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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Belt Promotion, Philosophy, School Information » Black Belt Thesis: How Blogging Can Help a Karate School Grow

Black Belt Thesis: How Blogging Can Help a Karate School Grow

Like the Brown Belt Thesis post, this is a long article. You’ve been warned.

I tested for my Black Belt recently. Though I didn’t pass (this time), and have further improvements to make, this is the Black Belt thesis I submitted. Each martial artist in Kenpo is tasked with creating a black belt thesis to show what they can give back to the art. The topics are far reaching and can cover anything. The goal of mine is to show how blogging has improved our web traffic and, in turn, provided us a better opportunity to recruit students. It also shows how this could be applied to other karate schools, regardless of style.

 

How Blogging Can Help a Karate School Grow

 

Table of Contents

 

Thesis Statement                                                                 3

Introduction                                                                          3

Measuring Success                                                             4

Conclusion                                                                           9

 

Adding a blog to a karate school website can help improve search engine performance, improve brand recognition, and help website visitors become students. It’s something all karate schools consider as a way to help their dojo grow.

 

As represented by the flame on the patch, one of the primary goals of any Kenpo dojo is to perpetuate the art. Pass it down from teacher to student and have the cycle repeat. For a new, fledgling, studio, we needed a way to attract students. With no advertising budget, we set forth with the tools at hand and built a website. We would focus the website on providing quality information, engagement, and in turn improve our performance on Internet search engines (like Google).  Potential students looking for karate schools online would have a better opportunity to find us and potentially become students.

Google’s search ranking algorithm prefers websites that have content updated regularly and also generate numerous inbound links from other websites. To accomplish both of these requirements, we added a Kenpo blog to our school website. A blog is like a public outlet for opinions, news, or thoughts on the Internet. Since launching the website and the blog in October 2010, 100 blog posts have been posted. Topics have ranged from personal stories, teaching philosophies, humor, drills, product reviews, and videos. We tried to post a new blog each week, but that wasn’t always the case. Most months had between 2 and 4 new posts.

Where possible, each post included a picture from the school, an event, or students. And each post was promoted on social networking sites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumleUpon, Digg, and Reddit. From these sites, word of mouth and link references back to our website grew.

Two years worth of results have been very positive. As of this writing, we have 9 current students. Five or six others have been students at various times. We’ve had even more stop by for free trial classes and even more phone calls inquiring about the school. Every non-family student learned about us via our website or continues to use the website for updated scheduling information.

While the mechanism we built to become a more well known karate school on the internet proved successful, there are two other factors which negatively influenced the success of converting people to students. First, our dojo operates out of our home garage. We have mats, a mirror, air conditioning, but still don’t have the traditional karate location most people expect, such as in a strip mall. Second, since opening in October 2010, I am not a black belt; also a characteristic potential students are looking for. While the former is a bigger burden to overcome in converting students, neither can be discounted. Neither of these facts is hidden on the school website, so full transparency is offered.

Measuring Success

 

BKK Total Visits

Figure 1 – Monthly total website visits

The definitive measure of success for the website and blog is the number of students. But that wheel can turn slow for new karate schools. But the engine of website, blog, referral links, and promotion is more easily measured. One of the marketing industry standard ways to see the positive effects of this in motion is with the tool Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free feature which can be enabled in all websites to measure traffic to the site, how the traffic behaves on the website, and how visitors found the website.

The first graph above demonstrates total number of visits to the Bowley Kenpo Karate website by month from October 2010 to August 2012. There is a very upward trend showing growth practically month over month.

This growth can be interpreted to mean more people are finding the Bowley Kenpo Karate website and are interacting with it.  This gives us a better chance each month to find new students and generate word of mouth referrals.

BKK Search visits

Google Analytics can separate two types of traffic going to a website: paid traffic and organic traffic. Paid traffic is a result of paid for ads in the search results, called Pay-Per-Click (PPC). The second type of traffic is organic traffic; traffic which clicked the search results displayed below the paid advertisements. Organic search results are the natural traffic as a result of the Google algorithm. It’s here that the blog posts should have a good effect.

The second chart above shows organic search traffic growing over the same time period as the first chart. What this graph demonstrates is a definite increase in the number of people finding the dojo website as a result of the blog. The numbers below the second graph show total visits over the two year time period, how many pages per visitor were looked at on average, how long they stayed on the site on average, how many were new visitors, and how many left the site after less than 30 seconds without visiting multiple pages (called a bounce). So on average, an organic visitor to our site looked at about 3 pages and stayed for just over 2 minutes. Very respectable results.

BKK keyword bowley

Another important metric is brand awareness. We hope people begin to remember who we are and spread the word about us. The chart above is a representation of that brand awareness.  These are visitors to the website who search for something and contained the word “Bowley”. Searches included “Bowley Kenpo”, “Sam Bowley”, “Bowley Karate”, etc.

While there are spikes at the top of end of the visitors, the encouraging sign is the valleys show upward movement. The thinking is the bad months for branded search traffic aren’t usually as bad as prior bad months. Lots of room for improvement in the brand awareness category.

However, a huge takeaway from this graph is how visitors looking for us behaved on the website. They looked at almost five pages per visit and stayed for over five minutes. This would indicate these visitors were much more interested in learning about us.

We built brand awareness into the blog by signing each blog post with our name and address (Sam Bowley, McKinney TX). Google recognized this characteristic and stored the information for easier results when someone searched for “Bowley”. Our website always ranks high.

BKK keyword mckinney

Searching for our brand is great, but what about the people who don’t yet know about us? The hope would be, we would be found in more general searches for karate in our town. And also that we would also be ranked higher than other karate schools in the area.

The next chart above shows traffic to our website where the visitor looked up something + “McKinney”. Results included “karate McKinney”, “kids karate McKinney”, “mma McKinney”, “kenpo McKinney”, etc.

Results here are very good with growth over the last year and the traffic showing strong engagement with the site. A visitor looks at about 4 pages for just over 3 minutes. This would infer our website is being found more often in relevant search queries involving McKinney and karate. This is the target audience we’re looking for and we seem to be clicked on more often.

BKK content pages

The last chart to look at is which pages on the website are most visited. The graph above shows total page-views month over month and the table below the graph shows the top 6 most visited pages.

It makes sense the core (non-blog) pages of the website are the most visited. The blog serves two main purposes. It provides more content for which Google can register us, but it also provides an entry point to learn more about us. If the average visitor looks at 3 to 5 pages, they probably start at the home page (marked “/” above) or on a specific blog post. From there they travel deeper into the site, visiting other pages. Should this be true, then it make sense the visitor learns more about us via the classes’ page, the curriculum page, and the instructor page.

An interesting note here is the number 6 most visited page is a blog post about drills to practice at home. This post was written in 2012 and has climbed to the top very quickly. Much traffic searching for “karate at home” winds up on this page.

Another interesting note from this graph is the spike in page views beginning in June 2012. We altered some of the layout of the site, making older blog posts more visible. This really paid off well in pushing further engagement on the website. The takeaway here is always be measuring and looking for areas to improve.

 

Should other karate schools use a blog?

 

We didn’t come up with the idea of blogging as a way to drive traffic to a website. The concept has been around for a few years now. But we’re the only one applying the idea to a karate website in McKinney, TX. Across other markets and in other industries, blogs continue to be a powerful marketing tool, and Google doesn’t indicate this is changing anytime soon.

The process is sound and the results are proven. Blogging karate schools would receive more website traffic and have a better opportunity to convert more students. In fact, dojos with a good location and a family of black belt instructors might have even better success in the creation of more students.

A common objection I hear for not blogging is “I’m not a writer”. Well, neither was I when I started. The blog posts we push out on the website are small (between 400 and 600 words), include a picture, and are just about what we know. I try to not go too specific into Kenpo concepts as my belief is the website is a gateway for beginners and non-martial artists to find us. Everything is positive with an upbeat perspective. Each post is written in a conversational, easy-to-read style. Just like this thesis.

I want every martial arts school to be successful, regardless of style. The more martial artists and karate enthusiast out there, the better off we’ll all be. Including a blog on a karate school’s website is another tool to help improve the chances of success.

 

As evidenced by the Bowley Kenpo Karate results, adding a blog to a karate school website can improve overall website traffic, improve brand awareness, and improve search engine performance. These improvements can create better opportunities for new students and can help a dojo grow.

 

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Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

Filed under: Belt Promotion, Philosophy, School Information · Tags: , ,

  • Well written Sam. The blog has also driven increased traffic to our own website, resulting in brand awareness, more inbound links as you say, and better SEO. In addition, the perception of your brand as an authority on the subject of martial arts has begun. I don’t understand why more martial arts websites don’t include them.

    • SBowley

      Thank you Mr. Klein. Outside of word-of-mouth recommendations, a powerful website is probably the single best marketing tool a karate school can have.

  • Anna

    Thanks for sharing. This adds more info. Keep posting!

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