How would you like hundreds of people who are actively searching for gyms coming to your website every month, for free? With SEO, that’s possible.
Many local gyms and fitness clubs shy away from SEO. Either because they don’t understand it, they don’t have time or because it seems too overwhelming.
That means the competition in most markets is not too high. You can outrank competing gyms in your area just by implementing some basic SEO practices.
In this article, you will learn…
- What SEO actually is
- Why it’s important for gyms, health clubs and fitness centres
- 3 tools you should use to track your progress and results
- 2 steps you can take within the next week that will set you up for higher rankings
- Whether you need to outsource this to an agency
What Is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a practice of optimizing your website with the intention of ranking higher on search engines like Google.
I’ll use a gym example to make this clearer.
In the screenshot above, I’ve searched for “Byron Bay gyms.”
Byron Gym, is ranking in 1st spot for this search and as I’ve highlighted, that means 28% of people who search this term will click on their website according to a study by Sistrix.
In the fifth spot is the Elements Of Byron website. Which isn’t actually a gym. Being in 5th position means they will usually only get 7.2% of the clicks.
If you’re running a gym in Byron Bay and you’re ranking in 10th spot on this search, you’ll only get 2.5% of the clicks. Obviously, if you’re ranking in the first spot, you’re going to get more people visiting your website and more membership enquiries.
So if your website is ranking in 10th position or on page 2 of the search results, you can use SEO tactics to increase the ranking of your website in search engines.
In this article, I’ll explain which common SEO practices you should use to increase your search engine rankings.
Why SEO Is Important For Gyms
Like I’ve already mentioned, the higher you rank in Google, the more clicks you will get to your website.
And more clicks to your website means more membership sales (as long as you have a good website).
Also, remember that these clicks are completely free. Google doesn’t charge you anything to rank your website. (But you can pay to appear above the regular search results with Google Ads).
People are searching on Google for gyms in your area. This is how many people will find a gym to join. Especially people who are new to the area and those who are just getting started on an exercise plan.
You can find out roughly how many people are searching for gyms in your area on Google using a tool like Ubersuggest (free) or SEM Rush. Here’s an example…
Using the SEM Rush tool, I can see how many people are searching Google for gyms in Boston and what they’re actually searching for. Keep in mind these numbers are not 100% accurate and usually are underestimated.
1900 people are searching for “Boston gyms” each month. There are 590 monthly searches for “Boston gym with basketball court.”
If you had a gym in Boston and you were ranking in the number #1 spot on Google, how many clicks would you get for free?
28% of 1900 searches equals 532 clicks per month.
Plus, if you’re ranking #1 for one search term, you’ll likely rank well on other related keywords as well. For example, “gyms near Boston,” “best gyms in Boston,” etc… This could easily add up to 1000+ free website visitors per month.
Aside from generating free traffic to your website, good SEO will help your gym with branding. When people search Google for a gym and your website shows up near the top of the page, they’re more likely to remember your business.
Later in this article, I’ll show you SEO can help with brand awareness even if people aren’t searching for gyms.
Getting Started – Tracking Your Success
When a personal trainer takes on a new client, what are the first things they will do?
Generally, the personal trainer will want to see where the client is at right now. They might get the client to weigh themselves, take waist and hip measurements, work out their 1 rep max on key exercises…
Having these metrics, allows the trainer and client to measure progress, set goals and identify what’s working.
This same approach should be applied to SEO. If you want to improve your SEO, start with basic measurements and ensure you have the right tools in place to measure your progress.
To measure your progress, I recommend using three main tools. These are:
- Google Analytics – If you have a website, hopefully, you already have this installed. If not, you can set it up for free here.
- Google Search Console – Another free tool that will give you better insight into SEO performance. Set up an account here.
- A Rank Tracker – Paid SEO Tools like SEM Resh and Ahrefs will allow you to track which keywords you’re ranking on. There are also basic free tools like this one from The HOTH.
Once you have Analytics and Search Console set up, I suggest going through the following steps to see where you’re at.
Step 1: If you already had Google Analytics set up, go to Acquisition (in the left side menu) > All Traffic > Channels. Then select Organic Search. This will show you how much traffic you’re getting from search engines.
How To Improve Your Rankings
Now you’ve hopefully identified the main keywords you’d like to rank higher on in Google. The question is how do you improve your rankings?
There are many SEO strategies that businesses will use with the goal of improving their rankings. But some of these will have very little impact. Or in some cases, have a negative impact.
You might have heard about the Pareto Principle applied to exercise. It basically says that 80% of your results in the gym will come from 20% of your training.
That 20% could be the heavy compound lifts or high-intensity interval training. The stuff that produces big results in minimal time.
The Pareto Principle applies to SEO as well. 80% of your results from SEO will come from 20% of the tactics recommended by SEO experts.
Assuming that you don’t want to spend hours every week working on SEO, I think it’s best to focus on the 20% that will give you the 80% of the results. Unless you’re in a highly competitive area, this should be enough to get you ranking inside the top 3, often #1.
In the next sections, I’m going to give you two steps you can apply almost immediately. These strategies are based on the Pareto Principle – utilizing the most effective and time-efficient tactics for SEO.
Step 1: Add These Pages To Your Website
When thinking about SEO for your gym, it’s important to remember that Google wants to provide the most relevant search results to its users.
If people went to Google searching for bodybuilding gyms and the results showed swimming centre websites, those people would get frustrated and stop using Google.
So with that in mind, your goal is to make it very clear to search engines that you are a gym and also clear where you’re located.
If it’s very clear from your website that you’re a gym located in Manchester, UK, then Google will be confident in displaying your website when people search for “gyms in Manchester.”
Many people think that all it takes to do this is stuffing keywords onto your website. For example, just use the keyword “Toronto fitness centre” on your homepage 30 times if you want to rank for “fitness centres Toronto.”
But Google’s algorithm is much more complex than this now. It’s not just keywords that Google is looking for.
Because there are hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of gym and health club websites indexed in Google, the search engine understands what to expect on a gym website.
If your website contains the type of content and pages that Google would expect to see on a gym website, it will help make it clear that you are a gym and should be displayed on relevant keywords.
Check other gym websites ranking in Google to see what pages they have on their websites. You can find this pretty quickly in the header and footer navigation menus..
I suggest adding the following pages to your website if you don’t already have them. Of course, only those that are applicable to your gym. If you don’t offer classes, don’t have a page for fitness classes.
Pages To Include
- About Us
- Personal Training
- Group Fitness Classes
- Membership Options
- Strength Training
- Weight Loss
You don’t need all of these pages and there may be some others, more applicable to your business. But the pages above are a good place to start.
Having these pages on your website will signal to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo that yes, you really are a gym.
For many of these pages, you will only need 150-500 words of content.
Most of these pages aren’t going to bring in a lot of search engine traffic themselves. But they are going to help support the main pages on your website that you are trying to rank for (your home page for example).
To maximize the effectiveness of this content, I suggest taking advantage of an SEO strategy known as internal linking. Basically, this means adding links between the pages on your own website.
For example, London based gym Third Space has a page for Strength & Conditioning Classes. In the screenshot below, you will see they have listed their Metaburn class on this page, which then links to another page about that class.
These links help Google better understand your website and it will improve the user experience by making it easier for users to navigate through the site.
Try to include links back to your home page where possible. This is assuming that your home page is the main page ranking on Google, which it is for most local gyms.
Having more links back to your home page signals to Google that it’s an important page. But don’t overdo it. You don’t need 10 links to your home page from the timetable page on your site.
Step 2: Create A Blog With These Posts
After following step one, you will have a website structure that makes it very clear to search engines that you are a gym.
That means the search engines will feel confident displaying your website on relevant gym searches and push you up the rankings.
In step two, we want to make it clear to Google what area you operate in and signal that you’re an authority in that area.
Firstly, please make sure your website contains the address of your gym. If you have multiple locations, include all of them. And also set up a Google My Business listing with your business address.
I suggest creating a series of blog posts about local health and fitness topics.
For these examples, I’m going to use Chicago as an example. Just replace Chicago with the city you operate in.
- Best Healthy Restaurants In Chicago
- Best Running Tracks Near Chicago
- Where To Find Healthy Foods In Chicago
- Outdoor Exercise Parks In Chicago
- Outdoor Fitness Classes In Chicago
- Where To Buy Exercise Supplements In Chicago
- Relaxing Places To Meditate Near Chicago
Depending on what type of gym you operate, there may be other local blog posts that would be a better fit for your website.
Benefits Of Local Blog Content
Opportunity To Add Internal Links
As I discussed previously, internal links are an extremely important part of your SEO.
When you add more of these blog posts to your website, it gives you more opportunities to add internal links. If you wrote an article on the best healthy restaurants in your city, you could easily add a link to the nutrition page on your website.
Creates Local Authority
Having a collection of local related content on your website, signals to search engines that you’re an expert and authority in that location. This will make the search engines more confident in ranking your website on local searches.
Opportunity To Attract Backlinks
If you read other content about SEO, you’ll see a lot of people promoting the importance of backlinks. A backlink is a link from another website to your website.
Personally, I think backlinks are overrated by most SEO experts. The content on your website is far more important in my opinion. I have been able to rank in the top five results on relatively competitive keywords with 0 backlinks on many occasions.
That being said, backlinks do still have value. Especially good quality backlinks.
Let’s say you write an article on the best healthy restaurants in your city. After the article has been published, reach out to those restaurants to tell them about the article. Ask if they could add a link to it from their website.
Some won’t respond. But others will be flattered to be included in the list and happy to support another local business by adding a link.
Can Help Create Brand Awareness
This is a way to get in front of locals even when they’re not searching for a gym to join.
Let’s say someone near your gym goes to Google and searches for outdoor exercise parks in your city. Your blog post shows up near the top of the page. That person reads your article and then reads a few other articles on your blog that you’ve linked to (internal linking).
Then in a month, it’s getting colder and that person decides to join an indoor gym rather than exercising outdoors. They go to Google and search for gyms in your area. Your website shows up on page 1 and they remember your brand name from when they read your blog posts a month ago.
Since they’re already familiar with your brand they click through to your site and sign up for a trial.
Should You Outsource Your SEO?
Many businesses will either outsource their SEO to an agency or a freelancer. Agencies will typically charge around $1000 – $5000 per month for this service.
For most local gyms, I would suggest it’s not necessary to hire an ongoing agency or freelancer. Unless you’re operating in an extremely competitive location, you should be able to get top 3 rankings simply by following the suggestions in this article.
But if you don’t have the time to write articles and set up all the internal linking, it may be worth hiring someone to create the content for you and get everything set up.
Chain gyms and franchises with multiple locations may consider using an agency for an ongoing period. But it’s important to be careful when selecting an SEO agency. Many agencies use tactics that could actually harm your website. I wrote another article detailing how to choose an SEO agency..
Search engines are one of the first places people will turn to when searching for a gym to join. If your website ranks at the top of Google when someone searches for gyms in your area, you’ll get more traffic and more membership enquiries.
You really don’t need to over-complicate your SEO strategy. Most local gyms aren’t using advanced SEO tactics so it usually won’t take too much to outrank your competition.
Keep in mind that SEO does take time to produce results. If your website is ranking on page 5 today, it’s probably not going to go to page one tomorrow or even next week.
You can of course run Google Ads, which will get you onto page 1 of the search results instantly. But you will need to pay each time someone clicks on your ad.