One of the most overlooked parts of the whole online course creation process is the art of coming up with a great online course description.
You might not realize it, but the description of your online course is not only purely informative, it's also marketing copy: you are trying to convince the student to purchase your course, and one of the main ways that you have to do that is your online course description.
You might be tempted to quickly write a description without much further thought, and just continue with the rest of the course creation process.
But if you try to skip this important step and don't pay the necessary attention to it, this will cost you sales throughout the whole lifetime of the course, as many people base a lot of their buying decision on the content of the course description.
We are going to take you step by step on how to create a great description for your courses that is going to help you with your sales and also with the overall course creation process itself.
At this point in your course creation journey, you have already taken the first step, which is to create an online course thumbnail. While you wait for your course image to get delivered, the second thing that we recommend doing upfront is to create a course outline, and that is what we will be covering in this article.
If you are looking to learn more about online teaching, you can find all of our guides in the Academy home page, with the recommended reading order.
The previous article in this series is: How to create an online course thumbnail
So without further ado, let's get started learning how to write a compelling course description for your course.
If you looking learn about all other aspects of the online course sales page besides the description, check out How To Create The Perfect Online Course Sales Page.
Why create a course description as early as possible?
Just like creating the course image early on can be very motivating to you as a content creator, the same thing happens when you create an early course description.
But there is another great reason for writing the description early :
Writing a course description early on also makes it possible to pre-sell your course.
All that you really need to pre-sell a course is a course thumbnail, a great description and a platform that allows you to pre-publish your course.
If you pre-sell your course you can start selling it at a lower price without any content being available yet, and later on you can deliver the lessons as they are ready.
We only recommend pre-selling for experienced content creators, don't do this for your first course.
The goal here is to start thinking from the very beginning about the structure of your course. Before starting any video recordings you want to write these two important pieces of content, and only these two:
- a table of contents
- A course description
How to write a great Table of Contents for your online course
The table of contents does not need to be a detailed list of content like you would find in the beginning of a book. What you want to write instead is an approximate list of the topics that your course will cover, and the order on which you will cover them.
The list doesn't have to be too detailed, for example it does not need to have multiple levels of nesting or be too long.
The table of contents will be part of your course description, so you want to highlight the main things that your students expect to find in the course.
The table of contents should be under the form of a bullet point list, which is easier to parse and read by the student. Many of your students will not even read the rest of the description, they will focus only on the table of contents because it's visually easier to parse and skim through.
Notice that there is a difference between a table of contents and the complete list of video lessons and all of their titles.
We don't recommend that you try to define the titles for all your video lessons upfront!
Should I define all the titles for each video lesson upfront?
We believe based on experience that trying to do that is actually counterproductive!
It's too much detail way too early in the course creation process, and it's hard to anticipate what will make for a good topic for a single video.
It might seem tempting to list all your lesson titles upfront, especially if this is your first course.
But in reality, once you start recording you will see that some topics will take a lot longer than you expect, while others will take a lot less.
Some topics that looked like they would need only one lesson will end up being splitted up into 2 or 3 separate lessons.
The sweet spot for what makes a good video lesson is harder to anticipate then what you might think, and you can end up having to film lessons that are too long or too short just to keep consistent with the original list of lesson titles.
Instead of trying to define all the lesson titles upfront, we recommend that you simply create just a well detailed table of contents, that will serve you as guide while you record.
The importance of writing a course description upfront
Next to the table of contents, you also want to write the course description upfront, right after creating the course thumbnail.
Actually, your table of contents should be embedded inside the course description, but we recommend that you start first with the table of contents, and then write the rest of the description.
This is going to make it a bit easier for you and help you prevent writer's block.
Your course might be structured as a sequential story, and in that case by writing this description early, you will start the process of imagining what that story will look like.
How to structure a course description?
If your course is not structured as a story, then you can split up your description in the following sections, that answer the student's most common questions:
- This course in a nutshell: In this initial section of the description, you want to give the reader a bird's eye view of the course. This should only take a couple of sentences, and not more. Write this section assuming that the reader will not even read the rest of the description, which will happen often
- what will you learn in this course: In just a few sentences, and not more, you want to explain the exact benefits that the student will get by taking your course. A great way to write this section is to start with the sentence: "At the end of this course, you will be able to ..."
- Table of contents: you want to insert the table of contents that you have already prepared right here, after the two initial sections of the description.
- Course overview: in this section of the description, you can go into much more detail about the course. Try to describe the course structure and explain why you structured things a certain way. You want to give a great level of detail here, at least several paragraphs and you can even go as far as writing a small blog post. You might be afraid that most people won't read this, but the truth is some people will just keep reading everything, and the more they read the more they likely will become interested in either buying the course or remembering your website in the future.
How to format your course description
You want to avoid writing large blocks of text, that are very hard to read. It's important to make it easy for the student to easily parse the description and read the parts that they want only, in case that they don't want to read the whole thing.
Remember that your course description is going to be used to sell the course to the student. It's not only a description but it's also marketing copy, so you want to make it sound appealing without coming across as too salesy either.
It's important to give the description some visual variety, in order to avoid making it sound monotone and boring. To achieve this, we advise you to add at least in every couple of sentences some formatting elements to your text:
- highlight the main points in bold, in order to attract attention to a given point
- use the appropriate header sizes in order to split your description into easily readable sections
- emphasize certain points in your text using italic
- Throw in the occasional exclamation mark just to get a change of tone! (but don't overdo it)
- use bulleted lists in place of enumerating all the list items in a sentence
It takes quite some work to write a great course description, maybe the better part of a morning. But we recommend that you don't skip or shorten this step, and take the time to write a really compelling course description.
Remember that this is something that only needs to be done once for the whole lifetime of the course, and it's going to be a major factor in the conversion rate of your course landing page throughout its lifetime, so do take the time to do it well.
The importance of a course description for SEO
Besides the marketing aspect, a good course description is also essential for SEO or Search Engine Optimization. There is no way for search engines like Google to know what your course is about and recommend it to search users without a relatively large course description.
Conclusions & key takeaways
Let's quickly summarize here everything that we have learned in this guide. Here is the main point:
A good online course description is also marketing copy. It will influence your course sales throughout the whole lifetime of the course, so do take the time to write it well
Also, a good course description, written as early as possible in the course creation process will help you a lot to think about the structure to the course, without taking too many unnecessary decisions upfront.
And finally, a good course description is also essential for being able to pre-sell the course, if you choose to do so.
We hope that this guide will help you to write an awesome course description for your next online course!
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Next recommended guide
To check out all our guides on how to become an online course creator, you can check the Academy home page.
The next guide that we recommend that you read is: Affordable online course equipment - complete practical guide
Any further questions?
If you have any other questions about online course creation in general or course descriptions in particular, please post them in the comment section below, or in our Course Creator Academy Facebook Group.
Either way, our team of course creation experts is happy to help you out.
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