Online courses have become popular across a wide variety of niches, and I have seen so many creators finding success with courses in even extremely small niches.
However, your success depends to a great extent on whether there is enough demand for your course topic or not, which most first-time course creators don’t take into consideration.
So, it’s important to validate your online course idea before you actually create it, or you’ll struggle to sell it.
There are several different ways to validate your idea, and in this guide, I’ll cover the 11 most effective validation strategies and will also explain who should use which approach and why.
To make it simpler, I have divided these strategies into 3 broad categories:
- Look at market data to assess demand
- Use indirect methods to understand the demand
- Reach out to your target audience
Let’s get started.
- Look at Market Data to Assess Demand
- Use Indirect Methods to Understand the Demand
- Reach Out to Your Target Audience
Look at Market Data to Assess Demand
If you can get data that suggests enough demand for your course idea, it will be a clear validation of your idea.
This approach is pretty quick, and using all the methods listed within this section will not take you more than a few hours.
So, I recommend looking at data as the first approach to every course creator who plans to validate their course idea.
Now let’s look at the different ways you can find data to validate your course idea.
1. Estimate Google Search Volume
One of the easiest ways to get an initial idea of the demand for your course topic is to look for Google search volume estimates for your primary keyword and related keywords.
And you can do it in a couple of different ways.
To begin with, you can look for estimates for keywords that contain the term ‘course’ and your primary keyword.
Let’s say you want to create a course on knitting. In this case, you can look for search volume estimates for the term ‘knitting course’ and its possible variations.
You can then broaden your search a bit and use a keyword like ‘learn knitting’ or ‘how to learn knitting’. These keywords signify a strong intent on the part of the searchers to learn your topic and will give you a sense of your potential audience size.
Moreover, it will give you some insights into what exactly people are looking to learn and you can use this information to further refine your course idea.
Finally, you should look for estimates of keywords that contain your primary keyword without the term ‘course’ or ‘learn’.
Over here, you will get a significantly higher search volume estimate, as everybody searching for your keyword on Google will not be a potential customer.
But you will still get a fair idea of the overall interest in your primary keyword, and this approach could be especially useful if you plan to create a course in a small niche.
You can use this free tool called Google Keyword Planner to estimate search volumes, and it will give you a broad range, which should be good enough.
Once you enter your primary keyword, it will suggest other relevant keywords and search volume for them, and you should take all of them into account.
Besides search volume, the tool will also give you a metric to assess competition, which can be another useful factor to take into account.
You should check this detailed guide from Ahrefs if you want to learn how to use the Google Keyword Planner tool.
2. Check Youtube Views
Watching online videos is one of the easiest ways to learn a new skill or a hobby, and Youtube is often the go-to platform for people looking to educate themselves through free videos.
So, if you want to assess whether enough people want to learn your course topic or not, checking the popularity of Youtube videos on your primary keyword is one of the first things you should try.
Plus, it is also an extremely reliable way to assess demand because if nobody is creating and watching videos on your course idea, it is not likely to have any real demand.
Now, let’s look at how you can use Youtube to validate demand for your course idea.
You can start by searching your primary keyword on Youtube. And then, look for the number of views on the top 10 videos for your keyword and add their view counts.
If the total view count is in millions or even hundreds of thousands, you can be sure that a lot of people are interested in learning your course topic.
As you can see below, if we search for “learn knitting” on Youtube, the average view count for just the first four videos is nearly 4 million, so it clearly proves that a large number of people are interested in learning knitting.
What I like about this strategy is that it compliments the Google volume estimation strategy very well. When you know that people aren’t just searching for your keywords, but they’re also watching informational videos, you can be more certain about the potential of your course topic.
Plus, there will be many niches where there won’t be enough keyword search volumes in Google, but the videos might still have decent views on Youtube.
3. Check Demand on Udemy Marketplace
You can also validate your course idea by checking sales for courses in your niche on an online course marketplace like Udemy.
And if you find that there are existing courses on the topic and that a lot of people are buying those courses, you can be reasonably sure that people are willing to pay for information on your course idea.
However, the reverse is not always likely to be true.
In other words, if your course idea doesn’t have enough demand on Udemy, your course may be in a small niche that is not popular on Udemy, but it can still have enough demand otherwise.
Now, let’s look at how to validate demand for a course idea on Udemy.
Firstly, you can search for your primary keyword on Udemy Marketplace Insights, a free tool that lets you assess the popularity of a course idea on Udemy. And it is the quickest way to check the demand of your course idea on Udemy.
As you can see below, I searched for ‘bread baking’ on the Marketplace Insights tool, and it suggests a high demand for courses on this topic on Udemy.
To get an even more accurate picture of demand, you can search for your keyword on Udemy’s marketplace and look for the number of reviews and enrollments. And while doing that, you should sort courses by the number of reviews to make it easier.
As you can see below, when we search for ‘bread baking’ on Udemy, the total number of reviews on the first four courses is 5,000+, which suggests that it is a popular course topic on Udemy.
And as you can see here, the number of enrollments on this baking course on Udemy has nearly seven times enrollments than reviews.
4. Check the Number of Book Reviews on Amazon
If enough people read books to learn about a topic, you can be confident that there will be demand for courses on that topic.
And so, checking for the number of reviews for books (on Amazon) in your niche can be an extremely reliable way to validate demand for your course idea.
Let’s take a quick look at how we can assess demand for a course idea through the number of Amazon reviews for relevant books.
Firstly, choose ‘books’ as a category on Amazon and search for your primary keyword. And make sure that the books are sorted by ‘featured’ to get the most relevant results.
And then, take a look at the number of reviews for the top ten books you see in the search results. Plus, you should ignore any books if they don’t seem relevant to your course idea.
If the total number of reviews for books on a keyword adds up to thousands, you can be quite sure of the popularity of that topic.
Moreso because the number of reviews for a book is likely to be a very small fraction of its total sales since only a small percentage of customers leave reviews on Amazon.
As you can see below, when we search for the keyword ‘keto diet’ for weight loss, just the first four results have nearly 40k reviews.
Finally, keep in mind that books often cover relatively broader topics, so you may not find too many books on your exact course topic especially if it’s very specific.
Use Indirect Methods to Understand the Demand
Using indirect ways to assess demand is another quick approach that can be extremely useful for two reasons.
Firstly, sometimes you may not always find enough market data to validate demand even if your idea is viable, so you will need to use indirect methods to assess the idea.
Plus, these methods can also help you reevaluate your course idea and assess if you need to narrow it down further or change it slightly.
Now, let’s take a look at a few indirect ways you can understand the demand for your course idea.
5. Analyze Your Blog Data
If you have an existing blog or a Youtube channel, you can check whether content around your course idea finds engagement with your audience.
So if you have a blog, you can look at the total page views and average time spent on page for relevant blog posts with Google Analytics.
If you get a decent number of page views on relevant posts, it will be a really good indicator of demand for your course topic.
However, keep in mind that if the page views are low, it can be due to several reasons, including your articles not ranking high enough on Google, so it doesn’t imply that your course idea doesn’t have demand.
Plus, a high average time spent on page and a low bounce rate for content around a topic will tell you that your audience is engaging well with that topic, and it can be a decent validation for your course idea.
If you have a Youtube channel, you can check metrics like total views, average watch time, likes and shares, for relevant videos. And similarly, you can check podcast downloads and shares for your podcast episodes around your course idea.
Finally, if you have an existing platform but not enough content around your course topic, you should create more relevant content and test how your audience engages with that content.
6. Check Facebook Groups and Discussion Forums
Another validation strategy and one of my favorite ones is to look at Facebook Groups, subreddits, Quora discussions, and other online forums to assess if your course idea is likely to have any demand.
For example, let’s say you want to create a course to teach people how to play an instrument like the harmonica.
So, you can check if Facebook groups exist around your course idea, plus you can also check the membership numbers of popular groups to understand the popularity of your course idea further.
Similarly, you can look at relevant subreddits and quora conversation threads to see if enough people are interested in your course idea.
Plus, you can also check out the relevant conversations at the same places, which can help you understand the relevant pain points of your target audience.
You can join relevant Facebook groups and forums and strike a conversation with your target audience. And one easy way to approach this would be to offer to answer audience questions around your course idea and use that as an opportunity to engage with them.
By building a deeper understanding of your target audience’s relevant pain points, you can make adjustments to your course idea and come at the subject from a different angle if needed.
Moreover, you can also use the same learnings to better plan your course content and identify the unique value proposition of your course.
Finally, you can also use more or less the same approach with Reddit and other niche-specific forums.
And with Quora, you may not be able to strike conversations with the audience in the same way, but you can still get feedback by posting questions.
7. Analyze Your Competition
Another way to validate your course idea is to analyze the competition, and you can go about it in two different ways.
Firstly, you can use search modifiers to check the number of courses you can find on your idea on Google search results.
Let’s say you are planning to create a course around ‘vegan cooking’. So, you can type the search query ‘allintitle: vegan cooking course’ on Google.
This search query will return all the pages with a title that contains the words — vegan cooking and course. And most of them are likely to be landing pages for a vegan cooking course.
So, if you can find a large number of results for your search, you can be sure that a lot of courses exist around this idea.
Another approach you can use is to look for success stories of courses around your idea on the internet. And even if you find one example of somebody creating a successful course in your chosen idea, you can be more confident that your course idea is viable.
You can find success stories of courses by simply searching for online course success stories on Google. Or, you can also look at the websites of courses that teach you how to create a successful course business.
Reach Out to Your Target Audience
Reaching out to your target audience and getting feedback from them can be the most reliable approach to validate your course idea.
At the same time, the methods listed in this section are likely to take more effort and resources than the ones we have covered so far.
If you plan to create a premium course and are willing to put more effort into validating your course idea, you should use this approach.
Plus, if data and indirect methods haven’t helped you reach any conclusion, you can use this approach to be fully certain of your course idea’s viability.
8. Survey Your Target Audience
Surveying the target audience to gauge interest in a course idea is one of the most popular course validation techniques used by course creators.
To begin with, you can plan your survey questions in a couple of different ways.
You can either directly ask your audience if they could be interested in buying a course on your chosen idea. I used this approach when I surveyed my audience for my premium course – Network Guru.
Or you can also quiz your audience to assess their interests and pain points to indirectly assess if your course is likely to be useful for them.
If you already have an audience or a social media following, doing a survey is pretty straightforward as you can directly ask them to answer your survey questions.
However, if you don’t have an existing audience, you’ll need to put in more effort.
In this case, you can create a lead magnet, build a small audience through paid ads, and ask them to take the survey once they join your email list.
One advantage of building a list is that you can also conduct 1:1 interviews with some of your audience members to ask more detailed questions and get deeper insights.
The other option is to offer a quiz or survey directly through Facebook Ads without creating a lead magnet, and this is likely to be a cheaper option as you should get higher conversions.
Besides these options, you can also sponsor popular blogs and forums in your niche and get their audience to take part in your survey.
9. Speak One-On-One with Your Audience
If you plan to create a course in a relatively small niche, you may not always find enough evidence using the above methods.
In such cases, finding a target audience in your network and talking to them can be a great way to understand their major pain points and assess if your course idea is likely to have any demand.
For example, let’s say you have experience with something very specific like ‘recovering from burnout as a lawyer’.
While you can surely find some discussions and content on that topic on the internet, it may not be enough for you to assess how relevant your course idea could be for most lawyers.
So, in this case, you can tap into your professional network and talk to other lawyers one-on-one and ask them if they are likely to buy a course on your idea.
And in the process, you may discover that you need to address a slightly broader problem or position your course differently. For example, you may realize that managing stress for lawyers can be a better angle than recovery from burnout as a course idea.
And if you want to talk to a slightly bigger audience, you can also reach out to your second-degree connections on Linkedin, who may be more likely to help you than people completely outside of your network.
Besides talking to your target audience, you can also talk to experts in your niche, who may be part of your network, and get their opinion on your course idea.
For instance, if you plan to cover a specific diet to address weight loss in your course, you can talk to other health coaches and dieticians to understand if your course idea addresses the core problem in the right way.
10. Test a Lead Magnet
Creating and testing a digital product (around your course idea) as a lead magnet is one of the best strategies for validating your course idea.
And if enough people show interest in your lead magnet, you can be reasonably sure that your course idea has sufficient demand.
Moreover, apart from validating your course idea, a lead magnet will also help you build your initial audience, who can be your first set of buyers.
Now, there are several different types of lead magnets that you can create, and which lead magnet you should create will depend on your niche and how much effort you are willing to put in creating one.
For instance, you can create a mini-ebook, an ultimate guide, or a mini-course on your topic. And if you want to create something without putting in too much effort, you can also create a template, planner, or checklist.
Now, let’s talk about how you can test your lead magnet.
If you already have an email list or an audience through your blog or Youtube channel, you can offer them your lead magnet, and it can be a straightforward process to test your free offer.
Here is an example of a webinar invite Anthony Moore, a course creator in the personal development niche, sends to his email list.
However, if you don’t have an audience, you can promote your lead magnet on social media channels or even use paid ads. If you’re comfortable doing live sessions, Facebook Live can be a great way to build an initial audience quickly.
11. Presell Your Online Course
Selling your course even before you have created it is a sure-fire way to validate your course idea, and there can’t be a more reliable way of testing your course idea.
To share an example, Bree Noble, who helps female musicians create an income with their music, sold her course to 15 students and generated $4,350 in pre-sales revenue.
Now, you need to plan carefully and take several steps to do a successful pre-sell, and let’s take a look at some of them.
Firstly, you need to create an attractive sales page and highlight your experience, which will help you convert your audience into paid customers.
Secondly, you should make it clear to your audience that you are offering a pre-sale, so they are on the same page with you at every step.
Thirdly, to make your pre-sale offer more appealing, you can give a major discount and include useful bonuses like group coaching, etc.
And you can also create a small portion of your course and start dripping it to your initial customers and use that as an opportunity to get feedback and create your course with their help.
It will be quite straightforward to find initial customers for your pre-sales offer if you already have an audience. But if you don’t have an audience, it will be more work.
However, the good thing about this approach is that you don’t need to pre-sell your course to too many students, and with just a few sales, you’ll know that your course has the potential to make money.
In this guide, we have covered nearly all the possible ways to validate your course idea and who should use them. Now, let’s quickly summarize them here.
As a first step, you should gather market data through all the possible ways to gauge demand for your course idea, and it shouldn’t take you a lot of time.
If you can’t get enough data, you should use indirect methods like studying Facebook groups and competitors to assess whether your course topic aligns with your audience’s interests (or pain points).
Plus, even if you have enough data that validates your idea, this approach will still be handy to help you narrow down your idea as well as refine it.
Finally, if you plan to create a premium course or the above methods haven’t helped you, you should talk directly to your target audience and get more conclusive evidence of demand.
I hope you found this guide useful, and it helped you learn how to validate your course idea. If you have any questions or suggestions, please post them in the comments below.