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 Which were unpublished?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.
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
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.
The dog ate my homework. So I recorded this yesterday and did up a blog post for it. But I guess it’s still sitting in one of my browser tabs at home unpublished… Sorry folks. But here it is.
Today’s challenge is outlined in this video.
Preliminary Task) So this is the last time I’ll ask you to check your stats. How is your course? Hopefully you’ve seen a few places bump. Post your results in the thread below in order to get in a random draw for a tweet and a post to my site.
Day 5 Task) Engage your students.
Having students who take your course through your active involvement with them has so many benefits, too many:
higher average minutes watched (good for SEO)
more reviews (good for SEO)
higher average review score (good for? SEO)
more recommendations to their friends
more links around the web
more connections with you, that lead to a million other opportunities
higher likelihood to buy your next course
Presumably you started teaching on Udemy to teach people, right? Yes, it’s nice to make money and it’s a full-time income for many, but if you pay attention to your course, pay attention to your students, continue to care for them, then they will care for you.
What does this mean?
Educational announcements that lead to great content from others in your industry (not just you)
Educational announcements that are encouraging
Adding more lessons occasionally
Answering questions in the Q&A section
Encouraging participation (introduce yourself, post your project pictures) in the course itself
Listening closely to what their real problems are (which can lead you to your next course)
This is a long term play. Don’t expect your course to jump 5 places by tomorrow. But you can’t just create courses and market them. You have to be the best ongoing teacher you can be, inspire students, tell them they can do it, make them watch your videos and learn from you.
“You can have anything in life that you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar
So go to it. Be a great teacher. Help people get what they want (by learning the subject they paid money to learn) and they’ll help you get what you want.
Thank you for following this challenge, and I am humbled and very appreciative of your response. Love hearing about your success, so please share it with me today, next week or next month as you see your courses grow and become popular!
Keep me posted in the comments below, or inside my SEO for Udemy course, with your progress, thoughts, questions, and comments!
Preliminary Task) It’s rinse and repeat time. Check your course position, and see if it improved from yesterday. Did it help you at all, or no change? Even if there’s no change, that’s OK as long as you’re happier with the copy. It might increase conversions.
Day 4 Task) Moving on to the description.
I prefer courses with longer descriptions. I know writing lengty copy is hard sometimes, and in the rush to get our courses “live”, we just want to say a paragraph or two about how great the course is. But now is the time to revisit the description. Really read through it, and see what’s missing. Does it draw the reader into wanting to take the course? Have you filled it with language such as “by the end of this course, you’ll be able to…”?
Don’t make it a dry, boring laundry list of lecture names. Don’t just list in bullet point form the name of your lessons. Really sell the course. Talk about how great it will be once the student is at the end of the course, and has learned the skills. Make them imagine the future. Write at least 400 words.
And after all that, after you’ve rewritten the perfect copy. Go back over it and count the number of times you’ve used your keywords. Whatever that number is, you need to double it. Did you use your keyword only 5 times? Make it 10. Did you use it 10? Make it 20. Well, ok, I wouldn’t say you should use it more than 20. But you won’t believe the number of courses that I see that use the keyword only once or twice in the description.
Preliminary Task) Once again, we check the results of the changes yesterday. Search for your keyword on Udemy. If you went up in search, great! If you didn’t, well, you tried. Revert back to your old title if that experiment didn’t work.
Day 3 Task) The subtitle is most frequently underused by instructors. The subtitle is a great place to really attract people to your course. Use all the characters here if you wish. Be sure to include your keyword once. But make a subtle promise to students here what they will learn after taking your course.
“Get the right brand and logo for your business so that customers are attracted to you instantly”
If a word is not in your title or subtitle, you will NOT be found in Udemy search.
So subtitle is a good place to hide variations of your keyword. Say your keyword is “sing”, you can include the word “song” or “singing” in the subtitle to catch those smaller keywords.
Change your subtitle to something that will make students feel like yours is the course for them, and we’ll see you tomorrow.
It’s time to make a change to one of the most important aspects of your course for SEO purposes: the course title.
Now many instructors feel that their title cannot be changed. It was the title they chose before they created their course, it’s on all their slides, they mention it inside the course, it’s part of their brand, it is just too sacred to touch.
And it’s fine to hold that view I guess – it’s just potentially holding students back from finding your course. You’re helping less people learn the topic because you refuse to change the title.
All I ask is that you try a different title for 24 hours. Stand back, become temporarily detached from it, and think of a title that includes your keyword that’s simple and clear on what the course delivers.
Preliminary Task) This is where I’d ask you to check your search position for any changes, but most of you made no SEO changes to your course yesterday, so this isn’t necessary today. But we’ll check tomorrow for sure. If you did change your course yesterday, check the search position for any changes.
Day 2 Task) Go into your course dashboard, under the Basics menu, and change your title. Let it sit for 24 hours.
Tomorrow, we’ll check the changes and see if there was any impact. Don’t worry, it’s easy to undo if the impact was negative. Don’t be disheartened if the impact was negative, it’s a test and not all tests succeed.
Update: The challenge is now over. But feel free to start from Day 1 on your own schedule.
“Optimize Your Course for Udemy SEO” Challenge (Unofficial)!
Throughout the week (Monday April 18 to Friday April 22), I will challenge you to a series of small, tiny tasks to improve your course in Udemy SEO / search results. Each day, I will ask you to experiment with something on your course landing page, and you’ll come back to check on your course the next day to see the effect and make another change. I would hope that it will not take you more than 5 minutes to complete each day’s challenge. You’ll check the results of the previous day’s task, and make another small change to your course landing page and save.
The goal is to get your course from its current position in search for your desired keyword to a higher position. If by Friday, it’s higher, that’s success.
Because I am unable to send out daily course announcements (there are more challenge days than in course announcements), and the course Q&A tab is no longer set up for student communication like this, the challenge will be posted on my website at http://videocourses.ca/SEOChallenge
The challenge is free to join, and I don’t request any personal info from you. Come back to this URL each day for the new days’ challenge! I will remind you in course announcements twice more during the week next week.
Your Udemy SEO is too important not to spend a few minutes every day trying to improve your course.
Update: Since the challenge is over, the prizes have already been awarded. But don’t let that stop you.
No monetary prizes, but I will randomly pick up to 10 winners from all who are students of my Udemy SEO course and complete this challenge, to promote your course with a non-affiliate coupon code on my personal Twitter and CourseMania.com website. The winners will also be announced after the end of the challenge. I obviously can’t promise any sales, but if you want your link somewhere thousands of people will see it, I can offer you some free exposure.
FIRST 3 TASKS (BEFORE Monday April 18)
1) What’s your main keyword? __________________________
Hopefully after going through this course, you understand the importance of being very targeted with your keyword. When you’re just starting out, you need to be aware of one key word that people will use to search. Ideally, you want to use a word that LOTS of people are using to search. So don’t pick a word like “spontaneous”. Put yourself in your student’s shoes – what words would they enter into the search box to potentially find what they are looking for? Choosing the right keyword is one of the keys to good Udemy SEO.
2) When you enter that one word into Udemy.com, on what page of results do you appear? __________________________
If you have to go to page 4 of search results to see your course, the answer is “4”.
3) What would you estimate your overall search position to be for that word? __________________________
There are 12 results per page, so if you are in position 4 on page 4, you are in (3 X 12) + 4 = 36 + 4 = 40th position.
Write the answers to these three questions down. We will want to come back to this at the end of the week to see the progress for your course.
DAY 1 CHALLENGE
Today’s challenge is outlined in this video.
Day 1 of the SEO for Udemy course challenge.
1) Make sure you come back to this page every day until Friday to get the next day’s challenge. I am unable to send course announcements every day to remind you.
2) If you didn’t do the First 3 Tasks above, do it. Do a search for your course using your keyword, and record the search position that you’re at today. We will be measuring the success of this weeks tasks against beating that search position.
3) Finally, “do a backup” of your course landing page. Make a copy of your course landing page (screenshots or copy/paste) so that you can get back to the current settings if things go wrong. Make sure to expand the description to the full length.
Day 1 challenge:
Do you think you know what your main keyword is? Let’s verify that.
Day 1 Task 1) Take the word you answered in Question 1 of “First 3 Tasks” above, and do a search in Google Trends.
Warning: Adwords forces you to create an ad when you create a new account. Don’t be worried about this, you don’t have to go live with this ad. Just create it and leave it unpublished. It will cost you nothing if you do this. Go under tools and see the keyword planner tool.
Validate your assumption for the keyword by finding out the number of monthly active searches for :
[your keyword] + course
[your keyword] + courses
[your keyword] + training
Choose exact match search. Find out how many times people are searching for that. Is it small? Less than 1000 per month? That might not be enough.
Play with Google’s keyword tool to find if your word is best or if there’s a better word.
How many searches per month does [your keyword] + course get? __________________________
Day 1 Results:
I expect most of you will be satisfied with the keyword you originally chose. If so, great. You should have more confidence than before that this was a good keyword and some actual numbers and research to back up that assumption. But perhaps some of you are starting to rethink your keyword and are leaning towards another more popular one. That’s ok too! It’s easy to change with Udemy courses. Even if you have to change your keyword, you should have more confidence that more people will be searching for that word and have a chance of finding your course. More data (as long as it’s clear and consistent) equals more confidence.
Do not go and make changes to your course landing page just yet with this new keyword. In tomorrow’s challenge, we’ll make a change to the course landing page and you can use that new keyword then.
Update: They’ve reversed the policy on this, and this post is no longer valid.
In case you missed it, Udemy has “dropped the other shoe” and announced changes to it’s pricing structure (link no longer valid).
Udemy has changed so much in the past 6 months, hasn’t it?
There is a consistent thread through much of how Udemy has changed over the past few months, and to me there is one incident that defines “why” all of these changes are happening.
Exactly on Thanksgiving Day 2015, a massive controversy erupted. Someone had stolen a course from pluralsight and posted it to Udemy. The original author, incensed that someone had stolen his work and put it up for sale, posted his grievance to the web about how Udemy was stealing their work for profit, and it became an international incident. Stories about Udemy being a home to pirates appeared all over the web, and in prestigious places like the BBC.
Except, it wasn’t 100% fair. Indeed someone had stolen his course, but it wasn’t Udemy that stole it. Like any business on the web, Udemy acts when it’s notified of pirated content on its site through the DMCA process, as they are required to by law. The author hadn’t given Udemy much time to respond, and Udemy got a black eye over essentially nothing. However, Udemy had the global lynch mob’s attention that week and the facts couldn’t stem the outrage, and it must have been painful for all of Udemy’s employees.
I believe it was a defining moment in the history of the company.
That incident gave Udemy executives and investors a real scare. Udemy’s reputation been attacked on many fronts that week not just the pirated course in question, and Udemy having a good reputation was essential to the future of their business. Udemy for Business is trying to strike deals with companies, and the Partnership team is trying to work to make deals globally. Once you have a bad reputation, it takes time to build a new one. And so Udemy had to get to work.
Recovering Udemy’s reputation became job #1 in December 2015.
First up, re-focusing on trust and safety. They already had a trust and safety team, but they needed to get serious about rule enforcement.
In December, thousands of fake reviews had been removed from Udemy in a bulk cleaning. In January and February as well. Strikes now had force. Some instructors who’ve abused the system for a while were kicked off Udemy entirely. In 3 months, there are not many courses on Udemy that you can point to as obvious scams. One has to say that a lot of the obviously bad stuff has been removed at this point.
Incidentally, this is one reason why courses about guns were recently banned.
Second up, instructor verification and stricter review process. Just try to upload a course today with a Lynda or pluralsight logo in the bottom corner, and see if it gets approved. I’ve seen instructors asked to prove their courses really were theirs. And some instructors are being asked to verify their identities again even though they’re live on the platform. This ensures the Thanksgiving incident doesn’t happen again.
Third up, student reviews. One major knock against Udemy has been “all courses are 5-stars”. The old review system was basically useless. Students could not use the star rating at all in selecting courses, and so buying a course was hit or miss. Yes, there was the 30-day refund. But I’m sure the person who refunds does not go back and buy another Udemy course. Once burned, twice shy.
And now, pricing. Go out to the wider web and ask about Udemy, and anyone who knows will tell you never to pay full price. How many instructors signed up because they thought every Udemy instructor must be a millionaire? (4000 students times $300 each = $1.2 million, wow!) How many students that paid full price ended up either refunding or regretting paying so much when almost no one else was? Do they become raving fans of Udemy after?
Again, if a student has a bitter taste in their mouth after their first experience, refund or no refund, that’s not good for any of us.
Underlying Udemy’s business model is trust. Students must trust Udemy. Instructors who try to game the system with fake reviews undermine trust. Pirated courses and PLR content undermine trust. A perfect 5.0 course review score on every course in a category undermines trust. And listing a course for $300 when Udemy frequently sells it for $10, and the instructor themselves will sell for $1 also undermines trust.