How to Not Muck Up Your Martial Arts School Website…
In the past martial arts advertising meant actually running ads, be it in newspapers, the yellow pages directories, or on TV and radio. Today, while those marketing channels may still be part of your overall marketing mix, successful martial arts advertising and marketing starts with your website.
The reasons for this should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to trends in popular media and culture over the last decade. Everyone – and I mean everyone – uses the internet these days.
Technology has advanced such that anyone can afford to own a powerful handheld computer (a smartphone or tablet). And, all these devices are connected to the internet via free WiFi connections or through a mobile phone carrier network.
Nearly everyone is connected to the internet these days, and people are now spending a good chunk of their time online. For better or for worse, our modern lives are integrated with the internet, and thanks to Google and Facebook that’s where the average consumer is going to search when they’re looking for martial arts or fitness training.
Having a Social Media Presence is Not Enough
Granted, the widespread usage of social media sites and services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest has made it essential that you, the business owner, have a presence on these sites. However, you also need to have a home base, a place where your presence on all those other sites points to and where people who are serious about buying can find out more about your business.
Social media isn’t enough to make the sale, because social media isn’t designed to be a sales channel (although it’s being used as such because social media sites need to turn a profit). You need a focused medium to get your sales messages across – one where your message won’t be lost in all the noise online.
Fortunately, websites are the perfect modern medium for marketing your business via direct response marketing. You can customize your website and design it such that it is optimized to capture buyer information and drive leads and sales to your business. And unlike a human salesperson, it never gets tired, goes on vacation, or asks for a day off.
So You Have a Website… But Is Your Website Working Against You?
Eventually, whenever a potential customer comes across your business online, they’re going to end up on your website. So, if you haven’t invested a significant amount of time and energy into making it as professional and effective as possible, you’re going to lose out on a lot of business.
Back in the day, I used to collect martial arts yellow pages ads to study them; these days, I browse martial arts school websites. And despite the obvious necessity of having a professional website that is designed from the ground up to increase your sales and leads, I’m continually amazed at the number of businesses I come across that simply do not take this seriously.
Routinely, when I’m browsing martial arts school websites I see poorly designed websites that are confusing to navigate and difficult to read. And, on the majority of those sites my brain is assaulted by poorly written and unfocused web copy that is doing nothing to help the business get more customers. In fact, in most cases these sites are designed and written so poorly, they’re actually working against the business by potentially driving customers to their competitors.
Although I covered this topic briefly in my previous post, let’s talk more about a few of the things you need to consider when building a website for your business.
First, Colors Count
The truth is, if you have a well-designed site you can get away with a lot as far as your color scheme goes. However, there are some definite no-no’s when choosing colors for your website. For starters, never, and I mean NEVER, use white or light text on a dark or black background. I guarantee you that if you do, your bounce rate will be sky-high. The reason is because it’s hard to read, and people will quickly click off pages that are difficult to read.
Moreover, studies have shown that when people read text that is formatted using white text on a dark background, their information retention rate drops considerably. And finally, color sets the tone for a website. Dark sites set a dark tone, which subconsciously gives the site visitor yet another reason to click off your site. So, congratulations – while your neo-goth dark and foreboding site site may make you feel tough and manly, it’s driving your customers to your competition. Good luck with that.
Having said that, I’ll also say that excessive use of purple, orange, or green colors on a site is also usually a mistake. I know that some businesses will use these colors in order to better “brand” their business, but it’s not worth turning off web visitors to use them excessively. If your business uses these colors in your logo and you want to work them into your design, then use them sparingly and subtly.
Also, think about using contrast between light and dark areas as a way of delineating the most important areas of your site. As you’ll see in next week’s follow-up to this article, white space is an important consideration when laying out text on a web page. Likewise, you want the colors and layout of a site to draw attention to the crucial components of your site; namely, the sales copy and lead capture form (another topic of discussion next week).
Page Layout Conventions
Since your website is really the opening greeting in your customer relationship, doesn’t it make sense to start that relationship by at least meeting their expectations?
When site visitors land on a page that uses an unconventional or confusing page layout, they typically won’t stay for long. Again, this will drive your bounce rate through the roof (and the longer a site visitor stays on your site, the more likely they are to convert to a lead or a sale). Thus, your page layout should follow common conventions that most sites follow.
An example of this happened to me just yesterday, when I went to check out a new website that was being promoted in a newsletter I subscribe to. The site was designed to look like someone’s home, a convention that, while novel, I quickly found to be incredibly annoying.
The entire navigation of the site was hidden in the image of a living room on the screen, which meant I had to play “hide and click” in order to see more of the site. I stuck around for maybe 30 seconds, and I’d guess that I wasn’t the only site visitor who didn’t stay long that day.
Avoid making this mistake, and adhere to standard website layout conventions. Standard page layout conventions for most business websites these days follow what I call the “four-area, two column” convention:
- A site header at the top with identifying graphics and contact information (the main site navigation is usually found here as well)
- The body following a two-column design with the sales copy and sidebar running parallel down the page
I suggest you follow convention and set your website up in similar fashion.
This brings me to my next point – make your site navigation as easy to use as possible. Again, start your relationship with site visitors by meeting their expectations and making your site as user-friendly as possible. Don’t make your site visitors hunt around for the information they need.
Instead, make it easy to find by making your site navigation as simple as possible. To accomplish this, make sure that your site’s pages and content are ordered using standard conventions for small business websites. Think about the most common pages that the typical small business website has:
- A home page
- An “about us” page
- A “services” page
- A “contact us” page
- And a page with a map and directions to your business
That’s pretty standard, and it’s also pretty much what people expect to find on your site.
When designing your site navigation, you’ll want to include a primary navigation area that’s integrated with your site header and prominently displayed at the top of your site. You may also want to include the same links in a secondary navigation panel in the sidebar as well. Redundancy, in this case at least, is not a bad thing.
And if your site has a lot of pages, don’t muck up the navigation by having three and four lines of navigation links going across the top of your page. “A confused mind never buys”, and a confused mind never clicks either. If it’s really necessary to have that many pages (and it typically isn’t) then at least organize your site structure by topic and then arrange those additional pages in a dynamic “drop-down” menu under the primary site pages I listed above.
Finally, maintain the same navigation and page layout conventions throughout your site. If you provide a link to a page where the layout changes (such as going from a two-column to a single-column page), at the very least include the same navigation bar in the header of the new page. Remember, your site is supposed to convince the site visitor to leave their contact information or to buy something from you – it’s not supposed to frustrate them to the point that they leave your site.
Part II Coming Next Week…
While I think that’s more than enough to get you started, there’s still a ton of information on good direct response small business website design that I want to share with you. So, next week I’ll conclude this article with information on content, conversion, lead capture, search engine optimization, and how your website fits into the grand scheme of your overall martial arts advertising strategy.
Are there any other questions you have that I didn’t answer here? I want to know, so please post your questions regarding martial arts websites, martial arts advertising, and online marketing for martial arts schools below in the comments, and I’ll be sure to address them directly or in future articles.
– Mike Massie
P.S. – To read Part II of this article, click here.
P.S.S. – Need a website for your martial art school? I can help! For more information on how you can get an affordable website for your studio – one that helps you get more leads and that presents a professional image online – click this link now.