While you don’t ‘need’ a website for your martial arts club, having one that is optimised for search engines could provide you with a steady stream of free enquiries every month. Currently the club web site I look after receives around 20 enquiries a month. To be honest, it is starting to look a little dated but that has not stopped it bringing in new enquiries every month. While I don’t discount the benefits of having a website that is easy on the eye, it is more important that it provides a steady stream of free leads.

The great thing about enquiries that come through your web site via a search engine is that these people are actively looking for the services you provide. These leads are already warm and you should get in touch with them as soon as you can.

I have been ‘playing’ with web sites since I was a teenager and my original career was in IT (until 2008). I still follow online trends and although some people would have you believe that the humble web site is dead, I still think it’s an essential part of your marketing arsenal and shouldn’t be ignored.

Before you start looking at the design and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of your web site, you need to consider who will be using it and what for. While some martial arts coaches may want to use it to distribute information to their current members, others will want to use it as a marketing tool to attract new prospects. It is of course possible to do both with one web site, but you just have to be careful that when a visitor lands on your site, they are presented with what they are looking for.

Here are my top 10 tips to help you get more from your web site:-

  1. The first step is to choose a domain name. While there are many extensions available, .co.uk and .com are still the most popular for clubs / businesses in the UK. Around 10 years ago it was useful to have a domain name containing the keywords you wanted to appear in search engines for but these days ‘keyword stuffing’ could potentially get your site banned from Google. You may still have a small advantage including keywords sparingly but selecting a domain name that is memorable and in line with your martial arts brand is equally as important.
  2. Before you can select a home for your web site you need to decide what platform the site will sit on. These days the majority of clubs and small businesses use either a web site builder like Wix or a Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. While the web site builders are pretty simple to set up, they are not as versatile as a CMS and leave you tied to that specific provider. I have used a CMS called DotNetNuke in the past but have recently starting switching my web sites over to WordPress. This is the most popular CMS in the world and as such, has lots of plugins and support available. The only downside is that you need to keep the site and all its plugins up to date. This is pretty easy and just requires you to click the ‘update’ button every time you see an update available. 
  3. If you do go for a WordPress site, I suggest that you choose a host that has servers in the UK. A host provides the servers and infrastructure that your web site sits on. Hosting your site in the UK can help speed up the time in which it takes to load your web pages. Quick load times are one of the factors used to rank your site in search engines. Two examples of WordPress web hosts that have uk hosting would be Krystal or SiteGround. Make sure who ever you choose supports HTTPs. This is a method of securing your web site so the traffic is encrypted. Not securing your web site may also have a knock on effect of reducing your SEO in future. If you decide you don’t want to build your WordPress site yourself, you can always look for a local web designer. If you are on a budget you may want to post the project on sites like Fiverr.com or Upwork.com where overseas developers will bid for your business. Just like eBay, each service provider has a feedback rating and you can usually look at some of their previous work.
  4. While optimisation is important, this should be balanced with the usability of the web site. It is no good ranking for specific keywords only to loose the new visitors the moment they hit your site. In fact, this is called a bounce and if your bounce rate is high, it has a negative effect on your SEO. Navigation around your web site should logical, simple and obvious. As humans we have a short attention span and getting the right content in front of our target market is crucial if to have any hope of converting them to customers. Great navigation will not only help google index all the pages on your website but it will also lower your bounce rate.
  5. Before  you start the optimisation process you need to know what keywords you want to try and rank for. A good starting place is ‘martial arts <town>’ and ‘<your martial art> <town>’. Your aim should be to rank on page 1 for each of your chosen keywords and within the first 3 results if possible. This will be harder in areas where there is more competition.
  6. Your starting point to improve your ranking when someone searches for your keywords is to make sure your site contains quality content relevant to your audience and written in natural language. There should also be a scattering of keywords written in to your titles and the body of the content. Google may penalise you if you over use your keywords so try and make them look natural within information you provide.
  7. Links to your web site from authoritative sites can also increase your ranking. More links is better but only if the links are provided by a diverse number of authoritative sites. Make sure your club is registered on ‘Google My Business’ and that you have a link back to your domain name. It is also worth setting up social media accounts for your club. When you do this, make sure you add a link back to your website from your profile. Also make sure you link between your internal pages as this can also help with rankings.
  8. Over the last few years more and more Internet users have been moving from accessing the Internet via their PC or laptop to using mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Due to this shift, Google has started moving towards a ‘Mobile first’ indexing strategy. This means that if your web site does not perform well on mobile devices, it will rank lower on Google’s search results. To check that your website is mobile friendly, take the Mobile Friendly Test. https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
  9. If you use paid ads on Facebook, install Facebooks Pixel. This is a little piece of code that will allow Facebook to build up a list of Facebook users that have visited your web site. This will then allow you to retarget these users with a custom ad. If you are using a WordPress site this can be done by copying the Pixel code from Business Manager and then adding it to your web site using something that WordPress calls a plugin. Even if you don’t want to retarget your visitors right now, you may want to at some stage.
  10. Last but not least, make sure your ‘Contact us’ form is simple and easy to find. We don’t want to do all this work to get people to your website only to fall at the last hurdle. In fact, make sure you have a link to the form on every page. If possible, this link should be bold and in the same position on each page. 

I hope this information will help you get more new students to your martial arts website. I know looking at this stuff can be a little daunting to start with but for the number of free leads you get over time, it’s well worth investing a little time and money to get it right. I will be adding a few posts and tutorials to help break tasks like this down a little but if you want a more personal service, give Matt Chapman a shout. You can reach him via Facebook or via his website blackbeltbiz.co.uk He is a great guy and a fellow martial artist that sold his martial arts centre in 2018 to focus on helping instructors with their online services. At the moment he is offering a free review of your web site so you may as well take him up on the offer. You can then decide between learning to fix any issues yourself or pay someone a little to get them fixed. Either way, if you want to grow your martial arts club / business, it is worth the investment in time or money.