You’re probably tired of stupid advice regarding how to get more piano students. Have you heard:
“Start a blog!”
Who’s gonna read it?
“Put up flyers in local churches and coffee shops!”
I mean, sure, if you want one student over the course of a year.
“Give away studio swag to your students! They’ll wear it to school!”
Ok, you literally have to have a bunch of students already to make that happen, and the point of this blog is to get piano students. From scratch.
And God forbid you’ve seen this bit of wisdom, published on a relatively popular website:
“Share one interesting fact every day on Facebook!”
My brain is melting.
First, The Value Proposition
You Have To Be Willing To Invest Money Up Front
If you think spending $1,000 on a professional website is too much, or if you can’t stomach paying someone to take high resolution pictures, stop reading right now — there’s really nothing of value that I, or anyone, can tell you.
This is a basic business principle. The annual value of a student is, at the low end, over $2,000, right? If it’s lower, you’re probably undercharging. So be willing to invest some money up front to grow your business.
This is what you see if you search for “piano lessons Philadelphia” (at least if you’re physically in the area):
Erika Gingery Music, the piano school I built with my wife, is dominating Google. We receive 30+ piano student leads per month from organic search alone. It is a priceless amount of “free” publicity, and I couldn’t begin to assign a monetary value to that #1 Google ranking.
BUT it cost thousands of dollars worth of professional SEO and PPC work (if I were billing a client, for instance), and it took time.
- 1 month before we started getting emails
- 3 months to reach the front page
- 6 months to claim the #1 overall ranking
Was it worth it? Even if we never reached the first page (let alone #1 overall), the answer is yes. It all paid itself off incredibly quickly.
With that said, here is how you can get more piano students, starting with the most important, lasting strategy – digital marketing.
How Do I Advertise Piano Lessons With Digital Marketing?
Website + SEO Optimization
Yes, the website part is obvious, but you have to take it seriously for two big reasons:
The way you build your site communicates your relevance to Google and other search engines, thereby helping you rank for your target keywords.
It communicates your brand and perceived value to potential customers. Believe me when I tell you that mothers with children, your biggest audience online, will pay higher lesson fees if they encounter a beautiful, professionally done website. All humans are inherently shallow.
Your site needs to have high resolution photos, testimonials if possible, and an easy contact method — and that’s just to help you convince people to contact you AFTER they find your site.
So how exactly does one build a website built to rank on Google? Here is a very high level list — I’m not getting into the nitty gritty details here, that’s what you hire people like me for.
Web Design + Web Development
Have a unique page for each of your business offerings.
This is not rocket science, but most of your competition is already failing at this. If you are a music school offering lessons on different instruments, your site should have a homepage optimized for “music school in [insert geo], and then additional sub-pages optimized for “piano lessons in [geo],” “voice lessons in [geo],” etc. Do not simply have a main homepage that tries to rank for all of the different types of lessons you offer.
If you are a single-instrument business (most commonly piano), then optimize the homepage for your target term.
Do Some Keyword Research
Use Google Keyword Planner or other keyword research tools to see what people are looking for. Is it “piano teacher Minneapolis,” “piano lessons Minneapolis,” or “Minneapolis MN Piano Lessons”? Believe it or not, there will be a significant difference. And picking the correct phrase to optimize for will directly impact your revenue.
Write Good Page Titles and H1s
Once armed with keyword research, you can plug those phrases into the
<meta description>, and
<h1> tags on your website. If you have a WordPress site, get the Yoast SEO plugin — it’ll make your life easier.
Write Enough Content On Your Pages
You won’t rank #1 in your city for piano lessons if you only have 300 words on the page. It’s just a fact. Write 600+ words of good, relevant content, organized with sub-headings and such, so Google can really get a feel for the relevance of your site. If your local competitors all have 600 words already, you’ll have to do even more (unless your backlink profile is awesome, which we’ll get to in a bit). Also, don’t torture your audience with fluff — Google doesn’t like fluff either. Have meaty content, like your teaching philosophy, the kinds of music you teach, your certifications, the neighborhoods your serve, etc.
Your Site Has To Be Technically Sound to Rank Well
This is a huge topic, but in short, you can’t have technical issues on your site if you want to be rewarded by Google. It has to be mobile-friendly, fast, protected by a SSL certificate (https://), and free of broken links and pages (404 errors).
Pro tip: make sure you compress all of your images. Just do a Google search for “tool for compressing jpegs” or whatever, and you’ll find something. Images slow your site down more than you think.
Getting Backlinks For Your Music Teaching Business
Again, this is another huge subject, but I’ll touch on a few items. Start with this Google search:
+business+directory+[your city name]
Paste all of those results into a spreadsheet, and get to work building directory listings. In your listing, include your Business Name, Address, Phone Number, and Website URL.
Now, follow that same process for these searches:
+piano teacher +directory
+music teacher +directory
You may have to pay for a listing with a link here and there, but it won’t break the bank, and it’s worth it.
Another great way to get backlinks is to put on a local recital. If you’re a musician you should be doing this anyways, right? Go about it by writing a blog post about your upcoming music event, then find local event websites like phillyfunguide.com or upcomingevents.com and build a listing there. You can even do a search for +[city name}+event+blog and reach out to writers and site admins about covering your event. You’re not asking to write some spammy “guest post” here, it’s reach, genuine PR. Of course, ask for a backlink to the event page on your website.
There’s so much more that goes into backlinking, so if you want to talk more, shoot me an email.
Your Content Strategy
Once you have your core site built, you can start writing blog posts and other pages. A blog can help boost your credibility, it has SEO value because you can use it for “internal linking,” and you might even get some more organic traffic. But choose your topics carefully.
If you publish things like “how do I make my child practice the piano?” or something like that, you will never get traffic. Those high-level posts have been written time and time again, and besides, even if you did get traffic for them, those readers probably aren’t local prospective students.
Write local blogs, because you want local students. For instance, I’m getting traffic for a post entitled “Music Classes for Toddlers & Preschoolers in Philadelphia: A Guide.” We don’t offer those classes, but we did those readers a favor, they now know we exist, and they may send their child to us in a few years.
Local SEO + The Value of “Near Me Searches”
Most searches for local services actually include “near me” in the query, and far more people search for “piano lessons near me” than “piano lessons [insert city].” And when someone searches for that, Google rewards proximity. Hence the need for a strong local seo strategy.
The first thing you can do for Local SEO is to include your name, address, and phone number, in that order, in your website’s footer (it’s called a NAP listing).
Once that’s done, go to Google.com/business. If Google has already detected your business, you’ll have to follow the steps to “claim” your listing. If you don’t exist in Google’s map pack already, you’ll have to build a listing from scratch. It’s easy — just follow the steps Google places in front of you.
The key is that the name, address and phone number present in your GMB listing have to exactly match the name, address, and phone number shown on your website. Additionally, as you build citations in directories across the internet, they also have to match your GMB listing exactly. This will help your rank higher in local search.
Since Google rewards proximity for local searches, your listing will show up in the map pack if you are relatively close to the individual making that search. So even if you don’t have the firepower to rank on the first page of Google’s organic SERPs in the near future, you WILL get students through the map pack just because potential students are searching for lessons nearby.
Other Local Directories
The main point of signing up for directory listings is to get backlinks and local citations (instances of your Name, Address, and Phone Number across the web), but there are actually local directories that normal people use to find business services. For instance, if you live in South Carolina, you may have seen kiddingaroundgreenville.com — it’s a directory that actually sends a good bit of traffic to local businesses. Same with afterschoolplus.com, and probably other local directories that you can dig up. You’ll have to do some Google searches to find directories local to your city, but they are definitely out there.
Google Ads (Formerly Adwords)
I’ve strategized $6 Million+ in Google Ads budget for myself and clients since 2016, so I obviously have an affinity for pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. It’s not exactly easy to be successful with Google Ads, but it drives excellent results, and you have lots of control over where your ads go.
The most straightforward kind of ppc advertising on Google is the Search Ad option, which you’ve undoubtedly seen:
This screenshot is a great example of two businesses who should NOT be running their own Google Ads. First of all, I was sitting in Philadelphia, PA when I searched for “piano lessons Chicago” — I just wanted to see if anyone had their targeting wrong.
Sure enough, here are two studios bleeding money without a lead to show for it. You can’t just set your location in Google Ads; you have to go to >”settings” >”location options” and select the “People in or regularly in your targeted locations” option. Otherwise Google will show your ads out of state.
To be fair, I’ve run some campaigns in other cities intentionally, because you can build audiences of people who are looking to move into your city. This is an advanced technique though, and I don’t recommend starting there.
The second issue with the above screenshot is that a Suzuki school is advertising violin lessons — I mean, c’mone. That’s more money flushed right down the toilet.
Set up an ad group with only “piano lesson” terms, set negative keywords for terms like “cheap,” “free,” and other undesirable searches, and write ads that closely relate to the terms you’re targeting. Also, I recommend putting your lesson fee in the ad text — you want to dissuade unqualified prospects from clicking on your ad (and costing your money) in the first place if they couldn’t afford your services.
Google Display Advertising
You can use Google’s “custom audience” feature to literally upload a list of targeted keywords, and Google will show your ads to an audience of people who have recently been searching for those keywords (or are likely to search for them). And these clicks only cost about $0.75 apiece. Here’s the thing — you need to look at the “where my ads showed” report almost every day, and you need to exclude all mobile app placements from your campaign. Otherwise, your budget will get eaten up by spammy websites and mobile games.
Retargeting via Google Ads
If you are spending money on advertising, you need to make sure the Google Analytics pixel is installed on your website — that way you can build retargeting audiences in Google Analytics, and when a user visits your site, you can create a display ad campaign that will follow them around the internet, keeping your brand top-of-mind. These retargeting impressions and clicks are about $0.20 each, so they are basically free.
Social Media Marketing For Music Teachers
First of all, I cannot stress enough that you should not worry about running Facebook or Instagram ads until you’ve figured out all of the above. Your organic traffic, Google My Business traffic, and Google Ads traffic should be the core of your lead generation.
Also, you do not need a Facebook page or Instagram account to make a significant living as a piano teacher. Your website and GMB listing, if done correctly, will give you more than enough credibility.
That said, it can be worth maintaining a social presence, especially if you are trying to build a larger operation — classes, a retail location, etc. It’s a good way to project your culture and convince someone to sign up after they’ve already found your business via organic search or Google Ads. It’s just that you won’t get a high number of actual new leads from social media (people aren’t searching for “piano teachers near me” in the Facebook search bar).
So when it comes to organic social, use it to enhance and project your brand. Ask existing students to leave reviews, upload photos (without plastering children’s faces across the internet without their consent), announce events, and post tutorials if you’d like. This is all “fluff,” and it won’t directly increase your revenue, but it’s no skin off your back.
You can also find local neighborhood Facebook groups and ask the admins if you can post a link to your website – you never know unless you try.
Along those lines, see if your new neighborhood has a NextDoor.com group — if so, post about your piano lessons.
Should Piano Teachers Have a Youtube Channel?
Yes. The reason is similar to the above — you won’t attract new leads here, but it can help people who have already found you to “convert” into students. It’s an extra bit of persuasion. In fact, make sure you’ve uploaded high quality performance videos to Youtube and Instagram before you even worry about other organic social content.
This is because people (especially affluent parents) LOVE hiring teachers who can actually play — Obviously, someone who can’t play the piano at an advanced level has absolutely no business teaching the piano. This isn’t rocket science. I’m not saying that a good singer, for instance, can’t give advice on musicality to a pianist, but they shouldn’t be someone’s main teacher.
Also, I’m not referring to the quintessential small-town pianist who plunks out some chords in church and also teaches the neighborhood kids on the side. We’re talking about building a significant business here.
Facebook Advertising for Piano Teachers
If you’ve exhausted every other channel, you have a good lead flow, and you’re ready to try something new, now is the time to play around with Facebook ads.
Important caveat – Facebook is a stupid platform run by an evil android of a human, and it literally robbed thousands of good, talented people of their jobs by blatantly lying about their video impressions to pump up ad revenue. Sadly, millions of people still use Facebook. Therefore I, an advertising expert, have no choice but to engage with it.
Facebook Ad Advice #1 – Don’t simply “promote” or “boost” your organic posts through your Facebook business page. Go to business.facebook.com and set up an Ad Account, then hook that up to your business page using the page ID. You’ll have access to the full suite of Facebook advertising tools.
Facebook Ad Advice #2 – Install the Facebook pixel on your website, then build a remarketing audience of people (in Facebook Business Manager) who have visited your site. So if someone visits your website, then visits Facebook later, they’ll see an ad for your business.
Facebook Ad Advice #3 – Use that remarketing audience to build a “lookalike” audience (according to FB’s algorithm), then test an ad campaign to that group.
Facebook Ad Advice #4 – Measure your return on investment (ROI). You need to track your paid Facebook traffic in Google Analytics and keep a close eye on how many leads are coming from those campaigns; Facebook clicks are more expensive than you’d think, and if you find that it’s more expensive to convert cold leads from Facebook than it is from Google Ads, than you need to re-allocate your advertising budget.
Don’t burn money on Facebook just because some blog out there said “drrr…try facebook!…”
The “Real” World: Networking With Other Piano Teachers
Networking For Piano Teachers
If you are new to an area, or you are just getting started, you have nothing to lose by sending friendly emails to other area teachers.
This just happened to us, actually. A recent doctoral school graduate got in touch, introduced himself, said he was new to Philadelphia, and related that he’d like to meet other teachers and get a private studio off the ground. Was I annoyed by his email? NO! I am not a sociopath. I thought it was a smart move on his part, and we started working out a referring agreement almost immediately.
That brings me to point number two – please grow up and be willing to pay a referral fee. Every other business niche does this.
If another teacher has a surplus of leads that they can pass along, they earned those leads. It could cost you months of work to rank well on Google, or you might pay $75+ per lead on Google Ads. Also, as we discussed earlier, the annual value of a student should be north of $2K. So you should be more than happy to pay a referral fee for a pre-qualified lead from another teacher. I’d say you should be willing to offer at least $100 per lead, if not more (it costs more through advertising, and you can’t pre-qualify the lead).
Please do not make a fool of yourself like this guy who recently emailed this to us:
“Hi Erika, unfortunately I’m not interested in paying you (or anyone) for referrals and to be honest it’s rather off-putting that you’d even make that suggestion. If my studio was full or if I couldn’t take on a new student because of scheduling problems I would refer them to someone whose abilities I trust and would of course not ask for any money. I get it, you’re trying to be a shrewd businessperson, but if you’re at all interested in making positive connections with other piano teachers in town my advice would be to simply make those connections by meeting and talking to people rather than first approaching someone you don’t know to try to get them to pay you. Maybe one day your studio will not be “full” and if it’s not then I bet you’d appreciate free referrals from people that know and trust you. People will do that for you if you do it for them.”
Networking With Non Pianists
Take your friendly neighborhood outreach email and repurpose it for local Kindermusik teachers, guitar teachers, singers, etc. — people regularly ask for referrals to piano teachers. Again, you have nothing to lose by doing so!
Join MTNA and Other Associations
Is there a referral chair in your local MTNA chapter? If so, fire off an email. MTNA is also a good way to meet other teachers who can send referrals, if you can survive the luncheons and conference presentations.
Other Online Advertising Methods
Should You Advertise Piano Lesson on Yelp?
While you do need to build a free Yelp listing (and solicit some Yelp reviews) for credibility, please do not get sucked into their paid lead generation service. I have tried it so you don’t have to — it’s terrible. Their sales people will call and harass you nonstop, and after several hundred dollars in advertising fees, you may not have a single student to show for it. I think the underlying issue here is the type of person who will contact you through Yelp; the persona may be one of a tire-kicker, simply filling out forms left and right to find the cheapest rate.
Should Teachers Use Thumbtack?
Again, I don’t think this is worth your time. You’ll be competing against a long list of unqualified teachers who are asking for something like $17 for 30 minute lessons, and as a result, Thumbtack attracts piano lesson bargain hunters.
Advertising Piano Lessons on Craigslist and Classifieds
Unless you have more money than you know what to do with, don’t bother doing classified ads, magazine ads, or anything in a traditional print medium. Your money is better spent on digital.
I have a good bit of experience with Craigslist, both from the perspective of someone trying to find jobs, and someone trying to hire folks for jobs (copywriting gigs, if you must know). Let me just say that if you want to feel depressed about the state of humanity, try to find work through Craigslist! You really do get what you pay for in this world.
How Do You Track the Results?
I touched on this earlier, but you need to use Google Tag Manager to install Google Analytics on your website. You can use this software to see where you web users are coming from and how they are interacting with your site, and this is how you should make business decisions going forward.
For instance, you can see that referral traffic from Bing stays on your website for an average of 5 minutes, those users click through to your contact page, and 10% of them fill out the form. That’s good info to have!
In summary, you need to:
- Decide early on that you will invest in a quality web presence. It will pay itself off in spades, and the opportunity cost of going cheap at the beginning is brutal.
- Invest your advertising dollars in real SEO and Google Ads.
- Use Social media only as a way to project credibility, not to produce cold leads.
Just get started — If you had invested in SEO five months ago, you’d be getting organic leads right now. Don’t make the mistake of delaying.
Get in touch, and let’s get you some students.