Local SEO Guide for Gyms

/Local SEO Guide for Gyms
Local SEO Guide for Gyms

Gyms face many challenges when trying to attract new members. One of the biggest hurdles is that when someone wants to try a new gym, she tends to run a Google search and then call the first gym or two on the list. To boost your membership, then, you need to land in that crucial first spot.

We will walk you through our proven 5-step process to move your gym to the top of the list. But first, let’s take a look at why local SEO is critical for gym owners.

3 Reasons Gyms Should Invest in Local SEO

The Yellow Pages Have Been Replaced…by Google:

Not too long ago, you could simply take out an ad in the local phone book and wait for prospective members to call. Times have changed, and today fully 97% of people search for local businesses online. Google is the juggernaut of online search.

Free Traffic:

Yellow Pages ads might have gone the way of the dinosaurs, but advertising is still one of the biggest expenses for most businesses. If you can improve your Google rankings, though, you will have a constant stream of free traffic that you just need to convert to members.

Swift Results:

On average, national and international companies must wait 6 to 12 months to see a significant increase in Google rankings. Gyms have a tremendous advantage, because your only competition is other gyms in your area, not those on the other side of the country. And many of your competitors are not yet using local SEO. This means that you could hit the first page of Google local results in just 30 days!

Step 1: Determine Your Keywords

Step 1 is simply to draw up a list of keywords that reflect the services your gym provides. Examples might include “yoga classes”, “CrossFit”, and “functional fitness”. When you have a reasonably long list, create a free Google AdWords account.

You do not need to develop or pay for an ad campaign. The account simply allows you to use Google’s free Keyword Planner tool, which lets you see how much traffic your listed keywords draw, and provides suggestions for additional related keywords.

You are now ready to decide which keywords you will use. All keywords fall into 2 basic types:

  • Buying Intent: As the name suggests, buying intent keywords signal that the prospect is ready to buy. For example, someone searching for “CrossFit Portland” is likely ready to sign up for CrossFit, and is deciding which local gym to join.

    Buying intent keywords should be the primary focus for your local SEO campaign, since they drive the fastest conversions. Place them on your homepage, and create service pages around them.

  • Research Intent: Research intent keywords are used by prospects who are gathering more information. They might join a gym eventually, but are at the earliest stages of the sales funnel. For example, “benefits of joining a gym” could indicate that a prospect is thinking of gym membership, but wants to know what’s in it for him.

    Make these keywords lower priority in your campaign, but do not throw them out. They will not drive quick conversions, but FAQs and blog posts based on them can introduce your gym to prospects who might later decide to join.

Step 2: Optimize Your Keywords

When you settle on a final list of keywords, you need to optimize for them in 2 places—your Google My Business page and your website. Here’s what to do:

Google My Business

Featured in the “Map” section of Google local business listings, your Google My Business page is a sort of mini-website that increases your online presence and gives prospects a quick summary of your gym. It can also provide a fast boost to your Google rankings, because it is much easier to get a Google My Business page than a website highly ranked.

Make sure your Google My Business page is accurately and fully filled out:

  • Verification: First, claim your page and submit it to Google’s verification procedure. When you see a checkmark and the word “Verified” next to your gym name, you are ready to move on.
  • NAP: Your business NAP (name, address, and phone number) must be correct and consistent on your Google My Business page and across the internet. To draw attention to the fact that your business is local, list a local phone number instead of an 800 number.
  • Categories: Google categories listings are required to focus on services rather than results. For example, in addition to Gym, you might choose Sports Club, Aerobics Instructor, and Pilates Studio, if you provide those services. Try to list 3 to 5 categories.
  • Description: The description is simply a 100 to 200- word overview of your gym, followed by a call to action. Try following this formula: {Name of Gym} offers professional {aerobics, CrossFit, and weight training, or similar} in {Your City}. {Provide some information about your gym and/or why members choose you.} Call {Phone Number} today for a free one-hour class!
  • Hours: Make sure your hours of operation are up to date, and are listed consistently across all sites. If you offer after-hours personal training or other special services, list that information separately.
  • Images: Adding images is a great way to get prospects and members excited about your gym, so include a few photos of the equipment or the classes. Make sure your images have a sharp focus, are sized between 10KB and 5MB, and have a minimum resolution of 720px x 720px. We also recommend replacing the generic Google My Business background image with a branded image.

Website Optimization

Start with your “core” pages, which include your homepage and service pages, and optimize them for your buying intent keywords. Later, you will optimize your “content” pages (FAQs and blog posts) for your research intent keywords. Here are the essential elements:

  • Homepage: The title tag is similar to a chapter title in a book, and it is the most important part of your homepage. Make sure it is 50 to 65 characters long, and is written similarly to: Gym in {Your City} | {Name of Your Gym}.

    Next is your meta description, which highlights your core services. It should be 100 to 150 characters in length, and formatted similarly to: {Name of Gym} offers quality {functional fitness, yoga, and Pilates, or similar} in {Your City}. Call {Phone Number} today to schedule your free one-hour class!

    Also known as the H1, your visible headline must be both concise and descriptive, and should include your primary category. Try this: {Gym} in {City, State}.

    The last key element is the page copy. It should be roughly 500 to 1000 words long, and include your keyword in a natural way. Provide background information, give a brief overview of your core services, and close with a strong call to action. Review your copy before posting it to ensure that it is well-written and edited.

  • Service Pages: Each of your primary services needs its own separate page, tightly focused on a relevant keyword. Optimize each page as you did your homepage.

Step 3: Build Citations and Links

Now that the basic framework of your local SEO campaign is in place, you are ready to build citations and links. Both will improve your reach and boost your Google rankings.

  • Citations: A citation is any online directory listing of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Examples include such general national directories as yellowpages.com and Facebook, and such general local directories as your town’s Chamber of Commerce website. In addition, there are targeted directories specific to the gym and fitness industry. Double-check that your NAP is identical in every listing.

    Although many citations are free, some directories only offer paid listings. Before making the investment, use Google Analytics to see if you are receiving traffic and conversions from that site.

  • Links: To achieve top Google rankings, you must have inbound links from credible, authoritative sites. Build online and offline relationships with complementary businesses, such as health food stores, and then ask to trade links. To learn where your competitors’ links are coming from, use a tool such as the Moz Open Site Explorer.

Step 4: Solicit Reviews

Reviews are important for 2 reasons: they reassure Google that your business is legitimate, and they convince prospects to try your gym. While all review sites are useful, Google My Business reviews drive the fastest rankings boost. Send an email to your satisfied members with a link to your Google My Business profile, and ask them directly for a review. If you make this a habit, you will soon have an ongoing stream of reviews.

Step 5: Track Your Results

You can only know how well your local SEO campaign is performing, and which areas need some work, if you track your results. Although there is a wealth of available data, focus on these 3 core metrics:

  • Rankings: Google customizes its search results based on past browsing behavior. So, if you want to know how a particular page actually ranks, you must use a tool. The free Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a great start. Ask your webmaster to install it, and check your results once or twice per month.

    You can get more detailed results if you move to a paid tracking tool, such as the one available on RankRanger.com. The tool tracks Google My Business pages as well as webpages, and provides automatically updated ranking results from all of your SEO campaigns.

  • Traffic: Google Analytics is the best way to track your traffic, or website visitors. You can see your traffic overall, learn what percentage come from Google search, and determine which of your pages draws the most traffic. Look at your reports every month, and keep an eye out for any long-term trends.
  • Conversions: A conversion is a specific action that you want your website visitors to perform. For gyms, a common conversion is to schedule a free class. Google Analytics lets you track both web and telephone conversions, see which services drive the most conversions, and learn which of your pages have the lowest and highest conversion rates.

Let’s Get Started!

Now you can see why a comprehensive local SEO strategy is critical for driving more prospects to your gym. Work your way through the steps in order, and make sure each is complete before starting the next. Here is a recap of the 5 steps:

  1.    Keyword research
  2.    Keyword optimization
  3.    Citations and Links
  4.    Reviews
  5.    Tracking

Want Help with SEO?

At Main Street ROI, we specialize in helping gyms attract more local customers through Google. If you’d like help with your SEO, contact us for a free quote.

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