Our special guest for episode 355 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast Katy Mann, Founder of Indy with Kids. Host Erin Sparks spoke with Katy about what it takes to quickly shift or pivot a business during a time of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what we learned:
Katy Mann: Her Background and Experience
In 2009 Katy Mann left the corporate cubicle world to step into the not-for-profit realm by starting Indy with Kids in 2010 with the help of her husband, Jacob Mann (the studio producer of Edge of the Web). Indy with Kids is a hyper-local website that connects families with children and caregivers of children to the local activities, venues, and businesses that can help keep them busy and having fun. The goal is to help parents and caregivers build the perpetual “best day ever” with their kids. It’s about all the fun things Indy families can do.
Hyper-Local Content Curation and Creation
The relationships with the businesses in the area and across the state have been a key feature of the site, both in terms of giving them earned media or in sponsorship/partnership financial arrangements. And being a site geared towards activities for kids, it’s very important that families trust Indy with Kids—and they do. The rule of thumb for Katy is to only feature activities and businesses she knows and loves herself and that do right by families and kids.
Over the ten years the site has really taken off and become very popular and successful. The site gets a million page views per year, and that’s without sinking much of anything into paid search ads. For Indy with Kids, it’s all about organic search traffic by creating a lot of content. Luckily, Google appreciates narrow niche content, which is much of what Indy with Kids publishes.
One of the biggest challenges with this type of site that’s been around for a decade is keeping content up-to-date and everything clean because of how your audience searches for things. If someone searches “Indianapolis events happening Saturday the 7th” they could wind up trying to attend an airshow, for example, scheduled for Saturday the seventh that actually happened six years ago when there was also a Saturday the seventh. Needless to say, if you pack the family up and head to event only to find out it happened six years ago, you’re not going to be very happy about it. This is why content maintenance is so critical for this type of hyper-local website. There’s a big trust factor there for your audience and for Google as well. Katy notes that deleting some of that content from the early days of the site is painful because it feels like deleting memories. But it’s critical for their site and for their audience trust. Not to mention when some pieces of old content had very valuable backlinks from other big, reputable sites. That can be hard to figure out, but a lot of the old content has to be scrubbed.
The Impacts of the Pandemic and Google Core Update
The visibility stats for Indy with Kids has rocketed upwards in recent weeks by a lot, notably after the Google Core Update that started rolling out on May 4. Given the fact that so much of what families might have been doing before the pandemic for activities can’t happen now, it’s especially impressive that Indy with Kids is seeing such huge boosts in visibility. But Google is trying harder than ever to understand user intent of search queries and serve up the relevant content, and Indy with Kids was very good at quickly pivoting what type of content they were posting since their usual pre-pandemic content was rendered largely useless.
The economic shutdown and stay-home orders was so abrupt, and with no idea how long it would last past the initial two-week timeframe. The businesses we support and those that support us don’t know how to pivot so quickly. Indy with Kids immediately pivoted into helping families get to places virtually. Katy called up an art studio business she had never partnered with before and explained how she wanted families to know about the business even during the shutdown so when it did come time to plan summer camps, families would know about it.
The owner, who was feeling really down about being closed, was quick to agree. Indy with Kids went on to do the same thing with no fewer than 40 more businesses! These were pitched as online virtual playdates for kids that might involve story or something as families also find out about the business and what they offer to kids and families. And Indy with Kids did not require any kind of financial arrangement to do this. It is not a “pay to play” kind of website in that sense. Hopefully down the road those businesses will remember the support they received with this service. And people are loving it, hence the huge gains in visibility in May.
One of the hardest things to see is how mean people are being in so many instances, and how trying to engage them probably won’t even be productive. But people are leaving negative feedback on social media for businesses, whether it’s because they’re open or because they’re not open. It’s frustrating because everyone is trying to do the best they can and people really shouldn’t be downright mean. And yes, the people who are being mean are also under a lot of stress, but we should all strive to be kind to each other. Sometimes it’s better to just not respond.
Connect with Katy Mann and Indy with Kids
Twitter: @indywithkids (https://twitter.com/indywithkids)
Facebook: @indywithkids (https://www.facebook.com/indywithkids)
Instagram: @indywithkids (https://www.instagram.com/indywithkids)
NEW site: https://diysummercamps.com
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