How to Create an Awesome Online Course By Repackaging Old Content
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I’ve been writing and publishing digital marketing content for 10 years now.
There’s no way to measure the return of investment of all that immense effort.
Shouldn’t there be a way to get more out of it?
As someone who has been contributing content online for ages, I’ve always been on the lookout for more ways to monetize that effort.
Consolidating old content into an online course is a perfect idea. You can turn it into an extra source of income and you can also use it to further promote your brand.
Here is a step-by-step guide into re-packaging your old content into a new video course.
Step 1. Get Organized: Find and Record All Your Content
Let's make it straight: This guide is for individuals and businesses that have been producing online content for a while, and not just on their own sites but outside of them too (through expert columns on popular niche outlets and guest blogging).
That being said, the first step is to look back and find those content assets you can re-use now.
1.1. Find Brand-Authored Content
Now, I realize you probably haven't been recording your company's important URLs diligently throughout the years. And finding them now will probably be next to impossible, so here's a quick workaround for you:
- Set Google to show you 50-100 results per page
- Use Google to search articles by you and your team. Use all kinds of search queries, like
- [author name guest post -site:yoursite.com] - this will exclude your own site from search results
- ["author name is XXX at your company name"] - this can be part of your writer's guest post byline
- ["author name * company name"] - this search is useful for those guest authors who slightly vary their byline wording but always make sure their name and your company name will make it to the bio.
- NOTE: If you only publish your content on your own site and not elsewhere, simple use [SITE:yoursite.com] search on Google. As you move forward, you can attach different terms to this search to target your search more precisely, e.g. [SITE:yoursite.com guide] or [SITE:yoursite.com apple pies]
- Get more ideas here.
- Now, use this Greasemonkey script to extract URLs from search results and easily copy-paste them to add to your search engine using the include-in-bulk option.
1.2. Create a Searchable Database
Next, there are two steps to take:
- Copy paste all those URLs into a Google Spreadsheet, then search more and keep copy-pasting. If you search for several author names (if your company has a few ambassadors publishing content around the web to represent your brand collective expertise), add a separate column for the author name for easier sorting. Now, use sorting options to remove duplicate URLs and clean up the spreadsheet manually too
- Then copy-paste the whole list into a new Google Custom search. The beauty of this tool is that you can also add your whole site there for its content to be searchable in your database of brand-focused content.
1.3. Take Note of Frequently-Occurring Topics to Build the Course Around
While proceeding with both the steps, look for popular topics you and/or your company authors tend to cover more frequently than others. Take notes of those topics: That's how you are going to brainstorm topics for your future course and its structure.
Look for topics that have been covered in much depth in at least 10 articles by you and/or your team. These articles are going to make your course chapters and content is going to be your video scripts, so it's important that you have blogged a lot on them to make your course creation easier.
Step 2. Research the Chosen Topic Some More and Come up with the Plan
Once you have a solid list of brand-owned resources around one common topic, research the interest and competition. This step can be broken into three important tasks:
2.1. Identify your core term
Creating a course is quite a commitment: You want to make sure there's a demand for more information on the chosen topic and you need to brainstorm your competitive advantage: What is it you are building that will allow you to stand out in the crowd?
Good old keyword research is something I usually resort to whenever I need to dig deeper into a specific topic. I like Serpstat for its big selection of tools to play with. For one, I check how hard it will be to compete for high rankings for my future course. I play with different variations of my topical keywords and use the search filter to restrict results to those containing my main keyword and [course] or [training] in them:
- Search volume (which reflects demand for this particular topic)
- Keyword difficulty (which reflects how intense the competition is)
Both metrics allow me to finally make an educated choice of the core term to build my course around.
2.2. Identify the Course Structure
Once I am done with choosing my actual final keyword, I use Serpstat's unique clustering feature to break my long keyword list into groups of related queries. This gives a good mind-map of my future course topic and allows to come up with the course structure.
Keep referring to your spreadsheet of chosen content assets to fill your spreadsheet with content you can use in each chapter.
Thus those new sections you'll be working on can be re-used as text content too! That being said, re-packaging goes both ways in this case: You use your existing content to create a course and you use your future course structure to create more content for your brand too!
I don't have a set template for that but here's how my spreadsheet looks like when I start working on the course structure and identifying which other sections I need to start working on:
It's also a good idea to turn to your actual customers and readers to collect some ideas from them. Ultimately, you want to know what real people are interested in learning about to better meet their needs.
- Sending a quick email to your email list inviting them to take a quick survey and help you structure your future course (promising a free access later on)
- Creating a Twitter and/or a Facebook poll (for both you can use ads to generate more replies)
If you are collaborating with other team members on this project, consider consolidating multiple parts of it inside one common management platform. CoSchedule works well for this purpose to collaborate and organize projects. You can embed your Google spreadsheets within projects on a calendar:
Add workflow checklists with Task Templates:
Communicate with Discussion Threads:
It's a useful way to keep everyone on board.
Step 3. Put Together Video Content
This step is still my learning curve: I am still working my way towards coming up with the best process. I do have some processes and tools to share but feel free to share more!
3.1. Turn existing articles into scripts and write new articles (and turn them into scripts too)
Go through your spreadsheet and start working on those scripts. Keep the new format in mind: You need to be saying what you are showing. Let your team members work on their own scripts and do the voiceovers for their own chapters. Keeping more people involved will make your end product higher-quality.
At this stage of going through everything before it goes into production, I also come up with extra downloadable content. I always want people to go home with some actionable tips and tangible rewards. So what I do:
- Where possible, turn articles into pdf downloads (to let people print the scripts out and follow video instructions easier)
- Adding some more visual content for course takers to download and refer to when then need. Branded downloadable PDFs are a great way to give your audience something to take home and get reminded of your brand on a regular basis.
So at some point my course structure spreadsheet is going to look like this:
3.3. Extract All Visual Content and Create More
The beauty of this approach is that you can reuse as much content as you want. As someone who always adds lots of annotated screenshots to my articles, I always make sure I reuse those in my videos too, whenever I am describing a specific step.
Of course, for videos, I usually need more visuals than I offer in my articles, so I use the following three tools to create more:
- Snagit for more annotated screenshots
- Visual.ly to visualize stats (as graphs) and steps (as flowcharts)
- Bannersnack for promotional in-video calls-to-action
Those three are very easy to use and require no graphic design background.
3.3 Create Videos
I use three types of videos for my articles
The most common video type I am using is a screencast, especially since it comes perfectly inline with my writing style: I love actionable advice with lots of tools included. The two newer screencasting tools in my arsenal are:
Both tools allow picture-in-picture capability to put the instructor's face right next to your podcast. It seems people stay with your instructional video longer if they see the instructor talking along.
3.2.2. Video Interviews
I tend to invite at least one or two experts to my courses to feature actual stories illustrating tactics I talk about. I am trying Blue Jeans to record interviews now. It also streams to Facebook Live, so you can first make a public show (and generate some leads through it), then edit the recording and re-use it in your course.
3.2.2. Quick entertaining videos
Finally to prevent my students from being too bored, I break the routine with cool entertaining videos that list interesting stats, propose an action item or share a cool tool. It's a great way to add some diversity to the course flow.
Animatron is my tool for that and it lets me put together short yet useful and engaging videos literally in minutes. I cannot recommend it enough really.
4. Choose the Platform to Host and Sell Your Video Course
Here you have two main options to choose from:
4.1. Host Your Course on a Third-Party Platform
Pros: Easy set up, existing user base to sell your course to
Cons: Monthly extra costs to pay for the platform
For the lack of time, I haven’t tested too many platforms here. I tried Udemy (which is where I still host most of my courses) but their recent moved in dictating pricing model and limiting free courses have made me look elsewhere.
By analyzing other options and their pricing, Uscreen seemed like a winner. For a monthly price, you retain full control over your course, how you choose to charge your students and how often you want to get in touch with them (you can schedule automatic email campaigns to keep them engaged). You can even create your own smartphone app to give your students an additional medium to access your course.
4.2. Use DIY Approach to Set up the Course Section on Your Own Site
Pros: Complete ownership of the product (Without depending on the third-party service), money saving (keeping cons in mind)
Cons: Likely development budget involved, hard to set up on your own
I have been considering this option for a while but couldn’t allocate enough time to plan and delegate the development part of it. Frankly, I like the idea but this looks like a huge project I haven’t had the time for. Here are a couple tutorial in case you decide to consider this approach:
- How to create & sell an online course in WordPress: a step-by-step guide
- How to build your own course (DIY)
It's not an easy task to re-package old content into a new educational course but think about multiple benefits:
- Put your old effort to good use: You deserve that!
- Come up with more useful content on a related topic (and thus improve your own knowledge of the subject): Become a better expert!
- Put a solid content asset which quite possibly will position you as an expert and/or your business as a knowledge hub in the niche
- Offer your loyal customers something new and valuable: Give them a reason to love your business even more!
There are many more benefits, including more opportunities that course sharing platforms can offer (like attracting new audience, creating a new channel for brand awareness building, etc.)
The bottom line is this: It's hard. It takes time and effort. Don't start working on the course unless you are ready to invest both. But if you think you are ready, go for it!
May 24, 2018