My Playbook for Marketing A Udemy Course

by Scott - 39 Comments

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I wanted to talk about my playbook for marketing a Udemy course by sharing the exact steps I took to market my Sleep Hacking course.

marketing udemy

But first the results

I released it just under three weeks ago:

  • 182 Students
  • Total sales – $1,118.00
  • My share – $763.10
  • 10 reviews – All 5 Stars

Pretty meh for 15 hours of work if you ask me. But hey, the income is passive  and it’s only been up for 3 weeks. Right now I’m generating $50.80 an hour for that work, but as I continue to get sales that number will increase. More amazing perspective about why you should be developing Passive Income here.

Okay, here’s exactly what I did to market it…

Step 1 – Install Google Analytics Code on Class Page

I wanted to see exactly where traffic was coming from in order to understand what channels worked for future courses (got 3 more courses in the hopper).

One thing that frustrated me is that I couldn’t properly set up goal tracking. This is terrible for understanding conversion and optimization. As a result I have to use a mezcla of pages/visit, avg visit duration, and coupon codes to hazily determine conversions. Sigh.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.30.16 PM

Things of note:

  • $20 worth of StumbleUpon traffic didn’t do anything for me.
  • A slideshare that gets 1k views a week has driven 18 views
  • Organic traffic ain’t so shabby

Thankfully the good folks at Udemy just released a new Google Analytics URL structure that makes goal tracking really easy to set up. They even wrote an article on it here!

Step  2 – Email Inner Circle and Get At Least 5 Reviews

I have a group of people I consider my “inner circle.” These are people who I’ve built strong relationships with that understand the digital space and my objectives. They are willing to promote my stuff and I’m willing to promote there’s. Every successful online content creator has a similar inner circle. You need to lean on others before you have a massive audience.

The goal here was to seed the course with positive reviews and students before anyone else saw it in order to optimize conversions once I drove traffic to the page. I wanted everyone unfamiliar with me to think this was the best course on sleep optimization ever (because it is, obvi). Social proof is certainly one way to accomplish that.

I emailed each person in my inner circle individually with a free code to the class asking them to check it out and if they felt comfortable, leave a positive review. For the most part, everyone that I emailed came through. Thanks team! I owe you all sparkling waters.

Step 3 – Email My Lifehacks Community and Give the Course Away For Free

The 2nd group of people I emailed was the community of lifehackers I maintain at HackingNYC. The group is about 300 people now. I wanted to give the course away to everyone in the group for free for multiple reasons:

  • I appreciate them and want to hook up my peeps
  • I realize that in the long run I’m way better off from a conversion standpoint having a ton of social proof via reviews and students than making an extra few bucks at the start
  • The fact that I’m giving this subset of people away something that took me 15 hours to create hopefully inspires other people to join the group. YES, I will be giving away other courses for free to this group so sign up now.

Again, the goal here was to generate as much social proof as possible from people that already know me to “juice the courses stats” before I drove any traffic.

Result: 57 students. Kobe!

Step 4 – Give it Away to Original SleepHacking Class

I originally created this content for a Skillshare online course. Because the feedback is so vibrant in that enviroment, it’s a perfect place to throw a course up, get feedback, and then optimize it for a more passive channel like Udemy. The increased engagement also makes it an excellent place to mine for testimonials which can be used on your sales page.

Note* the pictures – more teachers should humanize their page by leveraging custom html.

marketing udemy a course

These recommendations were all mined from my Skillshare class via the on-site endorsements. I also did some personal outreach after someone left me a positive review to see if they’d be willing to provide a more extensive testimonial. From there, I used rapportive to isolate the students that consented profile pictures from twitter ; )

One thing that’s lame-o is that Skillshare doesn’t provide instructors email lists for the students who take their online courses like they do for offline ones. Despite their efforts to foil my future propaganda, I was able to get everyone’s email address who took the course via paypal and stripe recepits. Nice try!

I had my virtual assistant compile the email addresses and then I emailed them with a free code to the “new and enhanced” version. My only ask was that they leave a positive review if they thought it was good. No one left a review, but my students count jumped which is still a win.

Result: 20 Students

Step 5 – Give it Away for Free on Reddit

I read a post the Udemy blog how one teacher gave his course away for free on Reddit and got 500 signups from it.

I’ve learned that the key to gaming marketplaces is reaching the minimum threshold of virality (or internal promotion); if you can juice your course to the extent where it’s featured on site or in email communication, you’re golden. Typically popularity within a short time window is the only way to make this happen. Thus, giving it away to a bunch of redditers so I could get featured in Udemy emails and on-site seemed like a good idea.

I posted the following thread in the “Productivity” subreddit.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 10.11.56 PM

Result: 21 Students

Woohoo. Not quite 500 hundo, but I’ll take it. In retrospect, I should have asked for some reddit upvotes from friends. I didn’t because I always feel slimy doing this even though I know they don’t care. Whatevs.

Step 6 – Email Lead Gen List

In anticipation of releasing this class, I used Odesk to have a developer create a landing page so I could start collecting leads before the class was live.

One thing I learned while I was running marketing at SP was that it’s never too early to start building an email list – even if you’re not ready to market to them. So that’s what I did.

Below is the page I created. I linked to in a few tweets and places on my blog before I launched the class to build a list.

marketing a udemy course


I got 16 leads to this page before launching the class. I emailed these people offering a time-sensitive 50% off discount on the course and got 4 people to sign up. First dollars – cha ching!

For more tips on how to email your leads, check out these email marketing tips from 33 experts.

Step 7 – Put An Icon on My Blog Directing to the Course

Before the class was published, I was driving people to the lead-gen page by placing an icon I had a designer create on the sidebar of my blog.

Udemy marketing


I changed the link to point directly to the course. According to Google Analytics, it looks like 123 people were referred to the course via my blog. I’m sure a cohort of these leads came from this image. Next time I’ll use tracking to measure more precisely.

Step 8 – HelloBar

I changed the messaging in the HelloBar on the top of my blog to direct to the course page.


According to the HelloBar analytics, 48 people clicked through to the course within the 2 weeks following the release.

I’ve since changed this back to directing people to my BDNewsletter.

*The greatest traffic driver to my site is organic search and the most visited content is on business development. Given the intent, I hypothesize that I’ll convert more people to my newsletter than to my sleep class. If I consider the value of a subscriber equal to someone who pays for my course (which I do post-initial launch), I’ll abstract more value per visit by having the HelloBar drive people to my newsletter.

Step 9 – Blast Out to Social Channels

No crazy explanation here.

One cool thing was the reaction I got from Facebook friends. I shy away from promoting most of my stuff on my personal facebook which is why I created a page for my blog (like it and I’ll give you a bearhug!).

So this whole new “Scott is creating content and selling stuff online” is unfamiliar to a lot of my social circle. Anyways, a bunch of people from my past came out of the woodwork and thought it was cool that I was creating online courses. I also think I freaked a girl out I used to date because of the subject matter. A little bird told me she thought it was odd I was into “sleep hacking?” Heh.

Step 10 – Give it Away to Google+ Communities

Due to the increasing importance of Google+ for SEO, I’ve been investing more time on interacting on there (I be  dwelling here). I had  my assistant Josiah find a bunch of communities on productivity, lifehacks, and sleep.

I then gave away the course to everyone in relevant communities.

sleep hacking


I got 2 signups out of it….sugar water! If there was a pile of dirt somewhere near by I’d definitely kick it.

Step 11 – Redirect My Slideshare Presentation to Course Page

A big part of marketing this course has been the viral slideshare I created on Sleep Hacking. Originally it pointed to the Skillshare class. I re-uploaded a new version that linked out to the Udemy course. Looks like it hooked 18 people in. Considering it gets 1000+ views a week, I’m clearly not optimizing the positioning of it within the slideshare. I think beefing it up with some customer testimonials sprinkled in will help improve traffic to Udemy. I hope to get to this sometime soon as the SEO is very good.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 9.43.21 PM

Looks like I’m batting just under 5 hundo on google first page results! Note* it’s important to use incognito mode so the results aren’t skewed.

Step 12 – Give it Away on Pinterest

About 2 months ago I paid a virtual assistant on Odesk to spend 5 hours a week building up my Pinterest following. This is why my Pinterest profile looks like an ironic, teenage girl’s page.

My goal was to test out its viability as a traffic driver. He got me a bunch of followers, but I’ve seen little traffic to my blog or this course due to the incongruence between my pinterest followers and content.

I gave away the course for free and literally saw no signups.

udemy pinterest

Unless I start selling interior design courses, I’m giving up on spending any time on or money on Pinterest.

Step 13 – Post A Promotional Video on A Blog Post

I uploaded 1 of the 7 modules onto Youtube and then posted the video in a blog post called “How What You Put into Your Body Effects Your Sleep.” I was hoping that this would be a carrot that would attract people to the course. I even made the video thumbnail the most provocative slide which says “I reccomend seeing a doctor to get this fixed.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 3.34.59 PM

I didn’t see any traffic from YouTube and am not sure how many conversions this drove. It does appear that nearly 300 people have watched it which is pretty rad.

Udemy conveniently just did a blog post on how to market your course on YouTube after I released this course. Sick timing for my next class ; )

Step 14 – Write A Post on What I Learned About Slideshare Marketing

I wrote a post on What I Learned Creating A Viral Slideshare partly to market the class. Yes, I wanted to tell everyone cool stuff I learned, but don’t let me kid you, I wanted that post to generate loot.

Step 15 – Send An Email to Everyone Who I Mentioned in the Course

One thing that I’ve started to do is email everyone who I mention in content I’ve created. People love humble brags. If you tell someone you mentioned them in something, they’ll likely share it even when you don’t ask them to!

Here’s an email I sent Dave Asprey from the BulletProof Exec.

Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 12.18.46 AM

Dave didn’t share the presentation, but hopefully he enjoyed the kudos! I pinky promise this strategy usually works.

What I Didn’t Do

Okay so I just gave you my laundry list of everything I did to market the course. Here’s a few things I didn’t do that I plan on incorporating for my next course which is on How to Maximize Your Productivity on Gmail.

  • I didn’t ask people to leave me a review throughout the course. In a podcast, one of the founders of Udemy mentioned that only 10% of people finish the class. Given the weight that reviews have on getting featured and conversion, I plan on asking people who take the course to leave reviews early and often.
  • Give bloggers and other influential people with large email lists codes to give their readers the course for free. If you have an audience and want to hook up your people let’s chat.
  • Paid marketing – aside from spending $20 on StumbleUpon which isn’t even worth writing about, I didn’t do any paid advertising. The reason is because this course isn’t exspensive enough where it warrants paid promotion. I also don’t have enough expertise to feel comfortable doing this.
  • Do an interview testimonial with students who have had success due to the course and repurpose it as a blog post.
  • A/B test course titles. I’d love if someone could give me some cost-effective ways to do this beyond simply asking people to fill out a survey. It’d be great to test in a more natural test setting.


So there you have it. This was all the stuff I did to market my Udemy course after I released it. If you have any ideas on things I could try next time, please share them in the comments and I’ll give you a digital bear hug!

Oh crap, I almost forgot.

Step 16 – Write a Post on My Playbook for Marketing A Udemy Course (See the course here!)

You had to know that was coming ; )


Join 19,746 Subscribers

39 comments, add to the conversation.

  1. Joshua

    Another great breakdown. Transparency on step-by-step is really insightful.

    Will email you some thoughts on the A/B testing.
    What kind of ripple effect did this have for your blog/newsletter/etc.? Anything measurable?


  2. Cameron Goble

    Exactly perfect, Scott. Just what I was looking for as I’m ramping up my own Udemy marketing engine. Cheers for all the specifics!


  3. Grant Weherley

    Hey Scott just had an idea about the A/B testing.

    Use Adwords with different course titles based on what you think your customer would search for. For this course that would probably be pretty straightforward. Then send all the ads to that same landing page. Choose title based on click/impression ratio.

    If it worked for the title of the 4 hour workweek it will work for a Udemy course.

    Thanks for the great post – hoping my course does as well as yours appears to be doing now! Far beyond the 50/hr. How are you continuing to promote it?


      1. Scott Britton

        In terms of additional promotion, it’s all about optimizing for marketplace dynamics. This means getting a shitload of social proof in terms of reviews and students. In order to do this, I’m proactive about getting both even if it means giving the course away for free. I also made sure to optimize the copy of my sales page so that it converts really high. The thesis was that if I had a really high converting page, Udemy would promote it for me. It worked ; )


  4. Tyler Brown

    Thanks for sharing! I don’t know how you pulled half of this off because apparently I’m coming across as a spammer with my Photo Editing Basics class to everyone even when I’m giving it away for FREE. I am promoting a Skillshare class but the concepts are the same.

    I’ve tried a strategy of sending a free, page exclusive coupon code to popular FB pages to share with their fans and I’ve been met with some serious hostility.

    Additionally, I was flagged on Reddit with a post nearly identical to yours.

    I’ve even posted it for free in FB groups of mine on TRAVEL and have had it removed. No response from any blog I’ve been sending it to as well.

    The ONLY thing that has netted me a positive response is posting it on a photo forum I’m active on which has netted ~20 free signups and only friendly responses.

    Also, as a tracking method, I’ve created custom coupons for every single channel I give them to in order to help understand where the most return is coming from.


    1. Scott Britton

      Hmm. Usually people think something is spam when there is not congrunce between what someone perceives as valuable and what you’re offering. The way in which you position something in terms of copy is very important too.

      I wouldn’t carpet bomb fb pages and I was met with some hostility on reddit as well.

      I think the best thing you can do is rely on a network of friends, colleagues, and peers to seed the initial site with reviews/students to juice it until market dynamics kick in.


      1. Tyler Brown

        Thanks for the reply, Scott! Good points you make and I think the fact that there aren’t any reviews yet doesn’t give much credibility at the moment.

        I’ve always thought it interesting that Skillshare has “launch date”…not really sure what the point is. I’d love to see a blog on Skillshare Vs. Udemy…haven’t really come across something noteworthy from someone who’s spent time on both.

        Regardless, your advice has helped a ton and I’ve netted 85 students in 4 days (3 paid from organic) and am now showing up on the first page of classes. Thanks again!


          1. Tyler Brown

            Do it! The biggest differences I see are project based vs. info based, Skillshare seems to hold a bit more prestige with bigger names teaching classes and more closely vetted/selected content, but the biggest difference being that Udemy seems to get way more traffic likely due to sheer volume of classes and teacher marketing going on.

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  7. Charlie Chung

    Wow, awesome post, thank you very much!

    It’s great to get the nuts & bolts, and also see that not everything that seems like a great idea brings in a lot of results, but you’re trying many different things. I almost do wonder now, is this blog-post itself, partly aimed at bringing more visibility to the course? That would be a cool, Inception-like play right there–I love it!


  8. Guillermo Puyol

    Scott, thanks for the play by play. I was wondering how your course is doing now, did the sales die down, kept steady, grow??? I’m wrapping up my first Udemy course so any and all insights will be greatly appreciated.


    1. Post Author Scott

      Course is doing great. Sales have waned a bit, but not by that much. The key is to write a high converting sales page so that Udemy promotes it


  9. Leigh

    Hey man, thanks for a great post! Looks like you have about 5069 students as of January 2014. Can you give us an update as to how many of them are paid and your current weekly revenue etc.?




  10. Post Author Scott

    I have no idea how many are paid, but many are free for sure. I honestly don’t feel comfortable sharing my weekly revenue on a comment feed at this time….sorry Leigh


  11. Filomena

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but good
    topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.

    Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this information for my mission.


  12. John Shea

    Very informative article, I noticed you no have over 6000 people and 100+ reviews, what really helped you get this course off the ground after 1000+ students?


    1. Post Author Scott

      Thanks man!

      Best thing you can do is write a high-converting sales page by studying copywriting. Courses that get featured are the ones that convert the best at mid-range price points. So that’s where I put my focus…


  13. Archer Atlas

    Thanks for this article. I just created a Udemy course and published it yesterday, so I’m definitely going to follow your lead.

    I have no problem sleeping, but now I’m very tempted to buy your course anyway. I’ll probably do it in the next coming weeks, as I have a ton on my plate and no time to consume.

    Anyway, thanks for this!


  14. teej

    so your marketing strategy was to give it away for free to as many people as possible? um… no wonder it hasn’t earned you any money.


  15. Andrew

    Scott, just curious if you would change your approach now??? What about using cheap Facebook ads and give away free courses? Does Udemy have a problem with giving away so many courses? Thanks for your post. I’m considering launching a Udemy course with some existing content from a membership site.


  16. Brendo

    I bet you think the time investment was worth it now, Scott. Almost 13,000 enrolled!
    Well done, and thanks for the write up.


  17. Jasmine

    Hi! I’m an assistant for the author Albert Flynn DeSilver. He just published a writing course on Udemy. I’m reaching out because I think your Sleep Hack course would be valuable to writers. Would you be interested in writing a guest blog post for his website? We can include a link to your course. Please email me if you’re interested. Thanks!


  18. Shimmy Morris

    Lots of seriously good information here! Thank you so much! I’m just about to launch my Facebook Ads 2.0 Course on udemy. Had great success the first time, now looking to speak to some affiliates. As I have never tried affiliate marketing.


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