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Start Your Search Engines

By Francesca Vanegas Francesca Vanegas

A few years ago as I embarked on a day- long business mastery session in our yoga teacher training, one of our trainees asked why she should learn about marketing communications “won’t students just come to class?”    Her naiveté is not uncommon among yoga teachers who love to teach yoga but whose spirit quails at the thought of selling their services.

“If you build it they will come,” makes for a memorable movie line, however, when it comes to having a meaningful web presence, if you build a solid website, have a unique product or service, position it, optimize it, PR-it, and advertise-it, they will come.

Where to begin?

If you are a yoga instructor just getting your business off the ground, or if you have been in business for a while but are looking to rev up your web presence, here is a simple, easy to follow, efficient strategy to promote and increase your yoga business on line.

  1. Build your Dream Team: Your website’s job is to engage, inform, and capture your visitors’ attention time and time again. If you are not a professional writer, designer, or lack a technical background, build a team that will help you write content, design, build, and optimize your site. Some good places to start are www.guru.com, www.elance.com, and the freelance editors association www.the-efa.org. According to Search Engine Consultant Antonio Castillo, principal at New Example Internet Consulting, “Your site should fulfill your visitors’ needs. Your team should pay attention to information architecture and usability. Make sure you give the user what they want when they land on the page. .” Castillo urges us to be practical with our design. “Mediocre esthetics that enable visitors to take the actions they want is more effective than an artistic design with poor navigation.”
  2. Stake Your Claim: Create or claim your business profile in the top three search engines. Go to Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to claim your profile using the free business listing tools from each search engine. In addition add your business profile to the yellow page listings online such as Superpages and Dex Knows. You have a brick and mortar business. Your customers need to find you so get yourself in those indexes and in every free directory possible.
  3. Five Star Reviews: Ask your clients to leave reviews about their experience on the sites that now list your online business profile. Rather than prompting them to say what you want, instead allow them to speak about what they love about your business. Don’t take it personally or get discouraged if only a small part of your fans respond.
  4. Analyze This: What are the most relevant keywords for your business? Your search engine consultant can help you research this question. If in the last month, the keyword “yoga” received 300,000 queries, what does that mean for your business? Specifically, what are the keywords and needs of your demographic area? With those questions answered, you can cater the content of your site to your demographic.    Next, set up an analytics program to understand visitor data. Google analytics gives you data on the number of visitors and how long they stay on the site. More important than the numbers are the keywords which tell you what your visitors are searching for.
  5. A Watched Site: When I first got my website online and created a Google account, I would check the analytics a few times a day to see how many visitors had landed on my site. This level of micromanagement (read – hand wringing) is quite unproductive. It’s like going on a diet and checking your weight ten times a day. “This work takes time…a business owner can and should walk away, as long as their site is in the hands of a good team,” adds Castillo.
  6. Make it Easy: How will your visitors get in touch with you? Most likely through a contact form on your website or by phone. Make sure your website has both. Online visitors want to stay online. Your web designer can help you create an effective contact form that is easy to use.    Someone who is searching for you at 11 pm wants to keep things simple and has a limited amount of time they will want to devote to this task.    Give your visitors an easy to follow form.
  7. No Website? So far we’ve talked about what to do and not to do if you have a website. But what if resources are stretched and a having a web presence is not is not possible at this time? Start a Facebook fan page. Your business gets a fan page which is free and easy to set up. If you make the page public it will get indexed and listed in the natural search results. You can speak with your fans, students, make connections just as easily, port articles, schedules, and any other information your fans need.
  8. Blogging: Ranking is very important on search engines and one way to increase your rankings is to contribute to the current dialog of yoga happening online with strong quality content.    A vehicle to generate that quality content on a consistent basis is by starting a blog. There are some sites that even let you create your own blog within their blog. New Example’s Castillo suggests starting small. “Select five websites, create a profile on those sites and begin to communicate with your peers. It’s as important to have an established online reputation as it is to have an offline one.”    Select websites that speak to your heart and your interests. Becoming an active participant in these forums contributes to the two-way conversation you can have with your students and fans.
  9. Social Media & Linking: Add links to all of your social media profile pages, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You should also add links to any other personal or corporate pages you have. Also, link to your blog from all of your social media profile pages. Here is a list of helpful content networks where you can promote your blog: Digg, Sphinn, Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, ShareThis
  10. Are You Making Money? Just as being famous may not make you rich, increasing your visibility may not make you money, at least not right away.    The amount of time, effort, and resources that you dedicate to increasing your web presence must be equally weighed with strengthening the brick and mortar business.

Yogini Francesca Vanegas is a marketing communications consultant, founder of the Florida Yoga Institute; author of the upcoming book Teaching Down Dogs New Tricks™ (2010)

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