How To Use Affiliate Marketing To Increase Online Course Sales

How to use affiliate marketing to increase online course sales


Affiliate marketing is the best form of word-of-mouth marketing your course can get. Over 80% of brands use affiliate marketing to grow their sales, while affiliate marketing has grown to a whopping $6.8 billion industry, as of 2020. 

What’s more, there has never been a better time to sell an online course. For all the havoc the pandemic has wreaked, it has also accelerated the pace of online learning in a way no one imagined. 

Stella Mikraki, senior growth marketing manager at Learnworlds says, “We hated that Covid-19 had to be the catalyst, but it made us achieve in four months what would normally have taken ten years.” 

Here’s a sample of that growth: LearnWorlds customers reported a two to eight times increase in sales volume between March and June 2020. 

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at how course creators can use affiliate marketing programs to promote their course, the steps to launch an affiliate program, and the ways to find affiliates and partners.

What Is Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is pretty straight forward. Let’s take a look at an example: You really like a blender, you tell your colleague, Ben about it. Ben buys the blender, and you end up getting a little commission for your recommendation. Pretty simple, right? 

Now with online courses, affiliate marketing helps more students discover and successfully enroll in a course. 

Let’s delve into the four main players involved in affiliate marketing: 


In this case, the advertiser is the course creator who wishes to spread the word about his course.


This refers to the partner who undertakes the promotion of the course using various different methods.

Affiliate Network:

An affiliate network acts as an intermediary or a middleman between course creators and affiliates. 

Advertisers or course creators are required to pay an entry fee to the network (ranging between $20 to $200). This gives them access to a wide range of publishers or affiliates to promote their courses. 

Affiliates or publishers can subscribe to these networks for free to identify promotional products for promoting them.


The last link here is the students or customers who end up clicking on and signing up for a course. 



Why Do I Need An Affiliate Program For My Online Course

There are innumerable ways to promote an online course: email, social media, paid ads. Affiliate Marketing has its pros and cons, but it stands out for its simplicity and effectiveness. 

An affiliate program is a lot more powerful because you don’t need to hunt for an audience, your affiliates will do that for you. A single affiliate can promote your course to thousands of followers on Facebook, or a blog readership of millions. This is better than conducting market research to know where to place ads or which audiences to target. 

Another advantage is the simple set up and automated nature of affiliate programs. Once you set up, the program will pretty much run on its own. 

Finally, if your course content is top-notch, its popularity will automatically attract more affiliates to promote it. 

Ready to create an affiliate marketing program for your course? Read on to find the most popular platforms to help you and the exact steps involved. 

Examples Of Affiliate Programs For Online Courses

Here are a few platforms that allow you to create an affiliate program for promoting your course:



Having over 50k instructors and 130k courses in 60+ languages, Udemy is one of the largest platforms for creating and selling online courses. 

The Udemy Affiliate Program is run on the LinkShare network. Its affiliate network consists of a large number of marketing professionals having popular websites with traffic. As a course creator, if you opt into the affiliate program, you will get access to these marketers and their audience.

The affiliate marketing program is available under the Udemy Marketing Boost Program option.



With the help of LearnWorlds Affiliate Management, content creators get help with launching, growing, and managing a customer referral program from within their online school. The tool provides them with a complete affiliate and commission tracking solution.

LearnWorlds makes it easy for course creators to recruit top influencers and experts as their sales team, without having to hire an agency or use third-party tools.

It has a lot of useful features built-in such as affiliate registration, commission management and set up terms & conditions, and in-depth reporting.



ShareASale provides an easy way for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups to launch an affiliate program. It has an intuitive and user-friendly interface for online course creators, plus various communication and sales tools included. 

The network gives creators access to a wide range of affiliate partners, from influencers and content bloggers to loyalty sites and mass media publishers. 

How To Create An Online Education Affiliate Program

So, you’ve created an online course, and now you want to create an affiliate program to promote it.


In this section, we’ll take a detailed look at how to set up an affiliate program for your online course and the basics of paying affiliates. 

Let’s delve into each of these below. 

Setting up an affiliate marketing program for your course

There are three major ways to set up an affiliate program for your course. Let’s take a look at them below: 

List your course on an affiliate marketplace

One of the easiest ways for getting started with an affiliate program is by listing your course in an affiliate platform or marketplace. These platforms allow course creators to list their product or course, provide a suitable description, and set a certain commission. 

Affiliates or partners looking for ways to monetize their website come to these platforms in search of products to promote and earn a commission. 

Some examples of affiliate marketplaces include Clickbank, Paydotcom, Payloadz, and Commission Junkie.  

After applying to a platform and getting accepted as a course creator or merchant for promoting your course, you will start to create your listing for that platform. This involves providing a title of the course, adding a description, setting a price, uploading any images, and choosing the commission percent that you wish to pay affiliates or partners on each sale.

Once your course has been approved, it is then available for affiliates or publishers to begin promotion. 

The rest is managed entirely by the platform or marketplace. This includes recording visits from all your affiliates, tracking sales, providing reports, providing affiliates with a commission. 

Affiliate marketplaces generally keep a certain percentage of each sale made through them. 

Run an affiliate program on your own

Content creators hosting their online course on WordPress have the option of running their own affiliate program too. This can be a bit cumbersome to set up, depending on how comfortable you are tinkering with code and working with plugins. 

Several WordPress plugins help you set up an affiliate program for your courses such as AffiliateWP, WP Affiliate Manager, Magic Affiliate, and Affiliate Royale. 

As the course creator, you will be responsible for setting up commissions, setting up payouts, and deciding which affiliates to approve. 

While this method involves more work, it is more effective than listing on an affiliate marketplace where the traffic can often be low quality. 

Choose a course creation platform with built-in affiliate marketing 

There’s also a third way to set up an affiliate marketing program for your online course. In my opinion, this is the best option available.

It involves choosing the right course creation platform that allows you to set up an affiliate program within the tool itself. In the next section, we’ll be looking at this method in detail. 

Managing commissions and payouts for affiliates 

No matter which option you choose to set up your affiliate program, there’s some basic housekeeping you’ll need to do. 


This affiliate marketing process is stationed around incentives, that is, commissions. Affiliate commission is the amount received by the partner or affiliate after they successfully make a sale. The average commission rate depends on the course creator.

Let’s take a look at the different types of affiliate payments you can offer: 

Pay Per Click:

This is generally for bloggers and influencers with heavy traffic websites. In this setting, a partner is paid based on how many readers click on their affiliate link, not on the number of sales. Course creators pay for traffic which may lead to new customers.

Pay Per Action:

This type of commission is provided to partners for each new customer or student that signs up for a course.  

Types of payments

After deciding your commission percentage, you will have to decide how you’ll be paying affiliates or partners. This might include:

One time payment:

In this type of payment, merchants pay a commission on a per-sale basis. For example, if an affiliate manages to sell a product that costs $40 with a 10% commission, creators will pay $4 to them whenever the sale materializes.

Recurring payment:

Here the merchant will pay a commission every month. For example, if an affiliate manages to sell a course to a student for $200 per month receiving a 10% commission, creators will pay them $20 per month until the student they have referred cancels his/her subscription.


Similar to how salesmen are often paid an extra commission for higher sales, you can also offer additional rewards for partners that make the most course sales. For example, you can offer higher rates of commission to partners who make more than 20-course sales. 


Merchants should also set cookie periods for their affiliates. What are cookies? They refer to the duration between a partner referring a consumer and them making a purchase. 

Let’s if the cookie period has been set to 20 days, and the consumer purchases the course on day 30 after clicking on the affiliate link. In this scenario, the affiliate will not be eligible for a commission.

Payout options

Finally, after all the pieces are in place, course creators must decide on which platforms they wish to use to make payouts to their partners. 

There are various payment platforms such as PayPal, Google Pay, and so on, that course creators can use to make payouts. By choosing payment providers that work in most countries, course creators can get access to a wider range of affiliates. 

If you want to check out how other companies structured their affiliate programs, I have compiled a list of the best programs on the web here.

Which Affiliate Management Software Should I Use? 

Affiliate management software provides course creators with the infrastructure, platform, technology, and tools needed for managing affiliates, handling payouts, and a way for partners to run campaigns or promotions on behalf of the merchant.

As mentioned earlier, Udemy, Learnworlds, and ShareASale are some options to be considered. Apart from these, there are also platforms such as Tapfiliate, PartnerStack, CommissionJunction, that offer similar services. 

With so many options to choose from, which affiliate management should you choose?

Ideally, you’ll want to consider a platform that has built-in affiliate marketing capabilities, along with building various other aspects of your course. A good affiliate management system for online courses should help you manage the registration of affiliates, pick a suitable commission model, manage payouts, and offer additional rewards to partners who sell the most. 

To illustrate, we’ll take a step-by-step look at how Learnworlds helps online course creators set up an affiliate marketing program: 

Basic affiliate settings

affiliate set up

The “Marketing” option helps you enable or disable your affiliate program. 

There are various ways to customize your affiliate program in Learnworlds. It allows you to set the following: commission rate, cookie expiration, and commission payable after, as shown in the screenshot below:


The Affiliate registration page allows you to either add affiliates manually or allow them to register themselves. 



The dashboard helps you keep track of your affiliate plan. This includes affiliate performance, revenue generated, active leads, payouts due, pending payouts, and commissions to approve.



eduard : affiliates

This shows you a list of all the affiliates in your network.

All in all, a platform such as Learnworlds takes care of every aspect of an affiliate program for your course including commissions, payments, leads, and customers.

How Do I Promote Affiliate Program To Partners And Students? 

Now that your affiliate program is all set, it’s time to find affiliates for skyrocketing your business. 

Here are some ways to do that:

Include a link on your website

Your homepage is one of the most visited pages on your website, so be sure to include a word about your affiliate program on it. This will also be the first place affiliates will look at if they’re interested in promoting your course. 

Tell existing students

This refers to students who have already purchased your course. Use drip campaigns to collect course feedback from students and entice them to earn money by recommending your course. If your course content is truly valuable, chances are most students will gladly promote your course anyway. 

Promote it in your email signature

Include a brief description of your course in your email signature and also tell readers about your affiliate program. This serves as a good, free space for promoting your program.

Reach out to influencers/bloggers 

Invite bloggers and influencers that write SEO content and generate income through affiliate marketing to review your course, and promote it if they find it valuable. A quick Google search should throw up a good list of bloggers relevant to your niche. Remember to reach out to them with a well-crafted pitch. Note these bloggers may demand slightly higher commission if they have a super-engaged audience. 

Find affiliates on social media

Social media platforms are another excellent way to find affiliates. Join social media groups, showcase your expertise, and inform them about your affiliate program. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all good avenues to connect with course promoters. 

This is clearly not an exhaustive list but should serve as a good starting point to find your first few affiliates. 

Skyrocket Your Online Course Sales Today!

We hope we provided you with a good understanding of how to create an affiliate marketing program for your course. 

With online learning on a steady rise, now is the best time to revamp promotion for your online course, and affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to do it. 

Author Bio

eduardEduard Klein is an International Digital Growth Marketer, Blogger, and Entrepreneur with a global mindset. He guides people through the process of starting and growing a digital business, and to ride the wave of digital technology and marketing without getting swept away.


Related reading:

This blog post is about:

  • Affiliate Marketing
  • How To Use Affiliate Marketing
  • Use Affiliate Marketing To Increase Online Course Sales

The online service helping advertisers, agencies, affiliates and publishers optimize their conversion rates through the management, tracking and monitoring of marketing links. Through an online dashboard or API integration users have access to a portfolio of tools including: click and conversion tracking, short links using user’s domain, split A/B testing, dynamic traffic redirect, landing page monitoring and more.