Reprinted from the VASTA Voice, September, 2019
As an independent voice teacher, I don’t have the marketing budget of those big, national education businesses. In most ways I can't compete with them for my potential client's attention online.
I do have an edge on the big guys, though, for a certain and very common type of online search.
The “near me” search. You may have used this search term - sometimes at the suggestion of the search engine itself – when looking for a business in your area.
With no budget to hire an online marketing djinn, my website will show up on Page 1 of Google if someone within five miles of my studio searches for “voice teachers near me,” or “vocal coaches near me.” That’s about 185,000 people. Want to know how I do it?
Watch the broadcast below, or keep reading!
Here's the live broadcast!
Most of us hate marketing. It's intimidating, so we tend to avoid it. But it’s part of keeping our calendars full, so we have to bite the bullet and do it. The good news is that there are a lot of resources (like this one!) and people who can help you. Remember that people who are not nearly as smart as you have figured this stuff out. :) You can do this!
This blog provides an overview of 8 things you can do. You do not have to do all of them! (The only "must-do" is No. 2, the Google Business Profile.) Any one of them will help you in your quest to appear on Page 1, and the more you do, the more likely it is you’ll achieve that coveted Page 1 placement.
If you need more help, there is help to be had via a google or YouTube search!
8 Ways to Optimize for Near Me Searches
1. Good Looking with a Nice Set of Keywords
Have a professional, attractive website with lots of keywords
Search engines don’t much care if your site is pretty, but your potential clients do. You have about 3 seconds to capture their curiosity and make them want to see more. Most drag-and-drop site builders make it easy to create a great site. Use Pixabay or Pexels for royalty-free images, and Canva to create terrific graphics.
Keywords are the words or terms your potential clients would type into a search bar. Note I said “your potential clients” not “your college professors.”
In the copy on your site – especially your home page - use the kinds of words that your clients would use, and answer questions they would have.
YES: Cara is a voice teacher, vocal coach, and audition coach. She helps vocalists, singers, and performers from around the Greater Wellwater, NC area as well as online.
NO: Cara holds an undergraduate degree from Fancy University in Vocal Performance and a Master’s degree from I.AmSoInDebt Conservatory in Theater Arts Pedagogy. She is an adjunct instructor at Local College, where she instructs undergraduates in singing for the theater.
2. Create a Google My Business Profile
There are also business listing pages for other search engines such as Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo. These listings ask for information about your business so it can show up as being relevant to certain searches. Give it as much information as you can. The two biggest pieces of advice I can give you about this are:
list your address
use your potential client’s vernacular (See the previous point.)
Some people feel nervous about listing their addresses. But here's the thing...if someone really wants your address they can find it. If you own your home it's public record. There are dozens of data sites that collect information about people, and your home address is one of the things they offer as a freebie to buyers. Where you live is not a secret.
You really want to make it easy for your potential client to find you, and for Google to recognize that your are, in fact, "near me."
One way to give your Google Business listing a shot in the arm is with reviews. Ask your students to add reviews to your business listing. Be sure to make it easy for them by sending them a link and (perhaps) a prompt question that will encourage the right kind of review. (e.g., Why do you enjoy working with me?) Reassure them that it does not have to be long. (P.S., Once that review is posted, you can use it in any of your other promo!)
Here's the link: Google My Business
3. Utilize the Google Search Console
In their own words, this tool helps you “understand and improve how Google sees your site.”
Google has a surprising number of rules, and you need to play by them to make Google like you. Recently, for instance, my Google console told me that one of my pages was not displaying navigation on the header of one page. I had 30 days to fix that or my site would not show up for anyone except those who typed in my specific address. Yikes!
(I was able to fix that with the help of a nice person who had posted a youtube video about it. If I had not been able to do that, I would have contacted my website host.)
Here's a YouTube video about Google Search Console
4. Make Mobile Phones Like You
According to some trustworthy online marketing diviners, upwards of 80% of “near me” searches are made from mobile devices. If you’ve ever looked at a website on your phone that wasn’t optimized for phones, you know both how squirrelly they can get and how off-putting that is.
If you’re using a drag-and-drop site builder you can easily edit your site’s laptop/desktop version as well as its mobile version. Be aware that those are two different editing pages, and you have to attend to both of them. Wordpress sites are not as easy to manipulate, but they are somewhat more reliable. Take the time to make sure your site is mobile-phone-friendly.
5. Keep Search Engines Interested
If nothing changes on your website, Google will think you’re not interested in it, so they’ll lose interest as well. Things you can do to keep search engines interested:
Post valuable information that will benefit your ideal client.
Blog regularly. Your entries don’t need to be long, and can occur once or twice a month.
Post photos and videos. Make sure you indicate your location when you post. You can invisibly “tag” each image or video with additional information, which should include your name, what you do, and your location. If you don’t know how to do that for your web platform, ask the “help” in your website builder or search the answer online.
Create and delete pages as needed. If you’re having a recital for your students, for instance, create a page for that and delete it after the fact. Again, make sure a local address is indicated on the page.
6. List Your Events
If you don’t already have it, create a list of sites that will allow you to announce events. No matter where you live, there are between two and ten sites you can utilize to post your events online. Some are simple calendars and some are ticket sellers. Take a look at their front end (what the customer sees) before you enter information on the back end.
No event is too small. For instance, say you decorate your lobby every year during the first week of regular school-year lessons. Turn it into an event by listing days and times your lobby is open, putting some brochures and candy out, and featuring a 10-minute talk on “How the Performing Arts Improve Your Child’s Academic Progress.” Boom! An event!
7. List Your Own Self
If you’re a member of an association, organization, or foundation, be sure your profile is filled out completely, including your address.
Additionally, you can look for listing sites that serve your geographic area and your area of expertise. Type “list” or “listing” of “your profession” in “your area.” (e.g., "list of voice teachers in Broome, W.A.) The search engine will probably show you one or more opportunities you may have missed to list yourself. Make sure you include your location.
8. Location, Location, Location
Use location-based keywords on your site. For instance:
YES: Eric works with students from Derbyshire, KY schools Austin Middle School and Bennet Middle School. He also schedules private clients at his office in the Pemberley Office Building, 123 Darcy Circle, Derbyshire, KY.
NO: Eric works four days a week for the Derbyshire public schools. He’s available to see private clients at his office on weekends.
Tag social media posts with locations.
Share locally relevant news items on your social media.
Make sure you have ONE way of listing your location, and you are consistent between posts and platforms.
Your Google search console will show you the analytics for your website, so you can enjoy watching how implementing some of these tips get you more attention online!
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#meredithcolby blog post and video about #optimizingsearchengines, #nearmesearches, and #marketingformusicteachers. This post contains eight suggestions that #musicstudio owners can implement on their #website and other #socialmedia as #freelancemarketing to help increase their #onlinevisibility. Meredith is a #voicecoach, a #vocalcoach, and a #voiceteacher from #chicago. She helps #voiceteachers and #vocalcoaches teach for #popularstyles and #microphonestyles by teaching privately, supplying helpful content, and offering a #certificationclass in #neurovocalmethod.