There’s a small tennis club tucked away in the lee of the Wellington town belt where even on really gusty days with the macrocarpas and pines thrashing in the wind on the hill above you and pine needles raining down on to court 1 you can still hit a clean ball and have a decent rally.
On a calm day, well, it’s one of the best spots around for tennis. Just off a busy arterial route, but surrounded by trees and thick bush, it’s a beautiful, quiet and friendly oasis hidden from the city, and you’d never know it was there.
Hop on to Google though and you’ll certainly know the club exists. It rules in the search engine.
As a local neighbourhood club that survives through its membership fees, attracting new members is a crucial, ongoing activity. Nationally, tennis club membership is on a steep decline since it peaked in the 1980s, and, like most clubs, the club has to work hard to keep membership numbers healthy.
Laborious leaflet drops around the community had been a marketing staple in the past. Newspaper advertising is expensive and has been ineffective. Now, the club is focusing on organic search results to advertise it’s wind-free attractions! Organic: naturally occurring search results, not paid-for advertising.
I’ve been working with the club on its website for some time now to make it visible in Google. We’ve had some great results, and it’s worth sharing what we’ve learnt.
The club is Wellington Tennis Club. Type in anything at all about tennis in Wellington and chances are the club will have the top result.
We’re pretty stoked. Last time we checked, the club was #1 for:
- Tennis clubs in Wellington
- Tennis in Wellington
- Men’s tennis Wellington
- Women’s tennis Wellington
- Children’s tennis Wellington
- Junior tennis Wellington
- Interclub tennis Wellington
- Tennis coaching in Wellington
- Tennis lessons in Wellington
… and in a number of those searches the club has had the top 2 and even 3 listings. Pretty much anything a person wants to know about tennis in Wellington via Google will take them straight to the club’s web site before any other website. It’s a strong position to be in.
How did the club get its Google results?
Pretty much we followed what Google says works and we kept at it.
The keeping at it part is crucial. Google search results are, in my experience, not a static situation. Getting to the top is one thing, staying there Federer-like, for any length of time, is another thing.
- Having your main search terms in your website (domain) name is said to be a good thing. Wellington Tennis Club is very fortunate that even though it is a southern and central suburbs club, the club’s name takes in the whole city. We unmercilessly (Djokovic-like?!) used that to our advantage and it worked for us.
- We post items regularly and we keep on doing it. Our newsfeed, on the homepage of the site, is a very useful way to keep members informed about club activities. We put items up there at least once a week. We understand that Google also loves this because with the site being updated regularly, this makes it new and fresh, and Google’s search bots come back regularly to lap up all the new info. Sites get Google’s approval for regular new information.
- Each page and post on the site generally deals with one topic. We understand that Google like pages to be focused on just a few key topics.
- We have put important keywords in all the areas on the site that Google suggests. Information on doing this is freely available on the internet (try here), and it is important to do this.
Converting Google results to increased membership
One result of our online activities is that the club’s website visitor numbers are on a continuous upwards climb.
A small neighbourhood tennis club website is now attracting large numbers of eyeballs. And the web stats show these are eyeballs largely in Wellington, too. So we have very targeted and focused visitors to the site.
The challenge for the club now is to convert those eyeballs into paying members.
Increased online visibility won’t necessarily increase membership on its own but it does give the club a big head-start in its marketing efforts. We see proof of that in the increasing levels of phone and email enquiries about services and offers seen on the website.
And, of course, when potential members see how easy it is on court 1 to hit balls cleanly in even the most testing southerlies, they’ll be hooked!