How To Optimize Health & Wellness Websites for Local SEO

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Say you run a health club, wellness center or fitness business. Are your blog posts optimized for local reach⁠—or broad reach? 

Unfortunately, the answer is probably “broad reach.”

Here’s a quick check. Look at your Google Analytics and drill down into the geographical split. How much of your traffic is in your own trade area?

Don’t be surprised if it’s as little as 30%. One of our customers is a local medical practice that has a top-ranked page on at-home back pain treatments. Just one catch: something like 70% of the traffic comes from outside their service area.

Broad vs local reach

Broad reach content is usually more generic content. It targets a broad audience with similarly broad interests in your given topic. It’s designed to grab as much traffic from as many people as possible, regardless of whether they’re contemplating a related purchase.

For example:

  • Fitness tips for the last three months of pregnancy
  • Healthy snacks for kids
  • Strength-training workouts for folks in their 50s
  • How to train for a marathon
  • Explanation of different yoga styles

Notice that these are “top of sales funnel” topics. That means they’re the questions that people ask when they have only an initial, general level of interest in the topic.

Will they ever buy anything related to this interest? Who knows?!  Some will, eventually. Some never will. It’s much too early too tell.

True, they’ve got some level of awareness — but most of their effort is focused on research and narrowing down all the possibilities to the one that feels most appropriate. They’re not ready to look for local providers, compare competing providers, or worry about choosing the wrong provider.

Local reach, on the other hand, refers to content that attracts people located in your specific trade area⁠ who are probably considering a potential purchase. Content optimized for local search:

  • Creates and maintains awareness of your business so that prospects can consider you when they’re ready to buy.
  • Specifically attracts people with what SEO professionals call “purchase intent.”

These people are well into their buying process. For example, they’ve narrowed down “yoga” to a preference for “flow yoga” and now they’re trying to identify 1) local studios that 2) offer the right kind of yoga and 3) look like a good fit.

Why broad vs local matters

You’re trying to sell health and wellness services to people who want them—and want to pay for them. Right?

First, that means the only eyeballs you care about are the ones in your trade area. Who cares if someone in Oregon or Thailand is reading a blog post on your Ocala, FL health club’s website?

Second, we’re talking organic search. To have any impact whatsoever, your content needs to make it onto the first page of Google search results.

The hard truth is that it’s almost impossible for your local health and wellness business to outrank the broad-reach content that’s already out there, often provided by sources that are more authoritative and widely-recognized than your business can ever be. 

If you’re a health club, you’re competing against broad reach content from everyone from MayoClinic to Men’s Health to a slew of lifestyle websites. If you’re a yoga studio, WebMD, Healthline and YogaJournal are among the top-ranked sources for information about yoga’s benefits. Do you really think you’ll outrank them? Possible, but not likely.

Let them do the missionary work of educating people at the top end of the sales funnel. 

Make your focus the middle and bottom of the sales funnel, filled with people in your community who are already thinking about taking action. When you do write top-of-funnel content, pack it with local flavor.

One of our clients got super-excited last month because their website traffic suddenly spiked. They had published a great article a couple of years back on how to treat a certain type of health issue. Probably as a result of a Google algorithm update, it started ranking quite well in search results.

Just one problem: virtually all of the growth was coming from distant places. No matter how great the post was, these site visitors were never going to become clients.

The local content strategy for health and wellness businesses

Successful local-optimized organic content emphasizes:

  1. Local flavor — because that signals to Google that you’re looking for people who are nearby, not people from all over the US or all over the world
  2. Content for people near the middle and end of the sales funnel, not just the beginning

These examples show you how to create content at the intersection of your wellness business and your local community.

Local events

Examples: farmers markets, races, festivals

Check local event calendars on your city’s news sites and in local community newspapers, neighborhood tabloids and shoppers.

Say your city hosts a huge State Fair with food booths, and you’re a healthy lifestyle center. Write an article with “eat this not that” specific food recommendations for everyone planning to attend with references and links to the actual event plus other relevant resources, like public transit schedules for the event and links to local drugstores in case they overdo it and need to buy Tums.

Local news

Examples: weather events, natural disasters, seasonal topics, human interest stories, local headlines

Obvious topic candidates include cold, flu, and allergy season, dealing with physical or psychological aftereffects of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires, and local high school, college, amateur or professional sports events, from marathons to football and soccer games.

Here’s an example: tips for parents of high school football players on injury recovery. That gives you the opportunity to name-check local schools and teams and round up highly-rated massage and PT clinics and orthopedic surgeons. Content focused on getting your athlete scholarship-

Local hallmarks

Examples: snow skiing, local crops like maple syrup or chili peppers, fall leaf tours, outlet malls

Is your business located in an area known for brutal winters? Hot summers? Perhaps it’s in a major metro area or not far from a well-known sports arena or tourist attraction. Your local tourism or convention bureau is a often an underutilized resource.

These are all location signals to Google, so build them selectively into your content.

Whatever your town’s “signature” attributes, develop content centered on those features that intersects your health and wellness angle. For example, a healthy lifestyles program might create a feature on fueling for sports with natural sugars might feature maple syrup (and prominent mentions of your town and local syrup producers) along with honey and other natural sweeteners.

Other local businesses

Examples: complementary health and wellness businesses, selected local retailers (not national chains!), health and wellness chambers of commerce

Identify other businesses and organizations that are complementary or like-minded with audiences that overlap yours.

Think broadly. For example, if your focus is natural health, boutiques that specialize in natural or organic fibers, niche brands, artisan jewelery and quirky home decore probably shares your audience.

If you run a sports conditioning business, physical therapy providers, orthopedic surgeons, local sports equipment stores, tutoring and college prep services may be a logical fit.

This type of data lends itself to guides, roundups, top-rated lists and local resource pages, all packed with completely natural local SEO signals.

For example, instead of a generic article with tips for safe exercise during pregnancy, you might combine those tips with mentions and links to local midwives, doulas, baby stores, top-rated ob-gyns and pediatricians, and local meal delivery services.

Optimize for purchase intent

Your content should address the most common questions or topics that serious prospects have. 

Common searches include things like:

  • Health clubs near me
  • Health club specials
  • Best health club in MyTown
  • Reviews HealthClub ABC MyTown
  • Cheap health clubs
  • 24-hour health clubs
  • Friendly health clubs
  • Health clubs with child care

Your localized content should also address common pre-purchase topics like:

  • Is this right for me, and how can I tell? Self-assessments and checklists can help potential clients self-select into your sales funnel.
  • Will this work for me? How will it overcome common obstacles like lack of time, frequent travel schedule, food preferences, pain, etc.?
  • What should I expect on my first visit/appointment/etc.? What do I need to do to get ready? What should I wear?
  • What do other customers think about this? Emphasize case studies and client profiles vs testimonials.

While we often use premium marketing databases to research queries, a good free starting point is your own website’s data found in Google Analytics/Search Queries.

Your Google My Business Insights also provide details on the search queries that led people to your Google My Business listing.

And if you run Google Ads, scan the search queries that triggered your ads. The Google Keyword Planner and AnswerThePublic are additional free keyphrase research sources.

Combining Local Presence and Purchase Intent

Here’s an example of a post that could easily include lots of local signals and address a common question.

“What’s the Best Gym in MyTown?”

  • Incorporates key selling points and common search phrases (“best gym MyTown”)
  • Mentions proximity to recognizable neighborhoods
  • References major streets and highways
  • Incorporates names of well-known employers
  • Mentions health clubs or gyms that aren’t direct competitors (for example, Planet Fitness vs a full-service health club with aquatics)
  • Mentions other local fitness options
  • Links to Google and Yelp review ratings

You’ll have to look harder to find writers who do a great job of local posts. Most gravitate to broad-reach articles, which require much less research and are therefore faster to churn out.

But the extra effort is totally worth it when you check your Google Analytics trend and see your local traffic increasing.