A checklist for you (and your website guru) 

When online marketing professional Alison Krejny began supplementing her budding business career with freelance dance teaching—she’d double majored in dance and business management technology in college—she immediately noticed a disconnect between what she knew about online marketing and what was happening on studio websites. “There was information missing, no images, you couldn’t find phone numbers,” says Krejny. “The big light bulb went off over my head, and I thought, ‘Hey! These people need some help.’” She went on to found and run Ohio-based To The Pointe Marketing, focusing on online advertising for studios and companies.

The website problems Krejny identified aren’t uncommon. Frank Sahlein, CEO of 3rd Level Consulting, estimates that 60 percent of the studio owners he works with are “just kind of wandering around, doing the best job they can,” he says. The good news is that optimizing your website isn’t as complicated as you might imagine: We’ve narrowed it down to 10 ways you can fine-tune your web presence to make it effective, accessible and competitive.

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. With the explosive growth in smartphone and tablet use, it’s a must that your site be easily viewable on all devices. Mobile users want a page to load quickly, and they want to find the important information near the top. Website templates from providers like WordPress and Squarespace incorporate “responsive” design, which adapts a site’s look and functionality automatically to whatever device it’s being viewed on. “Most website creation tools develop your mobile version as they develop the website itself,” explains Sahlein, at little or no extra cost to you.

2 Provide a good user experience. Your site should be easy to navigate, in addition to pages loading quickly. Think twice before using Flash-based designs: If your images aren’t optimized and are too heavy, they’ll load too slowly. “That can discourage users from staying on the site and doing a search,” says Krejny. “They might move on to the next listing that will load quicker.” (Note: iPhones and iPads don’t support Flash.)

3 Keep your content clear and concise. Give a short description of your studio, and note what sets it apart with bullet points, suggests Sahlein. “People won’t read three paragraphs,” he says. “They’ll read two or three sentences and four bullet points.” Good content will lead to better search results, too. 

4 Include the right keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that your target customers are likely to type into search engines when looking for a site. These should appear in your site’s body text and in each page’s title tag (what shows up at the top of a browser and at the top of an individual tab within a browser). Krejny separates keywords into two categories: industry (dance studio) generic and locality-specific. “You want to include big bang words like ‘dance studio’ and ‘local dance studio’ on your website, because that’s what people are going to search,” she explains. Adding your city name and zip code will let internet users know that your studio is in their area. Aim to include a couple of keywords per webpage.

5 Fill out your contact page completely. Be as specific and clear as you can: Include your e-mail address, hours of operation, studio address (pull in a Google map for viewers to see street intersections) and phone number. Format your phone number with an area code, dashes and no spaces (example: 555-555-8899) so that those viewing your studio website on their mobile devices can click directly on the number to place a call. Sahlein advises including a photo, too, of you, the owner, or your office manager.

6 Share your social media. Does your studio have a Facebook page? Twitter account? Instagram profile? Include links on your homepage to social media, or embed their feeds directly into your website with plug-ins. “Add any images you can,” says Krejny. “Students will eat those up and want to show their friends—‘This is what we’re doing in class!’”

7 Include video or a slideshow of images. According to Sahlein, videos are better and should be no longer than a minute and a half; a slideshow should include no more than 10 rotating pictures. Ideally, a video promoting your studio would show clips from a dance class, with quotes from a student, a parent and an instructor. Your search engine optimization, or SEO, will increase: “Now, Google and Yahoo will crawl through your videos and listen to what words you use,” says Sahlein. “Words are highly rated.” Krejny suggests creating a YouTube channel as an easy way to embed any videos you create directly into your website.

8 Add a blog. Sure, it may seem like one more time-sucker, but it’s also another way to integrate keywords and raise your SEO. “A blog gives search engines a reason to come back and continue to crawl your site, boosting your rankings a little more,” says Krejny.

9 Don’t forget directory listings. Populate your business profile in local directories like Google Places for Business, Bing Local, Yelp and Yellow Pages. For continuity, Krejny advises establishing at least your NAP—name, address and phone number—on each listing profile. Images of your storefront and studios are a good addition, too. Krejny also suggests checking out getlisted.org, where you can enter your studio’s web address and find out what directories you’re already listed in, where you can still claim new listings and where you can improve current listings.

1Know where to put customer reviews. Testimonial quotes—what Sahlein refers to as “social proof”—allow potential clients to identify with your current studio students or parents, making them more likely to choose your studio. But you’ll get more bang for your buck if you include your reviews on your listing profiles, rather than your website. “Google will crawl your listings and see that people like your business,” says Krejny. “This gives you a boost in credibility and will improve your ranking.”

While these fixes are quick and easy to implement, don’t think that your work stops there. “Optimizing your website isn’t a one-time thing,” warns Krejny. “A lot of people set it and forget about it. It really should be something you manipulate every couple of weeks—adding a few new images, updating the content, anything to keep it fresh and engaging.” DT

 Illustration © Anatoliy Babiy/Thinkstock

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