Is this how it ends?

Aniseteph

New member
Once you've got your new website built - separate pages for each of your offerings plus an About Me page, a Privacy page and a Contact Me page - there's no need to run a blog or keep tweaking it, just set and forget apart from updating class or workshop dates.
Exactly. From the POV of a prospective student looking for a teacher that's all you need. Not fancy web design and publicity shots: are you currently teaching, where/when, are you teaching something I want to learn, and are you interested in new students? If I Google "belly dance Whereversville" I should find you.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks a business that's all social media and no website is a bit odd. Makes me think they are only interested in people who do social media* (OK, so you aren't interested in my custom and money then...), or can't be bothered with any thing beyond an extension of their social playing on FB.

* perfectly valid in some cases, but attracting belly dance students...?
 

Darshiva

Moderator
The forum ate my reply from a few days ago and I was so angry about it I didn't bother coming back in the meantime.

Firstly, yes, I know where my clients found me. I asked. Doesn't everyone do that so that they can spend their advertising dollars more efficiently? Frankly I've had the most clients as a result of my signatures on this website, as they come up first in google searches (not true for websites anymore as google now penalises metadata) and the second most from that repository of word-of-mouth - facebook.

I'll be honest, I don't appreciate the insinuation that I'm crappy at either advertising or teaching because I use facebook as my primary advertising tool. I have a chronic illness that restricts so much about what I can do that I find the limitations imposed helpful. With the webpage, people assume I have a studio. I don't. I teach from home because I don't have the energy to travel to a studio, nor the energy to teach the numbers required to afford to rent one. I am capable of the occassional large group or workshop, provided I have a lot of advance warning AND my clients understand that I will have to put a break in the middle simply so that I can keep on going. I am capable of the occassional performance, provided it's not every week and my clients understand that I may need to dial down the energy or risk collapsing in front of them.

For me, personally, social media (and yes, that DOES include this website) represents my opportunity to connect with existing dancers, aka the people who make up 98% of my clientelle - and that is by choice. New dancers tend to be confused about why my class is so small and worried about the extra attention. With social media, I can let them know why I do this AND how it benefits them without the added expense involved in printed media. Not to mention the fact that word of mouth means so much more in rural areas than printed media. People get ads all the time. They prefer recommendations. That's how I met my plumber, my electrician, my hairdresser & my mechanic. Why should dance teachers be any different?
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
I'll be honest, I don't appreciate the insinuation that I'm crappy at either advertising or teaching because I use facebook as my primary advertising tool.
I can't speak for the others but I wasn't insinuating anything. Come on you know me by now. If I think something I'll say it even if it means open mouth insert foot. I also keep reading what an awesome teacher you are; why would I possibly think otherwise?

As for advertising... Networking is always the best way to get clients, it allows for a more personal interaction. It sounds like you have that covered in spades. Webpages on the other hand are for people who don't know someone to network with. It really is that simple. If you prefer to work off Facebook due to your chronic illness I am the last person who would criticize that (and you know why). I will give my opinion that a one page webpage that covers what you offer but then redirects then to social media to contact you personally could easily be all you need. I'll also admit that if you live in a small enough "pool" of potential clients you may not even need that. When I was growing up everyone in town knew who taught what classes on the side. I can't say that anymore though and the last time I went looking for information on something where I had five choices the ones with no webpage were struck from my list of possibilities first. One nearly was eliminated when all I could find was a Facebook page until I noticed a link on it to his webpage. A webpage that convinced me quite quickly to bump him to the top of the list. They really can make a difference, that's all.
 
I can't speak for the others but I wasn't insinuating anything. Come on you know me by now. If I think something I'll say it even if it means open mouth insert foot. I also keep reading what an awesome teacher you are; why would I possibly think otherwise?

As for advertising... Networking is always the best way to get clients, it allows for a more personal interaction. It sounds like you have that covered in spades. Webpages on the other hand are for people who don't know someone to network with. It really is that simple. If you prefer to work off Facebook due to your chronic illness I am the last person who would criticize that (and you know why). I will give my opinion that a one page webpage that covers what you offer but then redirects then to social media to contact you personally could easily be all you need. I'll also admit that if you live in a small enough "pool" of potential clients you may not even need that. When I was growing up everyone in town knew who taught what classes on the side. I can't say that anymore though and the last time I went looking for information on something where I had five choices the ones with no webpage were struck from my list of possibilities first. One nearly was eliminated when all I could find was a Facebook page until I noticed a link on it to his webpage. A webpage that convinced me quite quickly to bump him to the top of the list. They really can make a difference, that's all.
I was going to reply to you, Darshiva, but Ariadne has taken the words right out of my mouth. I was not insinuating anything and I do apologise if you thought I was.

I was simply trying to explain what I've learned about promoting small business in my ten years of working online. As Ariadne says, "the last time I went looking for information on something where I had five choices the ones with no webpage were struck from my list of possibilities first.One nearly was eliminated when all I could find was a Facebook page until I noticed a link on it to his webpage. A webpage that convinced me quite quickly to bump him to the top of the list. They really can make a difference, that's all."

Apologies again, and I emphasise that is all I was trying to point out.
 
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Daimona

Moderator
I second the last post of Ariadne, and certainly didn't insinuate anything either.



Funny thing I never considered this forum a social media before now. :)
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
Thanks for the giggle Diamona.

I never considered forums social media either. I stand (sit?) corrected. :)
 

Aniseteph

New member
Webpages on the other hand are for people who don't know someone to network with. It really is that simple
This. My apologies too, I hope I haven't upset you Darshiva. I'm coming at this from my POV as a potential customer of whatever business in my area, small town near a small city. If I can't network with anyone who might have a useful clue, a website is a starting point for me and FB really isn't. We all move in very different circles and what works for someone in one place doesn't for someone else in another.


I suppose this is social media. Weird.
 

Darshiva

Moderator
We're all on here talking to each other. That's what social media is. I't not a shopping site, although there is a forum to discuss purchases, because you can't actually make transactions here. It's not an information site, although we do share knowledge making it somewhat specialised socialising. It's not a downloading site, even though we do share links, they go to external websites. And it's not a search aggregate, because searches using the form are completely local and DON'T link off site. That leaves social media. Sure, we specialise in a very specific topic of conversation, and this thread is a great example of what happens when we go off-topic for extended periods of time, but we are still here to talk. And that makes this site social media. It's kinda ironic how we're here with our signatures that advertise our dancing complaining about how people are using another, more generalised website with a much wider target audience to advertise instead of using a static, information-type website. I'll tell you why people are moving away from that:

1) it's free
2) it's much more personal-feeling

Free is SO important when you're in a low-income industry like dance. It's so rare to find it that of course we're going to go 'you know what? I can reach more potential clients this way, AND I'm not wasting money advertising to people who aren't interested'. It works as a website, flyers, telephone directory entry AND word of mouth, all at once And it's FREE! Yes, people are going to be all over that.

And that second point? Yeah, facebook isd a cold, unfeeling place of political posts and cat memes, but there are people. Lots of people. And that makes it feel more personal, even when it isn't. It makes you feel like you're friends with your teacher, even when you both know you aren't. And that warm feeling puts bums on seats better than a website with information, an email form (which people don't use - except for spammers & scammers) and a handful of pictures photoshopped to make the teacher look amazing (and coincidentally make the potential student feel intimidated).


Finally, let me just state for the record that I loathe facebook and I wouldn't be there if it wasn't my connection to students & peers. In most cases, my ONLY connection.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
My husband keeps threatening to create a site called In Your Facebook and call it an Anti-social Media.
 
It's kinda ironic how we're here with our signatures that advertise our dancing complaining about how people are using another, more generalised website ...
Free is SO important when you're in a low-income industry like dance. It's so rare to find it that of course we're going to go 'you know what? I can reach more potential clients this way, AND I'm not wasting money advertising to people who aren't interested'. It works as a website, flyers, telephone directory entry AND word of mouth, all at once And it's FREE! Yes, people are going to be all over that.

And that second point? Yeah, facebook isd a cold, unfeeling place... but ... It makes you feel like you're friends with your teacher, even when you both know you aren't.

Finally, let me just state for the record that I loathe facebook and I wouldn't be there if it wasn't my connection to students & peers. In most cases, my ONLY connection.
I did not "complain" about Facebook. It is an essential tool to connect with existing students and with peers, and is a great way to build a sense of community for your school.

I can also see how for you, living in a small town, it's all that's necessary. However I thought you were trying to attract students internationally for your online courses, and that's why I suggested a website was an important adjunct, so that NEW students could find you.

Let me give you an example. I'm currently in Southampton. When I arrived, I didn't know a single soul. There are, in fact, four bd teachers here. All of them have Facebook pages - but if I search for belly dance in Southampton on Facebook, none of them comes up. If I search on Google, only ONE of them comes up, and she teaches on a night I can't attend.

Nine months after I arrived in Southampton, I have finally managed to connect with a teacher in my area, who teaches at a time that suits my schedule. Yes she has a Facebook page, and it's a great way to keep in touch - but it was useless in helping me to find her.
 

Darshiva

Moderator
Okay, so it's been 40C here for the last week and a half and is going to be again for the same. We're halfway through a 3-week long heatwave - in autumn. Last night, instead of enjoying my rpg night with good friends, we were all worrying as my husband collapsed from heat exhaustion. And instead of spending my time responding to this thread, as I rightly should have, I was wondering whether or not I should take my husband to hospital. I know, where the HELL are my priorities, right?

Anyway, I didn't want to mention the following because it's going to sound hella spiteful, but it's true.

Last year was a hell year for my husband and I. He lost his job. We were kicked out of our home by the new owners, moving into a tiny 2 bedroom flat where we were living in the smaller of the two bedrooms with our cat, while the majority of our stuff was crammed into the larger of the two bedrooms. And each time I miscarried I secretly thanked the gods that we didn't have to find either the money or the space to raise it. Then, around my birthday, the ATO removed my business status, telling me I wasn't doing enough to earn money while I was living in the aforementioned conditions. That's about when depression kicked in. For both of us.

Anyway, so here I was living in a place where the competition for industry jobs for my husband was so fierce that he eventually accepted a job offer interstate, well below his education and pay grade. And every week there would be this little email begging me to update my entry on a website. 'To what?!' I thought. To 'hey, I've got 30 cms of space for us both to dance in, why don't you come on over so I can teach you?'. Or perhaps it should be 'Well I could be gone next week, and I've got chronic depression & nowhere to practice, but you know what, hire me for your gig that's six months away, it's not like I know & trust anyone local to pass my gig onto should I be unable to do it.'

And then that changed. A break in the weather. Hubby was offered a job interstate starting in a week - sooner if he could make it (and if he turned up one day late, the job was gone). We had days to pack up everything, beg friends & family for money and move ourselves a little over 700km into a friend's shed because we had nowhere else to go. things were finally turning up for us!

So 3 weeks after our nightmare relocation began, I finally found us a house to move into. It was perfect. It had space for me to have a home studio, a lovely garden to sit & chat with students, plenty of parking and was super-easy to find. I was ready to go list on said website again. I open my email to look for my passwords and stuff to find a huffy email saying that the toys had been packed up and the owner had gone home. So I figured it was probably a sign that it was time for me to move from information-based advertising to personal-based advertising. I hit the local networks, I got my facebook all fired up, I started ramping up my presence on other forums and decided it was time to let my website go to pasture. It had a name that excluded new students and was pretty out-of-date anyway, and my web guy had taken on too much work to be able to keep me on as a client - again, all the signs pointing to time to go word-of-mouth. It wasn't like I couldn't start a new website later when that became popular again anyway - this time much more noob-friendly in name. Time to (as Keti Sharif puts it) let go of the old and accept the new. I could do that.

And then, after the horror year culminated with us being robbed and me losing years of work, I relaxed. It was finally over. I'd found my peace and my place and my role in bellydance and could move forward. And then this thread happened with it's fingers pointing in accusation (and those of you who said they weren't singling me out, I believe you). And it left me wondering... how many other people experienced horror years that discovered that the rules had changed in the meantime and that meant that they had to change too? Bellydance is in a lull period around the world. And that's okay. We're dealing with it, conserving our energy and money and waiting with both so that when the time is right, we have the means to grab the opportunity with both hands.

Anyway, I was unfriended on facebook today by someone I esteem highly but have had a very loud, public disagreement with. They appear to have taken it personally. I haven't. But neither will I be bullied into defending a position that is right for me, heatwave or no. I've said my piece. And I really sincerely hope that I am done with this thread.
 

Roshanna

New member
Darshiva, I'm so sorry to hear you've been through all that.

I've been offline with a horrible cold (flu?) for a few days, and I have come back to find that the thread I started has degenerated, but I can't really see any 'fingers pointed in accusation'. It seems like most people have been discussing marketing strategy for dance teachers in a general sense, with reference to their own communities - but if it doesn't apply to your specific situation, or your own reasons for not wanting a website, then that's fair enough! It doesn't look like anyone is trying to single you out for attack, although clearly some people find your decision not to have a website difficult to understand. I'll admit I also found it difficult to understand, simply because I've always enjoyed setting up and fiddling with websites, but I see where you are coming from now.

We all have to balance what might be best for business in an ideal world with what we're able to do or are comfortable with - I get really anxious about receiving phone calls, for example, so I avoid giving out my phone number, strongly encourage my clients to use email, and almost always let calls go to voicemail. I know I'd get more work if I was better about receiving calls, but at the moment it's not worth the disproportionate stress and anxiety it causes me. Conversely, for me, as someone with a technical background, having a website is easy, inexpensive and non-stressful and I get almost all of my work through my site - I do all of the website setup and maintenance myself, and I enjoy tinkering with it. But I can also see that for dancers who aren't as confident setting up and maintaining their own site (or who feel about computers how I feel about phone calls), and who may have to work through a third party webmaster, it could easily become expensive and stressful, and potentially not worth the effort. Plus if a site isn't showing in searches for relevant terms (e.g. 'bellydance classes in X'), it isn't much use to either the teacher or prospective students anyway, so it makes sense to let it go if it's only causing stress.
 

Aniseteph

New member
Seconding that. I'm sure nothing has been intended as personal criticism of anyone, just general debate. Which I have enjoyed, FWIW.

It raises some interesting points about the different ways we prefer to interact IRL and our different comfort zones. Outside work, I don't like the phone either. I much prefer email, or getting info off websites and taking it from there. I like impersonal until I'm settled in with something. OTOH FB wants me to share and interact with too many people, and on it's own terms. Maybe it's an introvert thing - the exposure makes it an uncomfortable place for me.
 

Roshanna

New member
I've had the most clients as a result of my signatures on this website, as they come up first in google searches (not true for websites anymore as google now penalises metadata)
I did just want to address this as a technical point, because I do quite a bit of website stuff both for myself and on a voluntary basis, and I have spent quite a bit of time learning about SEO and putting it into practise.

I apologise for the essay to come, but I hope it's helpful to anyone wondering how they can get their site to appear higher up in searches:

Google does not 'penalise metadata'. A well-constructed website will easily be able to come top of google search rankings for a search term like 'bellydance in sometown', especially if there are no competitors for the same keywords. I have never had difficulty keeping my site in the top few results for 'bellydance [my town]'. What Google want is for their users to find useful results, so it is in their interests to make sure things that are relevant appear first - but web designers need to make it easy for the search engines to ascertain what a site is about, so they can display it when it's relevant.

It's true that the rules used by search algorithms have changed over time (for example, as far as I'm aware, link exchange schemes are now penalised, and the <meta> keywords tag is completely ignored because it was abused so frequently), and the best practise for site design has also changed as technology has improved (e.g. better implementations of CSS across browsers, and the new stuff you can do with HTML5). The normal ways of doing the layout, navigation and styling for a website, for example, have changed hugely (and got a lot more elegant) since I first began doing web stuff ten years ago.

Google have actually published a guide to SEO, which is pretty useful for anyone building a site: http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.co.uk/en/uk/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf
It goes into a lot more depth than most of us need for dance sites, though.

The basic principle of the whole thing is to make it as blindingly obvious as possible what each page is about, using all channels available. Therefore, it should be clear from the URL what a site is about, and clear from the URL of each page what that page is about (e.g. www.bellydance-sometown.com is obviously a site about bellydance in Sometown, and www.bellydance-sometown.com/classes.htm is obviously the page about classes). It should be clear from the <title> tag of each page what that page is about, too. The <meta> description for each page should contain a brief synopsis of what's on that page - this description will be displayed in search results.

Moving onto content, each page should have a top level heading (<h1>) which clearly says what it's about (including the keywords you want that page to appear in search results for), and then text which is informative and which contains any important key phrases within the first sentence or two. All headings should be styled as headings using the appropriate heading level tags, and not just be normal text made bold. Any links should have anchor text that gives users an idea of where the link goes to - *not* 'click here'. Any images should have descriptive filenames (e.g. 'bellydanceclass.jpg' rather than 'DSC001.jpg'), and descriptive 'alt' text. Generally speaking, if it's possible to give any part of your site's HTML a title attribute, a description, or any other kind of metadata, then make use of it to put something informative there. Imagine that you are trying to spell out to the search bot, as clearly as possible, exactly what each page and each bit of content is about.

There are also things to avoid:
- Never make important text into an image. Especially not page headings. This will mean search engines can't read the text, and so don't pick up on the keywords and can't see what your page is about.
- Avoid using Flash. It will make your site slow, it will stop it working in some browsers and on some mobile devices, and it can prevent search engines from being able to read stuff, which will damage your ranking.
- Avoid writing anything generic or uninformative like 'page1' etc, when you could use something that contains keywords.

Outside of the site itself, being linked to by other sites does help, but *not* by doing link exchanges.

Finally - using a platform like WordPress, it is very easy to create a reasonably well-optimised site. WordPress has been designed with SEO in mind, to some extent, and it takes care of the stuff like page titles and headings for you. I don't have experience with other platforms, but I suspect they also help you take care of this stuff.
 

Salome

Administrator
The forum. My beloved forum. In the last several years there has been a marked decline of activity. But at any given time, when I pop on, there are 60 to 80 guests browsing. So non member people DO come here, there is some kind of interest. But only a handful of new people join each week and less of these actually post. Why? If I Knew maybe I could increase membership + active posting. I thought for a minute about making the forum open to post as a guest. But I've always had concern about the amount of spam that may pose to the moderators. What do people think? Should we try that and see if it makes a difference?

I used to try and post a link to something interesting from the forum on my FB page's. Thinking that with wide FB viewership I might draw people in this way but this engaged very minimally. I'm kind of at a loss. I've thought about whether to go on or not... and decided on the criteria a. as long as there is a core here, that keeps coming back then we will keep it going and b. as long as the forum can pay for itself. I downgraded the hosting service and have done what I can to minimize cost. It's barely making it but so far it's making it.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Sure, let's try letting guests post. We haven't been able to flex our moderator muscles in a long time and my smiting sword is getting rusty. If it gets to be too big a problem, we can rethink it.

Ooops. Am I being presumptuous here? I've just been around here for so long that I think "our forum" when of course it belongs to you, Salome.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Guest posting will turn into an unmitigated SPAM fest. Maybe not immediately, but sooner or later the SPAM will slam so hard that there won't be any keeping up with it.

You heard it here first.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
- Avoid using Flash. It will make your site slow, it will stop it working in some browsers and on some mobile devices, and it can prevent search engines from being able to read stuff, which will damage your ranking.
+3,000!

And whatever else you do - do NOT put auto-play *anything* on a page you care about. That is the FASTEST way to drive users away from that page. Unexpected video, music, noise, whatever will have me searching for the fastest way to STOP it - that usually means the tab or browser close button.

With that said, I have a couple of non-dance related, "who cares anyway" pages that have auto-play noise. Because I don't really care, I don't care. But the main site and its "important" on-topic pages? Silent.
 
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