Give Your Website a Fall Tune-Up
Here's an easy-to-read guide for designing or updating your studio website. Janna Carlson recently remodeled my website (leilaviss.com) and has generously written this article for those looking to tune up their own. Fellow teachers at your local association or club meetings may find Janna's tips on website content and navigation invaluable. Her advice could be useful for those in charge of fine tuning local and state association sites, too.
Make sure to share this post with your colleagues!
Do you have a studio website? Picture it in your mind.
How do you feel about it?
Are you proud of how it represents you? Is it helping you reach your studio goals? Does it consistently bring you new students?
Just a few years ago, your website was probably a fancy online business card. It let parents know that your studio existed and where they could find you.
Since then, website technology has changed dramatically. These days, your website can easily be your most powerful tool for studio growth. It even has the potential to help you manage your studio.
Fall is a great season to tune up your website so that it can help you reach your studio goals for the year.
Here are five simple steps to amp up the power and functionality of your website:
1: Help Parents Immediately Feel At Home
How does your website feel when you first arrive?
Is it clean and clear? Is it warm and inviting? Does it feel cluttered and impersonal?
How does your website make parents feel?
Are they overwhelmed by long blocks of small text? Do they see an impersonal image of piano keys?
Good news: it’s easy to update your homepage and make a parent want to stay on your website.
Start with a large photo of students who are having a great time playing music in your studio.
Choose one or two colors that compliment your photos and use those colors in borders, graphics, and small blocks throughout your homepage and the rest of your website.
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid of white space; it creates a clean, restful feeling!
Think of a short phrase that captures your studio’s unique quality. Highlight your studio name and your phrase, along with the large photo, near the top of your homepage.
You can see this in action on my studio website homepage:
After your first big photo and studio introduction, write a short paragraph or two about what a child’s experience will be in your studio.
A combination of simple, engaging language and joyful photos will help parents picture their child having a great time in your studio.
2: Show Parents Exactly Where to Go
When a parent who has no experience with music lessons arrives at your website, they don’t know what information they need.
Imagine how they might feel to see a navigation bar across the top of your website that reads:
Home // About // Events // Programs // Why Music // Lessons // Preschool Piano // More Info
Parents will feel very confused about where to go first.
Confusion is one thing you never want parents to feel on your website.
We have very little patience with a confusing website these days, because you can always find a less confusing option (thank you, Google).
To make sure that parents know exactly where to go, start with your end goal.
Do you want parents to fill out a contact form?
Do you want them to enroll right there on your website?
With your end goal(s) in mind, think about how to give each parent the most essential information prior to reaching that goal.
After the warm welcome you’ve given parents on the homepage, you probably want the first option in your navigation bar to describe the lessons or classes that you offer (“Lessons” or “Programs” make this option clear.) Parents can click on this page to learn about what you offer for their child’s age group.
Next the parent will probably have some questions about details (“Do I need a piano before starting lessons?”) An FAQ page is the perfect place to lead parents so that you can answer their questions.
After learning about lessons and details, a parent is probably curious about you. After all, you are the adult who will be interacting with their child on a weekly basis. You can begin establishing trust right away with a bio page called something like “Teacher” or “Meet Us.”
Finally, the destination. Make sure your contact or enrollment page is easy to find and clearly labeled.
At this point you have a navigation bar that might look like mine:
That’s a very clear path. Parents will easily be able to learn about your studio in just a few steps.
Note: if you have a larger studio or more programs, consider using a drop-down menu to organize your pages. Use the same steps to keep it simple, clear, and sequential.
Bonus tip: If you have a logo in your navigation bar, you can link it to your homepage instead of having “Home” as a separate page in your navigation.
Clean, clear navigation achieved!
Step 3: Choose Simple, Engaging Words
Rather than allowing a parent to get lost in paragraphs describing the distinctive elements of your teaching philosophy (which are important! - and probably better explained in person), engage their imagination with each paragraph.
Use your words to describe how their child will feel, learn, and grow as a musician - and as a person - in your studio. You can see this in action on Leila’s studio website:
While parents may not yet be invested in your teaching philosophy, they are deeply invested in their child’s experiences and growth as a person.
If you want to keep parents invested in what you have to say, use your words to paint a picture of their child’s musical experience and personal growth.
One final tip: keep paragraphs short. Two to four sentences in a paragraph is optimal. If you find that your paragraphs are running longer, break them into shorter blocks.
Step 4: Make it Easy to Contact You
The parent who visits your website has little time and many distractions.
While they’re reading about the creative, joyful experience that your studio offers their 2nd grader, that tired 2nd grader may be complaining about homework.
Make it super easy for that parent to reach out to you before they turn away from their computer.
In addition to placing your contact page in an easy-to-see place, add at least one big contact button to each page. Have the buttons say something clear like, “Get Started,” “Request Info,” or “Get a Free Trial Lesson.”
Leila’s site uses buttons that coordinate with her website (and brand) colors:
I don’t know about you, but I immediately want to click on that pretty blue button!
Link each button to your contact page (or your enrollment form) and check to be certain they lead to the right place.
5: Make Sure Parents See You
Do you know the term “SEO?” It stands for Search Engine Optimization.
SEO matters to your studio. It’s how search engines like Google know to show your website with parents who are looking for music lessons.
There are many ways that you can build strong SEO into your website. Here are two of the biggest ways:
1. Photo names
Having photos on your website will help Google see your website as important, since Google prioritizes images over text.
When you upload photos to your website, you can see that they’re called “IMG_0123.jpg” or something similar. Once you’ve uploaded them, change that title to a couple of words that describe the picture: “group-piano.jpg,” “music-movement.jpg,” “violin-teacher.jpg,” etc.
Google will be able to more easily recognize your photos and will use them in search results.
2. Your location
Include your location when you’re writing your website content.
“Twinkle Fingers is a popular program with Kansas City families. Click the button to be placed on the waitlist for classes.”
“Here’s what Denver families have to say about Community Piano Studio.”
Next, use your location in the back end of your website.
There are two places you can do this:
1. Meta tags: This is where you use a few words to describe the content of each page on your website.
Here’s what the meta tag looks like for my group piano page:
To add a meta tag in Squarespace (where we build all of our Studio Rocket websites), go to your Pages menu and click on the gear icon next to a page name. A box will pop up on the right side of your screen with the page title, URL slug, and the meta tag field.
If you’re using Wordpress, you can watch this brief video on adding meta tags.
2. Meta description: This is where you use a sentence or two to describe your website, and is what people will see under your website name.
Here’s what the meta description looks like for my studio:
You can find the meta description box under the SEO page or tab in your main website menu. This is super easy to find in Squarespace; go to “Settings” in the main menu and click “SEO.” If you’re using Wordpress, this article will help you locate it.
Welcome to your tuned-up, powerful website.
Congratulations! Your website looks so much better. When you arrive at your homepage, how do you feel now? How do you think parents will feel?
Remember to share your new, updated website with your studio families and your social media following. This is a great way to let people see your updated online image.
It’s also helpful for your SEO, since search engines will see the increase in traffic on your website as a sign that it’s a relevant website to show to people. Bonus points!
May your freshly-tuned website launch you toward this year’s studio goals.
Janna Carlson is one half of the team behind Studio Rocket Web Design, a company that designs websites exclusively for music studios.
Janna is a long-time piano teacher who has built studios from scratch in three states. She currently owns Hello Piano Studio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she owes much of her success to a great studio website.