Get Your Guide to Authority Sites

Monday, August 27, 2007

Small Business Website Design & Marketing Case Study

After doing some consulting work with a personal trainer I was recently contacted by a collegue of his, also a personal trainer, and also in need of some help with his online marketing endeavours. Jonathan Ross is in fact one the top personal trainers in the US. He currently has two main sites; Family Fit Plan and Aion Fitness. He also runs a couple of blogs and is considering various new projects.

Jonathan's situation would be similar to many local service providers who aren't getting the expected returns from their online marketing. This is basically a summary of my observations and recommendations for his sites:

Family Fit Plan

This site ranks well in Google for “family fit plan” and “family fitness plan” but these keywords don’t attract many searches, as checking them on Keywords Analyzer drew a blank. It doesn’t rank well for other keyword phrases mentioned in meta tags and at the same time there isn’t much demand for these keywords either. In other words, they are keyword phrases which aren't searched for very often. Being at the top of the rankings is nice, but it doesn't actually achieve anything if no one is searching those keywords.

So, a new keyword strategy is required. “Family fitness” has good volume, but KA shows there is even more demand for “lifestyle family fitness” and “California family fitness”. Plus there is less competition. So these would be good to target, unless they are connected with a trademarked product or service. “Kid fitness” was another possible contender, having a favourable supply/demand ratio. The idea is to target keywords which are being searched for in decent volumes but don’t have as much competition. Tools such as KA and Wordtracker are indespensible in this regard.

Visually, the overall design and layout looks fine. It's clean and easy to read. Jonathan built the site himself using XSitePro. I’d add some improvements to the navigation such as links to the home page from sub-pages and a footer with links to each page. I’d also add a sitemap and a contact page, which is easy to do in XSitePro.

The site's main objective is to sell Jon's book - Family Fit Plan, and has PayPal "buy now" links set up to do this. My advice to Jon here was to use Clickbank as a payment processor (which includes a PayPal option) and sell the book as a PDF with instant download. The advantage in using Clickbank is you have an instant commissioned sales force ready to drive your sales.

I’d consider replacing the audio on the home page with a video. Video is the thing these days. It’s been proven to increase conversion rates. I use a program called Easy Web Video to covert video files to a format suitable for the Web.

To do well in the search engines this site really needs more content. That’s where Jonathan and his collegue Doug have an advantage, they are able to write good content. Jon has submitted some articles to article directories, which is great, but at the same time he needs to add unique, original content to his own site on a regular basis. Running a blog is a great way to add content to your site, but it must be hosted on your own site and not, which is what Jon is doing at the moment. It’s pretty easy to switch to hosting on your own site. You just create a directory on your hosting account and change a few settings in Blogger.

Although I currently use Blogger on this site I believe WordPress is a much better platform and is more search engine friendly. I’ve started using WP on another site of mine and have been very impressed, so I may eventually migrate this blog to WP as well. If your hosting account has a program called Fantasico, WP is very easy to set up. My WP blog was set up in this manner. It's hosted on HostIcan.

This is a template-based site which Jonathan manages himself using a Content Management System (CMS). He's currently paying US$39 a month. Design, layout and navigation on this site are fine, but SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is poor. Google have only one file indexed (a PDF). Live (MSN) have only 4 pages indexed and Yahoo have none. The main reason for that is it uses dynamic URLs. If you run your mouse over the navigation links you'll notice the long URLs with a ? in them. Search engines can have trouble with these, and there’s no site map with plain, static URLs for the engines to follow. Result: with the exception of a few pages on MSN the engines basically don’t know this site exists, so it’s never going to rank anywhere.

This is a good example of a site which, on the surface, looks and functions fine. But it's not getting traffic and achiving the objectives the owner had for it. Jon is the type of guy who likes to do things himself, so my advice on this site was to ditch the current CMS hosting plan and switch to either Site Build It or XSitePro. My preference in this case would be for Site Build It. SBI is more suited to content sites, especially for small business service providers, while XSitePro is better suited to sales and affiliate sites.

As with Family Fit Plan, some keyword research needs to be done and some basic on-page SEO. Take note of the title - "Aion Fitness -Jonothan Ross". No targeted keyword phrases. Yes, "fitness" is in there, but generally people aren't going to search for "Aion Fitness - Jonothan Ross". Nor are there any targeted keywords in the headings, links or body text. Pretty basic stuff. Switching to SBI, which is what Jonathan's collegue Doug used for his site, will correct all of those problems but still allow Jon to manage the site hilmself. What's more, he will be paying LESS than $39 a month.

Also, SBI have recently introduced a new module called Content 2.0. What this basically does is allow user-generated content, and will provide organic, hands-free growth. And search engines just love organically growing sites.

At this stage I don't know if Jon will be taking my advice but if he does it will be interesting to follow the progress of these sites.

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