Professional development is growing in popularity - in 2021, 74% of workers stated they are willing to learn new skills or re-train in order to remain employable. Companies are using professional development as a way to engage and retain their workers and fill the skill gaps in their departments. As demand grows for professional certification, as do the number of courses available which impacts the time and effort required to grow awareness. 

Marketing Channels

There are many channels of marketing available for increasing visibility and awareness of certification programs. Social media marketing, email marketing, paid advertisement, and content marketing can be started straight away before you have an active customer base.

Word-of-mouth marketing and social proof such as case studies, testimonials, and user reviews help to show the value of the program. This type of marketing is more time consuming but no-cost or very low-cost. It requires relationship-building with your students and target audience, and time to build up a customer-base of individuals that have completed the certification. 

Use Digital Credentials to Grow Visibility

Digital credentials can be used to support each channel of digital marketing. Recipients of digital credentials share their achievements to social media for increased visibility to the target audience. Shared digital credentials provide social proof and help to create demand for the certification. Success metrics for credential engagement and shares can be tracked via the Accredible analytics dashboard. Dedicated digital credential pages include detailed context about the certification, evidence of applied knowledge to convey the value of the award, and skill tags that contribute to content marketing visibility. Recipients can embed their digital credentials into their email signature which helps to drive awareness for the certification award every time they communicate.  

Content Marketing

To be successful in content marketing also known as SEO (search engine optimization), you need somewhere to host your content that will direct visibility to your program. 

Third-party sites

Third-party blogging websites such as Medium, HubPages, and Blogger exist that allow you to post articles and earn income from content creation. There are often strict writing guidelines that need to be followed and competition of these websites can be high as there are many other writers using the platform. 

Marketing website

Hosting your own website provides greater freedom for content marketing. Building your own website may seem daunting but can be made easier with website builders such as WordPress (free) and Webflow (free plan available). You'll also be able to choose a secure web host that best fits your needs. Using your own website means there is more control and space available to include useful information such as an About page. This page details the course provider's background and why their program will be useful to prospective learners. Dedicated course pages are used as service pages that include an FAQ for the program, space for future social proof, and direct interested parties to sign-up for the course. 

A blog provides space to share longer case studies that showcase the success that learners have gained after completing the certification course. It is also a space to share tips, advice, or knowledge of the industry such as the top skills employers are looking for or getting noticed in a competitive hiring space. A page dedicated to your digital credentials will also be helpful for your students. Include clear guidance on what the digital credentials are, how to use their digital credentials, and where they can be shared or embedded. 

Content marketing fundamentals

Content marketing involves targeting the search keywords or phrases that the audience are using to find the skills and knowledge they want to acquire. For example, someone looking to improve their marketing skills will search for ‘digital marketing course’, 'content marketing certification', or ‘social media marketing certification’. Researching keywords can be done through Google or dedicated marketing tools such as SEMrush and ClearScope. It’s important to remember that content should be written to provide knowledge and value, rather than bloat a page or try to capture a large number of keywords (a practice known as keyword stuffing). 

Content marketing with digital credentials

Content marketing extends to the detail on your dedicated credential pages served to your students. Contextual information informs third-parties such as employers and hiring managers of the value of the certification. Skill tags summarize what knowledge or experience students have gained. Links can be included from the credential page to the marketing website where organizations showcase available programs or follow-on certifications. 

Social Media Marketing

Prior to and after launching a program, announcements for the course can be made across social media networks. 

Identify the best platforms

As part of initial research, identify the platforms that the target audience are using. The most frequently used platforms are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter but YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are also popular. If needed, videos can be downloaded from TikTok or YouTube. Social post copy should be written for the targeted platform and audience. For example, Twitter restricts posts to 280 characters. Facebook and LinkedIn allow for longer posts but will only show the first few links and followers will need to click ‘read more’ to view the whole post. The first line of the post should act as a hook that grabs the attention of readers to encourage them to engage with the post. 

Use images or video

Images and video content are another way to grab the attention of followers. Included imagery or video content should be well-designed and follow the branding of the organization so it is instantly recognizable. This may incur a cost for a quality graphic designer but a series of templates can be made that simplify the process of creating future posts for new or refreshed programs. 

Use hashtags

Hashtags added to posts increase the reach and visibility to followers of that specific hashtag. Make sure to research hashtags using dedicated research tools or looking at the types of hashtags your competitors are using. Only use a few hashtags on each post that are relevant to the post content and the target audience. For example #digitalmarketing, #onlinemarketing, and #marketingstrategy on a post about a digital marketing certification. 

Paid Advertisement or PPC Marketing

PPC marketing or pay per click marketing is a type of paid digital advertising that incurs a cost whenever a user clicks on your posted ad. 

PPC networks

Google Adwords is the biggest and most popular PPC ad network followed by Bing, another important search engine. PPC also expands to paid advertisements placed on social media networks including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. PPC campaigns for promoting a certification can be set up and running in minutes and start achieving results within hours. 

How does PPC work?

Most PPC ad networks for search engines operate on a bidding system. Organizations bid to receive top placement for their ad at the top of search results pages in the sponsored area. Some keywords will require higher bids than others based on the amount of competition. The ad will also need to be of relevance to the chosen keywords and of good quality with a link leading to a relevant landing page. Even if you set a higher click budget than your competitor, your ad may not appear if it is poorly rated in terms of search term match or poor landing page quality.  

Identify the target audience

To get started, you will need to identify the target audience for the marketing campaign. If you are building a PPC campaign for a certification, your audience is likely to be prospective students that will find value in taking your program. To narrow the audience further, answer the following questions about your audience:

  • What is their age?
  • What is their gender?
  • Where are they located?
  • When do they most likely engage online?
  • What device are they using to browse?

Choose keywords

Then choose the specific keywords that relate to your certification or course. These keywords will be similar to the ones researched for content marketing and are based on the search terms your audience is using to find programs or services. Specific keywords can be difficult to optimize for. It’s better to choose longer keyword phrases known as long tail keywords that closely or exactly match the search queries of your audience. For example, rather than 'marketing certification' target specific long tail keywords such as 'social media marketing certification' or 'digital marketing certificate program'. Once you have created a list of keywords and phrases to target, add these to your PPC ad platform. You will be given the option to target an exact match or a broad match. Choose the exact match option so the ad network only shows your ad when the exact search phrase is used. 

Certain keywords will be more effective and more expensive than others and you will need to refine your list over time. Drop any low-performing keywords or expensive keywords that don’t bring the desired results and add new ones to your campaign. We also recommend creating a list of negative keywords that you do not want your ad to appear against to reduce audience mismatch and wasted spend. 

Set click budget

Next allocate the maximum click budget that you are willing to pay for each time a user clicks on your ad. PPC works with most budgets, whether you can spend $5 a day or $1500 a day. You may have to carry out several tests to determine the right ad budget based on the conversion rate of your ad campaign. The average conversion rate is around 2%. This can change depending on demand, search patterns, how attention grabbing your ad copy is, and how persuasive your call to action button is.

Write ad copy

Ad copy is restricted in how many words can be included so it’s important to make the most of the space you have to work with. Use strong words that encourage action and include keywords that resonate with your audience. The call to action should encourage users to click through to the landing page using simple copy that explains the next step in the journey, such as ‘enroll’, ‘register’, or ‘sign-up’. A dedicated copywriter can help to create different versions of persuasive copy for ads that can be tested for effectiveness. 

Create a landing page

The landing page is where the call to action will direct prospective students that click on your ad. This should be a dedicated page that provides further information about the program and encourages enrolment or opt-in to your email list. Avoid pointing the ad to the marketing site homepage or other irrelevant page as this will cause users to leave and results in wasted spend. 

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Quality word-of-mouth marketing starts with relationship-building. Before launching your program, get involved on social media and relevant industry forums. When carrying out research for your program, these platforms will help you connect with your target audience. You can start building relationships with your prospective customers and get them excited about enrolling for your certification.

After launching your programs and once your candidates start earning their digital credentials, you can maintain this relationship by taking the role of a cheerleader. When your students complete their certification program, celebrate with them. Applaud them for their efforts in their credential delivery email and encourage your students to spread the good news with their social circles.

Social sharing

One of the benefits of Accredible is that social sharing is built-in. Recipients can share the good news on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and 20+ other social media sites. They can also proudly embed their certificate on their website and add it to their email signature. This serves two purposes. In addition to students sharing the good news, they’re also sharing your brand. You get exposure every time someone sees your student’s accomplishment.

Social proof

Another way to celebrate your students and gain social proof, is to post about it yourself. Advertise how many people have taken your course on your website in a pop-up or banner. Include it in your social media or search engine ads. Interview a student for a case study and share it on your blog and to social media and add recipient testimonials to the course pages for future learners to review. Authentic feedback and shares from your recipients impact visibility and drive demand for your certification.

Focus on Case Studies

Case studies are word-of-mouth marketing in package form. Also known as expanded testimonials, case studies will help you sell your certification program better than any glossy advertisement. Case studies showcase real people who have actually succeeded with your certification or online course. Once published, links to the case study can be shared to social media networks or via email newsletters. 

To create a successful case study, choose the students who represent your target audience. Seeing similar pain points and personas can be inspiring and influential for prospective customers. If you have five different target personas, create five different case studies. Then, share them everywhere: on your website, on social media, to your email list, and on your social media and search engine ads.

In your case study, address the who, what, why, and how you helped. When you share case studies in your marketing, be sure to link to an optimized landing page — one for each persona. Sending prospective customers to an optimized landing page is a gentle way to address common pain points and present your certification program as the unique answer to these problems.

Create Videos

When prospective students are first introduced to your program, you only have a few seconds to make a winning impression. Even if you create a compelling website, many prospective students will first find you through social media campaigns or direct referrals. 

One of the best ways to engage visitors quickly is to create a video that explains how you can help the prospective student succeed. Videos are increasingly important for word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of relying on your students to come up with their own words when they tell others about your program, ask them to share your video.

A video is self-contained and instantly engaging. Many of us are visual learners, which makes video a great way to introduce yourself to others quickly. Within the first 10 seconds of a video, you can pull your audience in and provide all the necessary information to them in a visually appealing format.

Videos are very shareable. For example, Facebook makes it easy for your followers to share videos with their social circles. Videos can be embedded on blog posts, social media posts, landing pages, and promotional content. It can also be shared via email. YouTube is a great marketing channel and is the second largest search engine on the internet (behind Google).

Turn your case study into a video. If you can’t do in-person interviews, Zoom is also an option. Keep your videos short (10 minutes or less). You want videos that are bite-sized and that get to the point quickly.

Email Marketing

You may only offer a one-time certification, but that doesn’t mean you have to end your relationship with your students. If you cultivate an ongoing relationship with your former students, you can build a successful referral network. Continue to provide students with useful information that they’ll find valuable even after graduation by positioning yourself as an educational resource.

Email marketing is an excellent way to stay in contact with former students. If you are uploading new and useful information to your blog, email your past and prospective students to let them know. Content can also be created for subscribers-only, adding to the exclusivity of your blog. If you add or refresh programs, you can announce upcoming courses through email to encourage pre-launch sign-ups and motivate continuing education. 

Digital credentials are delivered instantly via email after students reach the target criteria, for example passing the certification exam or completing the program. Credential emails provide an opportunity to encourage students to engage and share their achievements through call to action buttons. If there is a specific social media platform you are targeting as part of your marketing strategy, include a CTA that directs students to share to that platform. For example, ‘Share to Facebook’ or ‘Add Credential to LinkedIn’. 

Track Marketing Campaigns

The effectiveness of your campaigns can be tracked using Google Analytics. Website activity including traffic, traffic sources, session duration, user engagements, and engagement rate provides insight into how well your marketing site is performing. Google Analytics can be integrated with Google Ads to review PPC campaigns including the quality of landing pages and conversion rates (goals). Data analytics are displayed as a dashboard-style overview for casual tracking or can be used for in-depth reporting including funnel visualization and custom visitor segmentation. For course providers that are selling programs from their own marketing site, e-commerce reporting offers the ability to track sales activity and performance. 

In Summary

There are many channels available to utilize when trying to increase visibility to your professional certification programs. Depending on your available resources you will want to build a marketing plan that utilizes them all. At the very least, focus on the channels your audience are engaging with the most. 

Digital credentials provide excellent support for increasing visibility as recipients are keen to share their achievements, and by extension your brand, to their friends, family, and peers. Their followers will likely make up a large portion of your target audience. This means that each referral click generated through a shared credential has a greater potential to convert. As recipients begin to share their success stories, this will help to create demand for your certification. Other prospective students within their network see their success and want to achieve this for themselves. 

Looking for more information about adding digital credentials to your professional certification programs? Contact sales or request a demo to learn more about our digital credentialing solution and start rewarding your students with secure, verifiable, and shareable digital credentials.

Further Reading

Download our free guide for Professional Certification Using Digital Credentials. Learn how professional certifiers use credentials, what are the challenges of credentialing, and how digital credentials better serve professional and product certification.

Use this guide to: 

  • Identify the challenges of professional certification around credentialing
  • Research solutions for secure, verifiable credentialing
  • Implement easy-to-manage, scalable digital credentials 
  • Plan effective digital credentialing programs that engage and motivate learners
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