When it comes to getting more members, discoverability is high on any fitness business owner’s list. And while everything from the physical location to advertising matters when it comes to being found, have you thought much about your search engine presence? If you haven’t, then you’re not alone.
What you might not realize is that 81% of buying decisions start with a search engine. Whether someone’s researching where to get the best burger in town or they’re looking to buy a new pair of hiking boots, search engines like Google have become synonymous with “decision engines.”
Now that we have that understanding, wouldn’t it be nice if someone who was looking for your gym or health club could find you effortlessly? Now what about someone who wasn’t expressly searching for your gym, but just searching for gyms in their neighborhood? Whether they’re searching for classes hosted at your fitness business or searching more generally (ex: “nearby health club”), being visible at the top of the search results is critical if you want to keep current members while attracting new ones.
The practice of altering your site so that it can be found at the top of the search results is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. When it comes to SEO, it can be broken down into two main facets:
On-page SEO -- this involves improvements you make to your site so that Google can better understand your content, how it fits together, and ultimately what potential keywords (or search queries) your pages should be ranking for.
Off-page SEO -- this involves increasing your website’s presence off of your site so that when Google comes across mentions (usually in the form of hyperlinks) of your business elsewhere online, it will trust you more knowing lots of people are talking about or even recommending you. The more Google trusts your website, the more likely you are to rank well for your given keywords.
Pretty easy, right? Let’s go a little more in depth into each concept.
On-Page: Key Concepts
Suppose I own a gym named Frank’s Fitness Center on Jones St. in San Francisco. The first thing I want to think about is all the search terms that people could be searching to find me on Google. Let’s try this exercise by listing from the “must-haves” to the “great-to-haves.” Here’s my list:
“frank’s fitness center”
“frank’s san francisco”
“frank’s jones st”
“gyms near me”
“gyms with TRX classes”
Obviously there are a lot of potential keywords someone might search in order to find your website, but going through this exercise reveals the keywords that are most important to focus on either because it involves current customers trying to find business information (very important) or potential customers trying to research your gym (also very important).
Now that we have our short list, let’s address each one with a page designation. In other words, if you were to rank for that search term, what page would you want ranking the highest? Remember, your website shouldn’t just be a single catch-all page because that’s not a very good user experience. Instead, pick a page that will get them their answer in the fastest way possible. Let’s try:
“frank’s fitness center” - homepage
“frank’s san francisco” - homepage
“frank’s jones st” - homepage
“frank’s address” - contact or about page
“frank’s hours” - contact or about page
“frank’s classes” - classes or offerings page
“frank’s prices” - pricing page
“gyms near me” - homepage
“gyms with TRX classes” - homepage, classes or offerings page
Now, these designations will vary depending on how you organize your site, but with each label above I’m attempting to align a search query with its most relevant page. Once you understand this, half the work is done.
Now we just have to make sure that the information is where it should be. Your contact page should obviously have all the information someone might be searching to contact you. If you don’t have a pricing page you may want to consider building one (even if just to say “call for prices”) because ultimately you want to bring people to your site where you can control the experience.
To learn more about how to better optimize your pages around these search queries, check out our post on Fitness Business SEO 101: On-Page Tips.
Off-Page: Key Concepts
At this point you’ve identified the keywords that people search to find your content and have adjusted (or built) your pages to answer those questions. Now that Google has crawled your site and figured out everything it needs to know about you, how will you prove to Google that you deserve to rank well? The good news is that by having a unique business name in a specific location, most of the time (if not all) you should be ranking in positions 1-2 for these “branded” queries. In other words, by virtue of having a domain called franksfitnessSF.com and by having “Frank’s Fitness in San Francisco” all over my site, I should most likely rank well when someone searches “Frank’s Fitness” when they’re in SF.
The second part of this is making sure you’re listed everywhere you need to be. The point is to be consistent as possible when registering your business with all the local directories, because the more of these “citations” you have, the more established Google thinks you are. See this list to figure out where you should be listing your site and business information.
Finally, if you get the opportunity, consider writing for or partnering with other fitness personalities or businesses, because any chance you get to obtain a link back to your site, it counts as another vote in Google’s eyes (NOTE: If you’re planning on doing this at scale, PLEASE read up on it first because taking advantage of this can get your site penalized in the rankings).
To learn more about how to better scale your local efforts, check out our post on Fitness Business SEO 101: Getting Citations.
While the post you just read is a bit of an oversimplification, it is exactly the type of framing you need before ramping up your SEO efforts. Once you have this piece down, the sky's the limit in terms of your ability to drive more customers. The best part of SEO? It’s free!
Want access to Parts 2, 3 and 4? Click here to get the full eBook!