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SEO & blogging for online course creators - How to rank your products

Make SEO part of your marketing strategy. In this guide to SEO for digital products, you'll learn how to optimize content, drive traffic, and boost sales.

You’re going about your day, and you run into a question. What do you do?

  1. Look up the answer in the encyclopedia.

  2. Phone a friend.

  3. Google it.

If you chose option C, you’re not alone. Google sees approximately 63,000 search queries every second. That’s 5.6 billion searches per day and approximately two trillion searches every year.

​​When people look for information, advice, and products online, most of us start with Google. Which means that if you’re trying to sell digital products, your content and products need to show up on Google.

Enter search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO can be confusing and complex, especially if you’re new to online marketing. And if you’re running your own business, chances are you’re too busy creating valuable educational content to learn the ins and outs of Google’s latest algorithm update.

That’s why we put together this guide to making SEO a part of your online marketing strategy. We’re sharing four tips and tactics for using SEO to sell more digital products.

But first, what exactly is SEO? And why does it matter for creators?

What is SEO? (And why do you need it?)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website, content, and products easier for people to find via search engines.

Optimized content shows up higher on the search engine results page (SERP) for relevant keywords and phrases. The more you optimize your content, the easier it is for new people — a.k.a. potential customers — to discover it through search.

Organic search is responsible for 53% of all online traffic, and almost 39% of all ecommerce traffic comes through search.

Showing up high on the SERP can make a big difference. The first five results of any Google search account for 67.6% of all clicks, and only 7% of searchers will go past the first page of results.

SEO is also less expensive and more effective than traditional advertising. A Databox survey found that 70% of marketers say that SEO is better than pay-per-click (PPC) ads for generating sales. That’s why 69% of marketers are investing in SEO in 2021.

If SEO seems intimidating, take a breath and have heart. Google is constantly updating its algorithm, and as a small business owner, you don’t have time to stay on top of every tweak and nuance.

Instead of obsessing over tiny details, remember that Google’s algorithms want the same thing you do: the best possible customer experience. So while it’s definitely a task you can outsource to SEO professionals, you can also DIY your SEO.

What does SEO look like in action?

If I’m a college student struggling to manage my budget, I might do a Google search for “budgeting for college students”.

When you optimize your content — a blog post, your online course sales page, or even your entire website — for that search term, you’re more likely to show up on the first page or two of search results.

And if I click on your page, I’ll discover your content, see you have the expertise I’m looking for, and maybe even sign up for your course.

The featured snippet for the search “budgeting for college students” shows this blog post from Clever Girl Finance, a website that offers free and paid content dedicated to helping women overcome debt and gain capital.

The idea is this:

With the right SEO tactics, you can compete for that coveted top spot in the search results — and watch your digital product sales roll in the higher you rank. Keep reading to learn how.

4 ways to sell more digital products with SEO

1. Conduct keyword research

Keyword research helps you identify your ideal keywords: what terms you want your content to rank for.

Before you embark on your keyword research expedition, there are two types of keywords to know:

  1. Head terms

  2. Long-tail keywords

Head terms are broader keywords with higher search volume and more results. For example, a search for the head term “online courses” generates over five billion results.

To rank for “online courses”, you’d have to outrank five billion other pages, which would probably require some serious budget.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, tend to have lower search volume, lower competition, and higher conversion rates than head terms.

For example, “online courses on SEO for beginners” yields far fewer results — 51 million compared to five billion — and targets a more specific audience.

Instead of browsing all online courses, people who search for this long-tail keyword are looking for an online course on a certain topic.

So, focus your keyword research on finding the long-tail keywords that your potential customers will use to find your blog and courses.

There are several keyword research tools out there to help you find the right keywords to target. One of the most popular is Google Keyword Planner.

Free for anyone with a Google account, Google Keyword Planner helps you discover which keywords people are searching for in your niche. You can see monthly search volume and forecasted search volume, plus discover keyword ideas to help you reach your audience.

For more recommendations, check out these 11 free SEO tools that help with keyword research, link building, and more.

Finally, as you put together your list of keywords, think about user intent. Who is the person behind the search? What are they looking for?

Google takes user intent into account while ranking content. There are three main types of user intent in search queries:

  1. Informational: Looking for information on a certain topic or problem.

  2. Navigational: Searching for a specific brand’s website or content.

  3. Transactional: Ready to buy products and services.

If someone searches “What does a marketing consultant do?”, that’s an informational query. Chances are they’re not ready for an all-out sales pitch for your course on consulting. Trying to rank with content that’s an all-out sales page probably won’t go well for you.

Bottom line: Content that matches user intent creates a better user experience. Make your content useful to the people who find it by targeting the context and intent around keywords rather than keywords for keywords’ sake.

Once you know which keywords you want to target, it’s time to optimize your content. Let’s start with your product descriptions.

2. Optimize your product descriptions

You can write the most amazing product descriptions in the world, but they won’t help you sell more digital products unless the right potential customers read them.

To get your products in front of the right people, write your product descriptions with SEO in mind. But make sure that you’re writing for people first, search engines second.

Instead of using as many keywords from your research as you can, incorporate them into your copy in a way that feels natural and easy to read.

When you get to know your audience through customer research, it’s easier to put them first in your sales copy. One of our favorite forms of customer research is reading reviews.

For example, say you’re writing a description for a digital download about dog training. You could search Amazon and read the reviews of books on that topic, like Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days:

From these reviews, you can see that dog owners want empowering and easy-to-understand content. You can focus on those benefits in your product description.

Reviews also show you what language your audience uses when talking about — and searching for — your topic. Connect with them and match their search intent by using the same language in your product description.

Last but not least, optimize your product descriptions by keeping them simple and focusing on benefits.

When you have a product that you’re super proud of, it can be tempting to list out every single detail. But a laundry list of features doesn’t always make for fascinating (or SEO-optimized) copy.

Here’s why: Features are all about your product. Benefits are all about your audience seeing results. To write better sales copy, highlight the results your audience will gain from your product. How will it help them solve their problems? Why do they need it to achieve their goals?

Minessa Konecky’s Social Strategy Squad Membership product page is a great example of a product description that focuses on benefits and results.

Instead of tons of keyword-stuffed paragraphs covering every little detail about her membership, Minessa’s product description is concise, value-packed, and tells readers exactly what they’ll gain from her membership.

Product descriptions aren’t the only place to optimize your content. Check out our next tip on building a content marketing and SEO powerhouse: Your blog.

3. Write high-quality blog content

People love blogs.

77% of internet users read blogs, and those in the U.S. spend 3X more time on blogs than on email. Blogs are good for your bottom line, too. Businesses with a blog generate about 67% more leads than those without one.

Content marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand. 80% of people read, watched, or listened to a piece of content from a brand in the last year. SEO helps the right people find your content.

When you optimize your blog posts for a specific search query, you have a better chance of showing up on the SERP. Your target audience is more likely to find your quality content, visit your blog, and, once they trust your expertise, buy your digital products.

If you use WordPress (like 60 million other websites), the Yoast SEO plugin helps you optimize your blog content right from your WordPress site editor.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You enter the keyword or phrase that you want your post to rank for.

  2. Yoast checks your content and tells you whether you’re using the keyword enough and in the right spots.

Yoast also lets you preview how your post will look on the SERP.

It’s not enough to include as many keywords as possible in your blog post, though. In fact, it can actually hurt your ranking.

As I mentioned earlier, Google’s algorithm cares about creating a top-tier experience for searchers, and that means showing them high-quality content. “Keyword stuffing” — using a ton of keywords without proper context — can violate Google’s quality guidelines.

Instead, focus on creating content that answers your audience’s questions and provides real value to them. Blog posts that are longer and dig deeper tend to rank higher on the SERP.

HubSpot reports that the ideal length for a blog post for SEO is between 2,100 and 2,400 words. A survey by Orbit Media found that the majority of bloggers who write 3000+ word articles report “strong results”.

If a 3000-word article seems like an impossible feat, don’t worry. You don’t need to publish new blog posts every day (or even every week) to build a successful blog. When it comes to blog content, it’s about quality over quantity.

And if you’re short on time, you can still create valuable content for your blog by repurposing your content. For example, you can repurpose video content or podcasts by editing transcripts into blog posts.

Amanda Nielsen of New Breed Marketing explained to Databox, “You can get tons of SEO benefit by transcribing videos. If you have the bandwidth, create a written transcription and a blog post to promote the video.”

For more tips on starting a blog and writing top-notch content, check out these resources:

Blog traffic from search can also be an effective way to build your email list. You can add a form to your blog to ask visitors for their email address, usually in exchange for something of value (like a newsletter, discount, or lead magnet).

For example, Python developer and instructor Reuven Lerner uses the opt-in form on his blog to grow his email list.

“I’ve found that posting to my blog, and then getting blog posts repeated and re-posted by others, and then having an opt-in widget on my blog, is a great way to go,” Reuven told us.

Learn more about converting blog readers into customers in this guide to email marketing for bloggers.

Once you start your own blog, guest posting is another stellar way to improve your SEO.

Here are some of the top benefits of guest blogging:

  • Increase backlinks.

  • Improve domain authority (a search engine ranking score).

  • Drive traffic to your own site.

  • Boost brand awareness.

That’s probably why 60% of bloggers write anywhere from one to five guest posts each month.

Here are some sites to help you find blogs accepting guest post pitches:

Most well-established blogs that accept guest posts typically have pitching and writing guidelines for you to follow, like Practical Wanderlust’s “Write for Us!” page.

For more tips on guest posting, check out our complete guide on how to guest post.

We’ve got one more short-but-sweet tip for you today, and it’s a little bit more technical.

4. Make your website mobile-friendly

Now more than ever, people are using their smartphones to surf the web.

In the first quarter of 2021, mobile devices generated 54.8% of global website traffic. And visitors are five times more likely to leave your site if it isn’t mobile-friendly.

Plus, Google announced in 2018 that they’re boosting the rankings for mobile-optimized sites in their mobile search results.

Google focuses on these three factors for mobile-friendly sites:

1. Does your site load quickly? Research by Google found that 70% of mobile landing pages took more than five seconds to load visual content above the fold. For a quicker load time, keep your product pages concise.

2. Is it easy to navigate? It can be hard to navigate a complex website on a smaller screen. The harder it is for visitors to find what they need, the more likely they are to get frustrated and leave. Keep your website design simple.

3. Is it easy to take action? Make it simple and quick for visitors to take action on your site. For example, stick to a single call-to-action (CTA) per landing page.

When you include several different CTAs, you make things harder for mobile users and run into Hick’s Law, a.k.a. choice paralysis.

Hick’s Law says that the more options you give someone, the longer they take to make a decision. (And they might leave your page without clicking on any of your CTAs.)

P.S.: If you build web pages with Podia, you don’t have to worry about making a separate mobile landing page. Podia’s site builder lets you create a beautiful, mobile-friendly website that works on any device. Try it out for yourself with a free 14-day trial.

To check how well your current website works on mobile, we recommend using Google’s mobile-friendly tester.

You enter your website’s URL, and Google tells you whether your site is optimized for mobile. It also shows you a preview of what your site looks like on a mobile device. Like all Google Search Console tools, this tester is free with a Google account.

With these SEO best practices under your belt, you’re well on your way to creating high-quality, optimized content that boosts your traffic and sales alike.

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Watch your search rankings and digital product sales soar

You have amazing digital products to sell, but you need to get them in front of the right audience. It’s time to add SEO to your digital marketing toolbox, rank your content, and make more sales.

To recap, here are four SEO strategies to help you sell more digital products:

  1. Conduct keyword research. Keyword research helps you figure out what your audience is looking for, so you can create content that ranks.

  2. Optimize your product descriptions to make them easier to find via search. Do some customer research and focus on your product benefits to write copy that converts.

  3. Write high-quality blog content that addresses your customers’ pain points and dives deep into solutions. Email marketing and guest posting are great ways to turn blog traffic into sales.

  4. Make your website mobile-friendly by keeping content simple and easy to navigate. Google gives preference to sites that perform well on mobile.

New SEO algorithm updates and “growth hacks” will always pop up, and it can be hard to know what’s worth paying attention to.

But as long as you keep your audience’s needs and experiences top-of-mind, you’ll continue creating content that converts and selling digital products that your customers love.

A portrait of Rachel Burns

About the author

Rachel is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.