If you don’t have a website presence then you miss out on a heap of potential leads because many people search online to find a driving instructor. Sure, you can continue with word-of-mouth, but that’s not viable for newer schools and, even for established schools, it’s not controllable or reliable. This article is in two sections:
- You don’t have a driving school website: what should you do?
- You already have a driving school website: what should you do?
Should you get a driving school website?
The short answer is yes, unless:
- you operate your driving school on contract to another company that gets the work for you and they forbid you to compete with them
- you are a driving instructor who gets all work via word-of-mouth and it’s more of a semi-retirement hobby
- you solely operate using social media and you’re finding that this pays for you (in which case you should purchase a domain name and redirect it there so that you can have email on a customised domain, which looks more professional [see below]).
Choose a good domain name or URL
This will be the website address where people find you. It helps if you have driving in the URL – don’t make people guess what you do when they see your website address written. Have a look at what your competitors are doing.
At minimum you should do this anyway and point it to your social media page if you have no intention of getting a website.
Choose the right technology
You’ll need to choose a content management system (CMS) that allows you to make changes to your website. Examples include WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and Weebly. With some of these options you’ll be able to make the website yourself, but it’s usually better to get a web design company to help you.
Plan it out
Look at what your competitors are doing, then make yours better. Plan out how people will interact with your website and what you’ll say on it.
Choose a good template
It saves time to start with a template in mind. You can use a website like TemplateMonster or Themeforest. Your web designer will be able to modify the theme to suit you. Keep the design simple and use colours that complement your logo and branding.
Do email properly
Don’t operate off a Gmail or Hotmail address as this looks unprofessional. Most website hosting accounts will allow you to have at least one email address related to your domain name. We use Google Apps to manage our email as it works in the Gmail interface but much better. To do this you’ll need to change the MX records for your domain name to point to Google. Even if you’re using a social media page as your de facto web page, having an email address on a dedicated domain name looks much more professional.
Treat your website as part of your marketing plan
Get the URL on your business cards and your car signage. Think about how you can use it to collect leads (e.g. you’ll want to have a form to capture enquiries, but you could also try using instant chat).
Don’t get sucked into spam emails promising directory submissions, first place rankings on Google and anything that sounds too good to be true.
How do you improve your driving school website?
Make your website faster
Slow websites are frustrating.
- Optimise your images – don’t use huge images on your page, and if you do, make sure they’re saved at 60-70% compression as JPGs to keep them as small as possible.
- Improve your hosting – if you’re using a cheap web host based in America, there’s a high likelihood the server will be overloaded with other sites and will be slow. Plus, if it’s in America, the data has to jump the Pacific Ocean, which takes valuable fractions of a second. Try moving to a premium Australian web host with a dedicated VPS or, if you are really serious, move to Amazon AWS using a Sydney-based server (this is an expensive option unless you can set it up yourself and really just for large national driving schools).
- Improve your hosting (the easy way) – use Cloudflare. There’s a free plan which is great. You could take the next step which is adding Argo for about US$7/month (we recommend that for all sites), or moving to a pro plan for about US$20/month (not necessary unless you get hundreds of thousands of visits a month).
- Test how your site performs and follow any recommendations using Google PageSpeed Insights.
Over half of all traffic is on a mobile phone, so you’ll need to ensure that your website is ‘responsive’. This means that the design adapts to work on a mobile phone, tablet or computer.
Is the objective clear?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: can they easily get to your contact details (e.g. on mobile you can have click-to-call on your phone number). Can they find out what areas you operate in? Are they able to contact you via email or a form? Can they find your prices and any specials easily? Can they making or amend a booking online?
Are you using social proof?
Get testimonials from your former clients to give an idea to new clients what they can expect from you. You should keep proof of the testimonial and have permission to use it.
If you take photos of your successful students holding up any personally identifiable info (e.g. on a driving licence, etc) make sure it’s obscured in the photo.
Connect your site to authority websites
Google likes it when:
- Credible websites link to your website
- You link to credible websites.
You’ll see in this article that I’ve linked out to a large number of credible websites. This puts me in a virtual ‘neighbourhood’. I don’t link out to non-credible websites. Some websites will link back to me when they find this useful, and that also puts them in a virtual neighbourhood.
If your website has very few links, you can put it in a neighbourhood by linking out to similar non-competing websites. For example, you could link to Roads and Maritime, this website, MyRTA, etc. This reinforces to Google the purpose of your website.
You can put your website in reputable directories, e.g. this one. Try to find niche websites that are helping communities, for example, this list of Indian driving instructors. If you are affiliated with a bigger school, make sure they list you on their website (if you’re allowed to have a separate website).
Use online advertising
Once you’ve honed your website into a lead-generating machine, you can use online advertising such as Google Adwords to help drive traffic to your website. Starting out in Google Adwords can be a little bit daunting so it is beneficial to get some help.