Udemy SEO Tips for 2017

As a new or beginning instructor on Udemy, it’s a good idea to understand how Udemy decides which courses to promote, and how students decide which courses to buy. One mistake I see a lot of instructors make is that they launch a course, and then let it sit there for a few months wondering why it’s not selling.

Here are a few tips and ideas to get your rocket off the launch pad quickly.

Udemy SEO tip #1 for new instructors:

You must must must get at least one review quickly. There’s no point having a course on Udemy for months with 0 reviews. Your first objective when launching a new course should be to get one review. Your second objective is to get 5.

Udemy SEO tip #2 for new instructors:

Make sure your course title uses unique words that potential students use to search for courses (keywords). Naming your course without using common terms people search for will ensure that your course will never be found on the search results page. For instance, “10 tips for a good nights’ rest” would not be easily found when searching Udemy.

People search for either problems or solutions by name. “Photoshop” is a solution. “Procrastination” is a problem.

Your title should include the common phrasing of either a problem or solution.

Udemy SEO tip #3 for new and old instructors:

Once you’ve optimized your keywords (tip #2), the number of reviews (and average review score) is by far the biggest factor for search results ranking on Udemy. But that’s a hard problem for us. Reviews are out of our control. Beyond the obvious rule-breaking stuff, there’s no way an instructor can get more reviews.

Well, let your competitor think that. Because after reading this, you’ll be able to get more reviews on your course.

Four ideas for getting more reviews:

Idea #1. We all have way more students than we have reviews. I have 12,326 students on one of my courses, and 1,492 reviews. That’s an opportunity. How can I get the other 10,000 existing students to leave a review? I can ask them. I could send an educational announcement, originally worded, that says I value their opinion and if they have watched a bit of the course it would be nice for them to leave a review. Be careful to follow the Udemy rules around asking for reviews – you can’t ask for only nice reviews. But I sometimes say “leaving a review would help this course be found in Udemy search and I would be grateful if you would take a few minutes to do that”.

If you have lots of students and few reviews, ask.

Idea #1.1. Related to the above, do you have a video early in your course that tells students that Udemy will shortly be asking for their opinion and it would mean a lot to you if they would take their time to leave a few words? Or near the end asking them to remember to update their review before the course is over?

Idea #2. This is more indirect. Udemy already asks the students for review. So perhaps what you need is more of your existing students to watch your course? Out of my 12,326 students, probably quite a few haven’t even started the course. If I sent out an encouraging message to students reminding them why they bought the course and challenging them to get started with that, a few would be motivated to click play for the first time. And that will indirectly get more reviews.

Idea #2.1 Related to the above, you could hold a contest. What if you offered a $10 Amazon gift card to one random student who has completed more than half the course by a certain date? Requires a bit of work on your part to pick a random student, and will cost you $10, but that could also incentivize students to watch and get you more reviews indirectly as a result.

Would love to hear from you if you have other ideas for getting more reviews.


The Skillshare Experiment

I guess it was about two years ago when I first uploaded a course to Skillshare – May 2015. I took my bestselling Udemy course and uploaded it. Then promptly did nothing about it and left it alone for a year.

You might not be surprised to learn that I earned nothing on Skillshare in that year. A big fat goose egg. Zippo. I had some enrollments, but you need 25 enrollments to qualify for “premium instructor” status, and so I didn’t even get the $3-$4 per month I probably earned in that time. Oh well.

That same course had earned more than $20,000 on Udemy in that time. (I always found it odd that a course that was very successful on one platform went unnoticed in a place that was cheaper for students.)

So then in the middle of last year – June 2016 – after Udemy had done some pricing changes of its own, I decided to turn attention back to Skillshare to see what it was about. Many of my friends were very excited about it, so why not? Step 1, was get the 25 enrollments. So I gave out some free coupons and quickly got to the level where I could at least qualify for payments.

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016




Under the 2016 payment model, I could earn $1.35 for each paying student that signs up. On Udemy, I was making at least $10 for a student. So I quickly realized that I could not put my Udemy courses on Skillshare. I would not accept only $1.35 when I was easily getting $10 for that same student.

The other thing was Skillshare seemed to want courses of 10 to 20 minutes long. My Udemy courses were many times that. So, what to do?

But perhaps I could create special courses for Skillshare. I had a lot of ideas for lessons and courses that would not fit well on Udemy. So every once and a while I would take a couple of days to create some videos for Skillshare and uploaded it to the platform. I posted the free coupons to the usual groups and watched my income soar.

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016







I was not terribly impressed, but to be honest, I wasn’t using Skillshare to make money. I actually enjoyed using the platform.

In 2016, Skillshare represented a place where I could create things “for fun” and make a bit of money on the side. No pressure. Hundreds of hours not required. Have an idea, create, publish. A simple yet powerful model similar to blogging or Youtube.

In January 2017, they changed their payment model. Now it’s hard to tell whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, but they were now paying ~7.5 cents per minute instead of a ~$1.35 per enrollment. Most instructors felt that it would be a 20% income drop. I calculated that you’d have to make 40 minute long courses to break even in the new model.

My take? Skillshare wanted to offer their students, for $9 per month, unlimited access to “Udemy quality” courses.

This, of course, will never work out in instructors’ favor. If you’re going to create Udemy quality courses, you might as well put them on Udemy and get paid for them.

But, let’s see how January works out.

January 1

January 2

January 3

0 minutes watched, $0 earned

0 minutes watched, $0 earned

0 minutes watched, $0 earned



On January 4, I emailed Skillshare and asked them to unpublish my courses. Today, January 5, they did.

For me, the Skillshare experiment is over.

Status: failed.

It’s better for me to focus on platforms that either make me significant money or have the potential to make me significant money. OR free platforms like Youtube where I can provide value and gain exposure to a huge audience. Skillshare doesn’t have that potential yet. I see no scenario where Skillshare would drive a reasonable amount of income to me for the effort required to maintain it.

Maybe they’ll grow and in a year they’ll have a bigger base of students from which to get revenue and do a better job making good courses earn money consistently every month. I hope they do. Right now, I don’t see the point creating several courses per month, with dozens of hours of work invested, for the hourly rate that it would generate.

The company itself doesn’t even have an instructor forum so that they can interact with instructors. That’s crazy actually.



How to Double or Triple the Time Before Early Review on Udemy

The subject of early review has been a hot topic in the Facebook groups since Udemy introduced it in March of this year. The “no comment” 0.5 review has been a mosquito biting at the arm of innocent instructors since that time.

If you don’t like it, you can complain about it. Write a post in the Studio, and then comment whenever someone else writes a post about a bad review they received.

OR, you can find the secret some top selling instructors use to avoid these bad reviews.

So the secret, I guess, is to impress the student enough in the first 10 minutes that they can’t help to leave a 5-star review.

Easy right? 🙂 Not always.

Say you’re convinced that you cannot possibly impress the student enough within the first 10 minutes, and would love to delay the early review to the 20 minute mark or the 30 minute mark. How can you do that?

Udemy waits until 10 minutes of lectures have been watched to ask for the first review. If you have a typical course, it will go like this:

Lesson 1: 2m:30s
Lesson 2: 3m:20s
Lesson 3: 5m:10s
Request for review
Lesson 4…. etc

But what if you purposely planned your lessons like so?

Lesson 1: 2m:30s
Lesson 2: 6m:30s
Lesson 3: 9m:30s
Request for review
Lesson 4…..

So with that change, the request for review comes after 18 minutes and 30 seconds. How about this?

Lesson 1: 2m:30s
Lesson 2: 6m:30s
Lesson 3: 19m:30s
Request for review
Lesson 4…..

Now the request for review comes after 28 minutes and 30 seconds. You could delay the request from 10 minutes up to almost 30 minutes just by having a long lecture just before the 10 minute mark.

If you wish, you can cram a lot more teaching into the first couple of lessons and delay the review point. One more way to impress the student before they are asked for their opinion on your course.

Tips for Recording the Best Audio

I just got done recording a new course, and have been continuing to struggle to get the audio just right. Today I thought I would summarize my best tips for recording audio for your courses, in the hopes that it would help someone.

– One of the keys to good audio is having a quiet place to record. If your house is in a quiet part of town, that’s a good start. We all sometimes have to deal with construction or one time events. But if you live in an extremely noisy part of the city, you will find yourself being only able to record late at night.

– Another key is the type of room you are recording in. In order to avoid echo, it needs to have lots of soft surfaces like furniture and carpeting. Some people record sitting inside a clothes closet because the clothes absorbs all the sound. Others record with blankets hanging around them. Think about how sound bounces around, and you want more things that absorb sound and less things that reflect sound around you as you record.

– If you have both of the above, it almost doesn’t matter what microphone you have – expensive, cheap, condenser, dynamic. Microphones pick up sound, and so if there are no other sounds other than your voice, that’s the ideal state.

– If you make a mistake during recording – say something incorrect, or find yourself making an error – stop recording and start the lesson again. I have seen programming courses on Udemy where the instructors code wouldn’t compile and then spent 5 minutes searching around to find the error. As an instructor, I often re-record every lesson 2 or 3 times, and my delivery of the material gets better each time. It’s worth it to re-record when you catch yourself making a big mistake.

You can’t take echo out in editing. If your sound comes back with too much echo, you can play with the levels, add some soft music to the background to disguise it, but ultimately it’s not easy to remove.

– Clean your audio using a tool like Audacity. Do noise removal, boost the volume, and clean up the ums, ahs, long pauses, stutters and mistakes if you can. Students will appreciate a mistake-free lesson and not an instructor that says “uhhh, uhhh, uhhh” a lot. My recent course had 120+ lessons. Every one was cleaned manually in Audacity, and yes it’s a lot of work.

– In general, don’t have music playing constantly behind your talking. I use this for my promo video and my introduction lesson only to inject some energy, but 99% of the course does not have music playing throughout.

Does anyone have any other tips for audio? Post them below.

How Udemy Works – An Important Guide for New Instructors

I notice that people post comments to the Udemy Studio, usually after their course is live, that they do not wish for their course to sell for $40 or $20 and so they’ve opted out of Udemy promotion. They seem to be hoping for $195 sales all day long driven by Udemy.

So it’s my duty to break the bad news to you. That’s not how Udemy works.

If you post your course for $195 and do not let Udemy discount it, you will discover that Udemy is not a “full price sale” market. It just isn’t. If this is your plan, you will have to sell the course yourself almost entirely.

Students come to Udemy expecting a discount. In many cases, they expect a big discount.

So before starting to create a course, or while you’re giving thoughts to course creation and how you’re going to sell what you create, you should go into it with the mindset that you will sell 10,000 copies at $10 – $15 each. Then you will split this fairly evenly between you and Udemy.

$50K-$75K for you, and the same for Udemy.

If you have that mindset, you will not be disappointed to see all those $15 sales in your revenue report. You will be happy. Each sale is one more in the 10,000 you want to sell.

If your course has no chance of selling 10,000 copies because there are not that many people interested in your topic, you need to know that too and set your expectations accordingly.

The less people who would likely be interested in your course (“How to Make Homemade Toilet Paper”), then the best strategy might not be to sell on Udemy since you will need to demand a higher course price to justify the effort in creating the course. Yes, course price should be tied to topic potential popularity.

So my advice is to create a course that many tens of thousands of people will possibly want, and let Udemy sell it so that it will go for $10-$15 per student. And be happy.



You Should Add These To Your Udemy Bonus Lecture

Tonight, I opened 30 courses in my Udemy account at random:

  • Had no bonus lecture: 23 out of 30
  • Had a bonus lecture, but only free materials: 4 out of 7
  • Had a bonus lecture, but had no links to social media accounts: 4 out of 7
  • Had a bonus lecture, some or all invalid coupon codes: 3 out of 7
  • Had a bonus lecture, video only: 2 out of 7

Here are five tips to increase your income and reach through the Udemy bonus lecture.

TIP 1: Have a bonus lecture

66% of instructors end the course suddenly or end with goodbye. Only 1/3 of instructors even use a bonus lecture. There’s no excuse not to have one.

Create an article lecture type, and just type a few words in there inviting students to come join your tribe. Include a link to your website at least.


TIP 2: Include Social Media links

At this stage, we all have YouTube channels, Twitter handles, Instagrams, Facebook pages and groups, Snapchat, or some platform where people can “follow” us. Yes, you can include those in your instructor profile in the correct spot, and can include them in other places of your course, but if you have any type of business social presence outside of Udemy, include it.


TIP 3: Join my mailing list

Getting a mailing list is becoming the main way online entrepreneurs can retain some long term value in their business across all the channels. Why not ask your students outright to join your list? No lead magnet, no incentive. “Hey, thanks for taking my course. If you’d like to hear from me, about future course launches or free resources, click here and join my list.” Just ask.


TIP 4: Test your coupons

Even people who DO include coupons to other Udemy courses rarely return to check them. There was only 3 Udemy instructors out of 30 that had Udemy course coupons to offer in their bonus lectures, and TWO out of THREE had invalid (expired) coupons. What a waste. I clicked your link to check out your course, and I am presented with a full price offer.


Tip 5: Use the link resource type

A friend of mine uses a pretty slick video as his bonus lecture. He talks about all the ways to reach him – his web site, his Facebook group, how to get discounts to his Udemy courses. But it’s a video. Nothing is clickable.

People are lazy. Did you know that there is a LINK resource type? So add a link to your website as a resource to the bonus lecture. Then people can just click to go to see your bonus offers.




Thanks for reading this. Go check out the bonus lectures of all of your courses (create them if needed) and get students to learn about what else you have going on!



The Real Effect of Free Coupons

So about two months ago, I started getting serious about tracking search results (and sales) for my competitors.

Every day, I run some searches on Udemy, and record the results to a spreadsheet. Which competitors of mine are selling, and which aren’t? How is the search result changing over time? Did any new courses get launched? Which were unpublished? It’s fascinating stuff.

In this image below, you can see someone get a refund.


Having this data on a daily basis has been really useful to me. I’ll be adding these insights into my Udemy related courses. But I’ll drop one insight for you here.

Free coupons’ students do not influence your search placement. 

A course I have been tracking was stuck at 8 students since July 6. From July 6 til July 21, there were no sales. Completely dead.

Then on July 21, the instructor released some free coupons. The next day, he had 515 students. Then 786, and today 870.


His search position did not change over the first two days, but today it jumped up.

Yesterday, he was in 15th spot, last place. The very last course to come up in search. And today, he’s in 8th spot. Went from last place to the very middle of the pack.

So why is that? He got his first review. 5 stars.

He went from 0 reviews to 1, and suddenly from the last place to 8th.

So, you can give out hundreds of free coupons, and your course won’t move in search. BUT if one of those free coupon students happens to take the course, their review helps you.

In this case, where the instructor had no sales for 3 weeks, I support this decision. Free coupons shouldn’t be your first move, they should be your last. Free coupons are for when your course hasn’t had any sales in weeks and you need (with luck) a boost in search.

Let’s see what happens when the coupons run out. Let’s see if the course picks up any organic sales from this point. But watching this unfold has shown me again what the value of free coupons are. If you get lucky, you’ll get a review out of it.

And 1 review is infinitely better than 0 reviews. As long as it’s a good one.


Solving Problems is the Winning Strategy

There’s been a lot of doom and gloom, woe and tears lately in the Udemy Facebook groups. We all have problems. Obviously, it’s important to look at what’s happening, and ask why. Many people (myself included) have had to change our plans because things just don’t go as you expect sometimes.

But instead of looking at last week and last month, what if we took a moment to look ahead. Look into the future. Where is this going?

Let me tell you what I know. No speculation, 100% certainty. I know this to be true.

  • People will always have problems that need solving
  • People will always be willing to pay money to solve their problems instead of having to do the research themselves
  • Good quality is always worth more than poor quality
  • Good quality lasts longer than poor quality
  • Video is the ultimate learning technology. Beats books, beats audio. There will never be an education technology that replaces video. (Unless we plug a cable into the back of our spinal cords like in the Matrix.)
  • The person who helps the most people solve the most problems wins at life
  • The person who helps the most people solve the most problems will never be hungry
  • The person who helps the most people solve the most problems wins. Period.

So knowing all that to be true, what does that mean for us as instructors?

Assuming you are like me, and you absolutely want to be doing online video courses for years and years to come, how do we both help people and get fairly compensated for that?

1) Solve real problems, not inconsequential ones
2) Focus on quality in everything, quality audio/video, quality instruction, put the students interests before your own
3) You will not go wrong creating a great educational course that solves a problem. Whether it’s on Udemy, or your own site, or elsewhere, investing the time, money, and energy to create something great HAS to be the winning strategy. It has to be.
4) There’s no shortcut to creating something great. You have to invest a lot of time and effort to create anything worth anything.

Creating courses that don’t solve REAL problems, that were rushed out in a week, that were made primarily to make money for yourself, is a losing strategy. It may get you some money, sure. Doing anything where the primary purpose is money (splitting up a course, an intro course here and a longer course there, etc etc) will not get you to the top of the mountain where you want to go.

I truly believe what I wrote above is a good long-term strategy. The course you create is YOURS. You can do with it what you wish, sell it anywhere, sell it for the next 10 years again and again and again. If you make something great.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

2 Get Better at Marketing With Deliberate Practice


How do you get good at something?

Golf, baseball, violin, drawing, creative writing, cooking…. how do you get good at those things?

Can you just take a course and then you’re good at it? No. You need to practice at it to get good. A course sets you in a direction, gives you tools. But you get good by practicing.

But what IS practicing? Is practicing the same as doing? Do you get good at golf by playing a round of golf with your friends? Do you get good at cooking by creating that delicious spaghetti with mushroom sauce your family always loves?

That’s the thing. Practicing is DIFFERENT than doing.

When Tiger Woods goes out to practice, he doesn’t play a round of golf. He takes a bucket of balls to the sand trap, and then proceeds to try 100 times to hit the ball just right out of the same sand trap from the same spot onto the putting green. He doesn’t even knock the ball in the hole, he just practices getting the ball out of the sand trap.

That’s called deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is rarely fun. And it forces you to do something over and over and over.

So let’s break down the skills that matter most in marketing:

  • Copywriting – the content we write, the ads, the landing pages for our courses, everything designed to be read
  • Analytics – knowing what data to track, looking at those results, interpreting the results, making changes based on the data
  • Creativity – An overarching skill that drives us into new directions
  • Product creation – Are you creating the right solutions? Are you teaching the subject the best that you can? Are you efficient at this?
  • Talking to the target audience – You’re trying to help real people solve their problems, but what are their problems? Do they even understand the real root cause of their problems?
  • Can you think of any others? What are the top 5 skills any marketer should have? Reply to this blog post with your thoughts.

Can you deliberately practice any of these skills and get slowly better at them? I think you can. I might have to do a lesson on this when I finish the current course I’m working on. Here are 5 ways you can practice marketing.


1) Spend the most time on the most important factor of copywriting.

What’s the most important part of any copy? The title, the headline, or the opening sentence. It’s the hook that causes someone to want to spend the time to read what you wrote.

Next time you go to write a blog post, don’t just write the title once. Open a Word document, and make 20 different titles. Try rewording the title of that post over and over and over until you found the perfect way to start. You are not going to use 19 of these. But out of the 20, you’ve be extremely happy with 1 and it will be better than the first title you came up with.

I did that with this post. Picture at top.


2) Turn off your ad blocker.

I mean seriously. We’re in the business of selling things online. That’s what we do. If you are blind to any ad online by running an ad blocker, you’re missing a massive opportunity to learn. Most people should run an ad blocker, but online marketers should WANT to see more ads. Yes, please, show me ads. Show me my competitors ads. I want to see them. Because I can do better.

Intentionally seek out ads. In your industry, and outside. Make a regular habit of seeing advertising, and breaking down what type of customer pain point they are trying to hit.


3) Build your own swipe file.

When you Google your keyword, what ads do you see? Which ads are good and which ads are not? Why? Take the ads that you think are the best. Take the ads that you wish you had written yourself, and copy them. Put them in a swipe file for yourself. You want to be the best, learn from the best. Did you write some ad copy that you think was amazing and had an amazing response? You should put it in your own swipe file.

But don’t just copy that and use other people’s ads for yourself. Study them. Rewrite them. Rewrite them again and again. Did you see a really cool Volkswagen ad? How could you write an ad in that same style for your own product? Try it. Study others, write, rewrite, try, and try again. Practice.


4) Get better at finding pain points.

You can’t build products for an audience when you’re isolated from them. You can’t. I’m assuming you took my advice and joined online groups where your target students hang out, help them, and subtly sell to them. That’s the “doing” of marketing. How do you practice that? You need to work harder at listening to people and understand what’s really bothering them.

Talk to your spouse (yes, really). How was their day? What happened? Did anything happen that annoyed them? And what one thing about that is really the core of the problem? What could have made their day better? Or talk to a friend. Or a co-worker over lunch. Or listen to strangers complaining in a cafe. Make a habit of listening and striving to really understand. Not some superficial level of understanding. But how do you go deeper without having a preconceived idea of what the real problem is? If you can do that, you can apply those skills to your existing students or to the online groups where your target market hangs out.


5) Hire a coach.

It’s hard to practice alone. Sure, if you want to get better at golf, you can head to the driving range and drive the ball as far as you can for an hour. But a coach will really identify your weaknesses. He or she will (ideally) look at what you’re doing, and say “you are only doing half of what needs to be done here”. Find someone who coaches people better than you, and sign up for a couple of sessions with them.

Finding the right coach may be tough. Ask around. Get recommendations. But if your copy is not great, you need someone who can be honest with you and tell you. This idea is not for anyone, but every professional athlete has a coach to identify where they need to improve. Should be no different for marketing too.


More reading:

Copyblogger – The 5 Keys to Content Marketing Mastery 

Geoff Colvin – Talent is Overrated