This guide shows how you can replicate my successful marketing projects for your own language courses (or app).
In a moment, we’ll dive into three examples of specific digital marketing channels you can use to drive more customers to learn a new language.
Before we do, there is a major challenge we need to cover. With ads, organic marketing, word of mouth and so many other channels but only 24 hours in a day, how do you pick the channels that give you the best results?
What most do is try a few Instagram posts, a Facebook ad here and there – and the occasional email update (when you have time).
Then they sit back with no real results yet they are looking at other people having crazy success and feel confused as to why things aren’t working for them.
It doesn’t feel good to realize but it happens to all of us at one point or another (incl. me).
The best way to go about it is to compare the data of each online marketing channel or funnel while considering the timeline and the resources you’ve put in.
Putting everything into a spreadsheet will give you a great overview and you can compare the performance of each channel against a core business goal like getting more paying students.
If you’ve stumbled upon this guide and your business is so new that you don’t have any paying customers, you can follow another approach:
Brainstorm ten ideas about how you can promote your language courses. Then pick the first one, set a goal (e.g. post weekly on X channel for two months) followed by logging the results and move on to the next item on your list. When you discover one that works for you, simply keep doing it!
With the quick introduction out of the way, let’s dive into organic search traffic first.
Ads, search and email: which channel is the best for marketing language courses
The less exciting point here is that there is no one size fits all – unfortunately, I can’t just tell you to go on X channel, do Y, and it will work.
People learn languages for a variety of reasons. For example, senior learners have different priorities than other adult learners which means they react to different messaging, too.
With that in mind, allow me to show you a strategy for each of the popular channels (ads, search, and email) that have driven great results for language courses in the past.
While you can’t replicate them 100%, you can use the idea behind it to drive customers for your language courses.
Organic search traffic: Growing a language blog from 0 page views to 5,000/day
The overarching strategy to go from 0 pageviews to 5000/day page-views is surprisingly simple.
However, that does not mean it is easy. The core focus here is leveraging a small team of writers to write strategic articles consistently over time.
Fortunately for us, there are still plenty of decent keywords available for you to drive traffic to your language courses.
Most of the keywords aren’t covered with good content, so don’t worry too much about things like getting backlinks just yet. They are important but you and the team can’t do everything at once.
There will be some keywords you can’t rank well simply because there are too many other businesses going after them. Or rather, you probably could but it won’t be worth the work you have to put in.
Let’s jump into how to find the right keywords to target. The process is as follows:
- Research subtopics
- Do keyword research to find keywords in those topics
- Analyze the keywords based on intent, volume, and difficulty
- Write content around each keyword
The first step is to find subtopics. For a language course, that could be:
- Spanish schools
- French verbs
- Remote Chinese language schools
Your team can generate these by brainstorming and searching online to get ideas. A good place to start is by using what Google suggests to you:
Once you have created a list of subtopics, it’s time to find specific keywords within each topic to build your content around.
There are many tools to help you out there. Google’s own Keyword Planner is a fine place to start. Below is an example around the topic ‘learn Spanish’.
When you’ve found a number of keywords in each subtopic, you’ll want to analyze them for intent, volume, and difficulty.
Keyword intent means what the user is trying to find based on the keywords they entered.
Someone searching for ‘Rosetta Stone Spanish’ seems to be looking for that company for learning in particular. While someone searching for “learn Spanish” probably hasn’t decided how and where they want to learn yet.
When you’ve found some keywords you think are relevant, you’ll want to look at the volume – does the number of monthly searches makes it worth it for your team to do the work to rank for that keyword?
Typically someone ranking number one (on the first page) on Google gets 33% of the traffic, the second one gets 15%, and from there it’s even less.
Say, you find a keyword with 100 searches a month. Even if you believe you can create amazing content, do you want to?
The result you are looking at is 33 clicks to your website monthly – not a lot.
When you’ve narrowed your list down by intent and volume, it’s time to estimate how difficult it will be to rank your content for that keyword.
There are a number of ways to figure this out. Besides looking at the bid range (on the right-hand side in the above screenshot), you can also look at the ‘competition’ row and do your own Google search to see what exactly people have written and how comprehensive that content is.
While researching, ask yourself if there is a way you can make something more comprehensive. Could your team add videos, infographics and write in-depth articles with more examples?
When you’ve done that for all the keywords you’ve narrowed down, you’ll have a smaller list and you can start getting your writers to create the content.
This will be the core of what will get you the organic search traffic. The next step is converting it into buyers. There are many ways to do that; free app trial, email newsletter, free class, etc.
Converting your traffic
In this example, I’ll use email subscribers – other popular offers are downloading a free app or giving away a free trial class.
Most businesses make a generic ‘sign up for our newsletter’ opt-in form. You’ll get much better performance by offering something specific.
Prepare something for them based on the most common customer service inquiries. If you hear people complain about not being able to remember the verbs, create a free PDF cheat sheet with verbs and set up an auto-responder (e.g. MailChimp) to automatically deliver it whenever someone signs up.
Rather than the typical 1%-5% opt-in rate, you might get as high as 15% when you discover the right giveaway for your audience.
If you want to scale with ads a good place to start is by offering the same opt-in in an ad campaign.
Many language businesses are interested in doing search ads. If that’s you, simply follow the keyword research process above and reuse the same keywords for your ads with the opt-in.
Another option that is typically more affordable than search ads is Facebook ads. The caveat is that it is easy to get user growth but actual paying customers is more challenging.
It is all about having the right tracking set up to track the audience all the way through the funnel to the sale.
Market language courses with Facebook ads: is it affordable?
This is an example of a Facebook ad campaign targeting language learners to sign up for an email newsletter.
I later wrote an automated email funnel to convert these subscribers as you’ll see in another section later in this article.
These Facebook ads were targeting language learners for an app. If you do your own customer research, you’ll probably uncover the same insights that I did – those are what turned the Facebook ad campaign above from $9/user into $0.53/user.
The overarching strategy here is:
- Do customer research to find a particular problem to solve
- Create a free gift around that problem
- Run three A/B testing rounds
Everyone skips the customer research-step and never understand why they don’t see good results. I made the same mistake at first.
Customer research allows you to discover the hidden pain points and desires, and using them in your campaigns improves the results greatly.
You can A/B test everything to no end. It might never stop because you can always come up with new test ideas. However, at some point even the biggest improvements are tiny. The key is always to only look at the most impactful tests.
Usually, the things that carry the most impact are:
- Target market/targeting
Testing those out first makes a lot of sense. Besides creating a free cheat sheet as a gift, you can create anything you think make sense. Below is another example of a chatbot that I turned into a language game quiz and ran via a Facebook ad.
Ultimately, it didn’t perform as well as the ads you saw above. Even though each player only cost $0.05(!) to acquire and 85% of the players finished the game, they didn’t convert well enough after that point to make it worthwhile.
An email funnel selling a $47-language-course (without coming across as sleazy)
I experimented with running Facebook ads and getting email signups to a language course. I sold it via a 5-day email sales funnel that focused on helping the audience first and then transitioning into sales after.
The email-funnel converted at 1% which might not seem like a lot on the surface until you consider the fact that the audience didn’t know anything about the business until seeing the ad and five emails before purchasing.
One approach is to create helpful emails for the first part of the sequence, like this example below (this is only part of an email).
And throughout the sequence switch to selling. They can be ethical and you don’t have to come across as a sleazy salesperson.