This is a MindBody software review. MindBody software (MBO) is a program built for service businesses like spas, fitness and yoga studios that enables a business owner to
- display and update a class/spa/appointment schedule
- provide registration and payment for their clients
- provide class/services descriptions
- update teacher/provider bios
- create payroll based on number of bookings/classes/clients
All of these services are managed through the Mindbody software program on their site. You purchase the program on a month-to-month basis for $75/mo., log in to their site and keep your information up to date in the cloud. MBO creates a public-facing ‘website’ for your business. Your MBO ‘website’ displays service/class descriptions, schedules, calendar of events, teacher/provider bios and a shopping cart for purchasing services.
MindBody Software hijacks your website traffic, increasing their own page rank…
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, MindBody Online avoids ‘duplicate page’ penalties by Google by keeping your content on their own site instead of your original website. But this means that MBO is basically hijacking their client’s SEO. The most heavily visited page on a fitness/spa site is the schedule and so here’s how MBO managed to get themselves a site rank of 7:
When someone clicks on the schedule page link on your site, they are taken off your website and onto the MBO site. So all of the ‘hits’ your site traffic generates are redirected to MBO. This is substantial traffic redirection. As an example, a yoga studio may have 80% of its traffic going to their schedule page. To Google, there appears to be no traffic on the yoga website schedule page. It is, after all, just a link to another site. And for Google, the number of hits to a page, the length of time someone stays on the page, and whether or not the visitor goes to any other page on the site – all this traffic movement is very important to Google for page rank.
…and once they capture your visitor, there’s no way back
Okay, so what? So what if the MindBody Online software redirects traffic to their own site? But you’ll quickly realize that there is no clear way to return to the original website. Most critically, the back button in the browser does not function on the MBO site. Well, let me put it this way: it does work for their own pages, it just doesn’t work when your client wants to return to your real website.
The visitor is trapped on the MBO site. Only by clicking around can a visitor find a website link to return to the site if you, the MBO client, is savvy enough to include one. This can take a minute or more for your visitors to find. Google interprets this as MBO visitors spending a lot of time on the MBO site pages. And to Google, this usually indicates that the content is interesting enough to read. Google doesn’t realize the visitor is trapped there.
So as a business owner, you are basically feeding traffic to MBO to increase their site rank, in exchange for showing your schedule and providing a checkout cart. All for a mere $75 a month, plus credit card processing fees.
healcode: a half-way solution for an MBO client
How to remedy this situation? It’s a tossup. Using a paid plugin called Healcode, your website can show information pulled from the MindBody Online software API in real-time on your website – as you make changes to MBO, it’s reflected on your website immediately. Using MBO really requires the Healcode widget to keep your visitors on your site.
Healcode costs an extra $20 a month. And while it keeps visitors on your website pages, Healcode unfortunately does not show the actual content to Google. Everything it pulls from MBO’s API is contained within an iframe, which Google cannot read. Is it a wash? Visitors visit a page that appears to Google to have little or no content.
[UPDATE: As of October 2014, another free plugin was added to the WordPress repository, which does the same thing healcode does for free: MZ MindBody API . You will need ‘Developer API’ access from MBO, for which they charge $5/month. I have not yet tried this but you might give it a whirl.]
MBO might improve your SEO page rank… or not
On the plus side, having a site with a rank of 7 (Update 10/2014: rank 4) linking back to your website may push you up in the search results, once Google gets wind of that back link. Could be a couple months before they see that. However, I’ve seen relatively new yoga studios with a homepage rank of 2 simply because of the MBO back link. It can take a year of continual blogging to get to a rank 2. They can beat out an older much more established studio in search results.
Recently a small local studio in Oregon contacted me, worried about their placement in the SERPs (search engine results page) because 2 new studios are ‘above’ them now. Both new studios use MBO. But SERPs fluctuate, depending on changes in Google’s algorithms, which happen every 6 months or so. And these studios may also be using local ads and promotions to drive traffic to their site. SEO is more complex than one backlink. And who knows when Google will get wind of visitor entrapment and penalize MBO for it.
One client who recently hooked up the MindBody software found that the backlink did not improve their rank. Their homepage ranked 3 before they hooked up to MBO and that hasn’t changed. A rank 3 for a local studio is really good, and was due to the age of the site and continual blogging. There was also a lot of frequent traffic to the site because students needed to register online; most small appointment or class-based businesses take payment at the time of service and don’t require pre-registration.
MBO client feedback pros and cons
Client Feedback: “Their app is buggy, and they don’t always fix it in a timely manner. But it has saved me countless hours of time and my records are much better. Payroll is a snap now. The students like it… because they can track everything. They also seem to like the reminder emails – when their classes are running low. “
This client is very tech-savvy, and is very comfortable with spreadsheets, data, and bookkeeping. MBO is fundamentally a bookkeeping system so if you’re not familiar or comfortable with data, there’s a large learning curve.
Is MBO worth the savings on credit card fees?
I’m not sure how cost effective the whole MindBody software enchilada is. MBO charges 1.5% for credit card processing, a nice savings of close to half of Paypal’s 2.9%. So the $95 monthly MBO/Healcode fee is offset with this reduction, as long as you are processing at least $5000 a month with them. You aren’t ahead of the game until this point. Basically MBO charges the same rate as Authorize.net. Their advantage is in offering a software service to manage your business, which neither Paypal nor Authorize does.
MBO Client Feedback: “The credit card rates seemed more favorable at first glance, but after adding on various monthly fees, the actual percentage of money going out the door to credit card fees is almost the same as using Square or Paypal.”
Well, make that $10,000 in processing to equalize the fee structure.
How reliable is the MBO app?
Client Feedback: “Their updates to the app are my main gripe. There is a known issue with the app that I documented with them (3 months ago), and they have not fixed it yet…. The credit card swiper is touchy. The main bug they haven’t fixed has to do with equating class passes. People with 90 minute class passes can use them for 60 minute classes. The app simply does not recognize the 90 minute pass when trying to check someone in to a 60 minute class. It returns an error of ‘unpaid classes’. This feature works fine in the web-based portal.”
How easy is MBO to set up?
I must say I find the MBO backend intimidating, to say the least, and I’ve been working with data since Lotus 1-2-3. Setting it up will take you some time. While MBO claims it’s fast and easy, it’s not. I have 2 clients in Portland trying to set it up for acupuncture and massage appointments. It will be weeks, if not months, before they figure out the MindBody software system.
The system looks a lot prettier than it did a year ago but there are still 5 click-throughs just to price a service. That means 5 pages of forms to fill out. Thank god you went to high school, where we all learned how to do that.
How is the MBO support?
Client Feedback: “I have found ,,, that emailing MBO for support is not the best idea. They do not respond in a timely fashion. Calling them or using the onscreen chat feature for questions works much better. Usually they can help me right away figure out the software issue, or answer my questions. They are always friendly and patient.”
MindBody Software Review Conclusions
There are conveniences in using MBO and then there are problems with it. Like anything. As a site owner, you should be aware of what you’re getting yourself into and how it affects your business. Read other MindBody software review articles. The one thing you’re not plagued with is a contract, so if you find it cumbersome, you can always back out. And maybe the positives will outweigh the negatives for you.
Client Feedback: “,,, it has saved me a tremendous amount of time. My records are much better, the waivers are all electronic, I can easily research payments, emails etc. Payroll takes 5 minutes where it took an hour before and is better documented.”