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Covid-19 impact on websites and SEO

Nobody could have foreseen the impact Covid-19 had on business both on the high street and online. It wasn’t just B2C businesses that were affected but also B2B. Even if one business wasn’t directly affected by the crisis then chances are it was affected indirectly by a partner business or client being affected, thus creating a butterfly effect so to speak.

Kids clubs in my opinion, were one of the hardest hit. A look on Google Trends, the free platform that shows search trends regionally, shows that search volumes still haven’t recovered fully, but are certainly on their way there. Traditionally popular terms such as “kids dance classes” and “youth football clubs” were down during lockdown to just 10% of their 5 year average. However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel and those that work hard on their online presence right now will reap the benefits!

The sudden spike in “online class” searches has already started dropping and people are looking for more opportunities to get their children out of the house – now more than ever! It’s time to start focusing your SEO efforts on your “normal” search terms. Here are a few things you can do yourself to give it a boost:

Google My Business

This should be seen as essential. No excuses even if you use a village hall, school gym, etc – you need to get yourself listed on here. There’s an option to hide your address and just pick an area if needed.

Make sure your listing has lots of text, images, videos and be sure to post your “Covid Update” to benefit from the boost that Google is giving to these in search results.

DIY is fine, but DIY properly

Building your own site is perfectly fine if you’re strapped for cash, especially right now, but give yourself the best foundations possible. If you’re about to start building one, try to avoid Wix. The search engine ranks are just terrible! They’re actually working on a new platform that will be branded differently, but right now their offering is just a waste of your time. Shopify or Squarespace take a similar approach but will deliver better results. Even better – watch some videos and teach yourself WordPress. No coding is needed if you pick a theme that has something like Visual Composer, but the structure is far greater than the other platforms. Whats more, being “open-source” everything about it can be changed if needed and literally any feature you can dream of can be added.

Page Titles and Meta Data

If you do have a WordPress site then you’re laughing with this bit as you can install the free Yoast plugin and have full control. Other Content Management Systems (CMS) will give you some form of control over it. Basically every page on your site should target a specific search phrase and have unique “meta data”. The page title is normally best to have your keyword first followed by your brand name, or catchment area.

The Meta Description is no longer a ranking factor, but is still important in a different way. Use it to encourage the user to click on you in the results. Still try to include your key phrase there as Google highlights it on the page.

I could literally write all day just about this part of SEO, but fortunately there’s lots of free videos online from places like Moz and even Google have a Webmasters series on Youtube.

H-Tags

When us developers write code for a site, we use “tags” to tell the browser what the content is and Google reads these too. H or heading tags tell Google that this text is the heading of a section, so probably important. It’s really important that every page has a “H1” Tag and that it contains keywords, not what I see most often; “Fun Interactive Sessions” as nobody is searching for that on any search engine. You can also use “H2” and other H tags throughout each page to subdivide text up and help with what we call “long-tail” queries.

When you’re putting content on the page, your “CMS” will normally allow you to select the text style. So it should be easy to select the correct heading.

Google Webmaster Tools

Another essential and it’s free! Sign up and verify your site as soon as you can. It’ll keep you informed of issues and errors, plus allow you to submit your sitemap to Google to improve indexing. The performance section will tell you what you’re showing up for in searches. You should of course also run Google Analytics too so that you can see what people do when they get to you.

Back links

Building high quality links to your site from reputable sites will dramatically help your search engine ranks. Avoid any of the platforms selling cheap links (Fiver, Peopleperhour) as they’ll often be spam links generated with a tool – Google’s not that dumb and you will get caught at some point.

A great no-brainer in my opinion is Club Hub (https://clubhubuk.co.uk). It’s the leading platform in the UK and has a great domain authority. The upgrade package – currently just £2.50/year – gives you a “do follow” link to your website, greatly helping your own SEO. The package comes with lots of other benefits too, but the weblink by itself is worth that all day long!

Free SEO Audit

Normally we do free audits for kids clubs ourselves as part of our social enterprise mission, but we’ve had to put them on hold while we deal with the crazy demand for our services right now. It’s not perfect, but the free tool from SEO Site Check-up will help point you in the right direction of what needs improving: https://seositecheckup.com/

Google have a tool too, but it’s terrible!

Don’t scrimp on your hosting

Site speed is so important to SEO, so I’m often amazed by some of the hosting packages I see in the clubs industry. If you are on shared hosting (normal with Godaddy, TSO Host, Hostgator, Names, 123-reg, etc) your site’s speed relies on the other 1,000+ sites on that server not having the need for those resources that your site needs. During lockdown we’ve seen some hosts literally go to a crawling pace due to this issue. Proper hosting is about the same price these days (£8.99/m for our value package for instance) and gives you so much more.

Your website is your shop window and putting it on shared hosting is like having windows that you can barely see through, when for the price of a couple of coffees you can have dedicated resources and be in control of your own success.

SEO Agency

This point might surprise you… I don’t often recommend working with an SEO agency like us for a kids club. Sure you’ll get great results and it’s one of the best long-term investments you can make, but club owners can’t always justify the spend for long enough to get enough of a return. If you own a Franchise chain then that’s different of course as you need to continually improve volumes for your network. The SEO industry gets a bad name, partly as it’s hard to see the work, but mainly due to scammers that have used that as a way to pretend they’re doing work they’re not.

I feel the industry is becoming more transparent – I know we certainly make an effort to be, we even give you access to the software to see everything for yourself! We use a time tracker that also takes screenshots of us doing the work on your site which I hear rumours of other SEO agencies trialling now, so hopefully that’s a sign of good things to come.

My advice would be; don’t sign up to a long contract, but definitely give it around 3 months as a trial period with the agency. It sounds harsh, but avoid Indian SEO agencies at all costs. They’re not all scammers (although that’s where most of these scams start), but due to the language barrier the quality of the meta-data and blog articles they write on your behalf tends to be much lower than a UK agency, or freelance specialist at the same rate would do.

Content is still king

The most important thing to remember is that no matter what is going on with the world, or how many times Google changes their algorithm – only one thing ever matters… Content. If you write lots of great helpful content, record videos and share them in fun helpful social media posts, you will go up the search ranks. Every algorithm update that Google has ever done has been about improving the experience and giving the best content. If they stop doing that, they risk losing market share to Bing, etc so that will always be the focus. Granted sometimes that actually hurts sites ranks, but there’s always a reason behind it and Google’s not afraid to backtrack. Right now they’re trialling a lot of new things, including a “Google Guarantee” – we’re not sure how this will all work out, but we know that those with lots of great content and fast sites will still rank higher than those without.

So my last piece of advice is, to not worry about SEO. Yep, you heard me. Obviously, do the basics that I’ve broken down in this guide, but other than that, just put a set amount of time in your diary each week (even 1 hour with your Sunday breakfast will work) to add content to your site that doesn’t sell your business, it just purely adds value to your visitors. Do that and you’ll go far. I can prove it too – We bought our Dorset.tech domain name just 18 months ago and have been ranking number 1 in the county for most of our target terms for about 9 months. Our site isn’t actually very well optimised, in fact we’ve been too busy building other people’s sites to even finish our own, but we dedicated an hour a week to adding some form of content that isn’t about selling us, but helping visitors.

The future…

There could be one saving grace from all this and that’s the impact the virus has had on people’s attitude to health and fitness with many families now incorporating some form of exercise into their daily routine. Hopefully this new outlook to family fitness will continue now lockdown has eased and this alone could lead to more searches for things to do for the family that include some form of exercise. With plenty of activities being focused on wellbeing and health this could mean traffic increases in this area as demand increases.

To summarise, the affects of Covid-19 in terms of SEO and traffic will be here for some time, maybe even years, however this does depend on how factors such as R rate and any second waves, especially in the winter. Ranking’s and websites being able to get ranked or appear high in the organic search engine listings won’t be affected, however the traffic available will be a lot less than before for the time being. The impact of COVID-19 on a website does really depend on the product or service the website provides and any that provide a product that requires being in close proximity with others and to interact with people will always take the longest to recover due to the simple fact the search activity is lower now on Google.

Author: Chris Ryu, Dorset Tech

Chris is a serial social entrepreneur and Founder of Dorset Tech; a full-service agency offering web design, WordPress development, apps and SEO, delivering great marketing campaigns! Chris and his team donate profits back to the community through some super projects including their own STEM education centre.

By becoming a member of ICAP you’re joining a community of like-minded professionals and business owners in the children’s activity sector working towards excellence

John Preston

Mathnasium, Managing Director (UK) & Master Franchisee

John is a former investment banker that quit the city to scratch that entrepreneurial itch and become a franchisee, whilst making a difference in children’s lives. John has successfully scaled his own network of centres as well as scaling Mathnasium and supporting it’s network of franchisees in the UK. John is passionate about franchising and improving the lives of others, whether that is helping students who struggle with mathematics or assisting franchisees to become leaders of successful businesses.

Katie Cannon

Gold Medal Business

5 x British Champion turned 7 figure entrepreneur Katie Cannon has been in the children’s activity industry for the last 20 years.Over the last 20 years, Katie has been in the trenches building classes in gyms, studios, leisure centres etc. She has owned gyms, closed gyms down, hired amazing teams and let teams go. You name it, she has done it in this industry.

Katie now teaches entrepreneurs in this industry to uplevel their business systems and teams to scale their business. One of the key attributes which makes gold medal truly unique is she not only brings her 20 years of experience, she is still in the industry today, bringing 20 years of knowledge plus whats working today.

Andy Georgiou

Andy is the Founder of ICAP and a leading UK Franchise Business Consultant. He is fiercely committed to helping children’s activity providers build successful and profitable businesses. With qualifications in Business Management, Digital Media and Marketing, he has helped build, advise and grow leading 6 and 7 fiqure children’s education, sports and activity brands in the past 17 years.

Theo Millward

Theo Millward is a graduate of Lancaster University with a BBA in Management. In 2016 Theo purchased UK swim school, Swimtime from the founders which teaches 20,000 children a week. Following a multi-award- winning digital transformation, during the global pandemic, Theo and his team founded Franscape, a saas that digitally transforms Franchise brands. FranScape won New Business of the Year at the UK Business Awards.

Pip Wilkins

Pip Wilkins is the Chief Executive of the British Franchise Association (bfa). With 25 years’ experience in the franchise sector, Pip has worked her way up within the Association, gaining insight from all areas of the business and the franchise industry. She is well-known and highly regarded in franchising for her dedication and depth of knowledge. Pip regularly speaks at conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally, as well as writing on franchising matters for national, local and franchising trade press. Pip is also a regular judge for the annual bfa HSBC Franchise Awards, the Franchise Marketing Awards and Global Franchise Awards. Pip represents the UK at both the European Franchise Federation (EFF) and World Franchise Council (WFC). The bfa has grown to be one of the largest franchise associations in Europe, and one of the most successful associations in the world.

Craig Jones

Chief Children's Experience Officer

Craig has over 30 years’ experience working with children and young people in the education, sport, health & fitness and childcare industries. Craig is a high energy professional, with a passion for providing high quality, engaging experiences that are sustainable solutions to childcare and children’s activities, with a focus on increasing physical activity levels within children and young people. Craig’s approach is nurturing, developing and supporting the best people to manage, lead and inspire children’s professionals within organisations. A results orientated individual with experience across the UK and in Europe, including mergers & acquisitions along with implementing Children/Family strategies across 5 countries, including; product development, financial/operating models, training, H&S, Compliance and full stakeholder engagement from Board level to Government.

Ackora Ansah

Marketing Manager - We Make Footballers

Having previously navigated the dynamic world of marketing with beauty industry leaders such as L’Oreal, Clarins and Unilever, I’ve gained a breadth of experience in how to acquire customers and grow brands.

Now, as Marketing Manager at We Make Footballers I support over 50 franchisees across the UK, US and UAE to scale and grow in an ever-changing landscape through strategic local marketing. Alongside this, I run 3 of my own We Make Footballers franchises and so look forward to sharing my learnings from both perspectives.

Tamara Holland

Marketing Consultant for Children's Activities Providers

Tamara is the award-winning expert behind Dot & Stripe, a marketing consultancy for children’s activities providers and family focused businesses.

Tamara works with franchisors, franchisees and independent businesses to nail down the best marketing strategies to get them results and has over 20 years’ experience across the marketing mix.

She’s also been on both sides of the children’s activities industry – as a franchisee and leading the marketing for a franchise.

She has literally got her hands dirty- so she really gets it. You want to share your amazing activities business with your perfect customers- but finding the right direction, time and resources can be tricky.

Tamara has truly got the expertise, the support, and the accountability to make sure your marketing is not just done but done in a way that’s absolutely perfect for you.

Alexis Boyett

Bippity Boppity Bankrolls / Business Coach + Speaker

BECOME FRIENDS WITH THE VILLAIN WITHIN: HOW TO TURN YOUR INNER-CRITIC INTO YOUR BIGGEST SUPPORT SYSTEM

No amount of positive thinking will overpower an engrained negative belief. Regardless of how hard we try, how many therapists we talk to, or how many meditations we do, nothing seems to silence the inner-critic within. So instead of trying to silence it, what would happen if we started to communicate with it? As someone who struggled with a poverty mindset, eating disorders, bullying, toxic relationships, and no support system, Alexis understands how loud and how powerful your inner-critic can be. Instead of giving into the voice, Alexis learned how to harness the power of it and use it to master her self-love, propelling her into her dream life. In the past 15 years she has been a professional model/actress in Hollywood, run a nationwide company, traveled the world full-time and become the most influential business and personal development coach in character entertainment. It all started when she learned how to communicate with her inner critic and use its voice as the compass to her dreams. In this keynote, you will walk away with: A new understanding of your story and how it affects your business How to communicate with your inner critic to support your vision How to self-soothe when the villain within is on a rampage

Bea Waterfield

Owner & Franchisor Baby College

I’ve been working in the sector for 20 years. In that time I have been a franchisee, an independent business owner and a franchisor. I have come through a few challenging times (especially the last few years) along the way but have built Baby College to an international network of 30 businesses in the last 10 years in a sustainable way with a consistent profitable self-sustaining business year on year. I don’t think there is a very clever secret to that. Looking back I think I rely on hard-work, determination, courage, indefatigable positivity and to be friendly to everyone…

Gayle Berry

Founder of global parent & baby wellness business, mentor & philanthropist

Gayle Berry-Founder of Blossom & Berry, BA, Dip. Law, PGCE, IAIM, Birthlight, Dip Hypno, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Life Coach ITEC Massage, Author, Pregnancy and Post Natal Yoga Teacher, Children’s Yoga Teacher, Doula & Sleep Consultant.)

Gayle is a love activist, community architect, the founder of Blossom & Berry, an expert on baby massage, baby yoga and nurturing care for babies and the world’s leading mentor for parent and baby businesses.

Gayle is the mother of three amazing humans who have inspired her journey to teach love to millions of babies through her connected community to create a more peaceful and joyful life for all.

Gayle has over 20 years of experience empowering others to share the power of nurture and nature for families across the globe.

Gayle is an advocate for nurturing touch for babies, a multiple publisher author, and speaker on “Nurturing The Future-1001 days to save the world’

She is also very proud to be an ambassador for a number of mother and baby wellness brands and she is Channel Mums’ Baby Massage Expert.

In more recent years Gayle has mentored the world’s leading birth and baby schools to expand and scale their impact to create even more connection. Everything she does comes from a place of love, connection and community

Contribution is also a huge part of her why. She is the co founder of the charity Love Support Unite where she has enabled a safe motherhood project for mothers and babies in poverty in Malawi impacting hundreds of vulnerable babies.

“All babies deserve to be seen, heard and express their needs. When we respond to babies with love, we teach that the world is a safe and loving place and help children reach their full potential.”

Sarah Booth

Xero - Partner Consultant

My passion has always been to help business owners understand the numbers and how a great Accountant, along with cloud software, can provide the financial data they need to make the best business decisions. Prior to joining Xero I worked as a qualified Accountant and specialised in supporting my clients to understand their business financials in real-time. Working with Xero has given me the opportunity to support Accountants across the country in adapting to the cloud, improving their processes and ability to provide insights for their clients business.

Lou Willis-Keeler

CEO of Psych-Logical (Safeguarding and Behavioural Consultancy)

An international safeguarding consultant with over twenty years experience in safeguarding and behavioural science . Working with a wide range of organisations, across sectors to ensure compliance as a minimum and outstanding practice as a reality. Lou has depth of professional expertise working with a variety of organisations and before forming Psych-logical was an area manager with the NSPCC / ChildLine. She has been commission by the Department of Education to develop best practice resources and is work on professional standards for the out of school settings. An energetic, innovative and engaging speaker who simplifies safeguarding and makes it accessible to all.

David Batch

Premier Education Group

Last academic year, Premier delivered 723,815 hours of activity in over 10% of the nations schools. In addition, as the largest supplier of School Holiday Activity days in the UK, over 20,000 parents have given a 5-star Trust Pilot rating. Premier represents the sector on several Dept. of Education steering groups and was winner of ‘Best Business Culture’, at the 2023 Business Excellence Awards. David founded Premier 25 years ago and since then, the group has grown to encompass businesses which include a mother and child fitness franchise, a school improvement business and is an Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’ Independent Training Provider.

Natalia Shvarts

Franchise Lawyer

Natalia is an experienced franchise solicitor who is passionate about her clients and their success. Having worked with franchisors, franchisees and spent time in-house, Natalia really has seen it from both sides of the fence. Natalia is a member of the BFA and is a regular contributor to franchise publications and franchise events.

Ellie Baker

BilinguaSing

After 10 years in the UK education system, Ellie quit the classroom to set up her award-winning children’s language & music class company, BilinguaSing, which she franchised in 2014.

Today Ellie uses all of her teaching and business experience to coach educators to become business owners, writes about education and helps her network of BilinguaSing franchisees to thrive in their businesses. In 2023 she authored her first solo book, The 2 Hour Tutor; which reached the #1 spot in 3 educational categories.

She’s an ‘extroverted introvert’ who dreams of living a nomadic life, educating her 3 kids while travelling the world; but for now lives happily in sunny Maidenhead. 

Stacey Cann

Franchise Marketing Strategist

Stacey Cann is an award winning franchise marketing strategist who specialises in helping franchisors create successful franchisees and make more money in their business. Stacey has 20 years marketing experience, working with global companies, including Chelsea FC, Jellyfish, BT, Sports Direct and The Telegraph. Marketing training and empowerment is at the heart of everything Stacey does. Her work has been featured in numerous press articles, including; The Sun, The Metro and iNews. Stacey is a franchisee and Franchise Development Coach for multi-award winning Daisy First Aid. She consistently helps new franchisees with no previous business or marketing experience to start making money immediately and hit their initial goals within 6 months. Her proud moments include Daisy First Aid being awarded the British Franchise Association 2023 Continuous Improvement award and helping numerous women successfully leave their previous jobs to become profitable franchisees to fulfil their dreams of independence and work-life balance. Stacey lives in Surrey, UK, with her partner and 3 children and is also a passionate advocate of parents’ mental health following her own experiences as a self-employed mum.

Karl Fox

Franchise Support Director

I’ve worked in the franchise industry for nearly 25 years, building a successful multi-territory franchise business which deploys over 100 Activity professionals and Playworkers. Utilising my experience within my role as Director of Franchise Support for Premier Education, I support our franchisees to build successful, sustainable busineses as we continue to grow our wider network.

David Pearce

Owner / Director - Rhythm Time

Following a successful corporate career as Divisional MD of a FTSE 250 PLC, I started helping people to get into Franchising in 2008. I have been involved in many different Franchise Businesses as a Franchisee, Franchisor and as a Consultant and Coach to Franchisors. My advice has been sought by a variety of leading UK and International Franchise Brands. Finance & Numbers form a fundamental part of any successful business and I am passionate to help others to get to grips with their numbers!

Al Wadey

Book That In, CTO

Al Wadey is the CTO of Book That In, the market-leading booking system for activity providers in the UK, and is also the Vice President of Strategic Consulting at Aprimo, the international software company. Al’s extensive background in business change, digital transformation, and strategic consulting, especially his role in leveraging technology for superior customer experiences, positions him as a leading authority on innovative strategies. His blend of technical prowess and commercial insight, paired with his experience in guiding businesses through digital evolution, means he will be bringing a unique viewpoint to ICAP’s strategy panel this year.

Phillip Archer

Business Planning & Funding Manager

Phil joined d&t in 2019. Background in sales & marketing in asset finance and funding spanning more than 30 years. Responsible for growing the commercial side of d&t to include fully independent business planning, funding, asset finance and of course the full range of accountancy solutions. Recently with Franchise Finance which he joined following a career with roles in the UK and across Europe starting with Lombard/Natwest group and latterly with Renault Banque and SNCF, the French state-owned rail goliath. Phil has a wide and diverse background, grounded in pragmatism and is passionate about supporting both new and existing franchisees on their journey. For a new Franchisee the proposition can be quite daunting and Phil’s goal is to help the franchise industry demystify and simply the business start-up process into one seamless and fully integrated solution. This avoids confusion, self-interest and contradiction and ensures a rounded, more holistic approach as your advisor becomes your trusted partner for the long term. Much of this is achieved by helping franchisees align their personal and business goals and in ensuring sound business planning practices become habits and management tools. Phil contributes to a number of industry publications and forums and is a judge for both Workbuzz and Elite100.

Frank Sahlein

Frank has been active in the Children’s Activity Center industry as an athlete, coach, business owner, consultant and business broker. He is a native of San Mateo, California and graduated from San Jose State University in California (USA).
Frank was a pioneer of the Children’s Learning Opportunity Center concept from 1976 – 2016 at the Wings Center in Boise, Idaho (USA) – a blend of Sports Instruction, Arts, Education, Entertainment and Outreach programs.
As a business management innovator, Frank has delivered over 1,000 presentations for a variety of Children’s Activity Center industries such as gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, dance, martial arts/ninja and child care/education.
3rd Level Consulting is a Business Development and Service Provider Partner for private industry companies, associations, and organizations in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Panama.
Two-time recipient of the National Business Leader Award from USA Gymnastics, Frank is the author of “Building Your Business Potential” and “Designing Your Empowered Life”. He is the creator of the SmartEDGE™ Business Applications and Management Certification Courses. He is the co-founder of LEAP Learning and the MetaSpheres Corp, and is the founder and Executive Director of the International Association of Child Development Programs.
His passions include his beautiful wife Lourdes Gonzalez, family, friends, fitness training, transformational reading and travel.