You’ve got a flashy website and your clients seem happy—so do you really need to pay SEO any attention? Yes. SEO—or Search Engine Optimization—is the practice of making your website more attractive to search engines (like Google), which would thus bring more potential clients to your business. Ignoring SEO, according to Sidrah Althaus, senior manager of digital audience development at Time Inc., “would be the equivalent of getting a huge billboard designed, but covering it with a giant drape, so no one sees it.”
But what exactly is SEO, and how does it work? Here’s the deal: When someone searches for, say, “hot yoga” within a Search Engine (SE), that SE then begins crawling the internet for sites that are most relevant to “hot yoga.” Not only are the SEs looking for keyword matches, but also for a high-performing site that offers good user experience. Your site needs to fill all these boxes and more, like linking out, being linked to and offering users easy ways to share content, in order to rank highly in search—the ultimate goal.
Below we offer you the five most important things to focus on when optimizing SEO for your studio or gym website.
As a small business owner, SEO is important because most people searching the web for a service typically click on the results posted in the first three positions, or on the first page. By optimizing your site, your goal is to land in this sweet spot—something that will bring in incremental traffic and new customers, according to Althaus.
To ensure your site is listed early on, you want to determine keywords and phrases that potential customers would search. “This can include the brand name as well as one or two target keywords, like ‘boxing’ or ‘classes’,” advises Althaus. “Make sure this keyword or phrase is included in the content on your homepage, as well as all relevant pages within your site, so that search engines can clearly identify what you are offering.”
While flashing graphics, videos and edgy fonts are great, none of it matters if search engines can’t crawl your pages and subsequently list your site in their findings. First, make sure your design is clean, and that there is access to all relevant pages—blank pages or broken links will affect your rankings in search.
Althaus also suggests including optimized metadata for every page on your site, and to use keyword-rich URLs instead of alphanumeric codes. For example:
- Page Title: Jenny’s Hot Yoga: Membership Prices for NYC Location
- Meta Description: We offer various membership options for weekly classes at our NYC location. Choose from three-, six- or twelve-month memberships and book classes online.
- URL: jennyshotyoga.com/nyc/membership-prices.html (instead of: jennyshotyoga.com/6745382-lpmzxl-843824840.html)
HIGHLIGHT YOUR ADDRESS
“For most local businesses, it’s extremely important to have your physical address and contact information clearly visible on the website,” says Althaus. “The same is true for search engines. Most SEs cannot ‘see’ images. Include your contact information on a ‘Contact Us’ page or in text on your homepage. This way SEs like Google will grab your business’s contact info upon crawling.”
As we’ve mentioned in the past, it’s also imperative for businesses to list with Google Business. This is how anyone searching your business on Google will find accurate information regarding hours, telephone number, website URL, address and more. Althaus recommends adding all locations if there are multiple addresses, and encouraging your customers to review or rate your services, as it helps ensure confidence for new customers looking to book services.
OPTIMIZE FOR MOBILE
Just as it is crucial to having a clean, functioning web site, it’s also key to have your site optimized for mobile devices. “Mobile is so important, it has already surpassed desktop traffic for many industries,” says Althaus. “The majority of new customers out there now search for and book services on their mobile devices, especially when they are looking in a specific location.”
By optimizing your site for mobile, you’re ensuring that users can have a clean, seamless experience when they visit your site from their device. Adds Althaus, “Having a mobile-optimized website will further improve your chances of ranking in search, especially for customers searching from their smartphones.”
DON’T RUN FOR THE HILLS
We get it, SEO can be overwhelming for those who aren’t digitally-savvy. But the good news is that by even reading this article, you’re already taking a step in the right direction. “The worst thing you can do is to ignore optimizing for Search Engines altogether,” advises Althaus. “Many small businesses opt for website designs that look great but provide SEs with little to no information. This includes sites that use flash, slow loading designs, large amounts of images, heavy code and very little crawlable text. SEO, unfortunately, is not always fun, it can be boring at times, but it will pay dividends in the long run if you focus on it when planning your website.”
To get started, we suggest trying out a few of the free SEO tools online (there are hundreds out there, start with the free ones). Our favorites are (not surprisingly) mostly in the Google suite of products: Google Analytics (to understand how users are engaging with your site), Google Page Speed (for user experience data), and Google Keyword Planner (to learn monthly keyword query trends).
Once you’ve started optimizing, you’ll want to then measure your success. Moz is a great option for an overall assessment and rating of how your site is viewed by SEs—along with actionable ways you can improve. Google and Adobe are the best tools out for the organic traffic results, but given that Google’s product is free, you’ll likely want to start there. Adobe’s Omniture costs roughly $5,000 per business.