By David Gould, Content Editor
Carl Spackler had it right: To outwit Bushwood Country Club’s pesky gopher, he had to think like a gopher. As an instructor with a website you count on to drive new business, you need to think like a Google “spider” or “crawler.”
You may be getting great results with your existing students, but if Google doesn’t display your website prominently in search results, potential new students will struggle to find you. The solution is to build out (and tweak) your site so the crawlers give it high rankings in the search results.
What’s a good goal for a Proponent instructor in organic search results, when “golf lesson” plus their town or city gets typed into the search box? You’d really like to be first, second, third or maybe fourth, especially if you’re on the first page. That’s not very realistic if your site is old, slow and clunky. The Google spiders can easily spot a website that is slow to load or hard to navigate, and they’ll penalize you for having one.
There’s a balancing act facing most small-business websites: When new business prospects land on your home page, you’re trying to get them to spot your core call-to-action and respond to it. At the same time, a high Google ranking depends partly on the time-on-site factor. Having interesting content that people will spend time reading or watching is part of the SEO puzzle.
The average time-on-site of a top-10 Google result is just over three minutes. Use your content to hold the interest of at least some visitors for three minutes or more. All your high-quality and most-read content should be featured in a drop-down on the home page. A newsletter can be an excellent SEO tool, as long as it can be seen on your home page by the crawlers. Meanwhile, content that may have been useful in the past could be in need of deletion. Get rid of old pages that don’t perform—if your site has a lot of pages that don’t get traffic, your rankings will be negatively affected. And be sure to fix any broken links.
Use your city name in your content, especially in phrases that also describe your service, doing your best to make it sound natural. For example this sentence: “That’s another reason XYZ academy has such a great reputation among Houston, Texas golf academies.”
Your city or town is part of your keyword strategy, and keywords are always a cornerstone of SEO. There are websites like KWFinder, Semrush and Ahrefs that offer no-charge introductory usage. They’ll take the keywords you submit and score them for attributes like “keyword difficulty” and “search intent.” You’re looking for terms that most commonly pop into consumer’s heads when they’re thinking about golf lessons (i.e., low “difficulty”) and are used by the people whose behavior makes them seem, to the crawlers, that they’re serious about taking action (i.e., search “intent).
Some of this is common sense, but the evaluation websites exist for a reason—they track what works.
If you haven’t done so already, create a word-processing file where you can store (and periodically add to) the list of keywords and key phrases people would use to search for what you sell. If your teaching facility is in Dayton, Ohio and your name is John Jones, that list would start with “John Jones golf lesson Dayton Ohio.” Obviously if you specialize in elite junior training, one of your phrases would be “John Jones junior golf instruction Dayton Ohio.” Having the phrases in a known spot where you can easily cut-and-paste them into a search box will make your periodic tests—which are a necessary evil—go much quicker and smoother.
Finally, there are SEO issues that go beyond your own website, extending to the business directory websites, such as whitepages, yelp, ezlocal, foursquare, tripadvisor and so on. You want your business data to be shown on these sites and you want it—for spider-pleasing reasons—to be correct and matching, site to site. That means not typing “St. James Street” on some forms and “Saint James Street” on others. Keep the info on these sites in clean, correct shape and it will absolutely help your rankings. Also, your social-media marketing can work as an SEO booster when you include your home page URL (using a shortened URL via Bitly or some other link-management software) in what you post on Facebook or Instagram.
Speaking of Facebook, there’s at least a possibility that websites and SEO will actually gain in relative importance to social-media marketing, based on the new Apple iOS policies about privacy and trackability. These new opt-out features have the potential to make it harder for Facebook to target consumers with relevant ads. Either way, being found on Google search has been and will remain a significant contributor to your business. Keep your SEO fundamentals covered and you’ll reap the benefits.