Let me share a horrible mistake that I made with my first website.
I paid a friend of a friend to set up a basic website for me (it was almost 10 years ago.) I had enough knowledge to manage a website back then but did not have enough time to build it from scratch. I was expecting my first set of twins, working full time, finishing my last year of college and had an ambition to start a blog about balanced living (probably because I didn’t not have any.) Yes, things were going a bit crazy and I guess I can blame my hormones for making several very bad website decisions.
I gave my web developer a general idea of what I wanted to see on my website, a couple of images and a very basic color scheme. In fact, I was very happy with the website once it was finished. I thought it was a beauty with a few quirky traits. It looked on par with many other websites at that time so I left it alone for several years.
I was busy raising my young twins, still working in online marketing, moving to a different country and writing occasional articles for my blog. I did not pay attention to how my website compared visually to other blogs at that time. I thought “People come to my blog to read and get inspired, they don’t care if my website looks a bit outdated. They are here for ME.”
Then I took a blogging workshop and volunteered to get my blog reviewed during a live webinar. I got compliments on how great my articles were but … the design of my blog received the Rotten Tomatoes award. I was in shock, very thankful for the honest opinion, but still in shock.
Redesigning my website became a #1 priority. After everything was done, my website growth has increased by 200%. I could not believe it!
My biggest mistake was becoming too complacent with my website. You know how as a parent you don’t actually see your children grow. You see them every day and rarely stop to pull out their baby photos and say “Wow, my baby has really changed!” With a website it was the opposite dynamic – I did not see it getting old and frail.
If you own a website for your Pilates or Mind/Body business then I encourage you to stop at least once a year and ask yourself the following questions. You don’t want to miss the signs of “aging” on it because it will drastically effect your bottom line.
1. Is my website mobile friendly?
According to the Internet usage statistics shared by Google 82% of smartphone users say they use search to find a local business (and 80% of Internet users own a smartphone!) Mobile web usage has been growing by 58% year after year and today over 52% of Internet users prefer to use mobile devices (both smartphones and tablets) to browse the web.
If your website still is hard to navigate on mobile devices then you are losing customers every day. Some of the common signs that your website is not mobile-friendly:
- You do not have mobile navigation
- Links and buttons are too small to be tapped
- Your website takes forever to load on mobile devices
- Images and other elements of your website are misaligned
- Google gives you a bad score on their Mobile Page Speed Test (run it for free here.)
2. How does my website compare to the ones of my competitors?
I am usually not the one to be “keeping up with the Joneses” but in the web world you need to make sure that your white picket fence shines brighter than fresh fallen snow in Antarctica compared to your competitors. Don’t get carried away and don’t make it a personal mission to frantically update your website with brand new whistles and bells every couple of months, it’s not what I am talking about. Instead make a list of all your competitors (and don’t limit yourself to just Pilates, explore different fitness options including Yoga, Cycle Studios, Barre etc.) and critically compare your website to theirs.
- Which websites looks more up-to-date?
- What websites are easier to navigate?
- What websites have a more welcoming feel?
- Ask a couple of people (preferably the ones who don’t know you well and are not afraid to speak their mind) to pick 2 of the studio websites that they would be more likely to attend. Ask them what triggered their decision.
3. Is the information on my website still accurate?
Updating information on the website usually does not require a complete redesign. However in some cases the need for redesign comes out of the changes to the business model, location etc of the Pilates studio.
Sharon Ostalecki, the owner of Gentle Pilates and one of the leading fibromyalgia researchers and authors, asked me to make a few simple updates on her website last year. However, as we talked about what needed to be done we ended up completely revamping her website. Instead of focusing on her Fibromyalgia research we decided to put Pilates and Women’s Health Programs as the center of attention on her website. The new look made it much easier for the visitors to navigate her website and find all the different areas that she specializes in. Now we also keep her schedule and teaching/speaking locations accurate.
4. Does my website rank well in search engines?
Here are several important searches to perform that will let you know how well your website ranks in Google. Open your Google start page and search for the following:
- The name of your studio.
- You name.
- “Pilates” + “your exact location.” (if you offer different services please use those instead of “pilates.”) Use the name of the town/city that you are located in. Try it both with and without the state.
- “Pilates” + “your alternate location.” This time think about other ways that people will be searching for local businesses. It can be the name of the metropolitan city, the non-official name of the area, neighborhood etc.
If your website is at least 3 months old it should be the first result for the first two searches (a and b.) If you don’t make it to the first page on those two then there is definitely something wrong with your website. The only exception is if you share a name with a famous person.
Ideally you want to show up on the first page of search results for at least one of the other two searches (c and d.) If you are in a competitive market and your website is new it might take several months for your website to climb to the first page. However, if your website is over 6-12 months old and you still do not show up on the first page of results then it’s time to make some drastic changes.
Important: I see this mistake over and over again in teachers who set up their own websites. Instead of using specific targeted keywords as mentioned above they are trying to use generic search words like “pilates”, “reformer”, “stretching”, “balance” etc. Always put yourself in the position of a person looking for your services. What would they type in to find your business?
Erica Walters (Pilates teacher from Louisville, KY) had a problem with her website not showing up in local searches. She wrote to me “I have a website that my best friend created for me, at a cost, but it has never shown up on the web when you search for Pilates in my area.”
There were several issues that had to be addressed including adding meta tags and converting to the mobile-friendly layout. To keep her costs down she decided to use the PilatesFlow website template available for the members of PilatesBriidge (more details here.) After just 1 month her her website climbed from the depth of the Neverland onto the second page of Google search results under “pilates Louisville.” After a couple more months she has a potential to be on the first page.
5. Do I get contacts from the website regularly?
There is a reason for concern if you know that people are indeed searching for Pilates classes in your area (you might not have much luck advertising Pilates to Penguins in Antarctica) and you are on the first page of results but you do not get any leads from your website. Consider the following questions:
- Is my website technically healthy? Make sure that the contact form on your website works and there are no glitches or bugs.
- Do I make it easy to view my schedule, pricing and book a class?
- Is my contact information easy to find? Make sure that your contact details are placed strategically in multiple locations on your website. Your website visitors should never “look” for a way to contact you, they should immediately “see” it.
- Does my website display the amazing benefits of working with me? Make sure that your visitors immediately see the great offers or amazing results that they will get from working with you. You have around 5 seconds to convince them that they should get in touch with you. Does your website pass the “5 second” rule?
- Does my website look professional? Please see below.
6. Does my website look outdated?
I have 4 girls so my little ones are “lucky” to open a new box of hand-me-downs every season. Every time I pull out a piece of clothing that my older girls wore I am flooded with memories and sweet nostalgia.
Unlike kids’ clothing, old websites do not bring nostalgia. They smell like moth balls and look like something fit for an antique fair.
The web design trends and technologies change rapidly. I can’t tell you that if your website is X years old you should rebuild it to stay up to date. The need to redesign will stem from the technologies the developer used while setting up your website, the design choices and overall performance. For example, any website that uses flash technology or plays music on load should be replaced immediately because those technologies are not supported by many modern browsers.
According to a study by ResearchGate, 94% of people say that websites with good designs are more trustworthy. It’s important that your customers and potential customers trust you, and a strong re-design can help make that happen.
It’s hard sometimes to look at your website objectively. Think about websites that you enjoy looking at personally (they do not have to be Pilates-related.) What features attract you? How does your website compare to these websites?
7. Is my website too cluttered?
As your business grows your website does too. Over time you might find your website menu being cluttered with multiple lines of items, your home page overrun with announcements and new class offerings. Visitors who cannot easily find the information that they need on your website simply click away. You lose a customer.
Today, it’s all about easy intuitive navigation and clean design.
Claire Vogt, the owner of Mindful Bodi Movement, has contacted me to help her “declutter” her website. Originally she built it using GoDaddy Website builder but as she was moving her studio to a bigger location she realized that it was time to update her website as well.
MindfulBodi.com: BEFORE redesign
MindfulBodi.com: AFTER redesign
8. Is my website too slow?
What do you do when the web page that you are trying to open takes too long to load? You click away, no second chances.
According to KISSmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of people will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load!
Here are a couple of factors that can slow your website down:
- Your hosting company is slow
- You use large uncompressed images throughout the website
- You are running multiple plugins or resource-heavy extensions
- There are errors in the scripts on your website that slow it down
- Your website does not leverage browser caching
- Your website runs videos or music on load
- Your website runs resource-heavy sliders especially on mobile devices
- Your website is built in flash
If you want to know what a slow loading website looks like check out this dance studio website – click here. This is a very good example of what NOT to do with your website (WARNING: turn the volume down before you follow this link.)
9. Is running my website getting too expensive or stressful?
Web management costs usually consist of the following items:
- Monthly hosting costs
- Annual domain renewal
- Monthly website builder cost if using
- Monthly web apps costs if using (scheduling, email etc.)
- Web developer fees for updates and changes
With the growth of your business you might have had to move up to a more expensive plan for your website builder. Or maybe the developer who built your website is charging obscene amounts for every little change on your website. Maybe the scheduling app that you were using became too pricey for your business (take a look at cheap booking systems).
Whatever the reason, if you feel that managing and paying for your website needs is becoming too expensive and stressful then consider switching to a different platform.
Sunni Almond, the owner of Studio S Pilates, shares “A person who created a website for me claimed ownership of the domain so I could not transfer it out for a while. That person would not respond to my emails of phone calls, would not make any updates to the website that I needed. It was a really frustrating experience because I felt that I was being held hostage in these claws of steel!”
10. Am I embarrassed about sharing my website URL?
If you’ve answered “yes” to this question for any of the reasons mentioned above or for any other ones then it’s time for a redesign.
Your website is an investment in the future success of your business. This is one “property” that you can take with you during every move, change of location or change of the business model that will always keep working for you.
In the “Pilates Profits for Home Studio Owners” guide released on PilatesBridge most teachers agreed that website was their best marketing tool. Store-front studio owners also agree that websites have recently become the leading source of client list growth surpassing word-of-mouth, social sites and local promotions. If you feel that your website is not bringing you any new clients then you might have to review the questions above and consider a redesign.
The big question: Should I redesign my own website or use a web designer?
You have decided that your website needs a facelift so how should you proceed?
I know you would rather have somebody do it for you but money is always an issue, isn’t it? You see ads and articles about how easy it is to set up a website yourself and anybody can do it.
I will not be talking you out of it but first please answer this question “Can you REALLY learn and experience Pilates by doing DVDs and following workouts in fitness magazines?”
I can see you raising your brows and giving me about a hundred reasons why working with a comprehensively trained Pilates teacher is the only way to really benefits from the Method.
Of course, as a teacher you had hours of training, observation and apprenticeship to get certified, you took continuing education courses to learn even more and today you bring all of this knowledge to your students masterfully pulling out nuggets of teaching wisdom from your always expanding toolbox. So that when your client has a tight shoulder you know the exact modifications and cues to help her find strength in that area. Can your client receive the same personal attention from following a DVD?
When you are working with an experienced web developer you rely on their toolbox to create a well-balanced website that will help you grow your business.
You will not buy AeroPilates Reformers for your studio even though you can save thousands of dollars that way. You know that quality matters and you chose to invest into your preferred brand of equipment regardless of the price tag. Your website is your #1 marketing tool just as Pilates apparatus is your #1 teaching tool. Make wise choices…
Do you need help redesigning a website for your Pilates or Mind/Body business? Or do you need to improve rankings of your current website on Google? PilatesBridge offers website services designed specifically for Pilates professionals. We “speak” Pilates but know all the nitty-gritty of building successful websites.