Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Finding Students For You–the bigger picture

First, thanks to Stephane, Betty, James, and Lynda for new comments this week on Playing with Students at Lessons, and thanks to Betty and Jan for comments, some of them pretty detailed, on Collecting the Benjamins (about collecting lesson payments from students). Feel free to comment on any blog articles, however old, in the archive; I will call your attention to new comments made on any article, so they won’t be buried.

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About 6 weeks ago, I wrote “Finding Students For You” about one website that helps students find music teachers. This time, I’ve looked at a number of them, and even conducted a little search-engine survey to help you consider which sites to try.

In thinking about these teacher-student matchmaking sites, it occurred to me that teacher needs are quite different from student needs. Students will want to look for teachers at sites that host the most teachers, so as to get the broadest selections. But as a teacher, you will do better with a site that has fewer teachers from your area, so that when a student looks for a teacher in your area, you show up in as short a list as possible.

There are a few other factors, of course. Some sites are free; others are not. Some have additional services you might find useful. Some are easy to use; others are inconsistent in their search results. Some search results are alphabetized, others randomized, others put premium customers at the top or give them first rights to answer inquiries.

Maybe most important, though, is whether students will actually find the website in order to use it and then find you. To address this question, I offer you my little survey, below. As we all know, internet search results can change from week to week, and on different search engines, but here’s a snapshot of how the teacher-finding sites stack up in Google searches.

What I did was to search for a number of possible search terms, combining words like music, piano, violin, voice, guitar, fiddle and others, with words (in both singular and plural) such as lesson, instructor, instruction, teacher, etc.

I assigned point values so we could compare the sites: if a search result was in the top 3 items on p. 1, it got 7 points. Elsewhere on p. 1–6 points. An ad on p. 1–5 points. Then for pages 2 to 5, decreasing points–4,3,2,1. Here are the results:

First place was originally LessonPortal.com, but this was entirely because of ads, and therefore not representative of what the average student might view on a search results page–it has been pointed out that ads are inconsistent from day to day and place to place.  This site has free teacher listings, and few music teachers listed, since it’s only a few months old.  Also lists acting and dance instructors. $10 Premium membership allows mp3s and videos.

PrivateLessons.com — 39 points, including 4 times when it showed up as one of the first three listings on p. 1. This site is $99 a year, and has a fair number of teachers, especially in urban areas. A members’ calendar of events and a blog are offered.

ClickForLessons.com — 28 points, from listings on pp. 2-5 of various search results. Free listings. The search process is more specific to the age, location, and interests of the student, which might result in more serious inquiries. A moderate number of teachers, weighted more heavily in certain cities. Offers a fair number of dancing and acting teachers as well.

Tied at 18 points: MusicStaff.com and Lessons4you.com — both of these got some of their points from p. 1 listings in search results.

MusicStaff.com showed up near the top of p. 1 when searching for both “music teacher” and “music lesson”. This site offers free listings, and comes up with a pretty good number of teachers in the zipcodes I checked. They say they have over 15,000 teachers in their database. Its “teachers’ lounge” offers articles about music teaching. $25 Premium listing puts you at the top of the search results.

Lessons4you.com has a moderate number of teachers, and lists them in the order in which they signed up for a listing. There is a one-time $10 listing fee for teachers. The site is more or less text-based, and the home page is a little offputting because unless you scroll down, it looks like you need to login in order to use the site.

GetLessonsNow.com — 16 points, with a couple of ads, and a first page listing. Listings are free. This is actually one of the nicer looking sites. Students can post requests for all to see, for 30 days, though requests can only be viewed by registered teachers. Site appears to have few teachers (which may be a plus for teachers, see comments above).

Interesting quirks include the fact that pianoteachers.com came up on p. 1 of the search results when searching for “piano teacher” but did not appear when searching for “piano teachers”, “piano lesson”, “piano instructor”…you get the idea.

This seems to be a fast-growing service, and with all the free listings, it probably doesn’t hurt to be listed in a number of these sites. It would be great to hear from anyone who has actually used them successfully (or not–either way would be interesting to hear about!)

About the Author

Ed Pearlman
Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the countr... [Read more]

20 Comments

  1. Steven Cox

    Hey Ed,

    Thanks for the mention above.

    It is true that the usefulness of a site is directly correlated to the number of instructors on the site. It’s called the ‘network effect’, which simply put, means that a site’s value is directly proportional to the number of people using it. In a marketplace environment (such as a marketplace for teachers and students), one must have a user base of both sides of the market to make it useful.

    Following the above assumption, the next step to your post was the methodology of assigning a score to sites based on what page the site is shown on Google. This methodology is flawed in the fact that you weighted a paid ad the same weight as an organic search listing. Google shows different ads to different people based on geographical area. You are based in Utah. A Google search done in Utah will provide a very different set of advertising results than another search in any other city around the nation. Thus, it is very easy for a site to manipulate the ad results to show higher placement within any geographical area. Within any given hour, any site can show up on top of the Google search results – it’s a matter of changing a couple bidding numbers on your Google Adsense account.

    It’s completely irrelevant to 99.5% of the USA.

    I encourage your readers to do the same testing for their respective areas. In our area of San Diego, New York, and Dallas, your first selection of LessonPortal didn’t show up in the first 20 pages. This is because they are not ranked, not tested, and have zero traffic. Have your readers check the follow site statistical tool called alexaholic. It combines the most widely used free tracking mechanisms available to give some indication of a site’s traffic.

    Check out Alexaholic.com

    Click on the “RANK” tab. As you can see from the above link, none of the sites you mentioned are even in the top 100,000 of sites except Click For Lessons. Occasionally, our worthy competitor, PrivateLessons breaks into the top 100,000 for a week or two, but then drops back out. We’re ranked 28,000, making us a top 5% of all web sites in terms of traffic.

    It’s curious to us that you rank a site with no traffic, no teachers, and no track record on the top of the list. The results do indeed seem very odd.

  2. Steven Cox

    Hey Guys, it’s Steven again. The URL didn’t copy above, so I wanted to post it directly from Alexa so the readers can review for themselves.

    http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details?q=&url=www.clickforlessons.com

    From here, you can place the other sites in the comparison boxes (or add your own site as well), and you can see the individual site comparisons.

    Hope this helps.

    ~sc

  3. Ed Pearlman

    Steve–you have a good point about the unreliability of ads, so I’ve revised the listing about LessonPortal.com. But I find the Google search results to be fairly consistent and relevant to the usefulness of a service site. I hope you noted that the previous blog about finding students was all about ClickforLessons. I couldn’t get Alexa, Alexaholic or Statsoholic to work on my machine. By the way, I’m not in Utah; I’m in Maine, and we get a lot of ads aimed at the Boston market.

  4. Jeff Brent

    There is a relatively new music teacher referral service online that all music teachers should be warned about.

    The site is GetLessonsNow.com and here is what you should know about their deceptive business practices:

    In their terms of agreement, it states that “We reserve the right to use members’ profile content to promote the GetLessonsNow.com website.” And of course “You agree to indemnify GetLessonsNow.com and its affiliates, agents, officers, employees and partners from any damages, losses, costs, or expenses incurred through the use of the Site or any services contained therein.”

    You’ll notice the provision “We reserve the right to use members’ profile content to promote the GetLessonsNow.com website.” Well, here is how they are using YOUR profile data to promote THEIR site.

    For each music teacher registered with them, they set up an ad with “Google Local” with YOUR name and address, but with THEIR toll-free number (866) 262-9336!

    And they do it WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE OR EXPRESS PERMISSION, even though it states explicitly in their terms of agreement “If we propose to use this type of Personal Information for purposes outside of those described in this Policy, we will give users the opportunity to opt out of the use of such Personal Information for these purposes.”

    If GetLessonsNow.com had given me the opportunity to “opt out” of their putting up an ad on Google in my name with THEIR phone number instead of MINE I certainly would have opted out!

    This is not merely a naive oversight on GetLessonsNow.com’s part. During their signup process they NEVER EVER ASK YOU FOR YOUR PHONE NUMBER. This is all part of their errant business plan designed solely to increase their ranking.

    How does having a Google ad in MY NAME with THEIR TELEPHONE NUMBER benefit me?

    Answer: IT DOESN’T!

    A potential student finds ME via the internet and makes the decision to take the plunge to take music lessons with ME, then picks up the phone expecting to contact ME (or my secretary) DIRECTLY by dialing what they think is my phone number, instead they dial a telephone number that tells them to go to GetLessonsNow.com!

    If MY correct phone number had been in the ad, I could have answered the phone, locked in the student then and there while they’re hot to get started, but it’s obviously more important for GetLessonsNow.com to promote their OWN business than it is for them to promote MINE.

    What has just happened is that I’ve had my business hijacked.

    If the potential student logs onto GetLessonsNow.com, they are obliged to type in the same search string AGAIN that they typed into Google to find ME in the first place (instrument – city – state). Once they have done that, they are presented with a list of all my local competitors who are also registered with GetLessonsNow.com, and then they STILL have to email me (via GetLessonsNow.com) to contact me to make any inquiries about taking lessons from me.

    This creates more layers to sift through and more confusion for the potential student which has the effect of cooling their enthusiasm for beginning music lessons with me RIGHT AWAY.

    If you have an ad on Google promoting your business, shouldn’t it have YOUR PHONE NUMBER (and NOT somebody else’s)?

    In order to get rid of the Google ad placed by GetLessonsNow.com on your “behalf”, you’ll have to create an account with Google (if you don’t have one already).

    Editing the Google ad to change the phone number does NOT work. It simply creates TWO ads – a new one with your correct info and phone number, BUT the old one with the incorrect phone number STILL stays up.

    Once you’ve set up your Google account, you type in the information related to your business (address, etc) and you’ll come to a screen that asks you if any of the businesses listed at that address are yours.

    At this point you can choose to delete the ad posted by GetLessonsNow.com (AND create your own correct ad).

    In about a week, you’ll receive two postcards from Google. One with a PIN number to delete GetLessonsNow.com’s Google ad and another with a different PIN number to confirm your new ad. Within about two months you should have it all sorted out.

    Google is supposed to have a system of checks in effect to insure that the person registering a business with Google local is IN FACT the business owner (which is why they send out those postcards – which take about a week to come through the post). I have no idea how GetLessonsNow.com has circumvented Google’s system to create the thousands of ads from teachers all over the globe.

    So what do I reccommend that you as a hard working music teacher do?

    If you have not registered with GetLessonsNow.com DON’T.

    If you HAVE registered with GetLessonsNow.com, send your email request to accounts@getlessonsnow.com to ask to be deleted from their database (note: that even though they’ll delete your account they won’t bother to delete the Google ad they posted in your name – you have to do that yourself).

    Tell all your music teacher friends and acquaintances about GetLessonsNow.com’s business practices, and encourage them to refrain from joining GetLessonsNow.com or tell them to delete their profiles and to delete their Google ads with GetLessonsNow.com’s phone number on it.

    Repost this communication on any and all music teaching boards and forums that you can – Get the word out! We have enough trouble getting students without some teacher referral service putting roadblocks in our way.

    File a formal complaint with Google explaining that GetLessonsNow.com is creating profiles without the consent of the legitimate business owners.

    Write a letter to GetLessonsNow.com’s local Better Business Bureau

    Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland
    2100 Huntingdon
    Baltimore, MD 21211
    (410) 347-3990
    [GetLessonsNow.com is registered in Rockville, MD]

    and ask them to file a complaint with Google on your behalf, for creating profiles without your consent.

    Thank you.

  5. Jeff Brent

    Through some of the other boards and forums, I found out that ClickForLessons.com does the same thing as GetLessonsNow.com does – which is putting up an ad on Google with YOUR info and THEIR toll-free phone number (WITHOUT the business owner’s knowledge and WITHOUT their explicit consent).

    The difference is that ClickForLessons.com gives you a month trial free, and after that you have to give them your credit card and “set a budget” or else they delete you themselves.

    One would assume that they only bother to set up Google Local ads for their paying customers (still without their knowledge or consent).

    The reason ClickForLessons.com will ultimately crash and burn is because they are charging anywhere from $3.95 to $6.95 per “lead”.

    That’s just stupid, because any teacher who has been in the business any amount of time knows that for every ten inquiries you’re lucky to get even two students (at least that’s my average).

    It just doesn’t make sense to pay for leads that you can get without ClickForLessons.com’s “help” (translation: “hijacking your profile data”).

    All the teachers that I know who have taken ClickForLessons.com for a test drive have received very little “potential student feedback” from them and have simply let their membership expire.

    I have no idea whether ClickForLessons.com takes the time to delete the Google Local ad if you are no longer a member.

    Another difference between these two sites is that ClickForLessons.com does not use the business owner’s name, only the business address and instrument taught for their search criteria.

    This way on zipcode searches their ad pops up with YOUR ADDRESS, but without your business name at all.

    Wow, thanks, allow me return the favor someday.

  6. Brian Gilman

    Hello everyone. Below is a repost from the LearnJazzPiano.com forums which is my response to the concerns raised by Jeff Brent. On that forum he goes by the alias ‘7’, just so you aren’t confused who I am addressing in the message. Here is a link to the original: http://www.learnjazzpiano.com/citadel/scotcit.mvc?intro_off=1&action=forum&sub=display_thread&id=35247&bid=&room_id=1
    ————————————————-
    Hello All,

    My name is Brian Gilman and I am one of the Co-Founders of GetLessonsNow.com. I have read all of the posts here and am obviously troubled by the concerns listed by 7. If you will all permit me, I would like to address these concerns and try to clear the air as much as possible.

    First, a little about GetLessonsNow.com: We are running with the goal of merely being a site where music teachers can be found by students. As 7 pointed out, we do not charge any fees. As this limits our finances somewhat, the end result is that we are providing this service entirely out of pocket. However, we still would like to provide the best service possible to our teachers.

    One of the tools that we felt would be useful to our teacher members was to integrate their profiles with Google Local. In this way, the teacher profiles on our site would be directly linked from a representative listing on Google Local. Thus, the teacher profiles would receive more traffic than they had before, and (hopefully) more valid student contacts. Again, our intent was merely to utilize a tool for our teachers’ added benefit. (As a side note, we weren’t fully able to do this. We had trouble adding links from the Google Local listing to the profile. I posted on Google Groups back in late March about this and never got an answer:
    http://groups.google.com/group/base-help-search/browse_thread/thread/788fa426d20619ef/730b454ffd35a3ec#730b454ffd35a3ec
    )

    Now to address the concern regarding phone numbers: The reason we placed a phone number on the listings is solely, and let me repeat, solely because Google requires one. If we could have avoided it, we wouldn’t have put one on there at all. Quoting 7: “How does having a Google ad in MY NAME with THEIR TELEPHONE NUMBER benefit me?” Well,

    I’ll have to admit that the benefit was roundabout at best. We couldn’t link to the teacher profiles, and the phone number we provided simply referred the student to GetLessonsNow.com where they would have to perform another search to find the teacher they just found on Google Local. This has not really panned out in a way beneficial to the teachers, so in light of what 7 has discussed, as of this evening we have terminated this “feature”. All listings have been removed from Google Local and we will no longer post any further listings unless we have received express permission from the teacher.

    I would like to add a final note. We at GetLessonsNow.com provide our members with several email channels to voice their opinions and concerns, and we highly encourage them to do so. Our service exists for their benefit, so if they are unhappy with the service that we are providing then something needs to change. We have made several major changes in the past solely due to input from our teachers (e.g. supporting International teachers, significant rework of our search algorithm). Though we would have preferred to receive 7’s concerns directly via email, we would still like to thank 7 for bringing up a valid concern. If anyone has any questions, comments, or concerns of any nature, we would greatly appreciate hearing from you at either info@getlessonsnow.com or suggestions@getlessonsnow.com.

    If there are any points in 7’s postings that anyone feels I have not addressed (either implicitly or explicitly) please feel free to repost them and I will address them in turn.

    I look forward to hearing from and working with the music teacher community.

    Kind Regards,
    Brian Gilman
    Co-Founder
    GetLessonsNow.com

  7. Steven Cox, Click For Lessons

    Hello All,

    My name is Steven, CEO of Click For, Inc. We own Click For Lessons. Thanks for the opportunity to respond back to Jeff (“7”) and to the community. I am a third-generation musician and artist myself, with my parents and grandparents cut southern-gospel albums on Maramount Records, and my three brothers are music ministers at their local church.

    For those of you not familiar with us, we are a community of 130,000 users and experts who connect with content and other people to learn about personal interests they are passionate about. This includes music, voice, art, tennis, swimming, sewing, cooking, personal training, academics, and more. Our experts use Click For Lessons to get known, talk about their craft, and make money doing what they love. This year, we’ll handle requests for over one million prospective students.

    We applaud Jeff working as a watchdog. It’s good to see the community looking out for each other. However, with respect to our company, Jeff is dead wrong. We do not list a users name/address with our phone number. We do not ‘highjack’ a user’s profile data to display a users address. We do not circumvent an instructor’s ability to market themselves in any way. It’s our policy to encourage our instructors to utilize their own efforts and other services to find new customers. I understand that Jeff pulled his information from another unnamed forum, but it’s unfortunate that he did not check his facts, or even bother to ask us.

    We do indeed have relationships with companies such as Verizon, Local.com, Yahoo, Google, Google Local, SuperPages, Daylo, and a host of others. If our listings or advertisements appear on partner sites, it is because we have employees, resident experts, or contractors in the general vicinity. These experts may be in dance, language, music, golf, karate, or any of our other categories. Never do will fill out a Google postcard in the name of another business. Never do we list another business and associate it with ours. We use our own name, our own categories, our own phone, and our own general locations.

    Perhaps Jeff is referring to the display of Google Local Maps we use on our site. If a user searches for Piano Lessons in Chicago, they will be taken to a local area of our site: (http://www.clickforlessons.com/Illinois/Chicago/Piano/Lessons.aspx) where we display the generalized mapped location. A student may drill into a particular instructor’s profile, in which we will display a more detailed view of their location: (http://www.clickforlessons.com/provider/aetmusic/Profile.aspx).

    However, even in this case, we do not display the exact address, nor do we display an email. Many of our experts are female, beautiful, and teach out of their home. This added measure we take helps keep the community secure and also prevents email harvesting by Nigerian scammers (I’m sure we’re all aware of those guys!). At the end of a student search, where we have collected validated information from a prospective student, we will then display an instructor’s phone number. However, our experts may opt out of having their number shown. It is 100% up to the expert.

    I’ll assume that since Jeff ‘heard or read a post on another unnamed message board somewhere on the net’, that he wasn’t purposely trying to be slanderous, but it is disappointing that he did not provide the decency and courtesy of asking us first. We have blogs, company emails, and our office is about an hour from Jeff. He could have extended us the common respect of a simple inquiry. What bothers me as a community member is that I wonder who’s next. How would it make you feel if Jeff ‘hears on an unnamed message board somewhere’ that your studio hires past sex offenders, or that you overcharge your student’s account? Does that give him the right to not check his facts before posting? It’s very very un-cool, unnecessary, unappreciated, and disappointing. In my humble opinion, he owes this community an apology.

    It seems that his issue with us is more of a business model issue. No problem there. We do charge, and will continue to charge because our service is worth it. In fact, by charging, it helps us weed out those teachers who are not serious. We do not charge an annual or monthly fee. We simply charge when a prospective student visits the site, reviews the potential profiles of teachers, and then selects a teacher to contact. After we evaluate the student’s level of seriousness and validate their contact information, we then charge the instructor for the lead.

    Using Jeff’s closing ratio in his first post, let’s assume you close 2 out of 10 leads (which we find to be low). You would pay us about $45 for those leads, and over the life of those students, you would make anywhere between $250 – $3,000 (depending on your level of expertise, teaching ability, and general communication skills). I don’t know about you, but if someone offered me $3,000 in exchange for $45, I’d take it. However, our site is not for all instructors. If your studio is overflowing with students, and you’re a technical expert, quite frankly, you may not need our services. And we’re completely cool with that. It’s no biggie.

    Ok, that’s all. 🙂 Thanks again to this wonderful community for letting me chat with you. If you have any questions, comments, please feel free to email me at steven (at) clickforlessons -dot- com. Or, you can post on our blog at http://blog.clickforlessons.com.

  8. Jeff Brent

    At the time of my writing of the ClickForLessons “problem” above, I DID research the information disclosed to me by a very prominent member of the teacher referral service community (who will remain anonymous) and found that ClickForLessons was indeed engaging in the practice I described above.

    As a former member of ClickForLessons, I felt it my duty to let others know of a situation that could negatively impact their music teaching business.

    I applaud ClickForLessons for discontinuing the practice I described above, however Mr Cox’s claim that they NEVER did that is simply not true.

    If I could go back in time, I could give you any number of specific examples as evidence to support the facts I gave above.

  9. Jeff Brent

    They say it takes a big man to admit when he is wrong.

    I was wrong about ClickForLessons.com.

    I applauded them for discontinuning the practice I described in my first post here about them, but it turns out that I cannot applaud them as they are continuing to engage in that selfsame unscrupulous business practice.

    A reader of this blog directed me (on Thu, 2 Aug 2007 19:18:47) to do a google search of the following keywords:

    voice lessons boston
    voice lessons malden
    voice lessons brookline
    voice lessons allston
    guitar lessons boston

    Feel free to do a Google search yourself, or you may view the following screen captures:

    Jeffrey-Brent.com/VoiceLessonsBoston.jpg

    Jeffrey-Brent.com/VoiceLessonsMalden.jpg

    Jeffrey-Brent.com/VoiceLessonsAllston.jpg

    Jeffrey-Brent.com/vGuitarLessonsBoston.jpg

    Note that these high ranking search results contain the music teachers’ addresses, yet the phone number is that of ClickForLessons.

    Who do they think they are fooling?

  10. John Tucker

    Jeff,
    If I didn’t know any better, I would think you were Dateline NBC. I applaud your investigation and agree this is a grey area. But for Clickforlessons.com to outright deny it right here? That’s pretty low. I can’t wait to read the response from Stephen on this one. This should be interesting…

  11. jomobass

    I tried joining get-lessons-now and it seems as though their charging $49.99 for their service, or perhaps I didn’t see a free signup? I was directed to the [pay by credit card] page right away? Does anybody know something different????? help!!! Jomo

  12. Kristin Phillips

    Hi Jomo,

    You are right. They just started charging $49.99 for their service. In the past, “free” was the case and it generated several students for my own studio. Music Teacher’s Helper has actually been the best way to get my studio out… a helpful way is simply to include your web url in every form of advertisement, whether it be through linking to music supplier websites such as FJH or colleague sites from out of town. Craigslist and other options are available. By using your website url through MTH’s service, you will be showing interested students that you are serious and a real person. 🙂 Everyone appreciates that. Hope this helps and thanks for visiting the blogs.

    ~Kristin Phillips
    Music Teacher’s Helper

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