Promote Your Online Course with Affiliate Marketing

Online courses marketing

Online learning is booming. With more affordable options available and the ease of accessibility, e-learning is no longer limited to higher education courses or corporate training sessions.

New technology has presented an opportunity for almost anyone to teach or be taught through online learning. Whether it be career, fitness, culinary, art, fashion, or even learning how to talk to animals — there’s something for everyone.

And there’s several e-learning platforms available to creators looking to create their own course. But once you create a course, how do you promote it?

In this article, we’ll cover how to use affiliate marketing to promote your online course. Learn everything you need to know about affiliate marketing, getting students to sign up and growing your business in 2021.

What is affiliate marketing?

Online courses marketing

Affiliate marketing is growing more and more in popularity, and becoming a go-to marketing strategy for many businesses.

Affiliate marketing works by incentivizing individuals to promote your business and refer customers, and in exchange they earn a commission for every successful referral they send your way.

Affiliate use their own referral link or promo code to promote your online course and refer potential students. This could be via websites, social media, and blogs — or even just through word-of-mouth to friends and family.

For online courses, affiliates typically earn a commission when their referral enrolls and pays for a course.

Is affiliate marketing effective for online courses?

Affiliate marketing is effective for almost all online courses. It’s a starting point for those who are just beginning their marketing efforts. And for more established courses, this offers a new channel to add to the current marketing efforts.

More specifically, are some of the key benefits of using affiliate marketing for online courses.

Builds brand awareness

You can spend months preparing your online course and making worth-while content, but if no one knows it even exists, you’ll likely not get many students to enroll.

Finding audiences and making yourself known is one of the biggest challenges for online courses. It often requires intense market research, which of course costs time, money, and resources.

Affiliate marketing can help with this.

Affiliates provide you with built-in audiences that they can immediately start promoting to. Whether it be an influencer’s thousands of followers or simply a Facebook post to an affiliate’s inner circle, this is a great way to increase exposure.

On top of that, this gives you the opportunity to reach completely new audiences — including those who may have not have known about your course, or even been interested, in the first place.

For example, if you use Adwords you’ll likely be promoting to audiences already searching for online courses or related topics. But with affiliate promotions, there’s a chance you can catch the attention of someone as they scroll through their social media feeds, and interest them in something they didn’t previously know about.

Reach targeted audiences

Along with making your brand known, affiliates can promote to targeted audiences.This is especially true if your partner with affiliates in your niche.

For example, if your online course focuses on investing money, consider partnering with affiliates that share similar audiences like business experts or finance bloggers.

Unique and effective promotions

As we said before, e-learning is increasingly growing in popularity. With so many courses available, how do you stand out?

Affiliate promotions can reach far beyond the limits of text in Google Ads. With unique content like blog posts, reviews & testimonials, videos, infographics, and word-of-mouth recommendations, you can better promote your course.

Affiliates give customers a sneak preview of what to expect, as well as a sense of the overall course experience. They can share why they took your course, what they enjoyed and how they benefitted.

This is especially powerful if your course is more expensive or time-consuming. Customers will want to be sure of what they are signing up for, and affiliate promotions can help reassure them that your course is worth-while.

Save on marketing expenses

Affiliate marketing is a cost-effective strategy.


Because you only pay commissions when someone actually becomes a customer.

The costs of PPC channels like Google & Facebook might be too expensive for those sites just starting out, especially with so many online courses bidding against you for the same keywords.

With affiliate marketing, you only pay for ads that convert. Budgets won’t be wasted on impressions or views that don’t bring in paying customers. It’s low-risk investment and provides a clear ROI compared to other marketing channels.

Reward your fans

This is also a way to reward those who have taken your course and recommended it to others. Rewarding customers is a great way to build brand loyalty, making it more likely for them to enroll in future courses.

Online school MasterTheHandpan is a great example of combining customer loyalty and affiliate promotions.

We started considering affiliation when we realized our students were recommending our courses organically. We wanted to find a way to thank them, and it was also a way to encourage them to recommend us more consistently and on an “official” basis, by giving them the right tools.

How to start an affiliate program for your online course

Online courses affiliate marketing steps

If you’re ready to launch an affiliate program for your online course, here are the steps you need to get started.

1. Select an affiliate marketing software

Start with a top affiliate marketing software.

Affiliate marketing software will provide you with all the tools you need to start your affiliate program. This includes providing referral links, tracking clicks and conversions, and awarding commissions.

Tapfiliate offer several integration options for e-learning platforms like Teachable and Campwire. Additionally, there are options available if you use subscription sites or payment gateways.

For most sites, this is pretty seamless and you can get started in just minutes. Check out Tapfiliate’s intergrations here.

2. Customize your program

Your affiliate program will be an extension of your online course.

Customize your program by:

  • Setting up a custom subdomain
  • Creating a branded sign up page
  • Adding your logo to your affiliate program’s dashboard
  • Personalizing affiliate emails to fit your brand’s verbiage

3. Set your commissions

For online courses, affiliates will typically earn a commission when a referral enrolls in a course.

If you offer a free course or trial period, you have the option to only pay affiliate’s a commission when the referral pays for the course. With Tapfiliate’s Customers functionality you are able to track this journey so when the referred customer makes a payment, the conversion will be attributed to the affiliate.

Commission amounts can be a flat rate or a % of the course cost.

For example, your course costs $49.99 per student and you offer affiliates a 15% commission. Affiliates would earn around $7 for every referral that enrolls in your course.

4. Promote your affiliate program

Then, you’ll want to make your affiliate program readily available.

Incorporate your affiliate program into your existing site and marketing materials. This includes:

  • Adding a footer link on your site’s course page
  • Promoting on social media profiles, bios and posts
  • Including affiliate offers in your email signature
  • Enabling Tapfiliate’s Affiliate Recruitment feature to invite your existing customers

5. Find and partner with affiliates

Once you’re set up, it’s time to find affiliates for your program.

You can make your program available to anyone who’d like to promote. Or, you can make it be invite-only, such as only allowing people who have taken your course or people who have hand-selected yourself.

Some sites choose to be invite-only, so they have more control over how their courses are being promoted, who is promoting it and where it is being promoted. Other sites choose to open their affiliate program to everyone for more wide-spread promotions and the opportunity to reach untapped audiences.

Who can be affiliates for your online course

Online course affiliates-01


Promotions from former students are very effective. It is a stamp-of-approval and personal recommendation from someone who has already taken the course. And with 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family more than advertising, this can be very persuasive.

Student promotions can include reviews, testimonials, or even video content that recaps what they learned and why it was of value.

Directly invite your new and existing students with Tapfiliate’s Affiliate Recruitment feature.

This will automatically send your students a referral link that they can use to promote your site to others. When they refer a new student they are immediately added to your affiliate program, and will be invited to log in to view their performance and find more of your program’s resources.

Industry experts

Experts in topics related to your course can provide a strong endorsement.

For example, a photography course could reach out to well-known photographers to become their affiliates. Or a course on interviewing for tech jobs could partner with employees at top-tier companies like Google and Apple.

Explain how your course can benefit their audience, and your commission offer. You may also want to consider offering something extra such as the opportunity for co-marketing their own business as part of your course material.

Experts can promote through their own channels, such as a “resource” section on their website or blog, or with a social media post recommending your course.

Online course marketing students

Course instructors

Consider partnering with non-competition sites that compliment your business.

For example, a nutrition course could partner with a fitness course. Affiliate promotions could be included as part of the course material or as a personal recommendation from the instructor themselves.

Not only will this help you reach new audiences, you will also likely be able to collaborate together and create new content for your site that would benefit everyone in the partnership.

Social media groups

Use social media to find online communities that are filled with people interested in topics closely related to your course.

This could be groups that are explicitly interested in your niche. For example, if you teach a cooking course, you can find groups that are dedicated solely to the foodie life.

You can also find groups that overlap with your niche. For example, if you teach a language course, look into expat groups in countries where that language is spoken.

Popular social media sites for this include Facebook, LinkedIn, MeetUp, Reddit.

Affiliate Onboarding checklist

What’s next

After you’re all set up, there’s a few things you can do to help your affiliates be successful.

To start, you’ll want to provide great marketing materials for affiliates to promote. This includes banners, images, text links, social media posts and video. It’s also helpful to provide your branding materials, any certifications or special recognitions.

Be sure to include enrollment information, sign up deadlines and any special deals or sales you may have.

Start promoting your online course in 2021

This covers the basics for getting started. And then from there, it’s up to you for what you would like for your affiliate program.

You can take a more hands-on approach by actively recruiting affiliates and running contests, but also choose to use automation tools to take care of certain tasks and streamline workflows.

Want to start an affiliate program? Try all the features: 👉get a 14-day free trial here

You can try Tapfiliate for FREE for 14-days here.

Jessica Rangel

Spending my days writing marketing content, cycling around canals in Amsterdam and attempting to master the Dutch language.

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