I love helping teachers create their own online platform. There are so many ideas and creative elements that we as teachers want to showcase, and building a site using WordPress (WordPress.org not WordPress.com) allows anyone to realize those ambitions without having to learn how to code.
Sometimes though, because WordPress can do almost anything, you can get caught up in the things that aren’t important. Instead of focusing on what matters, it is easy to get swept away in something that, in many cases, gets in the way of what you’re trying to achieve.
Going through the process of creating sites with different teachers, and having built many sites for myself and others, I see common mistakes being made when teachers are setting up their own online platforms.
This post is mainly for those who want their website to be a tool to get more students for their one-to-one lessons. But, I hope that it will also be useful for other ELT sites, such as teaching blogs.
So, if you are thinking of starting a new site, or want to improve your current one, here are the six mistakes to avoid.
1. Using a Free Domain Name
I strongly recommend getting your own domain name and hosting your site with Bluehost or a similar provider. Using a domain name like yoursite.wordpress.com or yoursite.blogspot.com not only makes you look unprofessional in the eyes of your potential students, but also means that you are putting all your content onto a site that you don’t own.
I’m pretty sure that the free blogs provided by WordPress.com and Blogspot aren’t going anywhere soon, but there have been too many examples of free hosting services or blog platforms suddenly shutting down, leaving their users angry and confused.
Getting your own domain name and installing WordPress (WordPress.org) is really easy to do and shouldn’t cost more than $60-80 per year to keep running. To get you started, here is a new trick that I’ve found: enter “Godaddy $0.99” into Google search, and you should see a link that takes you to a special landing page where you can get a domain name for $0.99 for the first year.
(NOTE: If you have or want to create a blog for other teachers, then having a free blog works fine in some cases. However, it does look better and is safer to have your own domain name and use a hosting service.)
2. Not Showing Your Audience Who You Are
When creating a website for your online lessons, you may not feel comfortable including details and pictures about yourself. I was really hesitant to do this when I first created my site, but I soon learned something really important which made me get over my fears:
Students buy into the teacher and want to make a connection with you.
They won’t be able to do this unless you put yourself out there. When creating the copy for your website, you not only need to make it about your students (more about this later), but also about you. Talk about your experience, your skills, and you as a person, and don’t be afraid of linking all of these together and packaging them in a way that make visitors to your site get excited about working with you.
To go that extra mile, make a few video that talks to your learners directly and place them on your site. Words and images can only do so much, and you’ll find that including videos will dramatically boost your conversions.
I’ve only recently started making videos. At first, I hated seeing and hearing myself on camera, but after a little while this feeling disappeared. Just try it out and let those inhibitions fade away and enjoy the creative process.
3. Getting Too Fancy
As an introduction to this point, I’d like to share with you a page that I came across recently.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you use a design as simple as that page. But, this example shows that words are the most important thing to focus on; your design should be used as a way to support your message.
Having a simple and great looking design is easy with all the beautiful themes that are now available. You can browse through the different options and choose a layout that best fits what you want to achieve.
The problem usually comes when you start realizing that there is a plugin for everything, and you feel the urge to add all of those fancy features.
Additionally, it’s easy to get carried away with the design by adding too many colors and images, and using fancy fonts.
Doing this usually just gets in the way of your message.
When thinking about adding a design element to your site, ask yourself the following: “Is what I’m including improving the experience for my visitor and does it help me achieve my ultimate goal?”
If the answer is “no”, don’t include it.
4. Not Highlighting the Problems and Learning Goals of Your Students
The best way to resonate with your potential students is to tap into both the problems of your audience (the frustrations of the learners in your teaching niche), and their English language goals. This is done through the copy that you put on your site.
I feel that the main job of a one-to-one English language teacher/consultant is to find out what those problems are, and to create a plan of action that will help the student achieve their goals.
To do this effectively you need to put yourself in the shoes of the learners in your niche and ask the following questions:
– What problems do my learners have?
– What are their language learning goals?
– What do they need to do to achieve them?
It might take some time to adequately answer these questions, but it is worth it if you really want to make a connection and have your message resonate.
Once you have gone through this, base your website copy on the answers that you come up with. Make your visitors feel that you know what it is like to be in their position, and clearly explain how you can help them finally achieve their English learning dreams.
5. Making It Difficult for the Visitor to Do What You Want Them to Do
As we’re focusing on offering one-to-one lessons and converting as many students as possible, you shouldn’t shoot yourself in the foot and waste all of your hard marketing work by making it difficult for your potential students to request a lesson with you.
In addition to creating copy that resonates, keep things simple and include a clear call to action. This usually comes in the form of a button to click that takes the user to a new page where there is a form to fill out.
Don’t confuse your student with too many choices either. Having seven different packages to choose from can create “analysis paralysis.” Make it clear which action you want your user to take, and set up your site in such a way so that everything leads to this desired result.
6. Not Building Your Subscriber Base
I’ve definitely been guilty of this one, and it has meant that I’ve had to play catch up. Not having the ability for my website visitors to subscribe has meant that I have missed out on hundreds, if not thousands of sign ups.
The reason that starting an email list and encouraging sign ups is so important is because communicating by email is much more effective than through sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Myspace is a good example that highlights how having a big following on a specific platform might be more or less useless one day.
An email list stays with you forever, and is the the number one way to engage with your audience. Having subscribers who trust you enough to give you their email address means that you don’t have to rely on external sources to stay in the minds of your potential students.
There is a place for social media, and I highly recommend that you use it to attract new visitors to your site and interact with your followers. But, it doesn’t come close to the power of email.
I use Aweber for this site and I have recently introduced it on my teaching site. To start an email list and to interact with your subscribers:
1. Sign up for an account with Aweber (it’s $1 for the first month).
2. Follow the instructions to create your list and to introduce a sign up form.
3. Place the form on your blog.
When someone signs up, they’ll receive your blog updates, general messages, or a series of emails that are pre-written and automatically sent out.
I now add those who request a trial lesson to my subscriber list. Doing this ensures that those who don’t go on to take lessons with me will receive my email updates.
Don’t wait to start building your email list; do this as soon as you start your teaching website or blog.
If you want to learn how to create your own site, then follow my step-by-step guide on how to do this using WordPress.
And, if you have any questions regarding this topic, then become a subscriber and get in contact with me. I’d love to help you get your site up and running.