Yoga Studio Bounces Back From Pandemic with SEO Results
After a steep decline in attendance and revenue in 2020, it was time to bounce back. Here’s how we did it with SEO.
Gutted by Covid
Not sure if you heard, but there was a pandemic in 2020. 😏 We supported a yoga studio that had to shut down for months. They had been a long-time client, and we had helped them grow their business between 20% – 30% each year of our work together prior to Covid. As a result of closing their doors, we turned off all marketing for 2020 and 2021.
Most yoga studios in their area closed their doors for good. Our client decided to ride the storm and slowly reopen later in 2020 and into 2021. It was a wild ride because there were many stops and starts. The northeast was hit particularly hard, and there were severe restrictions for brick and mortar businesses.
We did a few online classes where people could donate money to the teachers, but for the most part, the pandemic cut the yoga business off at the knees for a year and a half.
*You’ll see the word “we” throughout this story because we feel like and are treated as part of the team at this yoga studio.
2022 Brings More Challenges
Complete shut-down has passed, but there are still restrictions on the number of people allowed in the studio for each class. This is regulated, so there’s not a ton we can do about it until those restrictions are relaxed. Where we used to be able to have 30 – 40 people in each class, the limit is now 22. That’s losing almost half the volume.
Our busiest classes are on the weekends and mid-day. Many of those completely fill up, and we have members on the waiting list in case of a cancellation. The other classes are still only pulling in around 11 – 12 people per class. So, there’s definitely room for more people to join us.
Having room for more participants is key because during the pandemic, most people moved from our automatic renewal monthly subscription, where they can practice any time to purchasing a package of class passes (5 passes, 10 passes, and 30 passes) they can use any time. The problem was, it was taking months for these members to use those passes. So, we had traded our most consistent revenue for something much more sporadic.
One new wrinkle is another studio who has the exact same kind of yoga just opened 10 miles away. And it’s over 20% cheaper to practice there.
We asked our favorite members to give us some reviews on the Google and Yelp platforms. It was as easy as sending out a simple email. And overnight, we got a bump in local visibility…AND some great feedback from our favorite cheerleaders. (BTW – these became GREAT snippets to add as a p.s. to emails we started sending.)
We decided to anchor our activities to investing in organic traffic. The only way to win that game is to post consistently. We decided on a once a week strategy. Looking at our traffic in Google analytics, it wasn’t surprising to see that our community is very interested in health and wellness topics. Knowing we also needed to encourage members to visit more often (especially those who were purchasing a package of class passes), we pursued health content that promotes the benefits of a consistent practice. The goal was to make sure the content was genuinely beneficial to our members while encouraging them to visit the studio more often.
We posted content pulling from health experts like Dr. Gregor who wrote “How Not to Die.” In his book, Dr. Gregor suggests 90 minutes of moderate exercise or 45 minutes of vigorous exercise a day to reach optimal health. That fits perfectly with our 90 minute hot yoga classes or 60 minute HIIT pilates classes. We also pulled principles from Tom Brady’s recent book on his method for staying at the top of his performance game and protocols suggested by Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman for increasing mental and physical stamina. Each topic speaks to consistent practice and encourages members to join us for class 2, 3 or 5 times each week. And we have science to back how that will make their lives better.
While we’ll continue to find and promote these health and wellness items, we’ll also be putting together some content to highlight some of our differentiating features of our studio vs our competitors. We’ve already put together an article about our river rocks showers and how members can use those for acupressure before or after their practice. Our content plan includes topics like the rainforest shower head, the top-of-the-line air purification system, our mobile monitored heat and humidity system, our cleaning process and more. We’ll really be digging into all the ways practicing at our studio is the best possible experience.
There are a few keys to the success of our emails. The first is numbers. We’ve been in business for years, so our email list is large. However, our population shifted during the pandemic because of our rigorous policies around safety and cleanliness. So, we made a strategic decision to only try to attract people who had trusted us while the stakes were high. We realized they were like-minded with our philosophy around sacrificing some freedoms to put the safety of our neighbors first. Those members are more likely to understand when we implement a new policy or take longer to relax some standards. And it just makes our lives and operating the studio easier.
Tip: If you’re wondering why that philosophy of speaking to fewer people works, we were pulling from The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz.
Because we got more focused about our audience, it meant our emails were going out to only 1,000 – 1,500 people vs the full 3,500 – 4,500 people that are on our email list. That felt a little scary marketing to fewer people. However, we were standing firm on our decision to attract the right people who would value our services and stay for the long-term.
The second key is reusing content. We didn’t have unlimited funds to spend on content creation, so we decided to double down with the content we were already creating for our blog posts. We would take a VERY SMALL snippet from our posts and use them to craft an email. The email would then point the member to the blog post on our website. That way our members would see the content AND the blog content would also attract new organic traffic from a similar audience. The emails were very familiar in tone because they were targeted to people who already practiced with us. While the blog posts were geared more toward everyone who might stumble across us.
The third key is consistency. Since we have been using our blog post content, our rhythm has been to send these emails out once a week. Our members get other notifications about classes they’ve booked or billing. So, once a week felt like the right amount of contact so they don’t feel overwhelmed, but they still hear from us regularly.
Earlier in the year, we knew we had competition coming to town. We had a little money to spend in advertising, so we started local google ads that would serve us up in our area for key search terms related to the kind of classes we provide. The idea was to at least show up ahead of our new competition.
When we were able to rev up the marketing engine a few months into the year, we decided to go organic but support our organic traffic with ads for people who were interested. The BEST thing we could do is both. However, that’s not in the budget at the moment, so we’re focusing. And we’re hopeful that the results we get will allow us to put some money into the search terms again to have the best of both worlds.
For now, we’re concentrating on traffic we’ve already attracted through our organic content and our emails. That means when someone visits the content on our website, they get some ads that serve as reminders about what we offer as they browse the internet for other things. So, we’ve sent them an email, or they found one of our articles through searching for specific health and wellness content. Then they visit the website. And once they do, we show up now and again as a reminder while they search.
The conversion rates on our retargeting ads are about 25% higher than the conversion rates for general search related to “hot yoga” or “pilates near me.” So, we know we’ve made the right choice there. That’s basically because we’re serving up ads to our warm audience vs someone seeing us for the first time. Again, we’d eventually like both, but for now, we like the bigger bang for our bucks.
Getting the Biggest Bang for Their Buck
We took a look at increasing prices with our Profit First financial experts at Stapf Financial. The timing was right, and we needed to make the move because we were also seeing huge hikes in our utilities and cleaning costs. Cleaning cost increases were obvious because of the more rigorous cleaning schedule due to Covid.
The utilities are a key part of our service because we’re hot and humid yoga. We are constantly running the heater and humidifier in the studio to keep our classes somewhere between 100 – 120 degrees with 60% – 70% humidity using our state of the art heating/humidity system. So, we did implement the price increase. But that really gave us a very small increase in revenue. Basically enough to cover the increases in cleaning and utilities.
We knew we’d have to increase the purchases of memberships and the frequency of visits by the members who purchased class passes vs our unlimited monthly memberships to move things in the right direction.
45 Days Gets Results
We’ve been following this 1-2-3-4 process for about 45 days now, and the results are in!
Our website traffic is up 105%, which is HUGE for such a short time period. We’re seeing a 123% increase in new users. Big score!
The traffic for our location is up 170%, and we’re not attracting much traffic in areas that are outside of what people would be willing to drive to visit the studio. Again, that’s really important to us. The last thing we wanted to do was see a big increase in traffic that we can’t serve.
The best possible news for us is two-fold.
1. We’ve increased the average number of people in each of our classes by 1.5 per class. That means those class passes are getting used up, and we’re still not at capacity for those morning and evening classes. There’s room to grow!
2. Unbelievably, we hit just above 2019 revenue levels for April. For a while it felt like we’d never get back to those pre-pandemic revenue levels, especially since we have to cap the number of people who can practice in each class at such a reduced level. Thankfully, we’re seeing that turn around. And we are optimistic that we will grow beyond our previous success in the coming months.
Keys to Success
To sum it all up, we’ve seen great results targeting the right people with the right messages in a consistent rhythm.
One of the biggest keys to success is to know who your audience is. If you’re wanting to build an audience you love, our favorite process is following The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz. It helps you develop products, services, and content that attracts people you want to serve and repelling those you don’t.
Just like design, gaining traction in marketing is an exercise in repetition. The more consistently you talk about the same topics, the more you’ll grow. Plus, Google loves consistent posting and updating of your website.
Focus on Goals
Why spend money and effort producing numbers that don’t help you reach your goals? You have to start with the activity you want to see from your audience. Because without clear direction, you’ll just have more people that don’t do the things you need. If you want to increase number of visits, plan your content and marketing accordingly. If you want to increase dollars spent per visit, that might mean a different tactic. Adjust your message to align with the activities you want to see, and you’ll get a better ROI without having to work as hard.
Here's What our Clients Say
“We just would not have survived the pandemic without Tina and the Creative team. Now we’re back on track for growth.”
– Jeanne Tang, Owner, Yogasol