Martial Arts Advertising Starts With Your Website, Part II
In this second half of this article on good martial arts school web design I’m going to discuss writing good content, increasing conversion rates, the importance of lead capture, and search engine optimization in a changing online landscape. (And if you’d like to read the first half of this article which is on good web design practices, click here.)
Now, let’s get started by talking about what makes for good website content that will lead to better conversion rates.
Formatting Your Site Content
The first thing you need to know about creating web content is how people read online. For the most part, your site visitors will first scan your content. Then, if they see something interesting, they’ll begin to read more carefully.
So, make your content scannable. That means writing in short sentences, breaking your content up into smaller paragraphs, using bold, underlining, and italics to make important points stand out, and using section headings and subheads to break up the page.
This also means using white space to your advantage by spacing out your paragraphs correctly and having the right amount of space between your header, footer, page borders, sidebar, and text.
Q: Should you have a lot of links and social media widgets in the sidebar?
This is a bone of contention with hardcore copywriters and direct marketing gurus. Most of them say you shouldn’t (this goes back to the old adage that “a confused mind never buys”). However, social media is an important component of modern small business marketing. So, I’ll leave this up to you. In my opinion though, the less links, doodads, and widgets in the sidebar, the better. Remember, you’re creating a sales page, not a blog, so the purpose is to sell, not to inform or entertain. I say err on the side of caution and save that space for your optin form and testimonials.
Writing Website Content That Sells
Next, let’s talk about the actual writing part. Whenever you’re writing sales copy, you need to start with your goal in mind. So, always focus what you write on your ideal marketing outcome; that is, getting a lead or making a sale. And, in order to get a sale, you need to convince the reader that you have something they want or need.
The wrong way to do this is to talk about how great you are. I know, that sounds backwards, but think about it. How annoying is it to be around someone who just talks about how great they are all the time? Hear enough bragging from someone and pretty soon you begin to think there’s a reason why this person has to brag; that is, they’re really not so great after all. And even if they are, who wants to be around a blowhard?
So, you need to remember that the content you write has to talk about what you can do for the reader. Focus on the benefits you can provide them with the services you’re providing. Sure, you can mention your credentials in passing, but the best credentials are the results you provide your customers. For that reason, be sure to include testimonials sprinkled into your content.
Improving Conversion Rates
Conversion is perhaps the most important consideration in building a website, right after driving traffic. I’m going to cover driving traffic in my next article, so let’s focus on conversion since it’s more relevant to this discussion.
First, what is conversion? The answer is that conversion simply refers to getting site visitors to complete a desired action.
On sites like Amazon.com, the desired action is to buy something, which is why those sites are so busy-looking. They’re selling everything, so they figure the more opportunities they give you to click the buy button, the more likely you are to buy. But, not so with our martial arts school websites…
No, we want our page design to be as clean and spare as possible. That’s because the way our page should work is like an upside triangle, with all the content funneling the reader to the call-to-action at the bottom of the page or at the end of our sales copy. Certainly, you can (and should) include multiple calls-to-action on your page (such as your content info in the header and your first optin form at the top of the page).
However, you want all those call-to-action to be for the same action – that is, calling you or filling out a lead capture form to register for a free class or introductory program. That’s it.
So, include multiple calls-to-action on the page, all for the same desired result or outcome. Always remember, good martial arts websites are focused on achieving a single desired outcome, which is getting the lead or intro course registration.
Yes, you need to capture leads on your website. Modern web apps make this incredibly easy to do. I use a service that allows me to copy and paste one line of code to insert a great-looking, high-conversion lead capture form on my web page (click here for a $1 trial of this service). Those leads get sent to my email account instantly, so I can call them back immediately (calling them just takes one click using my smart phone).
Incidentally, this also adds the site visitor to my email contact list so I can follow up with them automatically. The software service I use allows me to load pre-written email messages that will be sent out at regular intervals. This allows me to use automation to follow-up, and is especially useful for those people who I fail to reach by phone.
Most of you reading this went through the same process when you signed up for my newsletter on this or another of my marketing websites. I offered you something of value for free to entice you to sign up for my newsletter, right?
You may have been waffling on signing up for my newsletter, but the free report or other download probably cinched it for you.
That’s the same tactic you want to use to get your site visitors to fill out your contact or lead capture form on your martial arts school website. And to get them to fill out your contact or lead capture form, you need to give them what I call a “Godfather Offer” – an offer they can’t refuse.
This can be anything from a deep discount for a limited time, to a free trial class or even a free month. I suggest you test several offers and see what gets the best response.
Website Search Engine Optimization
If you don’t know what website search engine optimization is, I suggest you do a Google search and start educating yourself on keywords, search rankings, and what SEO points to keep in mind when creating a web page or website. I’ll give you the basics here, but you really need to learn more if you want to use this effectively as part of your overall marketing strategy.
First, let’s talk keyword density. If you think stuffing your content with keywords will get your site to rank higher in the search engines, you need to take your time machine back from 1999. That’s known as keyword stuffing, and it will get your site banned from Google pretty quickly, so don’t do it. At most you should sprinkle your main search terms a few times throughout your text.
Any discussion on website SEO would be incomplete without discussing the importance of unique content. All you folks out there who think it’s a good idea to copy and paste someone else’s website content and just change the name of the school to your own, guess what? Your blatant plagiarism is tanking your own search engine rankings.
Why? Because Google wants unique content in their search results, so they have a duplicate page penalty that automatically makes duplicate pages and content rank much lower in the search results. So, write your own stuff (as if that should even need to be said).
Note: Since I wrote this article, I’ve heard arguments on both sides regarding having duplicate content on your site. Some people say there’s no penalty, while others say there definitely is a penalty. Google, as usual, is ambiguous on this point. There are legitimate reasons to have content on your site that isn’t original (even Google says so – read the article at that last link).
So long as it doesn’t appear that you’re trying to manipulate search engine results by doing so, if you quote someone else’s article or embed a popular video from YouTube on your site it’s probably not going to have a negative effect on your rankings. If you’re confused about this, here’s a really long blog post on content curation that you should read.
Next, let’s talk page URLs and title tags. Your page URL is the actual “web address” of your page, and the title tag is the title of the page. In a web browser, they look like this:
So, the page URL is in the address bar, and the title tag is what shows up in the blue bar at the top of the browser. Incidentally, the title tag is also what Google will use as the title link in their search results:
So, can you see how it would be kind of important to include your keywords in the page URL and title tag? I suggest using “(your city name) (your martial arts style or service)” as a starting point. But as I said, read up on SEO thoroughly to avoid making mistakes that could get your site banned in Google.
Or, hire an SEO professional to handle it for you. It should only cost you between $500 to $1,000 to get your home page and other sales pages ranked on the first page in Google in a small to medium-sized town (although it will cost much more if you’re located in a large city, due to greater site competition). Believe me, it is well worth the investment.
Avoid SEO Scams and Black Hat Tactics
A word of warning though – there are a ton of SEO scams and scammy SEO companies. I get a minimum of three or four emails a day from cut-rate SEO “firms” promising to rank my sites on the first page in Google (when they already are). These packages and services are a waste of time. Don’t hire a cut-rate firm, because you’ll regret it later when your site rankings tank and you have no idea how to fix it.
Trust me on this. I’ve been doing SEO for years, and I took one of the first SEO certification courses ever offered from some of the pioneers in the industry. Ten years of doing SEO has taught me that bad (also known as “black hat”) SEO tactics will work in the short term, but over time using black hat SEO will destroy your ability to rank in Google.
So, avoid using SEO tricks and just focus on writing good solid unique content, and include your keywords in the page URL, the title tags, and a few times in the actual page content.
Next Week… Driving Traffic!
That about wraps up this article series on designing your website and writing the content for your school’s marketing pages. But, having a well-designed and well-written martial arts school website won’t do you any good if you can’t get any traffic. So, next week I’m going to cover how to drive traffic to your martial arts school’s website.
– Mike Massie
P.S. – Click here to read Part III of this article series.
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 here now.
Certainly, caveat emptor applies in all things related to purchasing business services. It behooves a school owner to do their due diligence before hiring any service provider.