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Udemy Instructors, “Why are my sales down?”

This post focuses on some recent changes on the Udemy.com platform. Udemy has introduced a redesigned category and subcategory pages, and several instructors are reporting a devastating effect on sales. I have not really understood why sales have dropped until today. Here are some thoughts.

I’ve heard from a number of instructors who contacted me privately that the redesign a couple of months ago have killed their sales. Some have said they have had no sales, when they at least had some every day before, and some have said they go many days now without sales.

It made me wonder, how can the redesign have affected sales for a lot of instructors, how can many instructors not really be affected, and how can Udemy themselves not be concerned?

(Speculation ahead: I don’t know what percentage of all instructors are reporting lower/no sales. But it has to be at least 10%, if you extrapolate from those that comment here in the Lounge out to the wider group who don’t post here.)

If your sales are down, I can only imagine 2 likely scenarios as for why. One, a majority of your students found you by going to the subcategory page and browsing. Or two, you had benefited from your search placement in the old grid pattern results and the new stacked pattern doesn’t benefit you.

Let me explain both.

There’s no question that if you had the majority of your students through “browsing” subcategory pages, Udemy now presents at least 12 to 21 more results ahead of you. It’s just like you fell 21 places in the search results. If you were the 5th best Photography Fundamentals course on the old Udemy subcategory page for that, you’ve fallen off page 1 and are now on the “all courses tab”. There are 17 courses on page 1 of the Photography Fundamentals subcategory, and now you’re still #5 on the all courses tab, so 21 courses are presented to students ahead of yours (some multiple times), where you used to be at the first spot on the second row, which could be the second course students saw depending how their eyes scanned the page.

So if your sales have dropped to $0 or basically $0, I suggest that you got most of your students through browsing before.

Even for search, the old grid pattern showed courses in a non-linear way. I used to say it was better to be course #6 on the page than course #4, because #4 was hidden all the way to the right of the screen whereas #6 had the first spot on the second row. Now, #6 really is behind #4, and students really will look at them in the linear order. Similar to Google, the first course will get the majority of the traffic, the second less, and by the time course #10 on the first page is viewed, less than 10% of people will click that link.

In this game we play, the board has shifted. There’s more advantage than ever to being in the top 4 for a subcategory, or the top 1 for a big search keywords. Sales haven’t fallen for Udemy. But the money is going in different places than it used to.

Finally, with free courses getting a lot more prominence, if you have a significant free competitor, someone who’s free course solves an important student need, you have to find a way to be different. It’s hard to compete against free when free is “good enough” – just as Netscape.


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