and become successful overnight?
It’s Google AdWords.
AdWords and online education go together like pumpkin and spice for a good reason: it works.
While it’s always a pay-to-play landscape loaded with risk in both your time and money, Google ads are worth it. Just like back in the days when businesses used yellow pages, advertising on Google is pretty much the same. It’s like running a full-page ad there, where you just target customers searching for specific terms. And because you only pay for the people who click on your ads, you get a good grip on your costs for effectiveness.
Here’s how to rock Google ads even if you are a first-timer.

Table of Contents

  • Why Google ads can accelerate your online course sales pipeline
  • Set your Google ads campaign
  • Define your customers
  • Choose the type of your Google ad campaign.
  • Choose your targeting and audiences
  • Set your bid
  • Write your ad extensions.
  • Write your ad copy
  • Track conversions and measure your success

Why Google?

Here are three top reasons you should be advertising on Google, and if these can’t convince you, nothing can…

Reason #1

Immense reach and a high average ROI

Handling more than 40,000 search queries every second, a total of more than 1.2 trillion web searches every year, Google is by far the most popular search network. Even offline in our daily life, it’s almost impossible to go a single day without saying or hearing someone say, “just Google it.”
With the increasing integration of machine learning and artificial intelligence, this epic search volume is likely to increase along with the potential for online course advertisers to reach new customers. And unless you are selling online courses that appeal to anyone, you need a platform that reaches even the most segmented and specific audiences.
Nothing compares to Google in doing that. What’s more, is that it’s also great at producing a high return on your investment.
According to Google’s Economic Impact Report, advertisers generate $2 for every $1 spent. An average of doubling your investment!
In this article, we’ll share some tactics to improve that ROI even more!

Reason #2

Google’s ad options fit the online education business model and goals

Advertising on Google is far from being a one-trick pony. It’s packed with diverse features so that online course creators in every industry can find success. It offers an unparalleled level of customization and control to make ads more compelling and enticing to tap into new prospective student markets, generate more inquiries and build a brand reputation.

Reason #3

Google ads generate fast course sales with less work

Nothing could be farther from the truth than believing that setting the largest advertising budget will make you automatically “win.” 
Fortunately, Google advertising is an A-level playing field where the focus is primarily on the quality and relevance of ads, not how much advertisers spend. This is why smart advertisers who focus on providing a better user experience using relevant, optimized, high-quality ads rarely have to bid as highly as advertisers with poorer ads. You can launch a Google ads campaign and generate online course sales INSTANTLY. That’s far less work than planning out your SEO and social media strategy.

Set up your Google ads campaign

There are a few things you need to outline first before carrying out your campaign: 

Define your Call-to-Action (CTA)

To do so, you need to define what success looks like for your campaign. 
What do you want users to do after they click your ad? Do you want them to buy your course, join your email list, or take any other action? Most importantly, each ad group should only focus on one goal. If you have more than one goal, you need more than one ad group in your campaign.
Examples of goals

  • Make a sale
  • Acquire leads 
  • Increase website visits
  • Encourage potential customers to explore your courses
  • Build brand awareness
  • Promote your online education e-learning app 

Set your budget
Without a concrete number in mind, you’ll bankrupt your budget in no time.
Since AdWords works on a daily budget basis, figure out your total monthly ad spend budget, then divide that by 30. 
Make sure the number you get is real. Having a $20 monthly budget with a goal of making 30 sales of a $1,000 course isn’t going to cut it, right?
Create your landing page
If your goal is to generate sales for your online course, you should make a dedicated page for it. This prevents potential customers search for what the ad promised and confusing them. 
Landing pages are also great for highlighting a specific sale or anything else you want visitors to focus on without getting distracted.
Bottom line: Make sure your landing page is clear, and easy to navigate with a strong call-to-action that invites users to complete your goal.

Define your customers

Once you’ve set your goals, you need to know who you’re targeting to figure out how to impact them with a relevant strong message for a positive user experience.
Here’s how to do that.

Step 1: Keyword Research

You’re most probably familiar with doing keyword research for content marketing, but here are a few additions:

  • Ensure they approach each stage of the buyer journey.
  • They are specific to the online course you are promoting.
  • Grouped in relevant lists of 10-20 keywords.

 Choose your keywords wisely because these are what will determine when your ad appears. Go beyond clear keywords such as “online vegan cooking course” or “online graphic design certification.” These may be effective but more competitive, which means you’ll have to pay more to gain them. Instead, opt for long-tail keywords with lower search volumes but higher conversions, all at a lower bid price.
Next comes determining your keyword match.

Keyword Match

They come in three levels of specificity: 

  • Broad match
  • Phrase match
  • Exact match

The keywords you normally choose will be a broad match by default. But although they tend to have higher clicks and lead to more exposure, they usually come at the expense of conversions.
A phrase match means that your ad will appear whenever your keywords are a part of a phrase. So, if you put “cooking course” in quotation marks, you’ll appear in searches for “free cooking course” or “online cooking course.”
Placing your keywords in brackets is the way to do an exact match. Your ad will only be displayed when someone searches for “cooking course” and won’t appear under any other searches. This works great only if your keyword is very targeted toward people who are ready to buy. Otherwise, the chances for converting will be as low as if you were using a broad match.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords increase your chance of conversions by controlling which searches your ad won’t appear in. These are great money-savers, especially if your keyword is usually associated with a set of other terms that aren’t likely to convert.
For instance, by including “free” in your negative keyword list, it means your ad will appear in searches for “online cooking class” but not in searches for “free online cooking class.”

Pro tip: Create a foreign language account with a wide negative keywords list if you targeting English-speaking countries and your content is in English (remove words from all other languages). If you target the USA for example, there are many Spanish-speaking people there, and they search in this language. Google will show your ads to them, but since your content is in English the conversion rate would be too low because you don’t know Spanish and it is very difficult to optimize the search terms. The same applies to Canada and the French language.

Branded keywords

There is no point in targeting your branded keywords. When someone is searching for your business, they already know you, right?
Not really.
You must advertise your own brand keywords for several reasons:

  • Brand reinforcement: When potential customers see your business name in ads on their search, this gives them more links to click for your website and shows that you’re serious about your business.
  • Survive traffic diversion: If you don’t target your brand keywords, your competitors will do it instead, diverting your traffic to their site.
  • High conversion: It isn’t likely that your branded keywords will cost a lot, but you’ll make it back in sales as users searching for them are ready to buy. 

You can compile an effective keyword list using keyword research tools. The most widely used one is Google Keyword Planner.

Google Keyword Planner

This is a free tool provided by Google ads to discover new keywords, and get search volume and forecasts for how they might perform.

  • Discover New Ideas

Enter a keyword related to your business, select the target location and language, and you’ll get lots of keyword ideas.

  • Get search volume and forecasts

Enter your keywords list and get historical metrics and forecasts of those keywords. 

Apart from Google Keyword Planner, other tools that help you research keywords and promote your online courses include: 

  • Google Trends
  • Google Suggestions
  • Ubersuggest
  • Keywords Finder

Legal hacking plot

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just get access to your competitor’s keywords sheet? They have already tested and optimized their Google ad campaign and have figured out which keywords, ads, and landing pages work in your market. KeywordsSpy is one of the tools that provide easy access to your competitor’s historical advertising information. Go to, set up your account, and start your free trial.

Step 2: Develop a strong message

To write down some key messages and attract customers think about
what you can say about your course to get people to click on your ad instead of the competition. Do you have a unique value proposition?
Also, plan out different calls to action with different variations to try out and discover what works best for you.
Now it’s time to create your campaign.
Let’s hop in.

Choose the type of your Google ad campaign

Based on the goals and objectives that you’ve set in the previous step, here is where the role of Google Ads types campaign types comes into play to make the results fruitful.

Choosing the ad campaign type will help you determine the ad’s placement and format properly.

1. Search Campaign: 

Your search ads appear on Google search results and other Google partner sites, like YouTube, when users search for online courses or institutes like yours.

2. Display Campaign: 

You can broaden your reach and exposure with Google Display ads as they appear across more than two million sites and apps.

3. Video Campaign: 

This allows you to display your ads on your own videos or within other video content on YouTube and across Google’s network of websites and apps. You only pay when viewers choose to watch your ad. 

4. Shopping Campaign: 

A shopping campaign can be very useful if you have a local store selling products related to your online courses or institute. These ads show next to search results and near text and responsive ads to provide detailed information about what you’re selling before a customer even selects your ad.

5. App Campaign: 

These are displayed across Google Search, and it’s a network of websites and apps. With this type of campaign, you can increase engagement, installs for your education app, and in-app actions as well as signing up for a newsletter.

6. Smart Campaign: 

Smart campaigns allow you to run automated ads and take advantage of minimal hands-on ads management while bringing you results based on your ad goals, like customer calls or actions on your website.

7. Discovery Campaign: 

These are ideal for visually rich personalized ads, but you’ll first need to set up conversion tracking in your account.

Choose your targeting and audiences

You have three targeting options to select from to target the audience whom you want to reach.

1. Location Targeting: 

Select whether you want your promotion to be specific to a location or open to all countries and territories. You can use the exclusion feature if you want to block your ads from appearing in certain regions.

2. Language Targeting

This helps you target the audience who speaks the language of the online course you’re promoting.

3. Audiences: 

This helps you decide who will be your target audience. You can create new audiences in Audience Manager.

Set your Bid

Next, you need to set your bidding strategy, which depends on your campaign goal. If your goal is to sell your online course more, “Maximize Conversions” is the way to go. Based on historical data, your ad will be then shown to users more likely to buy. If your goal is to increase website visitors, you want to maximize clicks instead. Instead of focusing on whether the users convert or not, this optimizes your campaign for the highest number of clicks.
You can gain more control of your campaign if you choose “Manual CPC,” so you can set a specific bid amount for each keyword.
This is great if you want to maintain being on the first page of search results. You set your ad to run daily and automatically bid for what it takes to get you on the front page.

Write your ad extensions

Before creating your ads, you need to write your campaign’s ad extensions which add more depth to your ads than the standard two-lined headline.
You should always use sitelinks and callout extensions in your campaigns, highlighting what makes you unique and providing more links.
Now it’s time to write a compelling ad copy.

Pro Tip: Always include all eligible extensions for your search campaigns to increase CTR, another thing you can do in order to optimize further is to create ad extensions per ad group to improve performance on the ad group level.

Write your ad copy

For a search campaign, your ad must include:

  • A compelling headline that is up to 25 characters
  • Two lines of description with up to 35 characters for each line.
  • A URL to direct people to your online course page.

Don’t expect to write your ads once at the beginning and then never touch them again.
Experimenting with ad copies is paramount to your campaign’s success.
Create 3-5 ads for each keyword group and test out different ads. After a few weeks, remove the non-performing ones and try some new tweaks to get the best performance.

Pro Tip: 

Always try to include your keywords in the headline and in the description, plus add a clear call to action at the end of the description and in the headline. If you choose to create responsive search ads you can control the headline and description positions by pinpointing the ad parts.

Track conversions and measure your success

Knowing which campaigns generate the best return on investment is key to ensuring an appropriate marketing budget allocation.

1. Measure return on investment (ROI)

Always measure the ROI on Google Ads in order to evaluate the investment you’ve made. ROI is the ratio of costs to net profits based on your specific marketing goals. It reflects the real effect of your advertising efforts. 
To find the ROI, you need to measure the important actions taken by customers to meet the goal you’ve set. It could be purchases of your course, website visits, leads, or video views. These actions are called conversions.

2. Measure Google ads performance

Other metrics to track include clicks, impressions, CPC (cost per click), cost per conversion, and your average cost per conversion. Make sure also to check your keyword bids on AdWords. It will show you when your bid is too low to appear on the first page of the results.

3. Calculate Profit

Knowing if your ads are making you money is more important than knowing how much a conversion is costing you.
Take a look at your average cost per click and cost per conversion. What is the sale value you’re getting from that conversion?
Does the math add up?
If the cost per conversion is too high, targeting your ads and narrowing down your keywords to a more defined audience is the way to go. 
Reach out to one of our Adwords specialists to learn more about and start leveraging Google advertising benefits now. 

Turn off Google’s suggestions

AdWords offers improvement suggestions in the upper right corner. But our Google ads experts recommend you ALWAYS turn off autosuggestions from Google. They’ve seen many accounts with thousands of CPAs and only one sale worth a couple of dollars only because Google adds thousands of new broad match keywords to the ad group.
Here’s how to do it.


Running a Google ads campaign can boost your online course sales fast and add a lot to your bottom line.
But, it also requires optimization, maintenance, and constant testing of new ads to get the best results.
Unlike long-term strategies like social media and SEO, you can see immediate success with Google advertising. And while it’s not a standalone marketing plan, it is an excellent addition to a strong marketing strategy for your online education business.

Good Luck with your strategy!

Think Orion: The higher education marketing agency and ed tech ads agency where you can get smart optimization and potential leads.

Manno Notermans

Manno is a wanderer of the world looking to make an impact and change the world for the better. He has over 10 years of experience working in various marketing positions. Manno’s main focus the past few years has been accelerating the growth of businesses, increasing revenue, and profit with out-of-box creative ideas and implementations.