Fitness SEO: The Latest Organic Search Strategies
It sure is fun to ride the social media wave where you get likes, clicks, and customers at minimal cost. The fitness industry made fast money with creative attention grabbing social marketing strategies. But like most things in life, what comes cheap is usually short lived.
We’ve seen it with Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. Algorithms throttle businesses, giving them very limited exposure to customer reach. Eventually, we see a drop in traffic requiring more financial skin in the game or chase the next rising star social media platform.
While we should not ignore social media marketing, we also should not completely depend on it. Placing a share of our marketing efforts where we reap longer rewards is a good business strategy.
That is why we need search engine optimization.
SEO in 2022
Organic search is marketing that most gyms, trainers, and fitness businesses hear in passing but rarely understand. It is hard to define SEO since it seems like a moving target, but understanding the history of SEO makes it easier.
What started as keyword stuffing has become an evolved form of digital marketing, rewarding expertise, authority, and trust (known as the EAT score). A fitness professional can think of current SEO as taking documenting their knowledge in a location that anyone can search and find.
In SEO terms, you need a well built website full of authoritative content that engages the visitor. The website lets signals satisfied customers to Google when they further explore the website, make a purchase, or communicate with the company.
SEO Best Practices
Every fitness business knows they need a website, but we do with that website is another story. Sometimes the business owner says “I want a single page that looks incredible!”. Others might say, “I want to create an online fitness program complete with a forum and nutrition calculators”.
The problem with both ideas is that they assume fitness enthusiasts will visit their site. A part of SEO best practices putting into place the fundamentals of search engine optimization. Ideally, this happens before you launch your website.
Moving backwards on your website is much more work for an SEO specialist. There is greater cost when we have to address technical SEO errors made by the website designer. Hard to hear, but an SEO agency might tell you to put the workout program concept aside until we put SEO basics in place.
Before you create your stand out SEO strategy, put these fundamentals into action.
- Only add pages to your website when they check all the SEO boxes.
- No index any pages that have thin content or don’t talk about your business, industry, or expertise.
- Keep URL’s on these pages straight and to the point.
- Complete all meta information, including meta title, meta description, and the image details.
- Remove dead links that point internally and externally from your pages.
- Grammar check your work (do we really need to tell you this?).
- Optimize images to the smallest size possible without affecting how they appear.
- Dump the discount hosting. Stick with one that has fast loading times and minimal downtime.
(SEO Best Practices social post)
SEO For The Fitness Industry
Since the fitness industry focuses heavily on social media (both with free and paid ads), there is an opportunity for every fitness category to win with SEO. Here’s a short list of business types where low competition and high reward exist when implementing a solid SEO strategy.
- Fitness centers, health clubs, and gyms.
- Personal trainers with or without fitness studios.
- Meal prep companies with local and national distribution.
- Nutritionists and life coaches.
- Equipment retailers and manufacturers.
- Vitamin and sports nutrition stores.
Further along in this article are strategies for each fitness business category. For more information, click on each link to find specific details about each sub-category in the fitness industry.
Now, we will get into the fundamentals you need to know that apply to all fitness websites.
SEO For All Fitness Websites
There are keywords that are important for every fitness business. Search terms like lose body fat and build muscle are broad match terms that become a part of every website. But more than keywords, there are required SEO fundamentals for many fitness businesses.
While you may not see all aspects of technical work, your SEO ranking feels it. Technical SEO is perhaps the most important part of search engine optimization. Do this wrong and your search efforts will be like the sower who planted seed on hard soil where it could not take root.
When working with an SEO agency, they should address all technical SEO issues found on the website. Sometimes this means scraping the existing site and starting from scratch. Hard words to hear, but buildings are only as strong as their foundations.
This is the bread and butter for achieving top rankings for relevant keywords in the fitness industry. In the early years of SEO, you could buy your way to the top with backlinks (more to come on this). Now, content marketing is a more important ranking factor for many business categories. Here’s why.
Content marketing builds backlinks, but backlinks do not build content marketing. This isn’t to downplay the importance of a backlink building strategy. It is to say that creating fitness articles that speak to your customer is a requirement for both national and local search strategies.
Where many fitness businesses get this wrong is when their articles focus on thought leadership. Unless you’re a fitness influencer, a content strategy should be about topics that SEO reporting confirms people are searching for. You can use a simple tool like the Google AdWords keyword tool or, for deeper insights, use the SEO tools our agency has access to.
Backlinks are websites that have a hyperlink pointing back to your site.
For a gym website, there may be directory listings and local publications mentioning your website with the anchor text “gym membership.” These backlinks improve your website’s domain authority and let Google know you offer gym memberships.
After completing your SEO website analysis, backlink building may become a part of your initial SEO strategy. This is true for both new and existing businesses.
If your company is the leader in your fitness specialty, then your website likely has “some” backlinks. However, you may not have enough to compete with a franchise or national fitness chain.
You can level the playing field by investing time and money into the backlink building process. Unlike paying for a search term, once you have enough backlinks, you can expect to maintain your position in the search engine results. Couple this with strong fitness content and you will be hard to beat in organic search.
Sending Social Signals
Don’t give up on social media! Just because you can’t get endless amounts of free traffic, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable for your business. In fact, search engines consider activity on social apps to be an indicator of industry relevancy, counting it as a ranking factor. This means your images, descriptions, tags, and conversations through social matter.
So get the most out of your fitness articles with snippets used for social engagement. For example, if writing an article about the best back building exercises, create a weekly post featuring an exercise from this workout article. This strategy isn’t hard, but it requires attention to detail.
SEO For Fitness E-Commerce
Having owned fitness E-Commerce companies, we understand online retail can feel like a rabbit hole. There is always another product or package to promote. SEO is a great way to slow this process down.
If you do not have time to optimize a page, do not create the page. If you do not have enough authority or the right strategy to rank for a product, then now isn’t the right time.
Whether you have 1 or 1000 products on your fitness website, each page needs the same search engine optimization process. This includes keyword research, meta information, and stronger content than the competitive landscape.
Through client experience, we know that most fitness businesses hope for online sale. This isn’t just for the fitness retailer, this is for the fit pro, a gym, and any other fitness service business. In fact, most of these fitness businesses dabbling in E-Commerce end up hurting their website SEO, devaluing their authority on their primary services.
SEO For Fitness Coaching
Thanks to Instagram, thousands of online fitness coaches exist. Now, with social throttling, it takes more work to reach a potential customer than simply showing off your abs. You need to proof of expertise. How do you do you ask?
By taking a guerrilla marketing approach to knowledge. At 805 SEO, our agency connects the dots between words, images, and videos, creating an unbeatable on page experience. It starts with content marketing and splinters into YouTube and social media platforms.
Fitness coaches should reverse engineer the marketing process used for social media. Let content marketing be the framework for where you find short form content to market.
For SEO to work, all fitness companies with an online presence need to act like a coach or consultant. They will shop on Amazon if they want products without industry expertise. Whatever field of fitness you do business in, make yourself the professional for that category.
SEO For Local Fitness Businesses
Local fitness businesses have more work to do (and more opportunity) thanks to the local Google algorithm and other search locations. Search engine optimization for local businesses is more than appearing at the top of the organic search. You want to win in all directories and maps listings.
Of course, this means starting with Google since many people use Google Business Profile and Google Maps when searching for a local business. But it doesn’t end there. Apple Maps, Bing Listings, and Yelp are just several of the search engines that we should optimize to increase your ranking position.
Here are some of the fitness categories that can win with local search.
- The gym owner fighting against national chains.
- The personal trainer battling against hundreds of competitors.
- The fitness equipment store with better service than Amazon.
- The sports nutrition store trying to capture the distracted supplement shopper.
While your website is the primary focus for long term SEO success, quick wins come first for our local SEO services.
Google Business Profile
Creating your Google Business Profile is like having a summarized version of your site, allowing you to engage with prospective customers. You can link up current information from exercise research, trends in nutrition, and the latest supplements. You can use Google Posts to promote, Google Reviews to communicate, and Google Photo’s bringing life to your fitness business.
Some information is better than nothing, but for your GBP to win, it needs the same level of care as your website. Where SEO can take 4-6 months for the benefits to kick in, you may start getting leads immediately with an optimized Google Business Profile.
Don’t neglect this inexpensive way to drive traffic. Listing your business in directories is important for three reasons.
- It communicates to the search engines that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) is the same across many sites. This prevents your Google Business Profile from self correcting business information because they found your gym opens at 5, rather than 6, from 30 other directory websites.
- These directories offer no follow backlinks to your website. These hold “some” value for backlink building and since they each cost less than a latte, they are worth the investment.
- Directories have their own visitors who search for your business. People still “personal trainer” on YellowPages.com and click the link to your website or number on your phone.
Directories are simple to set up and easy to manage. Don’t fall victim to SEO agencies charging enormous sums of money to manage your directory listings. In fact, run from companies promoting this feature as a primary part of their local SEO strategy.
Reputation management is crucial to SEO success. Let me say that in another way, a lazy approach to reputation management causes you to fall down the search engine faster than a slip and slide. The fitness industry requires trust before people want to engage with a business. Here is how you win with reputation management.
Have More Reviews: It’s hard to trust a business with 5-reviews when competitors have upwards of 150. In fact, when someone hears about your Crossfit gym, then searches it online, you may lose them once they find that your competitors have more reviews.
Have More Responses: The keywords found in reviews are a ranking factor for search engines. While you cannot control what customers say about your business, you can control the response. Of course, your responses should be pleasant even for those who think your gym sucks. But they should also include keywords such as “come back for a free week trial” that search engines associate with your business.
Have a Better Rating: Businesses either care about their star rating or they don’t. Some people think negative reviews only come from stupid people who don’t know nothing about running a business. Others learn from the responses they receive.
No matter if you explained your fitness contract well or not, you’ve got to be considerate of how negative responses hurt your rating. Leaving a kind reply lowers the chance that someone else will leave a negative review in the future.
Website Optimization With Location Intent
Don’t let your developer create your website without understanding who you communicate with. Design and development companies often ask, for example, websites. Companies respond by sending them the big national website competitors. This is the wrong approach.
You are communicating with people in your location and the search engines act as an intermediary between their search and your website. A local website’s structure looks different from a national competitor. Here are a few ways that your local website will look different but perform better.
- Your images will be from within your local community. They include meta information that includes details about the location.
- When you have over one location, your location pages receive most of the search traffic.
- Service pages include relevant information to your community. Your outdoor gym in Oxnard might speak to how the walls are high enough to block the afternoon coastal winds.
- You might broaden your local reach by adding footer pages with locations just within striking distance. This way, you develop traction now for future growth opportunities.
- Reviews on your website allow you to add more context and structure to what we find on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Consider requesting reviews from people who specifically shop your natural protein section so that you have more keywords about this store feature.
Content Marketing With Local Intent
Sometimes, your content marketing strategy isn’t always about reaching the #1 position. You might say, well then, what am I paying you for? Good question, being the topic authority in your area means you are covering topics most relevant to your customers.
One unique feature of Google’s Local Search algorithm is how they slide in local businesses for competitive terms. On paper, we do not have what it takes to rank, but local intent changes the game. Your fitness center might show up for “how to run on a treadmill” and beat out big publications like Men’s Fitness.
This happens because of a local intent focused content strategy. An example of local intent is a Santa Barbara supplement store blogging about “fit tips for this beach season.”
Done right, they weave into the conversation local destinations such as Solimar and Mirimar. These words create a local context, furthering Google’s understanding of the role you play in this specific community.
Natural Backlink Building
If you are a fitness business not involved in the community, then you are falling behind the competition. Community involvement is a fast way to network with people who like to support local businesses.
But don’t stop here. Community involvement is a great way to get backlinks to your website.
I know a Crossfit Gym in Ventura that does local beach cleanup. Local media, bloggers, and social media picked this activity up. This may not have been an intentional SEO strategy, but it is effective.
This is just one of the offline strategies that you can use for online success.
SEO For Specific Fitness Categories
Below, you will find a snapshot of what to expect in each of the SEO articles for specific fitness categories.
SEO for Health Clubs
High end health clubs offer additional features that the lower priced gym excludes. For example, I went to a health club in Valencia, California, with a charcoal filtered alkaline water machine. They have done more work on their SEO than most gyms, but nowhere do you find this benefit on their website.
This gym could create content about the benefits of alkaline water, using target words like alkaline water near me and an alkaline water fountain. While this isn’t a direct “health clubs near me” search, it speaks to an audience looking for upscale features… which is exactly what this health club provides.
SEO For Gyms
Gym SEO is a missed opportunity that frustrates me to my core. An easy win here is asking for backlinks. What brands of equipment do you carry? Can you get a backlink about where to find their equipment?
Who repairs the equipment? Are they willing to drop your logo on their website as one of their featured customers?
What drinks are in your cooler? Can they link you up on their “where to buy page”?
I think you get the idea. There are a lot of connection opportunities occurring in your gym, and many of these connections have websites. leverage them for local backlinks!
Hopefully, this is enough to wet your whistle. We will go deep into more details with our Gym SEO article.
SEO For Personal Trainers
Being a one person operation doesn’t prevent you from winning at SEO. The benefit you have is speed and flexibility. The conversations you have with clients stir up plenty of keyword ideas, especially as a question.
Document these ideas and find out the search volume for the parent topic and semantically related terms. Then create content about these topics. We promise that very few personal trainers will make this effort.
SEO For Supplement Stores
If only I could take the knowledge about SEO that I now hold and rewind time. As a supplement store owner, I dabbled with SEO, but mostly for national purposes. There are many opportunities for a brick n mortar supplement store to win at SEO.
Oh, and gyms, personal trainers, as well as coaches should listen up. This tip is for you since almost every fitness professional sells supplements.
While the most popular search term will be supplements near me, people are also using the near me search with brand and ingredient names. So optimizing your site for protein near me and bang energy drink near me helps your rankings in both organic search and the map pack.
A Strong SEO Strategy For Your Fitness Business
We have covered a lot of ground here, so let’s summarize the main points. Your website needs quality content, backlinks, and an SEO optimized site structure. Your pages should include SEO keywords and fully cover the conversation.
To win at SEO, your company needs to think strategically and creatively. Make SEO a top of mind activity or work with an agency that does this for you. The right agency makes it their job to see that you win in Google search and the other search engines.
Your Fitness SEO Agency
Ready to show up at the top of the search result? We have over 20-years experience in the fitness industry. Having owned, operated, and consulted for gyms, personal training studios, and supplement stores.
We fully equipped our agency to help you achieve top ranking positions to increase online and offline revenues. Fill out the form to receive a free website audit and strategy session with an 805 SEO expert.