How to Create Online Courses that Actually Sell

by Sharon Hurley Hall

Last updated on September 19th, 2017

A few years ago Copyblogger’s Brian Clark said “teaching sells”. Since then it seems that everyone’s trying to sell their expertise via a membership site or online course, or even both. One platform they are using to do this is WordPress.

5 CRO Issues When Selling Online Courses in WordPress

Image: Pixabay

In one way, it makes sense—after all, WordPress is one of the most-used content management systems (CMS) out there, underpinning millions of sites and about half of the most prominent blogs. Since lots of people already run WordPress sites, it makes sense that they would want to do everything from one place.

However, it’s not what the software was originally designed for. That’s why it’s no surprise that people are constantly coming up with new ways to make WordPress sites ideal for course delivery. There are a number of options out there and the platform is being used more and more in educational settings.

Introducing CoursePress


One recent option for this is a plug-in called CoursePress which is designed to turn your WordPress site into an online learning platform or learning management system. It incorporates everything you need to create, sell, grade and report on courses, as well as manage students and teachers. That includes payment systems, video and audio uploads, discussion boards and more.

CoursePress integrates with most WordPress themes and has a built-in theme of its own. The plugin is available in free and paid versions, with a limit of two courses and fewer payment gateway options in the free version.

Of course, if you’re going to create and sell a course online, it’s essential to think about web and conversion optimization right from the start. This will help you attract more course participants and will give you a competitive and financial edge. Let’s use CoursePress to look at how you could lay the groundwork for an optimized course website right from the start.

1. User Experience (UX)

The developers recommend that you think about your course structure in advance. CoursePress allows you to create courses with multiple units. You can have multiple pages and elements within each unit. At this stage, think about user experience (UX), which is a key part of conversion optimization. In particular, consider how users will be able to navigate the course.

course press components

MOOCNews suggests that paying attention to this will reduce the time you have to spend on changing course elements later. Meanwhile, online education site Udacity recommends doing user experience research to figure out what people want. Do this either before course setup or after the course is running to see whether you can improve conversions. See our recent article on troubleshooting UX design for tips on this.

coursepress structure

2. Content Optimization

When you create a new course in CoursePress, you start by creating an overview. This is one of the first elements potential participants will see when deciding whether to take your course, so it’s worth spending time optimizing this content.

Even before your course goes live, you can use the overview on landing pages and split test two different versions of the copy to see which one appeals most to your target market. Do the same with course titles too so you can maximize conversions and win the clicks. Remember to look after search engine optimization (SEO) at the same time.

coursepress front listing

CoursePress also allows you to create a course description. That’s not just a longer version of your overview; it’s also the longer-form copy that will help to sell your course.

Again, you can think about the principles of creating high converting landing pages when crafting your description. Killer headlines and subheads, appealing images, addressing pain points by showcasing benefits and features for potential participants are all part of making this work. The goal is to let people know what to expect. Again, you can split test course descriptions to decide which version has the best conversion rate.

coursepress about

Repeat this principle when setting up individual course units—these will be displayed in a list, providing another option for people to either sign up or click away. Use your writing skills to win the click and get people signed up for your course.

3. Images and Video

As we’ve mentioned before, online video is a conversion magnet. Faces, voices, movement and body language get people’s attention and video is also a great way to answer users’ questions. With CoursePress, you can use video in two ways: as part of the course content, which is a no-brainer, and to create video snippets to help sell your course. Check out these tips on selling with video for help with this aspect of conversions.

While you’re at it, pay attention to the images used as part of your course—these can help boost conversions by providing a human element, making people connect with you emotionally and creating a relationship between you and the course participants.

4. Email Marketing

Email is still one of the best ways to connect with your audience. CoursePress lets you send a variety of customizable emails to registered students. Consider using email marketing best practices to build the relationship with them, including:

  • personalization
  • killer subject lines
  • appealing calls to action

The more you connect with students, the more likely it is that they will remain registered on the course and maybe even sign up for future courses.

5. eCommerce

If you want your course to sell, then you need to look after eCommerce optimization. Among other things that means optimizing and looking after usability issues for shopping carts and checkout pages. CoursePress integrates with MarketPress to support a wide range of payment gateways and currencies, and you can offer discounts too! Check out these tips on reducing user anxiety and see how you could integrate these into your online course.

Testing, Testing

Once you have set up and published your course, test regularly to see what’s working well and what you need to change. Visit your landing page and course pages and try to see it from the viewpoint of an outsider—is UX working well? The good news is that since CoursePress is a WordPress plugin, it won’t be difficult to make quick improvements for better conversions.

Have you used CoursePress or another learning management system? What steps did you take to look after conversion optimization?

CoursePress is FREE and the best way to turn WordPress into an amazing online learning platform. Download it here.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sharon Hurley Hall.



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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.


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  1. Justin Jackson says:
    May 24, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    If you’re a Gumroad user (like me) you may want to use Gumroad to sell your course, but still host it on WordPress. This plugin will help you do that: http://

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      May 26, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Thanks for the tip, Justin.

  2. Kim says:
    April 23, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Is there any disadvantages or cons that CoursePress has?

  3. josh says:
    February 28, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Are there any general best practices for handling refunds for online courses? I’d like to produce a course I have in mind but one thing I’m concerned about is abuse and people asking for refunds, both into the course and after view.

    I can understand a request if the course is not what they expected. But advice is appreciated.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      March 1, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Good question, Josh. It’s a good idea to think about it at this stage, so you know what your policies are, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Most people won’t ask for a refund, even if it isn’t a perfect fit for them. Some companies offer a lifetime guarantee–and they say they make a lot more sales without having more refunds.

      That said, there are people who will try to take advantage. I’d set a limit on the number of refunds they can ask for before being taken off your mailing list (2 or 3). I’d also consider dripping the content, providing access to one module at a time, so if they ask for a refund, they don’t have the entire program. This is especially good for large, expensive courses. Of course, you can also shorten the refund window, but that could affect sales. The best advice is to provide a good customer experience. Believe it or not, that can make a huge difference. Consider creating a Facebook group, or doing weekly webinars or Q&A calls.

  4. Wilton says:
    November 11, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I’m experimenting a bit with Fedora.

    I’ll check out CoursePress!

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      November 11, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Glad to hear it, Wilton. Let us know how you like it.

  5. Marcie says:
    October 30, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Hey Sharon, thanks for sharing this resource. I was just about to push out an ecourse and this would be ideal for my project. You rock!

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      October 31, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Good to know, Marcie. Let me know how CoursePress works for you.

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