Not long ago I created a list of the biggest Martial Arts websites in the world.
It’s interesting to see which websites found their way to the top, and figuring out why as you scroll through them, noticing common strengths that helped them to become the giants they are.
Naturally I decided to go through and look at all of them, and work out a few basic lessons you can learn and apply them to your website. So I won’t beat around the bush..
Every website except for 1 or 2 on this are updating every day or every few days with solid news or blog updates.
As a matter of fact, the top 14 sites are primarily news sites!
These frequent updates keep visitors receiving fresh, new information on regular basis and stops their website experience from getting stale. This ever growing state also helps elevate their rank in Google search and gives them plenty of information to share to their connected audience.
News is a big one, but it doesn’t always have to be news. Start a blog and write timeless articles, top list posts, and post up to date information relating directly to your club or business. Make a connection and give your audience something they’ll return for.
This leads to the following point…
Get Active on Social Media
Look at Sherdog, 180,000 likes on Facebook. The UFC? 18 Million!
When you’re updating frequently you need to send out your updates to a connected audience so they actually go onto your website and read it. Alternatively, you can just use social media like Facebook, Twitter or Google plus to send the update direct, but bigger pieces of news and articles are better handled by a website.
A strong social media following connects you to your audience, as they like and comment it spreads the word about your brand and also offers what’s called “social proof”. When enough people are publicly ‘liking’ your website or brand, then people feel less afraid to connect and publicly state their interest also. This is one less barrier between you and your potential audience, so you want your social media profile to look professional.
So it’s simple, start a Facebook page, that’s where most people hang out. If you’re serious, get onto Instagram, Twitter or Google Plus. Spread the word!
Social Media is an excellent marketing tool that builds a stronger online community. But there’s one more hidden tool these websites use that is more effective at driving website traffic and making sales / sign ups…
Offer an Email Newsletter
I’ve written about this before – Email newsletters are the more effective medium for reaching your audience (more on that here).
Social Media is way too busy these days and your update won’t reach everyone but an email will reach most people. The majority of the websites on this list have strong email lists as do the biggest businesses in the world. Think of all the email Amazon sends out!
Cut through the fluff and start sending out links to your updates via email. This is easy in the beginning, just head over to MailChimp and sign up for Free. You do eventually have to pay when you reach over 2000 subscribers but it’s an easy, and cost free way to get started. You can then implement the code onto your website or we can do it for you!
Drop some names
Here’s a few things to consider with all of these websites, they talk about celebrities in MMA, or they’re run by famous Martial Arts celebrities. Failing the ‘human name drop’, they’re massive organisations and quite often talk about their top competitors. Hell even the Aikido websites feature Morehei Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido).
So think about which people are most influential in your style or topic and post a few updates about them as they happen, or even consider posting info about relatively famous martial artists in your blog or news section to drive people to your site. The more significant the people are to the topic or martial arts style your website revolves around the better.
This can become a powerful promotional method if you happen to write something flattering someone influential in your style and tell them about it, they may share your article and website to an even bigger audience. This is another promotional strategy I have written about on We’ll Build Your Blog, called an ‘Outreach Post’.
This can be a powerful promotional tool.
Make use of Strong Branding
Every one of these websites had what appears to be a professionally designed logo. They also use a set variety of fonts, template and colour palette with the design to carry that logo and branding all the way through.
This branding is the look of a professionally designed website – as opposed to a ‘home job’.
This is a way of making visitors know who they are and keeping them comfortable with some simple visual consistency. This also helps people to know there are on the same website as they navigate through, whereas a different colour scheme and branding from page to page can create a visual discomfort and people step back and double check that they haven’t been taken some where else. In general, people don’t like that!
By keeping a consistent colour scheme, font and showing their logos on every page and network there’s never a question about who owns the website – so when you find the information you really want, you subconsciously know who delivered it to you. Without realizing it, next time you need similar information you will try to go back to that website for more.
You can take advantage of this by establishing a strong logo, colour scheme and fonts. We can also set this up for you when developing your website design.
Remember: busy isn’t always bad
Simplicity is usually the key to converting visitors, but busy can also be just as effective when used at the right times.
The advantage of simplicity is in that people land on your website, know exactly what to look at and you guide their eye toward the information they’re after. This is effective design, but to convert a visitor you must then guide the eye to your ‘call to action’ at the end of the information and offer the option in other areas your website visitors may look.
So if you have a single (or even just very few) end goals for the visitors of your website, whether it’s gaining an email subscriber, getting a sign up for a free trial at your club or selling a product, simplicity is about guiding traffic to the right exits, so you can easy entice visitors to do what you want them to do.
For most people, simpilicity is going to be the best option as it guides visitors toward a certain action, defined by you.
But most of these top websites are busy, so there are also advantages to having a busy layout. When people land on a busy home page, they often don’t know where to look and have to search through a series of image sand headlines to see what’s there. This allows you to offer many different stories, articles and videos all at once. The problem is that conversion can be harder to set up.
But a lot of these websites don’t require the user to subscribe, sign up or buy something – as a large number of them are simply offering a lot of news and articles monetized by ad space. Clicking on these ads and even just absorbing their message will be easier by chance as they blend in with the real content of the site.
Even the UFC and some of the other busy websites without ads are there primarily to keep the information flowing, as their product is outside of their website. So education, promotion of their product and the people involved is their goal. So they keep the information pumping out toward their users and ‘call to action’ conversion is less important.
So if you are selling ad space and simply promoting or sharing information with a website with no need to sell a product or sign someone up, a busy layout can be your ally.
Develop a Community
Want to know how these websites keep people coming back for more? Engagement and community.
When you visit these websites you’ll find that while the news is delivered ‘at you’, there is the option for there to be a discussion ‘with you’. Every news site has a comments section with each story where people get involved. The bigger ones quite often have forums so people can start discussions and you then start to get some regulars and outspoken people who not only add a human element to the website but create interesting content on their own through the discussion.
You can take advantage of this by simply having a blog with comments enabled. Want to take it a step further? Add a forum.
Then encourage discussion. End blog posts and news updates with a question for readers to answer. It could be a simple “what’s your opinion” question or you could ask “what was your first Martial Arts class like?”. Anything that encourages people to express themselves is a solid technique for engagement and community growth.
This all goes hand in hand with your social media and email subscription and cultivates better relationships with your audience.
Make your Website Easy to Navigate
Every website on the list we released has at the very top of the page a logo and navigation. Why? So you know exactly where you are (branding/logo) and how to get to any page on their website within a click. No scrolling.
Another great reason to have this at the top is that your website header, when using the logo and navigation as the primary elements, can be quite small and doesn’t invade to much of the space on your page. This allows you to also land the content right in front of the user by placing it just below.
Everyone wants a unique outstanding website but following the trend and putting these elements at the top of your page is a sure fire way to give your website’s users an easy way around. There’s no searching, scrolling and desperately trying to find a menu. Your navigation is always in the same spot, from website to website. You can try to be unique and ‘out there’ for that wow factor but I recommend sticking to the tried and true layout formula – logo and navigation at the top, content just below.
Put Featured Information “Above the Fold”
Before I even start I know a lot of people are asking “What the heck is ‘above the fold’?”
The fold is the bottom of your browser window when you first land on a web page – before you start scrolling. So anything that is ‘above the fold’ is visible on the page before having to scroll down.
While the fold can change from computer to computer, there’s a basic way you can keep your featured information above the fold – pop it directly under your navigation/header (as we discussed above). This means that when a reader lands on a your webpage, they can find the information they want to read about straight away, no searching.
A lot of websites and marketers put large featured offers above the fold and even above some of their more relevant content to advertise a small deal in exchange for an email subscription called a feature box. By putting this in front of people’s eyes they are forced to process it, so it can be effective on your homepage if it’s not too intimidating. Don’t do it too often though as some people may find it annoying and just bounce. Keep your individual page information as the main element above the fold and occasionally throw a ‘feature box’ above the fold.
Keep the Most Relevant or Newest Information on your Home Page
Your homepage is you introduction.
Even if a visitor lands on a page, blog post or news update, chances are they’ll dig for more information by going straight to your homepage. So introduce your website effectively on your homepage by very simply stating what the site is about, the main sections you want people to navigate to and your latest updates or a link to them.
There are so many different ways this is done on the internet!
The MMA news sites? MMA is in the logo, the updates are front and center so you know this is a place of news as the latest update is right in front of your eyes. Go to the Gracie Academy website and their latest videos are showcased in a slideshow, followed by a brief history of the academy below and down the page they mention their training programs.
Even Black Belt magazine shows off it’s news before trying to get you to buy from them – but above all of that is a small feature box offering a free guide in exchange for a subscription to their email newsletter (there’s that call to action!). THAT’s what they want you to do, so they can market to your on their email list while offering quality information. On top of the examples above a few websites (Judo International, Aikido Journal, etc) focus on their offer, a history on their organisations and eventually a mention of the blog and sometimes their latest entries.
In any case, a first time visitor learns what the website is about and how recent their latest update is, and gets an idea of how ‘alive’ the website is while a returning visitorknows straight away if there’s been an update since they last visited.
It’s a successful formula, I recommend doing something similar for your website because people want this information.
Become Vast Resource of Information
Every single one of these websites has an almost endless amount of information and is something of an authoritative resource for it’s main topic.
The news sites contain years of news history and updates along with forum discussions and ranking pages while the less news focused sites are jam packed with martial arts articles, techniques, information on key people, etc.
Having these large resources of information serves a few purposes. It creates authority and trust as it carries an almost ‘encyclopedia’ level of useful information. It gives users plenty to read and explore and it also gives Google and other search engines a LOT to list on their search results, granting the website high Page Rank and authority and therefore climbing the search results to get more targeted traffic (more visitors to your website!).
Keep your information base expanding. Keep publishing posts and news updates but also try creating ‘resource pages’ that are designed to havens of information people want. This can only be of benefit to the growth of your website and therefore your whole brand/club.
Give your Audience exactly what they want!
This is the most powerful lesson to be learned. If people want something from your site then giving it to them will make them very happy.
Happy visitors return, become family, they subscribe, they BUY. I know you can’t read minds but enter online communities that relate to your topic and see what questions are being asked – then answer them on your website and promote those answers where possible.
Every tip above is all about the delivering information so now we’re talking about the content you’re delivering. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is huge these days and consuming the world of sports – that’s why it’s no surprise that MMA news sites are the most successful in the world, liked or not.
This doesn’t mean start an MMA news section (unless you’re running an MMA website), it’s about discovering what people want the most out of your martial arts style/topic or niche and delivering that to them.
So you’ve learned the lessons, start applying them! If you found this article useful than please consider subscribing to my email newsletter below. Also, if you have anything you’d like to add (a 13th lesson?) please leave a comment below and let’s discuss this. I’d love to hear what you have to say!
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