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BOARDMAN Training video has Web site that carries a lot of weight



Published: Sun, September 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The site, top-ranked in terms of hits, is helping the company stand out from the pack.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

BOARDMAN -- Mark Russo, a Boardman personal trainer, is bubbling with excitement now that his company has the No. 1 listed Web site in the America Online search for "weight training."

"I'm pumped about this," said Russo, 26, president of Fantastic Fitness.

Of course, Russo is always up, always pushing, always exuding enthusiasm, said client Paul Kiefer, a 52-year-old financial planner from Canfield. That's what makes him a good trainer, Kiefer said.

"This is my love, and it's always been my love," said Russo, who began training with weights when he was 12.

The rest of the world is finding out about that love and a new weight training program that Russo has developed. He has sold copies of his training video, "Fantastic Fitness 2000!", in 21 states and three foreign countries.

The tape shows various exercises to improve muscle tone throughout the body. Russo's emphasis is on stretching between every set of exercises, which he says greatly reduces soreness and the chance for injury.

Getting noticed: Several hundred copies of the video have been sold since last year's introduction, but Russo and his father, Pat, figure they are just building a foundation. Being ranked high on the AOL search engine and other search engines is boosting the number of people attracted to the company's Web site, www.numberonetrainer.com.

The site is receiving 500 to 600 "unique", or nonrepeat, visitors a week, about four times the number it was receiving before the high rankings began this spring, Pat Russo said.

Being highly ranked is important because most people check only the sites that are highly placed. A search for "weight training" on AOL shows about 999,000 results.

Pat Russo said he was shocked to learn this spring that they had made it to the top of the list.

Site creator: While Mark Russo developed the training program, his father handled the Web site. A metallurgical engineer at RMI Titanium in Weathersfield, Pat Russo's only experience was putting together a Web site to show some of the paintings he had done as a hobby.

He had taught himself how to design a Web site when he developed his own. When his son wanted a site, he continued reading as much as he could about site design and getting a site prominently placed with search engines.

He also bought software that helps with the design and monitors the placement with various search engines.

Some search engines use computers to rank sites. They scan the sites for key words, including some that are in coding that is hidden behind the visible text.

Pat Russo said his son's site is ranked better with search engines such as AOL that use people to view the sites and rate them by content.

Pat Russo said reaching the high rankings involved plenty of trial-and-error. Searches allow sites to be resubmitted for review so he continually looked for ways to improve the site.

He also hired Ron Canacci to design the site's logo and link boxes.

The Russos originally used some sites that charge for rankings, but they stopped as their site became better developed.

The site also is ranked No. 1 in a Netscape search for weight training. It is ranked in the top 30 with several other search engines. Ranking orders can differ depending on what key words are used.

"It's been a lot of fun," Pat Russo said. "We're on the cutting edge with some of this and we've just scratched the surface with Internet sales."

What's next: They soon intend to begin looking for other ways to market the video.

Mark Russo has written a book called "Creating a Dynamic Body," which he expects to be out early next year. The book includes a written version of his exercise program with nutrition tips and thoughts on setting goals.

Russo said he started his business three years ago after he was asked to help train someone because of his enthusiasm for working with weights. He said he wanted to do it right so he received the proper training and certification.

"I started with one client and I fell in love," he said.




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