Online Courses: 5 Steps to Mastering this Digital Education Powerhouse

By Sonia Simone

Online courses are one of the most popular forms of web-based business today.

  • They’re in-demand, which makes them easy to market
  • They support premium pricing, so they can quickly become profitable
  • They’re a smart way to leverage the time you put into product creation

Those are all great reasons that developing a digital course might be a smart idea for you and your business.

But if you start from there, you’re going to have a hard time.

Because, just like any business (online or off), your business needs to serve the needs of your audience and customers if it’s going to survive … and thrive.

The best online courses have their success “baked in.”

Start with thoughtful preparation to craft the exact educational experience your audience wants to buy. And then, of course, deliver that experience.

You might be tempted to skip these planning steps. But if you do, your digital education business will take much longer to get traction.

Pave the road to a successful course with these five steps.

Step #1: Find your market of hungry learners

You may be familiar with the old marketing “riddle” that copywriter Gary Halbert liked to ask:

What’s the most important success factor for a restaurant?

No, it’s not the menu, the service, the quality of the chef, or even the location.

It’s a starving crowd that will show up to buy what’s being sold.

Finding that “starving crowd” will make everything about your business so much easier.

The same is true for all businesses. Your online course needs to find its “hungry learners” — the starving crowd — that will make it a success.

Too many digital business owners skip past this step because they think they have a killer idea. They jump right into developing a product before they really understand the market.

Sadly, that’s a recipe for expensive failure.

Some ways you can find your market of hungry learners include:

  • Serving a market you already know well, because you’re a part of it
  • Using your existing knowledge about an existing audience to uncover what they want to learn
  • Partnering with a subject-matter expert (ideally one who already has a good-sized audience)
  • Looking for a niche (paper) magazine — if there are enough enthusiasts to support a physical magazine, there will normally be a big enough audience for an online course
  • Choosing an “evergreen” topic, such as fitness, nutrition, crafts, dating, beauty, finance, or any type of vocational training

What you’re looking for is an audience of potential learners that is:

  1. Big enough to make for a commercially viable business
  2. Interested in spending money on this topic (you can find out by observing which products or services are already being sold)

Step #2: Uncover your unique positioning with your audience

Once you’ve identified that “starving crowd,” it’s time to figure out how to position yourself with that crowd, so they choose your business instead of another option.

Positioning is a blend of art and craft.

You want to come up with a promise you can make to your audience. You’re looking for something that’s significantly different (or that feels different) from the promises made by your competitors.

If positioning is new to you, start by thinking about:

  • The beneficial improvement you make to your customer’s life
  • The unique approach or angle you use
  • A memorable difference you can communicate
  • The remarkable element of your business
  • The timeless aspect to the promise you make

There are, as you can imagine, lots of ways to come to an effective, memorable position in your market. A few include:

  • Putting timeless principles into a new context: When I created my first online course, I put proven marketing principles into a softer context that was fun and digestible for a somewhat marketing-phobic audience
  • Leveraging experience of an industry insider (you or someone else): Publishing expert Michael Hyatt makes good use of this one, using his background as a high-level publishing executive to teach aspiring authors how to build a promotion platform
  • Telling a better story: Enterprising folks have been setting up pet-sitting businesses for decades, but Josh Cary (one of our students) told a better story around professionalism and entrepreneurship, and created the successful Petsittingology course and live conference

Step #3: Build an effective learner profile

So: You’ve got a starving crowd, and you’ve identified a compelling promise you can make them.

Now it’s time to craft your plan to deliver that promise in a memorable and useful way.

Most marketers have heard of “buyer personas,” which are also sometimes called avatars.

The learner profile is a very similar exercise. But the focus shifts to who this person is as they come to your course.

It starts with empathy — putting yourself in the emotional shoes of your learner. You want to understand what they’re thinking, feeling, doing, and feeling as they approach your topic and move toward their goals.

You can get started by building an Empathy Map — this article walks you through how to do that:

Empathy Maps: A Complete Guide to Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head (includes a downloadable blank map that you can fill in)

The Empathy Map exercise is interesting and enjoyable — and it’s also a potent tool for making any product or service more marketable.

An underused tool for uncovering the needs of your learners

Want to take advantage of a powerful but underused tool for finding out exactly what your potential customers want?

It’s social media — too often used as a “megaphone” by businesses who want to shout about how great they are.

“You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk.”

– DCI founder Brian Clark

Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting into conversations with potential users — that can be a smart and rewarding business tactic.

But it’s also incredibly useful to just keep your (virtual) mouth shut and listen.

Keep an eye out for these “power questions”

  • What (and who) are people complaining about in your topic?
  • What’s frustrating them?
  • What are they worried about?
  • What are they dreaming of doing?
  • How do they feel about what they’re doing now?

Social media conversations are free-form and unscripted — and that’s why they’re such a great way to get business ideas. Listen in to discover how people really feel about products and services in your niche.

To do this effectively, find the popular social gathering spots for your topic. These might be Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, the comments on a popular blog, or any other spot where people can congregate and share their thoughts.

Then spend some quality time in those spots just listening, without jumping into the conversation. Watch for the “power questions” above, and capture them for your ongoing analysis and business thinking.

Step #4: Identify the benefits of knowledge

Wise marketers know about the difference between features and benefits.

Features are what your product or service does.

Benefits are what your customer gets out of it.

When you’re structuring your online course, the features are elements like:

  • The curriculum — what’s in the course
  • How the course is delivered
  • Bonus elements, like Q&A calls or a member forum
  • All of the course materials, including workbooks, tutorial videos, PDFs, etc.

And, of course, they all have to be there in order for you to have something to deliver.

But the benefits, and more specifically, the “benefits of knowledge,” are what your learners are going to gain by investing their time and money in this course.

  • Positive: What will they be able to become, have, or do as a result of your course?
  • Negative: What will they no longer have to deal with (expense, hassle, discomfort) when they’ve completed the course?

By the way, don’t assume that positive reasons are more effective.

In fact, the human brain has an innate bias for negativity — it’s often easier to capture our attention with the negatives we can avoid over the positive elements we might gain.

When you understand the meaningful benefits of knowledge that your course will deliver, you can structure the course so that it works better for learners — and you can market the course more effectively, so that more learners will be motivated to buy.

Step #5: Structure your course for success with learning objectives

Once you know what learners want to get out of your course, you can craft learning objectives that help them attain those benefits.

Instructional design expert Robert Mager pioneered the use of these explicitly stated objectives, as well as a three-step process for crafting them.

Each learning objective needs to be a manageable “chunk” that the learner can readily envision herself completing. Typically, each lesson will have a learning objective.

You’ll also have an overarching learning objective for the entire course.

(Tip: If you have a lesson that seems to require more than one learning objective, or a learning objective that feels overwhelmingly large, break it down into smaller objectives and more focused lessons.)

To craft a learning objective for each lesson:

#1: Figure out the behavior

For each lesson in your course, you need to understand what real-world behavior your learner will be able to do at the end of the lesson.

What will she be able to do differently, that she doesn’t know how to do today?

#2: Figure out the conditions

What conditions or context is this behavior going to take place in?

In other words, specific conditions like:

  • At work or at home?
  • In how much time? A day? An hour? A month?
  • How much focus and dedication will this take? Will the learner need deep commitment, or can this be done in her spare time?

#3: Figure out the standard

How well will your learner be able to do this behavior when she’s mastered the lesson?

Will it be at a professional level? Elite level? Or is the course designed to learn a skill at an enjoyable hobbyist level?

How well should the learner be able to implement the behavior to say she has mastered your course material? That’s your standard.

The quick version

To get a jump-start on crafting your learning objectives, fill in the blanks for this statement:

After completing this course or topic, you will be able to [SPECIFIC, REAL-WORLD BEHAVIOR] in [DESCRIBE THE CONDITIONS OR CONTEXT] in order to [DESCRIBE THE STANDARD THE LEARNER WILL ACHIEVE].

This sample sentence will need to be massaged to make sense for your individual context, but it will get you started.

Would you like some help with that?

Rainmaker Digital’s founder and CEO, Brian Clark, created a complete course around how to structure and build profitable online courses that your audience will want to buy.

The course is called Build Your Online Training Business the Smarter Way, and it’s part of Digital Commerce Academy.

You can now join Digital Commerce Academy for free, and when you do you’ll immediately receive the first four lessons of Brian’s course. View them as many times as you want, whenever you want. With these four lessons, you will learn five key concepts that all online education entrepreneurs need to understand, and how to find a market of hungry learners.

Plus, as part of your free Digital Commerce Academy membership, you will also receive access to a dynamite 90-minute case study hosted by Jerod Morris and featuring Danny Margulies — the creator of the renowned online course Secrets of a Six-Figure Upworker.

The case study is called “How Danny Margulies Turned His Freelancing Success Into a Powerhouse Paid Course,” and it tells the story of how Margulies quit his “soul crushing” job, taught himself how to earn six figures as a freelancer, and then leveraged that experience and knowledge into building a simple online course that netted him over $25,000 in January 2016 alone.

If you’re interested in creating an online course, activating your free membership to Digital Commerce Academy is a no-brainer.

Click here to get started today. (Registration takes just under 12.5 seconds.)

The post Online Courses: 5 Steps to Mastering this Digital Education Powerhouse appeared first on Copyblogger.

Source: Copy Blogger


How Facebook’s ‘Reactions’ Will Change the Game – An Overview for Marketers

By Andrew Hutchinson Facebook’s Reactions are now available to all users, but people still have many questions about what they, and what they mean. In this post, we look at the development of Reactions, how they came to be, why each Reaction was chosen. And what they might mean for Facebook marketers.

Source: Social Media Today


How do you load server side only modules with angular-server

By michael

I’m playing with angular-server and the angular-server-example app ( but I’m not sure i’m clear on the concept.

Is it possible to load an angular-server modules only on the server that do not exist in the client? I have collapsed the server code from the example to the following, but I can’t find a way to load a module called todomvc.server

  .service('Data0', function($http) {
    this.getData = function () {
      return $http.get('');

// angular.module('todomvc',['todomvc.server'])
  .service('Data', function($http) {
    this.getData = function () {
      return $http.get('');
  .service('TodosManager', function (Todos) {
    this.addTodo = function (todo) {
      if (todo.title.length < 3) {
        throw new Meteor.Error(500, undefined, 'Title must be longer than 3 letters');
      else {

    Meteor.publish('todos', function () {
      return Todos.collection.find({});
  .config(function (ServerAPIProvider) {
  .config(function(ServerAPIProvider, $injector) {


when I add this line on the server angular.module('todomvc',['todomvc.server']) I get

Error: [$injector:modulerr] Failed to instantiate module todomvc due to:
Error: [$injector:unpr] Unknown provider: ServerAPIProvider

if I try angular.module('todomvc',['todomvc.server', 'angular-meteor']) I get

Error: [$injector:unpr] Unknown provider: TodosProvider <- Todos <- TodosManager

any ideas?

Source: Stack Overflow


How to update applescript to open txt files in vim in iTerm3

By B-30

For years I’ve been using the following AppleScript to open txt files in vim in iTerm2, but since iTerm 2.9.2 (aka iTerm3) it’s broken. Could anyone advise how to update this AppleScript so it works again?

    on run {input, parameters}
    if (count of input) > 0 then
        tell application "System Events"
            set runs to false
                set p to application process "iTerm"
                set runs to true
            end try
        end tell
        tell application "iTerm"
            if (count of terminals) = 0 then
                set t to (make new terminal)
                set t to current terminal
            end if
            tell t
                tell (make new session at the end of sessions)
                    exec command ("vim "" & POSIX path of first item of input as text) & """
                end tell
                if not runs then
                    terminate first session
                end if
            end tell
        end tell
    end if
end run

I originally copied the script from but I have no AppleScript experience whatsoever.

Any help most appreciated!

Source: Stack Overflow


Why accessibility is key for search and visibility

By Rebecca Sentance

If you’re involved with SEO, you’ve no doubt thought about all sorts of ways and means to boost your site in the search rankings. But if your site isn’t web accessible, your efforts will be in vain for 1/5 of your potential visitors.

Web accessibility is the name given to making websites and online materials usable to people with disabilities, removing barriers to the way they experience the internet.

From physical disabilities like loss of mobility, blindness and deafness to learning difficulties like dyslexia, a wide range of disabilities affect the way that someone accesses the internet.

People with disabilities make up a significant portion of the population, yet far too little is done to cater towards them online, representing a huge missed opportunity in terms of traffic and visibility for any website or brand.

The need for accessibility

The Global Economics of Disability Annual Report 2014 estimated the global population of people with disabilities as 1.3 billion – nearly 18% of the world’s population, or one in every five people.

These numbers are likely to climb as Generation X ages, making catering to age-related disabilities even more important to anyone targeting the baby boomer generation.

In no other context would it make sense to overlook such a significant demographic, yet making websites and digital materials accessible is far too often seen as a tedious and pointless exercise. But anyone who pays attention to SEO and optimises their website is already part of the way there.

Making your website more accessible to users with disabilities also happens to overlap nicely with improving the all-round user experience, and with boosting your site that much higher up the search rankings.

Accessibility and good user experience go hand-in-hand with search.
Image by Paul Veugen on Flickr; some rights reserved

Why accessibility works for search

A good rule of thumb for accessibility is making sure that all information is delivered to the user in more than one way.

For example, you shouldn’t rely only on the ability to see colour to distinguish the important parts of a web form, or the ability to use a mouse to navigate a website.

Images, audio and video should all have text alternatives available in the form of alt text descriptions, closed captions and transcripts. This makes the content accessible to users with visual or hearing impairments. It also provides more information to search engines, which rely on text to find out about a site.

In a past piece on the SEO benefits of web accessibility, Mark Jackson explained that text browsers, which ignore graphic content, are often used to review how a website appears to a search engine. A website will appear in the same way to users of a screen reader, which can interpret the web for those who are blind, visually impaired, illiterate or learning disabled.

In other words, making the text-based ‘version’ of your website as comprehensive as possible has benefits for both accessibility and search.

The overlap between increased accessibility, SEO and a better user experience can be seen in all sorts of areas.

Providing a site map, for instance, gives a handy point of reference for all users, but particularly those with a screen reader. It also allows search engine robots to quickly crawl a website.

Writing for your website in simple, jargon-free language can benefit users with a learning difficulty or cognitive disability, but it’s also a helpful practice for everyone, especially those for whom English isn’t their first language.

People are more likely to search the web for simple words than for industry jargon, too, so writing for your website simply will help ordinary users to find it in search.

There are also a few search engines, such as Net Guide, specifically designed to promote and rank websites which are highly accessible. Google used to have one such search outlet, but it is no longer supported.

The extra traffic from these search engines might not be huge, but they are worth bearing in mind as another source of visibility for an accessible site.

Putting it into practice

The theory of how accessibility can boost your site’s visibility and traffic is all very well, but how can you carry it out in practice?

I mentioned a few practical steps in the previous section, such as providing text alternatives to visual content and checking out how your website looks in a text browser.

Not everything that makes a site more accessible will align directly with optimising for search, and a lot of it will require extra effort and some new ways of thinking. But it’s a worthwhile exercise, and there are a lot of free tools and resources available to help anyone who sets out to design for accessibility.

A good place to start is Deque System’s guide on Designing for Website Accessibility, part of a series on accessible marketing produced in association with the Whole Brain Group. They divide website design into five key areas for accessibility – complete with a handy checklist you can download.

W3C, the web accessibility initiative, also has a set of tips for getting started with web accessibility with visual reference points. To check how accessible your website is already, you can run it through WebAIM’s web accessibility evaluation tool.

A screenshot of the web accessibility check for the website Search Engine Watch, using WebAIM's WAVE tool. The screenshot shows a total of 33 errors, 126 alerts, 27 features, 53 structural elements, 5 HTML5 and ARIA and 27 contrast errors. These are flagged up across the homepage with various yellow, red and green icons.The accessibility check for Search Engine Watch shows some work still to be done…

A major current development in search technology, voice search, also has its roots in something that is highly beneficial to users with disabilities.

While ways of catering to voice search technology are not yet as refined as other techniques in SEO, there are still ways you can adapt your site to capitalise on voice search, as laid out in depth by Asim Ahmed.

Altogether, adaptations to make your site accessible are well worth adding alongside your usual optimisation for search in order to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of your competitors – and your visitors will thank you for it.

Source: Search Engine Watch


Contextual Communities: Why Young People are Straying from Traditional Social Media in Search of More Authentic Connections

By Manho Won For many, Facebook and other leading social media sites offer a means of passing extra time, or keeping in contact with friends near and far; however, for many teenagers, they are a source of stress and anxiety. Experts state that the “rose-tinted” image which many people portray of themselves on social media, with filtered selfies and commentaries about social events, parties and all round good times, can have a negative effect on many people who don’t view their own lives in the same light, compounding a sense of loneliness and a feeling of being different.

Source: Social Media Today


Say goodbye to Google: 14 alternative search engines

By Christopher Ratcliff

Bing homepage

Well it’s been a big week for search, I think we can all agree.

If you’re a regular Google user (65% of you globally) then you’ll have noticed some changes, both good and bad.

I won’t debate the merits of these improvements, we’ve done that already here: Google kills Right Hand Side Ads and here: Google launches Accelerated Mobile Pages, but there’s a definite feeling of vexation that appears to be coming to a head.

Deep breath…

As the paid search space increases in ‘top-heaviness’, as organic results get pushed further off the first SERP, as the Knowledge Graph scrapes more and more publisher content and continues to make it pointless to click through to a website, and as our longstanding feelings of unfairness over Google’s monopoly and tax balance become more acute, now more than ever we feel there should be another, viable search engine alternative.

There was a point not that long ago when you could easily divide people between those that used Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves and AltaVista. Now it’s got to the point where if you’re not using Google, you’re not really using the internet properly.

Right now though maybe we should be paying more attention to the alternatives. Maybe our daily lives and, for some of us, careers shouldn’t need to balance on the fickle algorithm changes of the world’s most valuable company.

Let’s see what else is out there in the non-Google world. It’s not that scary, I promise. Although you may want to bring a coat.

Please note: this is an update of an article published on SEW in May 2014, we felt like it needed sprucing up especially many of the listed engines (Blekko, Topsy) are no longer with us.


Microsoft’s search engine is the second most popular search engine in the world, with 15.8% of the search market.

But why should you use Bing? Lifehacker has some great articles where they try to convince themselves as much as anyone else why Bing is a serious contender to Google. Plus points include:

  • Bing’s video search is significantly better than Google’s, giving you a grid of large thumbnails that you can click on to play or preview if you hover over them.
  • Bing often gives twice as many autocomplete suggestions than Google does.
  • Bing can predict when airfares are about to go up or down if you’re searching for flights.
  • Bing also has a feature where if you type linkfromdomain:[site name] it will highlight the best ranked outgoing links from that site, helping you figure out which other sites your chosen site links to the most.

Also note that Bing powers Yahoo’s search engine.


The key feature of DuckDuckGo is that it doesn’t retain its users’ data, so it won’t track you or manipulate results based on your behaviour. So if you’re particularly spooked by Google’s all-seeing, all-knowing eye, this might be the one for you.

There’s lots more info on DuckDuckGo’s performance here.


As Google gets better and better at answering more complicated questions, it will never be able to match the personal touch available with Quora.


Ask any question and its erudite community will offer their replies. Or you can choose from any similar queries previously asked.


Dogpile may look like a search engine you cobbled together with clip-art, but that’s rather the point as it pulls in and ‘curates’ results from various different engines including Google, Yandex and Yahoo, but removes all the ads.

Dogpile Web Search


Of course if you’re going to give up Google, then you’ll also have to give up YouTube, which can be a terrifying prospect. But there is an alternative. And a pretty good one at that… Vimeo. The professional’s choice of video-sharing site, which has lots of HD video and no ads.

otis the cat reviews in videos on Vimeo


This is a Russian portal, offering many similar products and services as Google, and it’s the dominant search engine in Russia.

As you can see it offers results in a nice logical format, replete with favicons so you can clearly see the various channels for your branded queries.

search engine watch on Yandex


If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of a subject with a variety of different points of view away from the major publications, Boardreader surfaces results purely from forums, message boards and, of course, Reddit.

Boardreader Forum Search Engine


WolframAlpha is a ‘computational knowledge engine’, or super clever nerd to you and me. Ask it to calculate any data or ask it about any fact and it will give you the answer. Plus it does this awesome ‘computing’ thing while it thinks about your answer (which can take a short while.)

what really killed the dinosaurs Wolfram Alpha

It’s not always successful, you have to practice how to get the best from it. But at least it’s aware of the terrible 90s television show The Dinosaurs.


Another search engine that puts its users’ privacy at the forefront. With IxQuick none of your details are stored and no cookies are used. A user can set preferences, but they will be deleted after 90 days of inactivity.

Ixquick Search Engine

Oh look… Ask Jeeves is still around. Also he’s no longer a Wodehousian butler, but a computer generated bank manager. Weird.

Ask Jeeves

It’s still a slightly mediocre search engine pretending to be a question and answer site, but the ‘Popular Q&A’ results found on the right hand side are very handy if Jeeves himself can’t satisfy your query. And what a good use of the right-hand side space, huh Google.


SlideShare is a really handy place to source information from presentations, slide decks, webinars and whatever else you may have missed from not attending a conference.

You’ll also be surprised what information you can find there.

hamburgers on SlideShare


“Inhale the web” with the friendly looking hoover guy by creating your own topic page, which you can bookmark and see results from a huge number of channels in that one page (including Google, Bing News, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr).

Addictomatic Inhale the Web

Creative Commons Search

CC Search is particularly handy if you need to find copyright free images for your website (as discussed in this post on image optimisation for SEO). Just type your query in then click on your chosen site you want to search.

CC Search


Because really, when it comes down to it, we could imagine a worse dystopian future than one in which we all communicate entirely in Gifs.

GIPHY homepage

Source: Search Engine Watch