Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for Group Activity Providers - Part 1
SEO is a “hit” word in the digital marketing space. Just like Google is almost synonymous with search engines, SEO in many people’s minds almost equates to digital marketing. The whole concept may seem daunting to a lot of small business owners who may not have had any prior experience dealing with search engines (I will be focusing entirely on Google, and let’s face it, if you don’t get it right on Google, you’d be losing 80%+ of your potential customers - When is the last time you used Bing or Yahoo?).
So, should a small business predominantly offering in-person experiences, such as summer camps, art/ language/ sports courses, invest in Search Engine Optimisation?
The answer is not always yes.
Let’s first start with a definition of SEO, as this is helpful for the recommendations later. According to Wikipedia:
Search engine optimization is the process of growing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. SEO refers to the improvement of unpaid results and excludes direct traffic and the purchase of paid placement.
Inherently, there are two sides to SEO, unpaid and paid results. In part 1, we will look at the things you can do to improve your search results, completely for free.
Part 1: Improve your unpaid search results for free
You should always optimise your business website to improve your chance of being on the top organic search results. We are not going to focus on the inner-workings of Google’s search algorithm and how you should optimise your website for that. Instead, I will list out a few simple actions you can take.
Claim your business on Google: Google My Business
This is a completely free service offered by Google, and almost definitely the first step you should take for your business’ digital marketing journey. This increases your chance of being shown when customers search your business name or business type, especially in a specific location.
Let’s use “Manchester Yoga Classes” as a quick example. From the search result below, you can see how important it is to claim your business, as Google placed some of the top yoga studios in Manchester in this Map format (called Google Maps Pack), occupying the top half of the first search page.
As you can see, Google has only displayed three businesses in the Google Maps Pack, and you have to click on “More places” to expand this list.
Research shows that these top 3 results take away almost half of the search volume.
Therefore, if you operate in an area where there are tens or hundreds of competitors, you will need to work a bit harder in order to appear on top of the list.
Optimising Google Business Profile warrants a whole new article (I will write more about it in a separate post), but for now, do sign up and fill in as much information as you can, including your business website, phone number, and some catchy photos.
Get started here: https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/business/
Include niche keywords in your pages’ title
The title of your webpage is an important tool not only for SEO ranking but also for increasing potential customer clicks. It should provide all the key information for your customers (and for Google) about your product/ service.
One of the most useful tips to increase your search ranking is to include niche keywords. Niche keywords could be applied in one of the many categories below.
If you only offer services to customers in certain cities/ towns/ areas, you should include that in the title. If you have multiple venues across the country, try to create separate pages about each venue, and highlight the different locations in each page’s title.
For example, Activate Camps have a dozen or so sites across the country offering summer camps for kids. Each of their venues has one specific page which highlights the location in the title. When customers search keywords such as “Summer camp Dorset”, their links will pop up as one of the top results.
If your business has hundreds of competitors, even in a specific region, try to stand out from your competitors by including some differentiated offerings. For example, a yoga studio could differentiate by introducing Hot Yoga or Outdoor Yoga, a vineyard tour could introduce wine and cheese tasting. Adding something unique is a good way to differentiate yourself. Again, each differentiated offering should have its own page with its title highlighting the specific offering.
For example, Parkyoga would not appear on the front page if you simply search “Yoga Bristol”, however, if you search “Outdoor Yoga Bristol”, this is one of the top 3 results. You might notice that the title does not have any reference to “outdoor” but in this case, Google is smart enough to tell that Park Yoga = Outdoor Yoga. However it is always recommended to include more key works to your title rather than relying on Google’s algorithm.
There are many ways of identifying what “unique offerings” can you add to your current product/ service list. Talking to your customers, checking out your competitors, and identifying consumer trends (using free Google Adword, for more details jump to “Testing phase” of the Google Ads Post)
This may be less relevant for SEO ranking, but if you have specific offers (for example offers for new customers), you should also try to highlight this in the webpage titles, as this is likely to increase click through rates when seen by potential customers.
Combining all of these above, a potential improved title for an outdoor yoga instructor in Bristol could be “Outdoor Park Yoga | Free First Class | Bristol St George Park”. It summarises all the key information about the business and its offering, and is specific enough to stand out.
In part 2, we will take a look at how to improve your search results using paid Google Ads. Do get started on these free methods and leave a comment below to share your experiences. We would love to hear about your stories and your questions, which might prove useful for other readers.