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October 13, 2015

Flight School Internet Marketing - Part I

So you want to promote your business. Chances are, your target market, new and existing pilots, will start their search for a flight school or flying club on Google. So if you do not have a website, you will need to make one pronto!

Starting a Web Site

Today, there are many sites that are available that provide you with easy-to-use tools to create a site. They are essentially, plug-and-play. These include Wix.com, GoDaddy.com sites, Wordpress.com, or the like. We have no opinion on any of these options, but they are all solid.

But even if you have a website, your target market might not find you, or worse yet, may find your competitors. So what are you to do?

The concept of “Search Engine Optimization”

Search Engine Optimization is, simply put, the art of building a site in a way that maximizes its chances of it appearing in the search results of your target audience. The goal is, when you search for businesses like yourself, that you find your site among the top-ranked search results. So how do you do that? First, you must identify what are they appropriate keywords and combinations thereof that prospective pilots would be searching for. Then, you have to build your site and its content around that keyword.

Typically, your target market for new pilots would consist of newbies to the business. They may not even know where the local GA airport is. Therefore, combining your general geographic location in conjunction with the words “Flight School” is probably best to attract these customers. As an example, your keyword would be “New York Flight School” if you were located in the New York-metro area.

If you are a flying club, or believe that your target market is a little more sophisticated, in that, they know where your flight school is – then, you should combine the name of the Airport with the term “Flight School” or “Flying Club” (i.e. “Van Nuys Flight School”).

Once you have decided on your keyword, you need to substantiate the page with content related to that keyword. Google has an advanced algorithm which looks at a page and decides whether it has valuable content. If your page just contains a few words, it might not consider it worthy. Therefore, if you are a “New York Flight School” your page should focus on your location and your business – flight school stuff (Pilots certification, training, school, planes, etc.). Make sure your keyword features prominently somewhere on your page, preferably the title. Your keyword should also appear in the Meta Title of the page – this is the highest title that shows up in the address bar when you visit a webpage. For example, if you go to www.aopa.org, the Meta Title is “General Aviation’s largest, most influential association in the world.” This happens to be not a good Meta Title as it is too long and not focused. Nobody will search for that. A better meta-title for www.aopa.org would be something like “General Aviation Association”. Similarly, your meta-title should be just the keyword you are looking for.

In Google and other search engines, content is king. After setting up your main page, you should really focus on creating additional quality web site content. Be descriptive and write well. Content examples include:

  • Describe each Pilot Certificate and what it allows a pilot to do.
  • Flight Lesson Plans
  • The Fleet – Describe each Aircraft in detail (look to your POH for inspiration)
  • Pilot Careers, etc.

Once you have created this additional content, do not forget each page that you create stands on its own in Google. Therefore, if you talk about “Flight Lessons” on a given page, you should have a different targeted keyword and Meta Title for that page that appears in Google. In this case, it should be “New York Flight Lesson.” The more inter-related content you have on a given site, and the more it is judged as quality content, and the higher you will rank in Google. As you add content, you will find that you will start ranking for derivative keywords you did not necessarily think of. If you wrote about the “Private Pilot” certificate, Google may associate you with “New York Private Pilot” based on the juxtaposition of your content with your location. That will drive even more traffic to your site. If you described each member of your aircraft fleet, then perhaps if someone is looking to rent a “Piper Arrow Teterboro Airport” will find you. Remember – each page should have different Meta titles and descriptions, and also make sure they capture the right keywords!

Finally, the Google Search Algorithm or GSA for short is the sophisticated piece of programming that decides whether your site is worthy of a high rank on its search index. One of the means in which it determines whether your site is worthy is to look at which sites are linking back to it (and add them together). Each site is assigned a relative popularity, or PageRank. If your Page Rank is high, it will be prioritized over other, not as popular sites using the same keyword. Depending on your market, there shouldn’t be many others competing for your keywords. However, a high PageRank will result in a higher ranking for your business across a broader range of keywords as generated by your content – and that equals more customers.

Some ways to improve your PageRank:

  • Create a Facebook business page and ask your existing customers to like it
  • Create a Twitter account for your business
  • Add your website link to directories – Aviation-related directories and Local directories would be best
  • Get your affiliates to link back to your site
  • Sign up for a www.holdshort.com account – your dedicated page will have a link-back

We hope you appreciated this article. This provides a foundation for you to begin your internet marketing quest, however, there are more nit-picky things you can do to increase your chances. Contact us if you wish to discuss this further. If you are a new or existing flight school or flying club, we ask that you consider joining our network. We will be focusing on driving more aviation business to your club or school.

August 14, 2015

Flight School Business -- Aircraft Utilization & Profitability

The desire of the owners and operators alike of Flight Schools and other aviation related businesses is to increase their respective Aircraft Utilization figures. The fact of the matter is, there are not enough Pilots and Student Pilots at times to occupy the aircraft and reach desired target utilizations for profitability. Based on certain assumptions and calculations, Aircraft generally “break-even” at approximately 20 hours of utilization. This is considering the Aircraft’s operating costs only (Fuel, Maintenance, Overhaul, Parking, & Insurance) – therefore, it does not contain any other overhead associated with maintaining an office, staff, licensure (Part 141), etc. Other costs would push the theoretical break-even point for an aviation business significantly higher.

While workers generally work for their employers a total of 8 hours per day (or more), Operators are happy if an Airplane works for them on average 3 hours per day for a total of 90 hours per month. That equates to 2 local flights or 1 typical cross country flight. A very low bar. Increasing Aircraft Utilization slightly to 4 hours per day or 120 hours per Month increases Net Margin by an estimated 30%. Therefore, even small improvements can have an incredible impact on the bottom line.  At Holdshort.com, we are keenly aware of the painful reality faced in aviation. We’ve had many new customers, Flight Schools, Flying Clubs, etc., who signed up, only to shutter their doors months later due to lack of profitability. Some do not even make it past our 60 day free trial period! Aviation is a tough business with razor thin margins. The challenge we all face is surmounting both high fixed costs and high variable costs! The only answer is to generate more business, and increase the gross profits. The bottom line is – Aircraft Operators need to get their Aircraft scheduled more frequently by more pilots.

Having just any old online scheduling system is good to encourage bookings, but it is not good enough. The business owner needs more marketing firepower. That is, something to drive more business for you. We are working on that. We believe we have found the solution to generate what amounts to “free” advertising and attract greater interest in your business AND get more people attracted to Aviation as both a career and a hobby. If our ideas deliver you one, just one additional flight hour per month than your current baseline, we have paid for you back for the cost of our system. But what if we are able to drive 20 or 30 more? Than we are providing an incredible return on your investment, which we would be more than happy to do. For more information, please contact us. We would love to discuss this with you.

Holdshort Aviation Systems, LLC support@holdshort.com +1 775-364-0660 Holdshort Aviation Systems, LLC
Aircraft Scheduling Software for Flight Schools, FBOs, Aircraft Clubs & Partnerships. Try it free for 60 days. Top-rated flight scheduler app.