Search engine optimization (SEO) is great for making your website easy to find. In fact, it can be a deciding factor if a prospective member chooses to visit your club or another in the area.
While SEO is a great tool for many health clubs, some underestimate the importance of — or don’t fully understand — utilizing it.
SEO is the task of optimizing the pages on your website to be more easily found by individuals who are using search engines to research, find products, services and solutions. According to Pete Herrnreiter, the vice president of strategy and planning at The Motion Agency, a marketing agency, this includes a number of tactics.
Some of these are, developing content like blogs for your websites, writing specific copy on your web pages, improving the usability of your website, and making sure the website backend is tagged or coded properly. All of these elements must be done in order for a website to be fully optimized to rank highly in a search.
“Properly optimizing a website for search is absolutely critical to any company, regardless of industry, service or product,” said Herrnreiter. “For businesses with a brick-and-mortar location, or a number of locations for that matter, it is even more important as customers have to not only find your website, but find your physical address as well.”
Using SEO to ensure location pages are properly optimized for location search allows your club to appear higher in search than your competitors do. Herrnreiter said this is critical for those clubs in markets with multiple competitors in a finite area.
“While proximity is one key factor in joining a club, customers do take time to research, and in doing so they consider other factors key as well, such as class offerings, pricing, amenities, cleanliness and culture,” said Herrnreiter. “All of those qualified visitors would then miss your website completely if it’s not optimized properly.”
While it is clear SEO is an important asset, you may be wondering how you can improve yours. Herrnreiter said start by understanding what keywords qualified customers use when searching for clubs. “Once you have a set of keywords, research all your competitors’ websites and set a baseline for where they rank in comparison to you for critical keywords,” he said. “Basically, act as a customer and see how you stack up against them.”
Once you have determined the above, Herrnreiter said start looking at your website to see if any of these keywords are missing from the site, and if so, find some locations to add those in. Don’t force keywords that don’t belong, but instead add them in where it makes sense.
While this information may seem like an easy task, Herrnreiter stressed it can take time to see results — in some instances, two to six months. “If you keep in mind it’s a long game, you’re already ahead of the curve,” he said. “Be sure to take time to set benchmarks for success and develop realistic expectations for SEO. By having a clear understanding of what it can do for your club, you’re better able to frame success and set realistic expectations.”
SEO is very straight forward to setup but can get complicated quickly. Fortunately, Herrnreiter said there are four main categories that can be easily implemented to help improve your SEO:
- Site speed. Site speed is critical in ranking highly for a web search. Herrnreiter said Google rewards pages that load quickly and offer a better site experience for visitors. “You can easily check your website speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights handy tool,” he said. “You can then identify pages that might be loading slowly and work to fix issues, such as hi-resolution images and videos that might be slowing things down.”
- Mobile usability. Along with site speed, having a website that is mobile friendly plays a critical role in rankings. “Similar to the above, Google wants to reward pages that are easy to use because the majority of searches happen on mobile, so they will prioritize those users’ experiences,” said Herrnreiter. “Google has a great Mobile-Friendly Test tool for this as well.”
- Location pages. Not all clubs will have multiple locations, however for those that do, ensuring each location’s page has all of the information a potential member may want is key. For example, address, phone number, staff info (names/pictures/titles), pictures and videos, etc. “If your business has only one location, make sure to add in location info to your website’s pages, particularly the home page,” said Herrnreiter. “Make sure to denote on the home page the neighborhood or town you’re located in with copy such as, ‘Anytown Gym and Fitness Center.’”
- Keywords. “Similar to the example above, make sure you’re using specific keywords on your website that reflect the keywords potential members are using to search for clubs,” said Herrnreiter. “This could be ensuring terms like gym, fitness center and health club are used throughout the website. Just be careful not to overuse a keyword. You can do this by applying each keyword one to three times per page.”
If your club takes into consideration these four key areas, you can make great progress in improving your SEO. However, it may be worth it to consider looking into a professional to help.
“Just as your members engage with personal trainers to help get fit, don’t hesitate to research and engage with SEO pros or digital marketers for some advice,” said Herrnreiter. “Many agencies will take a few hours to consult with you on opportunities and areas for improvement. It might take extra time and money to get your website properly optimized, but just imagine what a two to 10-fold increase in qualified visitors to your website would be worth.”