Bridgewater Riding Club Website

In my spare time, other than cycling, I am a committee member of Bridgewater Riding Club. Bridgewater is a grass roots riding club based in Northwich, Cheshire offering Show Jumping, Working Hunter, Showing, Equitation & Family rings.

My job on committee (since I don't know a great deal about horses) is naturally looking after the website and advertising. This is a hobby project with no input from work at all. I use it to experiment with my ideas and practice what I'm learning. Needless (and proudly) to say we are getting some fantastic results.

Website traffic is up 45% on last year. We are now achieving on average 2,500 hits a month with 46% being new visits. Importantly our bounce rate (people clicking on and clicking straight off) is 0.56% with people spending on average 3 minutes 11 seconds on site, viewing 6.50 pages on a visit. 16,291 pages were viewed in February alone (a quiet time of the season too) and last week we saw traffic up 75% alone!

I'm delighted! The stats show people are visiting, finding the content relevant and having a good look around. Our data capture form performs superbly, we have a lovely database now and entries for the first show were fantastic (up 75%!).

I rebuilt the website from scratch last year using a Wordpress CMS and free template from Woo Themes. From day one I've been mindful of optimising the website for search. I spent a huge amount of time researching key terms. It was important for me to get the website listed in important local terms around Cheshire (as for a relatively small riding club it is rare for people to travel more than 30 miles).

I'll admit that this blog performs terribly. Bounce rate is at 75% with people spending about a minute on average each visit, with a 1000 views a month. That is because this blog has not a lot relevance. I touch on a whole manner of subjects, primarily cycling and marketing, and not one sole key area. Bridgewater Riding Club meanwhile is devoted to equestrianism and the local area. Relevance is key, but that is basic business marketing at the end of the day.

Getting Social

Another important area for us is Social Media. Not many riding clubs get involved with their members, something that both the Chair and I wanted to focus on. We've made it easy for people to get in touch. The website allows members to comment on anything. We are very open. Anyone who contacts us gets a constructive, positive response within 24 hours.

The website being Wordpress based allows people to comment on any post. We get asked questions before hand, receive feedback afterwards.

We were the first, and still one of only a few, Riding Clubs on Twitter. Twitter has brought a lot of interest to the club. Interestingly the interest hasn't really been from competitors (I still feel that our target in this area of 14 - 18 years old still don't get Twitter. I see a lot of people setting up accounts and giving up within a few weeks). However commercially it's been great, we've been getting press calls recently, more store traders coming to the shows and impressively the riding club was featured in Horse & Hound the other month!

I find Facebook to be far more effective with our target audience. Young teenagers (and Mum's!) spend a lot of time on Facebook. Now the website is rolling along nicely, this year I'm working on developing our Facebook page. We are currently set up as a group, and I'll be moving us to a fan page soon.

Setting up individual Facebook event pages has been great. This brings a lot of hype to the event, hopefully once the season gets going we will see more activity.

Our pictures and video pages perform highly each and every month. An area we will be working on later in the year.

All our efforts saw us nominated in the Equestian Social Media Awards alongside eventing giants Badminton, Your Horse Live! and Burghley!!

In Conclusion

I think what I'm trying to demonstrate here is: understand your target audience, do your research, start from the bottom up and for anyone out there who has a small business and doesn't think they can mix it up with the big boys, then can think again. A small riding club in Cheshire was featured in a national weekly magazine to thousands of readers!

Before a Horse had even trotted onto the show field we had 75% more pre-entries and 90 memberships (in previous years we would have been happy with 90 in a whole season!). The first show was a huge success, welcoming a huge amount of new visitors. The committee worked incredibly hard and did a great job. In short it was record breaking.

Although as a business you would seek the services of an agency to complete the design and build (and most probably look to them for a Social Media strategy), all this was achieved within 2 years with me working on the site in my spare time.

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