How to use Facebook Ads to Promote your Online Course

Do you have a bunch of students who love your online course? Are you looking to enroll more students in your course, but are overwhelmed with all of the different marketing strategies and tactics for promoting it?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, I’m going to show you how to scale your online course business as efficiently and with as few headaches as possible using Facebook ads.

Why Facebook ads?

Well for starters, because of the sheer amount of users on the platform. There are so many users on Facebook that, for most niches, you won’t even need to look for any other traffic sources because the ability to find your ideal customers using Facebook is amazing. Just imagine: 1.71 billion users online monthly and we’ll only select the ones that are perfect for your business.

That being said, I don’t recommend Facebook ads to everyone. The reason it works well for course creators who already have students is that they know their course works and they know their customers well. Both are important if you want to attract more students inexpensively with Facebook ads.

It is also worth noting that Facebook’s advertising platform is very robust, so it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the different things you can do. I know I did when I first started using it.

However, as I’ve learned, it’s not about all the things you can do. It’s about knowing what your best option is and particularly what you DON’T need to worry about. For me, that was a HUGE relief. Knowing what I didn’t need to worry about made it feel like I could actually figure it out without months of practice.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to set things up smoothly and I’ll show you just a few things you’ll need to do well with Facebook ads. I’ll also give you some tips on how you can manage your Facebook ads in just an hour a day (less when you get used to it), so you can focus on serving your students and creating more courses.

How to use Facebook Ads to Promote your Online Course. #teachonline #facebookads

Retargeting your website visitors 

First, we need to talk about retargeting.

Retargeting is showing an ad to people who’ve already visited your website. You know those ads that follow you around the web? Yep, those are retargeting ads. And they work very well.

They work so well, in fact, that in one example I generated a 1547% ROI on one of my ads:

The currency is in DKK. $1 = 6.7 DKK at the time of writing.

Of those 18 that initiated checkout, 16 bought. It’s pretty cool. You can use retargeting to get more email subscribers and get more sales from your email list. I’ll show you both. Once it’s set up, it’s ridiculously easy to automate.

How to set up Facebook retargeting ads

To get started with retargeting ads you’ll need to install the almighty Facebook pixel that helps you track everything.

First, you’ll need to sign up for a free Facebook business account. Facebook has made it easy but in case you’d like a screenshot-guide, I’ve made one for you here. This should take you 5-10 minutes.

Next, Facebook will ask you to set up an ad account and a payment method. Once you’ve set up your business account, Facebook should direct you to that automatically. My screenshot-guide covers this process as well. This should also take 5-10 minutes.

If your website is using WordPress you can simply follow this step-by-step guide to installing your pixel:

Installing the Faceb00k pixel on your WordPress website:

  1. Sign in to your WordPress dashboard
  2. Click PLUGINS > ADD NEW > and search for Tracking Code Manager > INSTALL > ACTIVATE
  3. Click SETTINGS > TRACKING CODE MANAGER >ADD NEW > insert a title for the tracking code you are about to create
  4. Login to your Facebook Ads Manager > TOOLS > PIXELS > CREATE PIXEL > Copy the pixel code
  5. Back to WordPress Tracking Code Manager and paste in the code > Select BEFORE /HEAD > SAVE
  6. Click edit to edit the tracking code you just saved > click “In the whole website (pages, posts and archives)” > SAVE
  7. Open CHROME browser > install extension FACEBOOK PIXEL HELPER
  8. Open your website in Chrome and check that the Facebook Pixel Helper confirms the pixel is installed and working
  9. Back to Facebook Ads Manager > TOOLS > PIXELS > CUSTOM AUDIENCE PIXEL > CREATE AUDIENCE > and set for a maximum of 180 days (This creates the custom audience you can target in your Facebook Ads.)

(credit goes to Townsville Social Media Marketing who also has a video walkthrough)

Who do you show your ad to?

Now we need to add the people we’d like to show our ad to. As I mentioned earlier, a popular way to do it is to retarget people who have visited your website but did not sign up for your online course.

Another option is to run Facebook ads to your email subscribers who have not yet signed up for your course, or to promote additional courses to your existing students (aka up-selling or cross-selling).

Either way, the first thing we need to do is create a group of people on Facebook that we’d like to target. In Facebook, that’s called a Custom Audience.

I’ll start by showing you how to retarget people who visited your website without signing up to your email list and go through the other two tactics afterward.

How to create a Custom Audience in Facebook:

  1. First, open Audiences
  3. The way we target people who haven’t signed up is by only choosing people who have: Visited you site AND have NOT visited the signup page
  5. Enter your website URL in the first box and your signup URL in the second box
  6. Enter 180 days below (the maximum allowed)
  7. Enter a name for your audience
  8. You’re done. Click CREATE AUDIENCE. It should look like this:


If you’d like to sell your online course to people on your list who haven’t bought it yet, there are a couple of options. The ideal thing to do is have a group in your email list only with people who bought and another for those who didn’t buy your course yet. If you’ve got that, awesome!

All you have to do is export the emails of people who didn’t buy from your email service provider (e.g. Aweber), and change step 2 (in the steps above) to CUSTOMER FILE like so:


Note that Facebook usually matches around 50% of the emails to a profile.

If you don’t, you’ll need to create a new audience following the exact steps above but instead of you select people who visited the signup confirmation page and exclude people who visited the URL that gives access to your course. During it this way you might catch some who unsubscribed, so it’s not ideal.

Another way to go about it is to import your whole email list and retarget all of them with your ad but doing that will show your ad to students who already bought too. Again, not ideal.

Assuming that you do have a segment in your email list only for those who are your students, you can simply import those as shown in the screenshot above and create a separate segment just for students and up-sell to them.

Luckily everything you’ve done so far is something you only need to do once. Now that the boring and daunting stuff is out of the way, we can create our first ad.

Creating your first ad



2. Select the PURCHASE pixel (this should have a green light next to it instead of my red one)


3. Scroll down to the audience-section and click the box next to CUSTOM AUDIENCES. Select the one you’d like to show your ad to.

4. If you’d like to just target a segment of your audience you can do so by layering options just below (ie. only target women). After, scroll down to PLACEMENTS.

5. Click CHOOSE YOUR PLACEMENTS and select only the mobile and desktop newsfeed.

6. Set your budget and move on. $5-10 per day is a good starting point. You can increase it after a day or two when you know how many you’ll be able to reach – I like to reach fewer per day so I can keep it running without having to do any work. Don’t worry about the other settings, you can tweak those as you learn.

7. Facebook has many types of ads available but a great place to start is to use just one image. Click AD in the left-hand side and select A SINGLE IMAGE OR VIDEO IN YOUR ADS (as shown below).



8. After uploading the image, scroll down to select your Facebook fan-page, add the URL of your landing page and write your headline and description.

Tip: Most traffic will come from mobile, so make sure you check the preview to see that it’s looking good on both mobile and desktop.

9. That’s it! Click the green PLACE ORDER-button and you’re done.

What should my ad look like?

There are plenty of things you can tweak as you go along but the key is to get started and then improve from there.

Don’t make your copy perfect, aim to make it good enough and improve along the way. When you get your results you’ll be surprised what works better! Just make sure it’s clear what the person will get from your offer.

The image is important and will improve your clickthrough rate the more you try different ones. For your first ad do as with the copy and pick something that makes it clear what the offer is about.

For now, don’t use text in the image. You can play around with that as you get more comfortable with the ads. The only situation where you could use text, for now, is if you are displaying a product and it happens to have a title on it.

I like to get inspiration from other ads before creating my own (that does not mean steal!). Here is a great ad library available for free.

I’ve found a couple for you to get started. These are for getting sign-ups to your email list. Below you’ll find some for sales.


Here are two examples of what your ad could look like if you are selling your course or up-selling to your students:


Now comes the interesting part: growing your student base using Facebook ads. Since we’ve already done all the hard work, you’ll find this surprisingly easy!

Using lookalike audiences to scale easily

Facebook has this amazing option that lets you show their machine what (minimum) 100 of your ideal students look like. It will learn the similarities between those and find more people like them. Pretty amazing, right? Of course, the more people the better Facebook can optimize as there are much more data points available, but an audience of 100 people is the starting point.

Compared to the standard type of Facebook campaign where you’ll have to spend time researching, finding and testing different targeting options, this is the perfect way to scale your courses. It’s much less time-consuming and there’s a lot less you need to know to get started.

It eliminates what in my experience is the most difficult for coaches and online instructors: targeting. It basically does it for you. Oh, and it’s ridiculously easy to automate. I’ll show you how in a minute. First, let’s set this up.

How to create a lookalike audience in Facebook:

1. Open Audiences and click CREATE AUDIENCE (blue button) and select LOOKALIKE AUDIENCE

2. Enter one of your audiences in SOURCE and the country you’d like to target in COUNTRY.

3. Select the audience size. At first you’d like to try at 1% as the smaller the number is the more closely they will match your seed audience. If you are happy with the result you can consider testing new audiences sizes against your first one.

4. Click CREATE AUDIENCE (blue button). In the end it could look like this:


Creating the ad

Create the ad using the steps in the retargeting section, except this time you enter the Lookalike audience in the custom audience box.

A cool thing you can do is to add additional options on top of the similarities that Facebook will find (ie. you can select to target only women by a certain age and you can even add additional interests or behaviors).

There’s a lot to play around with, I usually try to keep my audience size around 200.000 for non-retargeting audiences.

Systematizing the process to an hour a day

With retargeting ads, once you’ve set things up they require very little work on a daily basis.

What you need to look for daily is that the ad fatigue is not getting too high (it means people have seen your ad too much). How much they’ll see it depends on your daily budget and your audience size.

When you see a drop in performance throughout a couple of days it usually means it’s time to change the ad or pause the campaign for a while.

On a daily basis, all you need to do is spend 5-10 minutes checking that things are running as they should.

For lookalike audiences, I recommend that you test two campaigns against each other at first so you’ll see the difference and learn how valuable it is to test different ideas.

Since the audience is the most important thing, I’ll suggest you test two different targeting options against each other.

Targeting options are everything that involves your targeting and audience. To keep things simple you could start out by testing the same lookalike audience on men vs women or different interests such as COOKING vs COOKING CHANNEL as shown below.

Each of those will give you a different audience and each one could wildly outperform the other.


When you get used to navigating the interface and comfortable running ads, you’ll be able to do all this in no-time.

As you are optimizing on a daily basis, you’ve got to look at the conversions and the price per conversion and pause the worse performing one.

I suggest you leave them running for three days before doing anything to give Facebook some time to optimize itself – usually at least 3000 impressions is required before you can make a decision.

Key takeaways

1. Retargeting ads almost always outperform other types of ads. It’s an easy way to get more subscribers and sales.

2. The most common problems with Facebook ads are with targeting. You can avoid that by using lookalike audiences.

3. Lookalike audiences is a simple way to find more people like your current students.

How to use Facebook Ads to Promote your Online Course #FacebookAdvertising #FacebookMarketing #TeachOnline

Aske Christiansen helps online course creators grow their email list with Facebook ads at Scaling Your Business. He’ll show you how getting cheap email subscribers with Facebook ads can be uncomplicated, easy and even fun!

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