Udemy vs. WordPress LMS: Which Platform Should You Use to Sell Online Courses?

Making a case for WordPress Vs Udemy for monetizing online courses -- Kiefer Szurszewski

Are you creating a course to sell online, but can’t decide which platform to use?

Or perhaps you already have a large following for your courses and are looking to expand your brand? If so, you’re probably considering two of the common choices for selling an online educational course:

  • Udemy.com, one of the most popular websites for selling courses
  • Creating your own LMS website using WordPress and a LMS plugin

While both are solid choices, you’ll ultimately need to pick one platform to use! In this post, we’ll help you figure out which platform is best for creating online courses.

Need a quick answer? The short version is this: in most situations, WordPress is better than Udemy for selling online courses. However, it does require more work and setup time.

Metrics for Deciding

How should you evaluate the two options? It depends! You should consider a number of things, including cost, types of content, and other factors. There are definite advantages and disadvantages of both Udemy and a self-hosted WordPress LMS.

Let’s look at some of the things you may want to consider. We’ve divided this section into six metrics:

  • Cost
  • Audience
  • Customization
  • Brand-Building
  • Appropriateness of Content
  • Control of Curriculum and Content

Let’s look at each one individually!

Cost

What’s your budget? How much do you have for advertising and promotion? Web hosting? And what about the materials required for producing the course itself? This can range from free (just written words) to hundreds or thousands of dollars (high-quality video and audio produced by a professional editing team.)

Additionally, it’s worth considering the pricing model of each platform. Udemy and WordPress have a different pricing structure, so let’s take a look at each one individually.

Udemy: Cost

Udemy has a somewhat complex pricing structure that can be hard to understand. Essentially, you earn 97% of your course sales for purchases made through a specific referral link or coupon. This means that the customer comes directly to the Udemy site from your website, email newsletter, or other place.

In all other situations, you only earn 37% of the revenue. This is similar to the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, where the platform is both a discovery channel and a way to sell products. These sales come from users searching the Udemy site, clicking on an Udemy ad, or otherwise making a purchase without first clicking on your referral link.

WordPress: Cost

WordPress can be as cheap or as expensive as you desire. The basic WordPress software itself is free, but you’ll also need a web host, domain name, and other things in order to actually create the website. This can be as little as $30 a year (in total) or $300 a month: it really depends on what you need.

If you want to use a LMS plugin, their prices vary as well. LearnDash starts at $159 per year for the basic plugin, while LearnPress has a very powerful free plugin. Have a look at LifterLMS too, which is both powerful and popular, starting at $120 per year.

However, the real advantage to using WordPress is that you don’t have to give any percentage of your sales to a third party. 100% of the revenue goes to you and there are no middle-men, other than payment processors.

Indeed, this is a big reason why people leave Udemy. The founder of CourseMinded.com, for example, had his revenue increase by 300% after he switched to self-hosting his courses:

Instead of relying on Udemy to attract customers for your course, you’re much better off learning this stuff yourself and building a business you have 100% control over.

This is also why Udemy courses are largely commoditized: because Udemy wants to sell more courses on their platform as a whole, they are less optimized for helping you sell more profitable courses individually. For example, Udemy frequently runs discounts of 90% or more on courses, which can absolutely kill your profit margins.

The verdict: Udemy has no recurring costs, but they do take a significant percentage of each sale. WordPress has more recurring costs, but you will retain the vast majority of your revenue.

Audience (Or Lack Thereof)

Do you already have an audience that you’ve built up via email or social media? Or do you need to rely on a third-party to help you get more followers? Which platform is better for building an audience? Let’s find out.

Udemy: Audience

Udemy is one of the most popular e-learning educational sites in the world, which makes it an excellent choice for anyone who is entirely new to creating courses. They get millions of visitors every month, all of whom are there looking for educational content. Udemy also comes with some marketing tools, which can help you grow your audience.

However, Udemy’s popularity means that everyone else is already on Udemy, too, which can make building an audience a bit more difficult. You will be directly competing against hundreds or even thousands of other educators in your niche. The number of tools available for Udemy, while not bad, pales in comparison to a fully-fledged website solution like WordPress or Shopify.

Table showing featured topics by category in Udemy

WordPress: Audience

WordPress is a self-hosted software package, which means that you install it on your own web server. Thus, you have to mostly build the audience yourself, as there is no central site with a pre-built audience like Udemy.

That said, WordPress also comes with tons of (mostly free) tools for building an audience, far more than Udemy. Extra functionality can easily be added via one of WordPress’s over 10,000 plugins. These include email marketing, blogging, social media sharing, SEO, and more. If you know how to code, you can also add your own functionality directly in PHP or JavaScript.

In particular, WordPress has excellent SEO features via plugins like Yoast and All-in-One SEO. These tools make it extremely easy to optimize your content for search engines to bring in potential customers.

Perhaps most importantly, if you already have a website with traffic, you can leverage this traffic immediately to sell courses; you don’t need to start from zero, like on Udemy.

The verdict: Udemy has a large audience already, but it can be hard to stand out among the competition. WordPress comes with no audience, but has more tools for growing one.

Table of Contents
About The Author
Kiefer Szurszewski

Kiefer Szurszewski

Kiefer is a technical writer with over a decade of experience in a variety of industries. At Convesio, he loves to teach others about creating awesome landing pages, writing great content, building powerful features, and tons of other things about WordPress.
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Customization and Standing Out from the Competition

This metric is related to the Audience one above. How well does each platform allow you to stand out among other products in the same space? And are there ways of customizing your presentation to be more unique?

Udemy: Customization

While Udemy has a large audience, it also has a fairly narrow format that you are required to follow in order to host a course. This includes at least 30 minutes of video content, 5 separate lectures, HD quality video, and more. So, if your specific course differs from this, you might have issues.

You’re also unable to change the layout or design of the Udemy.com website itself, which makes it more difficult to stand out from other courses on the site – or from other educational sites.

WordPress: Customization

WordPress is the king of customization, as it allows you to directly change just about everything on the site. You can do this automatically via themes and plugins, or if you know how to code, you can craft a custom site using CSS, PHP, and JavaScript.

The verdict: WordPress comes with near-limitless options for customizing your courses and website and more ways to stand out from the competition. On Udemy, contrarily, it’s very easy to blend in with the other thousands of courses.

Brand-Building

Teaching isn’t only about selling individual courses. It also involves building a brand and a reputation as a high-quality source of information. This applies to both individual teachers and companies.

So, it’s important to consider how effective each platform is at helping to build your brand. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Are you only selling a single course, or do you plan to have others in the future?
  • Will your courses be branded under your personal name or under a company name?

Do you plan on adding more teachers in the future? If so, will they be teaching under the brand name or under their individual name? Does the platform allow for multiple teachers to use the same account?

Udemy

Udemy is not ideal for building a brand, as you are fundamentally building on a different company’s website. While you can have an instructor page and leverage your name on social media websites, your ability to build a brand is still quite limited. At the end of the day, you may end up just being remembered by customers as “a course I bought on Udemy” and not as an individual teacher or company.

WordPress

Since WordPress requires you to create a website for yourself, that makes it absolutely ideal for building a brand. After all, a real brand needs a real website with a cohesive visual identity, not just a Udemy instructor page.

You can also add other customizations to your website that help establish your brand, including a logo, color and design choices, imagery, and more. Perhaps most importantly, a real website can scale with your business, even as you grow to thousands of students.

The verdict: WordPress is the clear choice for building a long-term brand, as it allows you to control the entire presentation of your website.

Appropriateness of Content

Do your courses deal with controversial or private topics? Or perhaps you want to remain anonymous as a teacher? If so, will this be an issue with your platform?

Udemy

Udemy has a list of restricted topics that teachers are not allowed to cover in courses. Most of these things are fairly obvious and you probably won’t be creating courses about them.

However, if your content is controversial or otherwise “questionable”, you may run into issues with Udemy. Ultimately, they can remove your course from their platform if they want to. Udemy also requires all teachers to verify their identity prior to publishing a course.

WordPress

Since WordPress is self-hosted, that means you can pretty much make courses about whatever you want – provided that your host is okay with it, too.

The verdict: WordPress, being a self-hosted option, is far more permissive in terms of content.

Control of Curriculum and Content

How much control do you have over the content of your courses? It may surprise you, but the platform you choose can actually have a significant impact on the format and content of what you teach.

Udemy

Udemy places a lot of restrictions on the content and overall structure of your course. This is because they want to have a cohesive experience for all of their customers. It includes a detailed list of requirements that affect the title, instructor biography, course description, and more.

Screenshot of a Udemy webpage showing their quality checklist

However, this also means that you are not able to make any major departures from their format. You are required to have videos, which could be an issue if you prefer written content. You also cannot use any affiliate links, links to paid content that is not on Udemy, or even links to external sites in general. This means that you are basically locked-in to the Udemy ecosystem.

WordPress

As with most other things, WordPress is entirely open and up to you. You can make any kind of content that you want and present it in any format.

The verdict: Udemy has very formalized requirements for what your courses should look like. This may be helpful if you’re just starting out and don’t know how to create a course, but for more experienced teachers, it may feel a bit limiting. WordPress, on the other hand, lets you create just about anything. WordPress also lets you host live courses, while Udemy does not.

Udemy vs. WordPress: The Final Choice

So, which one should you choose: Udemy or WordPress?

We recommend WordPress for just about every situation, as it is both easy to set up and scales well. WordPress is good for both beginners that are new to e-learning as well as expanding sites that need hosting that can handle thousands of simultaneous users.

However, if you are new to teaching online or only want to set up a single course with no plans of expanding beyond it, Udemy is not a bad option. Just keep in mind that the growth opportunities are fairly limited.

A Host that Scales with Your LMS Site

If you decide to use WordPress, you’ll definitely need a host that can handle increasing amounts of traffic – especially as you grow your e-learning business and get more customers. We recommend one of our auto scaling, high-availability hosting plans.

Built on cutting-edge technology, our servers are capable of handling thousands of students visiting your site at once.

Ready to start building a LMS site on WordPress? Read our guide to selecting a host for your WordPress LMS site.

Test your WordPress LMS on Convesio – we offer a free trial that gets you going in minutes. Install your LMS plugin of choice and explore features and functionality. Any questions? Free to reach out if yourself.

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About The Author
Kiefer Szurszewski

Kiefer Szurszewski

Kiefer is a technical writer with over a decade of experience in a variety of industries. At Convesio, he loves to teach others about creating awesome landing pages, writing great content, building powerful features, and tons of other things about WordPress.
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