First Site Guide was lucky enough to get in touch with Joseph Hoffman of HoffmanAcademy.com to hear his story of getting online and what he has experienced along the way. He has been online for seven years now and he surely has few tips to offer to other music teachers who are thinking to start their own websites.
I’ve taught piano lessons for twelve years now. Six years ago I founded Hoffman Academy of Music, which now employs 11 teachers and serves over 260 students. As a music teacher, I developed my own piano method that builds a student’s ability to play both by ear and by sightreading. I’m also the creator of HoffmanAcademy.com, which offers 60 free video piano lessons to bring music education to a wider audience.
When did you realize the importance of being online?
When I moved to Portland seven years ago to start Hoffman Academy I knew I needed a website to be able to grow and reach customers. Having a website is an extremely important part of our marketing plan. It’s true that word-of-mouth is our number one source of new students, but the internet is our number two source. With the help of our website, we went from 0 to 270 students in six years. Later, when we decided we wanted to reach an even wider audience, we founded HoffmanAcademy.com, and now we teach thousands of students through our online video lessons.
Did you create your website yourself or did you have to pay for it?
My original website for the academy I created myself. My more recent website, HoffmanAcademy.com, I designed with a team of two other people, a web programmer and one of my teachers who is also a web designer. I continue to pay them for their work on maintaining the site and introducing new features.
Our first domain name, FreePianoLessons4Kids.com, had keywords in the domain name itself that told people exactly what we were offering, and also helped our google ranking. We recently changed our domain name to HoffmanAcademy.com because we had established ourselves on Google, and we wanted to shift the focus to a simpler, quickly recognizable branding, leave the door open for adding other instruments besides the piano, and not limit our audience to kids. Getting key words in your domain name is a plus, especially when you’re starting out, but it’s not the only thing that counts. Your domain name is part of your branding, and having it be something memorable and recognizable is just good marketing.
Which CMS – Content Management System do you use for running your website?
Our original website was on Homestead.com, but now we have switched to WordPress.
My online business has grown to the point that I’ve hired a few people to help me with creating posts and handling comments, so most of the time they take care of it. I think WordPress is pretty easy to for anyone to work with to do basic blogging, but still has a lot of power for customization if you know what you’re doing.
How much time do you spend on your blog?
I have a weekly telephone meeting with my copywriter which usually lasts around a half hour. My copywriter then spends another one to two hours creating each week’s post. It takes me a few minutes to review the post and email the copywriter about any changes that I want.
How do you promote your website and please tell us if the social media is important?
In the beginning I did some paid ads on Google Adwords, but I didn’t feel it was getting me enough additional traffic to justify the cost. What I’ve found most effective is to send emails to bloggers inviting them to review our online piano lessons and include giveaways or coupon codes. We get a new blog review about once a week, and that has definitely improved our ranking. Another thing we do is try to have consistent, high quality, new content on our website. If people find something we post really helpful, they do the promoting for us, and knowing that more good stuff is coming keeps people coming back for more. On our Facebook page we put up a post when there’s new content on the website, and we have also started using Twitter, but I don’t think these have been very big factors. Reaching out to bloggers and great content on our site are the most important.
Any time we get a new student through the website that’s a new revenue stream. On the HoffmanAcademy.com website we are selling printable materials that go along with my free piano lessons. So the answer is yes.
What would you say to all music teachers out there who still do not recognize the need for having their own website?
Having a website gives you a clear edge over the music teacher who doesn’t have one. These days, a lot of people find what they’re looking for via the internet. Most parents who are looking for a piano teacher will, number one, ask their friends and neighbors, and, number two, look online. So if you have a professional looking website you can make a great first impression on prospective customers.
Images © Hoffman Academy