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How to Validate your Online Course Idea

blog posts online courses Apr 15, 2018

Are you considering creating an online course in 2018? 

If so, then you are in the right place as this blog post is ALL about validating your online course idea.  

I’ve worked with so many online course creators that spend a lot of time and money creating an online course only to find out afterward that no one wants to buy it! I don’t want that to happen to you. Instead, I want you to be certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are creating a course that people will buy.

It is not a good idea to create your course in a vacuum, all by yourself. Having created online courses for years, I have learned this the hard way. Once I figured out that I needed to do a lot of research, and actually talk to my ideal students, the income I generated from my online courses increased exponentially.

Let's get this course party started, so I can help you validate your online course idea BEFORE you create it, okay?  I've got eight great suggestions for you!

1) EXPERIENCE & RESULTS
I’ve listed the most important course validation test first. I don't ever recommend that someone create an online course on a topic where they don’t have experience AND have not already gotten some results. Now, these could be results you've seen for yourself, or for others.  In my opinion, it is not ethical, and people will be able to tell right away that you are not a subject matter expert on the topic if you haven't already gotten results.

I am not saying that you have been paid for helping someone get results. There could be things that you have helped family and friends get results for free.  The bottom line is that you have experience and results on the topic you want to teach online.


2) SEARCHING ONLINE
The second way to validate your course topic is to see if people are actually doing searches online about the topic. When you have a problem or are looking to achieve a goal, don’t you go online and start searching? I know that I do. I don’t usually do searches to just learn about a random topic. I search because I need help with something. It’s the same with online courses. People buy online courses if they have a problem or want to achieve a goal. They don’t buy them just to be more educated on the topic. Not many of us have time for that nowadays!

When you have your course topic in mind, you can validate your course by seeing if people are searching online using the keywords associated with your topic.

Google Keyword Planner
As you know, Google is the largest search engine in the world. In addition to doing Google searches, there is a tool that is most helpful, and it's called the Google Keyword Planner. I learned about this when I was running Google Adwords for an e-commerce website I was running several years ago. This tool will give you historical statistics such as search volume data for your subject matter keywords and new keywords that are relevant to your subject. By using this, you can see if people are searching for the keywords related to your course topic.

Social Media
You can also take the very same search keywords that you have discovered and search for them on various Social Media Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.


3) FREE ONLINE CONTENT
One of the ways that marketers find their ideal customers is by providing free content that is of interest to them. This is called content marketing. So, the third way that you can validate your online course idea is to see if there is a good amount of free online content on your course topic. There are a lot of places that you can find free content. If you can find a good amount of free content online about your subject, then your course idea is likely a valid one.

Blog Posts
You can use Google Search to find blog posts written on the topic of your online course. You can type in your subject and then the word *blogs* after that and you will be able to see if there are blogs on the topic. If and when you find the blogs, read the posts and see if there is a lot of interaction or engagement in the comments of the blogs. If you cannot find any blogs on your course topic, that may be a red flag for you.

Facebook Groups & Pages
You can also search using your keywords on Facebook. If you find Facebook Groups and Pages on your course topic with a lot of followers, or members with a lot of content and engagement, this will help you determine if there is a market for your course.

YouTube
You can do a search with your topic’s keywords on YouTube which is the world's second biggest search engine (after Google). There are millions of channels on all kinds of subjects. If there are channels on your course topic with lots of subscribers and videos with lots of views and comments about your topic, that is a good sign that that you have a valid course topic. However, if you can’t find any Youtube videos on your course topic, then that is a big red flag as well. Also, on a side note - just because there is a lot of information online for free - even if that is the case, people will STILL buy an online course to have access to you, and to have the information presented in a very concise and organized format. Not everyone has the time to search and find random content, and they usually don’t get results that way either.


 4) PUBLISHED BOOKS
The fourth way you can validate your course topic is to see if there have been books published on the topic. You can easily search for books on Amazon. When you find the books, see how many reviews there are.  Check out what people are saying about the books to see how passionate they are about that topic and what kinds of questions they are asking. Again, if you can’t find any books on your course topic, that could be a red flag as well.


5) COURSES AVAILABLE
The fifth way to validate your online course is to see if there are already online courses on your topic that people are buying. If you can find other courses, that is a good thing!  If you cannot find courses on your topic that are already created, that means there may not be a market for the topic that you want to teach online. (Hint: this is a big red flag!)

Course Marketplace
A really easy way to search to see if there are already courses in your niche is to search inside Course Marketplaces. These are websites that aggregate and sell courses that subject matter experts write. They share in the revenue earned from the courses with the instructors. Udemy seems to have the largest collection of courses.

You can search for your course topic to see if there are already other courses available. Once you find them, spend some time looking at the course syllabus, and see how many students have enrolled in the course. You can also see the reviews that the students have left for the course. When you are checking out these courses, keep in mind that yours will be different because you will bring your own perspective, style, and experience to your course.

Self-Hosted Courses
Subject matter experts often sell and host their own courses on their own websites. In other words, they don’t sell them through a Course Marketplace.


6) YOUR IDEAL STUDENT
The sixth way to validate your online course idea is to make sure you are very intimate with your ideal student.

Identify your Ideal Student
You want to be clear about who your online course audience is. This is called your Ideal Student. In addition to identifying them, you have to be able to find them, so that you can offer them your course. If you can’t identify them or find them, then you really shouldn’t move forward creating the course as you won't be able to sell it!

Talk to your Ideal Student
Once you have identified your ideal student, then you will want to actually talk to them! Yes, this will take a bit more effort, but will be SO worth it in the long run! There is nothing better than getting direct feedback from your ideal student as to whether your course idea is valid or not. You will want to reach out to people that already know and love you, that are in your current audience or tribe, as well as people that do not know you so that you can get unbiased feedback. Warning: Do not, under any circumstances ask your family or friends about your course topic! They will want to support you and will (of course) tell you your course idea is a great one, but they are not your ideal student nor would they actually purchase it. If you move forward based on their approval, I am afraid you will have a false sense of security that your course idea is a valid one.

What to Ask your Ideal Student
Ask your ideal student what kinds of problems they have OR what kind of aspirations they are looking for related to your course topic. Ask them what is holding them back. What are they struggling with? The goal here is to get “inside their head” and document everything they say! Write down their pain points, their fears, and their concerns. This is all very important for you, and you will refer back to your notes over and over as you create your course, as well as your marketing messaging and your sales page.

There are a number of ways that you can communicate with your ideal student. You can set up a Skype appointment, or you can have them join you on a webinar such as a GoToMeeting or a Zoom meeting. You can also do surveys via email. You can direct message them or ask them online through various Social Media platforms. I always recommend recording these conversations and documenting your results if you can, as you will want to go back and listen to them again.


7) CREATE A BETA COURSE
The seventh way to validate your online course idea is by creating a beta course.  This takes the most time and work but is DEFINITELY worth it in the long run.  The advantage of creating a Beta Course is that you don't have to be perfect, or spend time on all of the technology that you need to learn when you create your online course.

What is a Beta Test?
A beta course allows you to test your course with your ideal students before you actually create the entire course. For example, your entire course creation will consist of creating and recording the training videos, setting up your online course delivery platform, and doing a full-blown launch. The goal of a Beta Test is to make sure that people are interested in your course, and most importantly, that they get results once they've completed the course. You can offer a beta course for free or at a reduced price. There are different ways to do a beta course. The most common way is to teach your content via a series of live webinars giving your students access to the replays.

8) DON'T CREATE YOUR ONLINE COURSE ALONE
The eighth and final tip to validate your online course is to work with course creation experts. It is so helpful if you can brainstorm and get feedback from others. Sometimes, we just need to bounce our ideas off other people.  That is why I created the Digital Business Boutique Community.  This is my private Facebook group with people just like yourself all working together to monetize our expertise online. 


SUMMARY
To summarize, I have provided you with eight ways that you can validate your course topic. Validating your course topic will help you make sure that your course is something that your audience wants and needs. You do not need to create your course in a vacuum. I would hate to have you complete your course, only to launch it and have nobody buy it! By following these eight steps, you can be sure that you will have a highly successful topic that will make it easy to create your course!