5 Conversion Rate Tips to Boost Your Course Sales

Conversion Rate Optimization for Online Courses

If you're not analyzing your course sales page's conversion rate and continually optimizing it, you could be leaving serious money on the table.

You’ve created your online course, navigated a successful launch, started executing on your marketing plan, and sales are beginning to roll in. If this is you…congratulations!

But let me pose a question to you which you might have neglected answering up until now even though it’s critical to the long-term success of any online course offering you produce.

What is your goal for this course?

When I set out to build my first online business, my primary goal was to eventually scale it to a level of income which would allow me to leave my full-time job. That meant I needed to grow my new business to $X per month to do so.

But how to I get to X?

Well, that part is pretty simple. There are dozens of ways to earn income from online businesses, but as we’re evaluating courses as potential vehicles for profit we’ll focus on product creation. This could be an e-book, a membership site, or an online course.

If you need to earn $5,000 per month to call your work offering courses full-time employment, you’ll have to find the sweet spot between what you charge for your course and what the demand might look like at that price.

Generally speaking, the more expensive a course becomes, the fewer the number of potential customers who can either 1) afford the price or 2) justify that the value is worth the price. If you’re charing $1,000 for your course you obviously only need five new customers per month. Sell the course for $100 and you’ll need 50, right?

However, regardless of how you slice this price versus sales volume puzzle, your primary goal is to reach that minimum number of new customers, be it 5 or 50.

And this is where conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes in!


Let’s Look at an Example

Your conversion rate is simply the percentage of visitors who come to your website and eventually purchase your course. Basically, how much traffic did you have and how many sales did you gain from that traffic.

Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is the processing of tweaking and testing different variables on the site which sells your course in an attempt to squeeze more sales out of the same number of visitors.

Easy enough, right?

While it sounds simple and something that every course creator should be or is already doing, the truth is that most aren’t. And it leads to money left on the table which could be helping those course creators claw their way toward their income goals.

Here’s an illustration to drive home the magnitude of what CRO implementation can do…

Let’s take an average online course offering with an average sales page, average content, and an average price which demonstrates value but doesn’t break the bank for most folks.

Then let’s say that our “average” site receives 50,000 unique visitors per year, or around 4,200 UVs per month. We’re charging $99 for our course and our conversion rate is, yes once again the average for online courses, around 1.5%. That puts us in the ballpark of 63 sales per month and a comfy $6,200 in sales.

But, what if we could take the exact same amount of traffic and increase our 1.5% conversion rate to 2.0%?

4,200 unique visitors x 2.0% conversion rate x $99 price = $8,300

That’s an increase of $2,100 per month or over $25,000 per year. Does that sound like a number which makes prioritizing CRO experimentation and testing worth the effort?


Great…But How Do I Boost My Conversion Rate?

We’re glad you asked! Let’s dive in…


1. A/B or Split Testing

If you’ve ever produced even a single blog post, you likely very well know that you can fret over the title of that blog post for as much time as it took you to write the piece.

Split testing is the process of presenting different versions of our course’s sales site elements to different visitors. For example, we may show one version of our sales page’s headline to 50% of our visitors and another to the other 50%. We can then analyze our conversions for each headline to determine which better fits our visitors.

But we can split test any number of variables on our sales page also. For your online course offering, this might be:

  • Headlines
  • Sales copy
  • Page formatting and navigation
  • Course offering (how you present what they’re receiving for the price)
  • Videos, images, and illustrations
  • Testimonials
  • Color schemes
  • Call to action elements
  • Course titles
  • Offering teaser lessons
  • Including bonuses

This isn’t an exhaustive list and you may recognize other elements of your site which could also be tested and improved upon. But do keep in mind…only test one variable at a time, otherwise you won’t get a true picture of how altering each variable affects your conversion rate.

My preferred tool for running A/B tests is a free product from Google called Google Optimize. Optimize allows you to easily create experiments through which you can present two versions of a single variant on your sales page.

After setting up your variant within your experiment, you’ll then select how to target the audiences which see each variant. You can choose from a number of targeting rules to mix up your A/B testing by referral URL, visitor behavior, geographic location, the visitor’s technology, and more.

Just be sure that the A and B target groups are somewhat similar in the overall demographic they pull in. For example, if you choose URL targeting and the A group comes from Google search results (visitors who previously had no idea who you were) while the B group comes from affiliates who are marketing your course for you (visitors who have already been “warmed up”), you’re going to skew your results and receive inaccurate test results. If we used geo targeting and ran A in California with B in New York, we’ll get a better representation of our average visitor.

You’ll also want to integrate Google Optimize with a Google Analytics account. If you don’t have an analytics account, it’s free to sign up and it will give you a wealth of information related to your testing. You’ll be able to compare metrics for A and B such as average page views, average time on site, bounce rate, number of visitors who reached the checkout page, and more.


2. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

What sets your course apart from all of the other offerings in your niche? What transformation will you deliver to a student once they complete your course? If you had 10 words to describe your course, how would you choose them?

These are difficult questions to answer and they require some deep reflection, possibly a little dreaming, and a big, bold, and confident statement.

But these are the questions used to craft what is likely the most important conversion element on your sales page, your unique selling proposition. Your USP concisely tells a visitor what they’re getting, why they need it, and why your course should be the only choice.

And this is one element you NEED to constantly split test.

Your USP can make the difference between “Eh, big deal…I’ve seen tons of those courses on Udemy” to “Where the heck is my credit card? These guys could close enrollment at any time!” You need to spend some time on this and craft it carefully.

You can begin by brainstorming words which reflect the value and content of your course as well as primary skills which will be gained and your ideal prospective customer. Typically, these words can then be sifted through and pieced together to form a powerful USP.

If you’re having a hard time with this one, take a look around online and see what other companies are making bold statements about their products. You can also check out one of our recent Course Creation Blueprint posts on creating unique USPs to set your course apart.


3. Address Objections

If your conversion rate from your existing sales page is 1.5%, that means 98.5% of those visitors came up with a reason NOT to purchase your course. One of the primary jobs your sales page is responsible for is beating your visitors to the punch and putting those reservations or fears at ease before they can even think of them.

This is an exercise I recently went through in a CRO course I signed up for and it was an eye opening experience.

Think of the entire process a visitor would go through from the time they land on your site to the time they click the Confirm Purchase button. Detail each step…I mean absolutely every action they take. Make a list of these steps and then determine which ones might likely invoke objections from your visitors. Once you’ve identified these objections, come right out and address them on your sales page.

For example, I went through this exercise for WP Courseware, our popular WordPress course builder plugin. My list of “self-talk” for potential visitors went like this:

  • It’s going to be too much work
  • I’m not an expert yet
  • I don’t know anything about WordPress
  • I don’t know anything about creating courses
  • What exactly is this product anyway
  • It probably won’t sell
  • It probably won’t work with my plugins/themes
  • It probably doesn’t have the functionality I need
  • How long have these guys been around
  • Do they even update this plugin anymore
  • Is this a reliable and secure site for my credit card
  • I’ve read some questionable reviews online
  • You mean I have to pay every single year
  • Why can’t I get a look at this thing first
  • Can I get my money back
  • It’s just too expensive

Once I had this list, I was able to identify the potential conversion land mines and defuse them by answering them right up front. Tweaking or adding a single objection response can actually have a significant impact, so test them carefully. A good example is refund policies. The act of simply conveying to a visitor that they can get their money back if they’re unhappy creates a no-risk purchase and can make or break a single sale.


4. Build Trust

Trust elements are also great for A/B testing your conversion rate. This includes things like customer testimonials, cast studies, your credentials/background, social proof, or well known and trusted past customers of yours.

Trust can also be conveyed in the quality and level of service (or handholding) you promise to a prospective customer. If they are certain that you're genuinely interested in helping them succeed, they’re more likely to sign up for your course. This could include a course forum where they can get questions answered, bonus resources you’ve created to help them along, or even monthly live Q and A sessions if they get stuck.

The real estate on your sales page is valuable, so you only want to dedicate as much of it as is necessary to showcasing other people bragging on your course offering. Split testing trust variables allows you to find that balance between presenting what value you promise to deliver and what others are saying about your course.


5. Remove Distractions

Have you ever seen a “long-form” sales page? You know…the kind which looks like a letter, includes hundreds of lines of text, has very few images, and which has no navigation but simply has a big Buy Now button at the end?

Honestly, they drive me crazy. But guess what…they work!

These types of sales pages do one thing and they do it well…they tell you what you’re getting, why you need it, how much better it is than the competition, what you’ll miss out on if you ignore it, and that you're about to miss out on the deal of a lifetime.

When creating a sales page, we don’t need to go to this extreme for our online course. Even though I’ve seen some relatively classy variations of the long-form sales page, the majority that I’ve seen give me a nice greasy “What’s it gonna take for me to get you to drive off into the sunset with this thing today?” kind of vibe.

However, we do want our course’s sales page to be focused and to do its job as effectively as possible. We want to keep our visitor moving toward that buy button and get rid of any unnecessary “Oh look! A squirrel!” moments.

That being said, there are certain elements of a sales page which, while not directly related to convincing someone to buy, may make an indirect impact on their decision. For example, if you’ve been writing authority blog posts in your niche for five years, it may build trust with a visitor to see that you’re passionate about the topic and educated as well.

In that case, even though redirecting a sales page visitor to anywhere other than that page is generally a no-no, you may want to place a link to your blog archive or excerpts from some of your popular posts.

But over the years, we’ve seen course sales pages which just include a number of elements that may not be having any impact on conversions. Split testing, once again, allows us to determine if that’s the best use of our real estate.

A good example is a course offering I saw which had a floating sidebar listing all of the course author’s social media profiles and the following she had on each. It was an impressive list and I’m sure it certainly went a long way in building authority and trust.

However, the five social media icons and following counts below each of them redirected straight out to the social media platforms without even opening a new browser tab. All I saw was five large, leaky holes which were siphoning visitors off to sites like Facebook at which point they thought to themselves “Oh yeah, I didn’t even check in on Facebook this morning…let’s see what’s up!”


It’s Your Turn!

Do you have strategies you’ve implemented through the use of A/B testing which delivered an improved conversion rate for your course? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

About Ben Arellano

Ben Arellano is one of the co-founders of Fly Plugins, creators of the first and most widely-implemented learning management system for WordPress, WP Courseware. Since 2012, he has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, corporate training departments, and higher education institutions develop and deploy online training courses from their WordPress websites.


  1. Derek Murphy on August 17, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    This was really useful thanks, love the breakdown, I’m nervous to raise prices but it’s the right move.

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