How to Choose the Perfect Name for Your Online Course
I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m just going to say it…
Finding the right name for your online course is more important than finding the right name for your child.
Think I’m overstating the case?
You won’t by the time you’ve finished reading this article.
(Gauntlet laid down, let’s begin…)
Why You Should Spend More Time Naming Courses than Children
If you’re a parent, you probably spent a good amount of time pondering the name of your first child. (Or dog, or hamster, or favourite garden gnome.)
But the truth is, the name you picked matters much less than you think.
Because unless you pick a name that actively invites bullying at school, like CheezyButtz, Lil’ Radish or Child123, a child’s name won’t greatly affect their success in life.
However, the name of your online course will have a huge impact on its success.
Pick the wrong name and your course will splutter and fail on launch. Pick the right name and everything else becomes twice as easy.
Human names are just glorified labels—they avoid the confusion of a world where everyone’s called Jeremy.
But few people will expect to understand your place and purpose in the world based on your name alone.
With an online course though, that’s exactly what they expect.
The Secret to Finding Your Kick-Ass Course Name
So what’s the secret to finding the perfect course name?
Let’s quickly set the scene with an example…
Imagine you’re about to sign up for a course that promises you “beach abs” in just 28 days.
Which of these is likely to excite you the most about that journey?
- Learning the best exercises for abdominal muscle development
- Discovering custom meal plans for an abs-enhancing diet
- Strutting down the beach showing off your amazing new abs
It’s the third one, right? It’s that transformation from flabby belly to head-turning six-pack that’s exciting. All that other stuff is just boring detail.
It’s all about the transformation, baby. (Repeat after me: forget topic, think transformation.)
In that respect courses are no different from more traditional products:
- You buy whitening toothpaste to transform your teeth
- You buy weedkiller to transform your lawn
- You buy a fancy memory foam mattress to transform your sleep
And the secret to creating a kick-ass course name is to signpost the transformation that it provides.
Let’s look at some real-world course examples:
- Quit Your Day Job
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
- Write to 1K
- Start and Run a Successful Web Design Business
- Longevity Blueprint
- Become a Digital Marketer
Even without any further information about the courses above you can already make a firm guess about the transformation each provides.
So let’s see how to bring that same clarity and precision to your own course name.
How to Turn Your Transformations into Tantalising Titles
If signposting the transformation is the secret, how do you do it? Fortunately, I have some simple questions that should make the whole process considerably easier. (You’re welcome!)
Each of these questions approaches the transformation from a different angle. And each should give you multiple possibilities for your course name.
The key is to consider what’s different by the time students complete your course.
Note: If you haven’t nailed your course’s transformation yet, do that first. Your course’s name can only ever be as good as the transformation it describes.
Question #1: What will students HAVE?
What will students have after completing your course that was missing when they started?
For instance, in the previous example, students have “beach abs”. So what does your course give them?
Sometimes the endpoint will be something external like an impressive physique (or a new job or a better-behaved dog). Other times it’ll be something more internal like confidence or clarity or understanding.
External results are usually more motivating because they’re objective—it’s obvious when they’ve been achieved. Internal results can be equally valuable but the more you can externalise them the better. (Example: the external version of “more clarity” might be a written-out plan.)
Here are some course names that answer the “have” question:
- Your First 100 Subscribers
- The Magic Resume
- Balanced Home Budget
Question #2: What will students BECOME?
What will students become after completing your course that they weren’t before?
In other words, what motivating label will they earn once the transformation is complete?
Ideally, this is how students would describe their future self, which is the kind of insight that really only comes from careful research and hanging out with your target audience online.
They should look at this label and think: “Yep. That’s who I want to be.”
Here are some course names that answer the “become” question:
- Unfrazzled Mom
- Six-Figure Speaker
- Confident Copywriter
Question #3: What can students DO?
What new skills or capabilities will people have after completing your course?
In other words, what can they do that would have been a struggle before?
When potential students picture themselves with these new skills they should feel motivated to acquire them.
Likewise, the real-world results of applying these skills should be vivid and desirable.
Here are some course names that answer the “do” question:
- Juggle with Ease
- Bake Like a Boss
- Find Your Dream Partner
Bonus Question: What’s the entire transformation?
If your course’s starting point is as clear as its endpoint, you can try describing the whole transformation. This is essentially the “Rags to Riches” or “Zero to Hero” approach.
Get this right and you’ll resonate with your target audience twice—once when they recognise where they are now and again when they recognise where they want to be.
Tip: You can piggyback each of the previous three questions here. The start and endpoints are what students will have, will become or can do.
Here are some course names that describe the entire transformation:
- Park Run to Marathon
- Hobby Writer to Writing Pro
- PowerPoint Dummy to Presentation Wizard
The Role of the Tagline (It’s Not What You Think)
As well as the course name, most courses also have a tagline that provides more detail and clarifies the transformation.
Here are a few of the earlier course examples with their taglines restored:
- Quit Your Day Job—A Step-By-Step Online Course To Leaving Your Boring Day Job And Launching A Career You Love
- Write to 1K—Yes, you can become a well-paid writer… in just a few short weeks
- Longevity Blueprint—Experience The Rapid Science-Based Biohacks that World Class Athletes, Leading CEOs, And Other Top-Performers Use To Effortlessly Level Up Their Health And Longevity
Taglines are certainly important and writing them is a discipline in itself, but here’s the crucial thing:
Potential customers shouldn’t have to rely on your tagline to understand what your course is about.
The tagline is for people who are already hooked by the course name. It draws them further into your world and gets them excited about the transformation you can deliver.
But the course name must stand alone. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking your tagline will fix a vague or weak course name.
Your Four Steps to Course Name Nirvana
Let’s wrap up by looking at the steps that’ll take you from blank page to perfect course name.
Step #1: Brainstorm lots (and I mean lots) of options
Set aside an hour and generate as many different names using the questions above.
At this point, quantity rules over quality. Aim for at least 50 different names, preferably 100.
Don’t judge them, just get them down on the page. And it doesn’t matter if many are variations on the same theme.
If you need some extra inspiration, try these questions:
- What would the “three words or less” name be?
- What would be “way too obvious” version be?
- What would the “far too hype-y” version be?
Step #2: Create a shortlist of the strongest options
Take a break from your list—I recommend at least a day— and then highlight the options that stand out.
Don’t overthink this. Put yourself in the mind of your audience and use your instincts. You’re aiming to thin your list down to 5-10 options.
If you need some help filtering your options, use these tips:
- Clear is better than clever
- Shorter is better than longer
- Memorable is better than mundane
Step #3: Make sure your favourites aren’t already taken
Do a quick Google search to make sure your preferred names haven’t already been snagged by someone else.
Finding another course (or blog or book) with the same name isn’t necessarily a showstopper but it’s best to know that sooner rather than later. (And if a name is trademarked you should definitely give it a wide berth.)
I also like to see if any of the popular domains are available for the exact course name (e.g., .com., .net, . co, etc.). If they’ve all been grabbed that’s another sign to steer clear.
Tip: When Googling the name, put quotes around your query to find exact match results.
Step #4: Test the top options with your target audience
You may have your favourite name, but it’s your audiences’ opinion that matters most. Even if you think you know which options they’ll prefer, often they’ll surprise you
So if you have direct access to your target audience, e.g., you have an email list or a Facebook group, create a simple poll to find out which names people favour.
Alternatively, if you’re a member of a relevant group where your audience hangs out, check if the owner will let you post a poll there.
As a last resort, post the options to your general Facebook audience and get some feedback. Sometimes just an external perspective is helpful.
Your Perfect Course Name is Out There
So, did I manage to persuade you?
You know, that course-naming is more important than child-naming. :-)
Whether I succeeded or not, the handful of words you use to describe your online course will have a wildly disproportionate impact on how it’s received.
Granted, your course’s name is just the cherry on the top of the cake— much more goes into a truly successful course than just a good name.
But if your target customers don’t like the look of that cherry, they’ll never taste the rest of the cake.
So grab a notepad and pencil and go brainstorm me some kick-ass course names.