How to Choose a Topic for Your Online Course – All You Need to Know with Tips & More

BusinessWire has stated that between 2020 and 2024, the eLearning market in the United States could grow by $72.41 billion

While many course creation tutorials online talk about how to make an online course, very few talk about how to choose what the course will be about

It’s a big problem because, after all the hard work of creating a course, you don’t want to fail to sell it just because you chose the wrong topic

That’s why in this in-depth guide, we’ve gone over thoroughly tested, refined and systematic steps that you can take to determine the topic of your first course

At the end of this article, you should be able to find a selling topic for your online course.

Don’t Think about Marketability First, Think about the Value You Can Provide

While the internet is already saturated with tutorials, courses, and lessons, the truth of the matter is:

There is still a lot left to teach

Many courses online present students with a problem and why it occurs, but very few actually tackle how these problems can be solved with actionable steps. This is something you can capitalize on.

For example, many SEO courses talk about how you need to find niches that aren’t as competitive so you can rank on search engines without a lot of difficulties. 

But how do you identify a niche that isn’t competitive? 

You can figure out what you could create an online course about answering 3 simple questions: 

Take a look at some good online course ideas we’ve compiled for you HERE.


By the end of this quick exercise, you’ll have at least 9-course topic ideas to choose from. 

You might be an accountant, an engineer, a programmer, an artist, but even if you aren’t any of those things, you need to realize that you still have a wealth of knowledge you can impart to others. This can come in the form of interests, hobbies, and even life experiences. 

Speaking of experiences…

Let’s discuss what significance they can have in choosing your online course topic.

What do You have Experience with? 

We’ve already mentioned how your hobbies, profession, or life experiences can play a role in what you teach to others. 

This is something you’re going to need to explore and quantify. 

Some things to think about are: 

experience checklist

Whatever You Do, Don’t Copy Others!

A trap a lot of new course creators fall into is trying to imitate already established creators in the market. 

It’s obvious why this approach rarely works: 

Why would anyone buy your online course when you’re doing the exact same thing as someone who’s more established and credible? 

The answer is they won’t. 

Hence, you need to be doing something differently and providing value that already successful course creators are not. 

Embrace your quirks and idiosyncrasies.

They are ultimately the tools that are going to help you stand out. 

What Value Can You Provide that Existing Online Courses Don’t Have?

Once you’ve got a rough idea of the topic area, it can be a good idea to do a little research on already established creators. 

Check their courses out and note what they’re teaching to their students. 

Here’s what you should be looking for when reviewing other people’s online courses: 

  • Is there something they’re missing out on? 
  • Is there a better, more effective way to address a problem that they’re talking about? 
  • Have they designed their course in a way that isn’t as clear to newcomers and can you do it better? 

Look at what’s already selling and determine what further value you can add to it. 

Go through overviews of as many online courses as you can and list down everything you can do differently. 

You don’t necessarily need to buy any of their courses. 

Many online courses have overviews that you can go over free of charge and some even offer trials to their first few lessons. 

Quick Tip: Outdated Courses can be a Goldmine

Another thing to look out for is outdated online courses and lessons

There are a plethora of courses that teach you certain techniques or how to use different tools and software. These might still be popular today but you have to realize that techniques, software, and styles change all the time. 

For example, there might be several popular courses teaching students how to use a certain software but they might be outdated. 

This is where you come in with your latest and up-to-date course. 

You can create a course that addresses the same problem but through updated and better software. 

Engage with People in the Community

According to McGraw Hill, 81% of US college students agreed that digital learning technology was helping them improve their grades. People are starting to prefer education online and thus, the community has become huge. 

Chances are that a lot of people you know have taken an online course at some point or another. 

While a majority of students prefer online courses… 

You’d never guess how many problems instructors miss out on that you can capitalize on.

If you already have an established group of students and/or peers, you can conduct short interviews with them. 

Ask them about any online courses they’ve taken or what they were taught in college. 

You’d be surprised to hear how many people are dissatisfied with what they’re taught and how they feel they aren’t ready to tackle the problems they’re expected to. 

Looking Inwards can be Key

Remember that you are also a member of the community you’re building your course for. Thus, you can look inwards and think about what some problems are that have plagued you in the past. 

You can ask yourself: 

  1. How did you solve them? 
  2. Is that knowledge widely known now or is it still something that isn’t taught on a major scale? 

Quick Tip:  You can use sentences such as “I wanted to help artists just like me that were facing…” in your course. This will help you connect with your audience.

All of these approaches will really help you build a fundamental list of techniques and/or skills that you can teach in your online course. 

niche selection

You Need to Narrow Down Your Niche

Once you’ve gathered a list of problems that your target audience deals with regularly, the next step is to narrow that list down to a handful of ideas. 

Usually, about five to ten is a good number to narrow it down to. 

A good clue as to what you should keep on your list and what you should remove is to look towards what problem has occurred multiple times. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Is there an issue that several of your students and/or peers have mentioned to you? 
  • Is there a problem that several online courses you’ve gone through aren’t tackling properly? 

Let’s look at our SEO example from earlier: 

Many online courses don’t detail how one can identify a niche that isn’t competitive. 

Can you develop a course that has clear, actionable steps one can take to identify such a niche? 

Once you move away from a theoretical approach to an actionable and benefit-focused approach, it can become very simple to identify course topics you can capitalize on. 

Always remember that there is never a shortage of information regarding a certain topic. 

However, there is definitely a shortage of compact and clear instructions that students can take to solve a certain problem within that topic. 

zooming in

Don’t Throw Away the Rest of Your List

As for the rest of the problems on your list, you can save them for other online courses you may choose to make in the future. 

Remember that the technique for choosing an online course topic will remain the same and once you’ve made one online course, making the next will seem like a cakewalk in comparison. 

Furthermore, since you’ll already have a list of problems you can tackle, it will save you time when you’re making the next course as well. 

Determining Marketability of Your Finalized Topic 

So, you’ve narrowed down on a niche within your topic of expertise and you’re ready to gather and compile information to get started with building your course. 

Hang on, there’s one more step: 

To determine its marketability.

The fact that you’ve narrowed your niche down by identifying problems your target audience regularly has is already a good way to be sure that your course is actually marketable. 

However, in order to validate and solidify your selling prospects, it’s essential that you do a little research as to whether people are actually looking for a solution to that problem or not. 

Note: If you conduct market research and determine that your topic is not very marketable, then, you can repeat the process detailed above with a different niche. 

Why is Market Research Important? 

It’s important so that you can be sure that the problem you’re tackling is something that students everywhere face and it’s not just a niche occurrence that only your immediate circle of students and/or colleagues are facing.

In order to do this, you’re going to need the help of some online keyword research and analytic tools. Some of them are free while others cost money

Market Research Tools Tell You What’s Already Out There

It’s important to note that these tools will only tell you what people are already searching for. If you plan on making a course about a topic that no one has talked about yet or if you’re planning a very different or radical approach to a problem, you may not find any existing searches for it. 

While this can be discouraging, please know that you can still go forward with such an idea and have it work. This is if you firmly believe that you can genuinely help out members of your community with a problem that’s fairly common. 

That’s why the interviews you conduct with your existing students and peers are so important. They’ll help you determine if there’s actually a need for such a course even if you don’t find amazing keyword analytics for it online. 

Some problems or techniques are hyper-specific and have a very small audience. 

While this may seem like something that isn’t as sellable, you’ll find that these small audiences are often quite devoted. 

What to Do if There’s a Small but Dedicated Audience for Your Niche

Maybe you can charge more for your course since you’re the only one teaching that technique. This can help you dominate that small niche as no one else has bothered to make an online course about it. 

Free Market Research Tools and How to Use Them

While the tools and software that are paid definitely provide a lot more detailed insight into whether your chosen topic is profitable or not, you can easily use the free tools initially to get your online course off the ground. 

Since we’re talking about the initial stages of your online course, let’s have a look at some free tools and how you can use them: 

See How Many People are Searching for Your Topic with is a neat little tool that is free and easy to use. All you need to input are keywords and phrases related to your niche (one word or phrase per line) and then hit “Enter”. 

Obviously, it’s good practice to make a list of relevant keywords beforehand and then test it out. Try to step into the shoes of your audience and imagine what they would search for if they were looking for a solution to your finalized problem. 

Once you hit enter, you’ll be presented with a list of the words you entered along with their average monthly searches. 

keyword selection

As you can see, the word “SEO content writing” has average monthly searches of 320. 

Does that mean that only 320 people are interested in SEO content writing? 

No, it means that an average of 320 people searched for THAT specific phrase per month. 

Hence, you can add other phrases such as “SEO copywriting” “writing for SEO”, etc. to have a better understanding of how many people are actually interested in this topic.

Find Better Keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner

Google’s keyword planner is another great tool that you can find at 

It’s very easy to understand but if you want to get full value out of it, there are countless blogs and Youtube tutorials available that can help you. 

Moreover, it will help you visualize how many people look for a specific topic and thus, how many people are actually interested in it. 

It even has a “Discover New Keywords” tool which will help you get more keywords related to your topic that you hadn’t thought of.

Be sure to explore as many keyword variations as you can including phrases, synonyms as well as common misspellings. 

While creating and selling online courses can be very profitable, it’s not easy. Take a look at our guide to help you go through each step.

Not an All-Knowing Expert in Your Niche? You Don’t Have to be

It’s very easy to get bogged down by a mindset that says you’re not qualified to teach a course or share a set of skills unless you’re a degree-qualified expert in the field. This is one of the main reasons why a lot of people never get started with creating an online course

We hate to tell you this but you have to stop living in the past.

Most students and audiences these days don’t care whether you have a professional degree from a renowned university and frankly, we think that’s great. 

You don’t need to be an expert in your niche in order to impart knowledge that you’ve acquired over years of experience. 

Remember that you’ve spent your life acquiring skills, techniques and knowledge. Everyone has something to teach, all you need to do is spend some time to identify what that is. 

Share what you know with interest and passion. You’ll find that there’s a sizable audience out there that may not be acquainted with the techniques that are muscle memory for you at this point. 

When it comes to effective keyword research and SEO, there are three clear leaders currently in the market: SEMRushAhrefs, and Moz. Take a look at the complete guide for them by visiting our website.

Wrapping it up…

It can be very tempting to just choose a topic recklessly and then get started with making the content for it. However, if you don’t do your due diligence, you’ll find that you’ve spent days, weeks or even months making a course that no one wants to buy. 

Choosing your online course topic is arguably one of the most impactful steps that will determine whether you find an audience willing to buy your course or not. 

Thus, spend more time:

  • Researching topic ideas
  • Talking to members of the community
  • Determining your niche
  • Determining its marketability
  • Finalizing the topic 

This will make the content creation process much easier and also, help you find a loyal audience that wants to buy your course. 

Furthermore, this loyal audience will be someone to whom you can market your future online courses to as well.