Tips to attract more business
When it comes to bringing new customers to your range, is your website working up to its full potential? One of the best tools you can use to make your presence known digitally – awareness that converts into sales at the cash register and happy shooters filling your lanes – is a blog.
If you blog about guns, shooting and the shooting sports already, you have a head start. If you’re not yet writing blogs about the topics near and dear to your potential customers’ hearts, then it’s time to get started.
Here’s how a blog can work to drive traffic to your range, along with five proven strategies for creating a meaningful and relevant blog that will be effective at making your range known, convincing folks to come and shoot, and turning them into repeat customers.
How a blog drives traffic
It doesn’t take an advanced degree in digital technology to understand how today’s online search engines work to bring your business’s name and website up on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). SERPs are those pages you see after typing words in a search bar and hitting “Enter.”
Statistics from searchenginewatch.com indicate that about 70 percent of all web searches take place using Google, so that is the “search engine” we will consider as the main source for potentially bringing web traffic your way.
Of course, Google looks for specific words on your website (example: shooting range + upstate New York), but there’s a lot more to it. If you’re going to earn a spot on the first SERP (where you want to be, because only about 10 percent of people ever click to page 2!) you must make sure your website:
- Contains fresh, original content
- Is updated often
- And naturally uses the keywords that are both important and interesting to your customers.
To summarize, Google rewards websites that stay fresh and original with frequent updates offering “non salesy” content that your target audience wants. That’s exactly what a blog does: It adds topical new content – a whole new web page – every time you post.
What’s the result? Google’s search engine keeps coming back to see what you just posted and rewarding you (with higher placements on the SERPs) for posting the content and having people read it.
How a blog establishes credibility
Blogging creates another benefit for your range. It establishes you as a trusted expert in the shooting industry, someone that new and experienced shooters alike will trust and, ultimately, be comfortable visiting.
Think of it this way. Say you’re a shooter comparing two ranges and trying to decide which one to visit for your first trip with your new handgun, rifle or shotgun. Are you going to trust the range that has 17 blogs posted about guns and shooting topics and demonstrates expertise and understanding? Or are you going to go to the range that merely lists its shooting hours, time and prices?
5 Proven Blogging Strategies
“Great,” you’re thinking. “I can do this blogging thing. But what are some strategies, guidelines and tactics to steer me in deciding what to write about, how much, how often and how to be sure my efforts have the best chance of getting the desired result: people coming to my website and consequently showing up at my range?”
Here are some answers.
1. Build to two and then three blogs per week
“Three blogs per week is a good number to work toward,” said Ray Larson, a content strategist at Brandpoint, a leading content-marketing company with some clients in the outdoor industry. “Blogging at that rate builds a ‘footprint’ of content that the search engines like to see.”
If you’re just getting started on a blogging program, you’re probably going to want to start out with one post per week for a few weeks, building up to that twice-weekly blog level and, ultimately, to three. To take the pressure off any one person, schedule a variety of people within your organization to write blogs.
Choose someone you trust with words to act as editor and polish the writing with correct grammar and punctuation. You could also hire out this function or even trade a few shooting sessions a month to a client you know who would be willing and able to do it.
2. Create content that isn’t about you
“Your blog isn’t a direct sales or promotional tool,” said Larson, “so don’t treat it that way. People won’t read it.”
So what exactly makes good blog fodder?
“Remember that your prospects are looking for answers to their concerns and questions,” explained Larson. “They need information. Providing it positions you as the trusted expert … and in return, they will come to you when it’s time to buy.”
Here are a few of the endless ideas for blog topics:
- How to sight in a rifle
- How to pattern a shotgun
- How to mount a scope
- How to clean a modern sporting rifle
- Attaining proper stock fit
- Explain minute-of-angle
- Solving shooting mistakes
- Barriers to accuracy
- Favorite loads
- Analyzing proposed conceal-carry rules
“One great source for blog topics: Gear your topics to questions and concerns your current customers have,” said Larson. “Listen to what they’re saying and asking.”
Occasionally, and especially in our industry, it’s okay to blog about current events regarding firearms and shooting, injecting your opinions and perspectives.
3. Keep blogs short and sweet
So what is the right length for a blog? It’s shorter than you think.
Though you may have scary visions of feature-length articles, a blog is anything but long. In fact, 300 words is about the ideal size, but 400 to 500 words are okay. To get an idea of how many words 300 is, take a look at the first six paragraphs of this story and the three bullet points following them.
No, it’s not a daunting amount of words. A blog is just a short article. That said, you can occasionally grow your blogs to longer lengths if needed to cover a complex how-to topic. Here’s another idea: Break topics like that into two- or three-part posts to get more “mileage” out of them.
4. Use good blogging software
If your website doesn’t have a blogging function associated with it, you’ll have to secure one. Fortunately, there are a lot of great software packages to choose from that will tie into your website and act as your blogging tool: a place to write your content and publish the page to your site.
Here are five good programs to check out. Numerous reviews rate these tools at the top of the blog-software scale. WordPress is probably the best known, the most used and always gets high ratings. Blogger is good because it’s associated directly with Google.
- WordPress (wordpress.com)
- Blogger (blogger.com)
- Squarespace (squarespace.com)
- Tumblr (tumblr.com)
- TypePad (typepad.com)
5. Make your blog SEO-friendly
Once you have a good blogging tool working for you, you’ll be able to put the following Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies to work to help the search engines. This will drive traffic – potential customers – to your website and, ultimately, your range.
Meta Tags. “When you create your blog, don’t ignore that meta tag function your blogging platform should offer. Meta tags are the fuel that search engines look to first,” said Chris Baldock, another strategist at Brandpoint. “What’s more, meta tags are simple to fill out.” Find out more about meta tags here: www.brandpoint.com/help-consumers-find-you-3-ways-to-drive-website-traffic/
Google Authorship. “We live in a Google world. If you want to get more attention from the biggest and most powerful of the search engines, you need to set yourself up with a Google+ account and obtain Google authorship status,” advised Baldock. “Not only does this get you more attention from Google, but the ‘rich snippet’ created also adds credibility and authority to your blog (article).” Here’s more: www.brandpoint.com/build-your-brands-credibility-with-google-authorship/
Schema. “Schema helps search engines present better search results for their customers,” said Baldock. “Use this markup language to make sure your blog is easy for the search engines to find and read … which can push you up and ahead on the SERPs.” For details, see: www.brandpoint.com/how-to-use-googles-structure-data-markup-helper-to-add-schema-to-your-wordpress-blog/
The last words
You possess broad expertise, deep knowledge and abundant ideas regarding firearms and shooting. Your prospects are looking for information and insights on all aspects of the shooting sports. A blog is the perfect place to bridge that gap by answering questions potential customers might have and showing them you are a positive force in the shooting arena.
A simple blogging program produces multiple returns on the time invested: You build awareness for your range, gain credibility among the shooting public, establish authority and expertise on many topics related to guns—and make your range a place where shooters want to come to enjoy their favorite sport.