Can Money Buy Love? PPC Insights for Health Clubs & Wellness Businesses

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[two_third]Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a great way to attract new health club members and wellness clients — but like every effective marketing strategy, the devil is in the details. Do it wrong and it’s easy to irritate instead of intrigue. You’ll pay through the nose to put your ads in front of prospects you’ll never close.

Do it right, and you’ll see measurable growth in leads, prospects, and most important: paying members and clients.

Keep these often overlooked points in mind as you set your PPC budget and evaluate results from your PPC campaigns:

1. Set your budget with math, not magic

As you know, PPC advertisers like health clubs, wellness centers, yoga studios and medical practices use Google’s AdWords platform to bid against each other for the chance to place paid text ads at the top of a page of search results.

Unfortunately, too many health clubs and wellness businesses seem to pull PPC budgets out of the air, or perhaps elsewhere.

But how much should you budget for your entire campaign? How much should you be willing to pay per click? Should you pay more for mobile clicks? Or for certain keywords? The questions can seem endless and unknowable — but the truth is that figuring out a reasonable PPC budget is a math question that can be answered with the use of data and know-how about your market, your business, and an understanding of how PPC actually works.

There is no need to SWAG it.

When we work with clients, one of the first things we do is come up with an estimate of the total market size in their community. You have to know this information in order to set a rational budget.

If you’re in a fairly small town, and you already have 400 members, you can advertise all day long but you probably already have close to 100% market share! There’s just no justification for spending a lot of money on a PPC campaign if you’re already the “top dog.”

On the other hand, don’t kid yourself that your market size is 17 million people just because you’re located in Los Angeles. If you know how to get the right data, and what to do with it, you can come up with a sensible estimate of your true potential.

The next thing we do is figure out how much of that market you currently have vs how much you realistically could get with greater marketing reach. Again, if you’ve already likely got more than your “fair share,” why throw a lot of money at PPC?

On the other hand, if you’ve got an opportunity to market to, say, 10,000 people that you’re not currently reaching, it probably makes sense to target them with PPC advertising.

Using those numbers and data that are specific to your business (like average revenue per member), figure out who you can reach, what you should be willing to pay for clicks and conversions, and how many members or clients you should expect from your PPC campaigns.

That way you can tell if your PPC investment is actually paying off.

2. Understand your conversions & CTR

Google AdWords allows you to set a conversion tracking code and time window, allowing you to track the original visitor, ad and search term that brought them to your site along with subsequent visits to the site. Conversion tracking reports can then reveal how close you are to making your first dollar from that customer, and how many exposures you had to pay for BEFORE they converted. These additional exposures contribute to your overall cost per acquisition, which must be less than your profit over that customer’s lifetime.

Conversion rates can run anywhere from 10% to much higher — we’ve run certain ad/keyword combinations with 50% and 100% conversion rates.

When Google inserts your ad into a list of search results, that’s called an impression. If someone clicks on it, that’s a click (duh). Clicks are what you pay for, and over time you should see click-through rates (CTR) of at least 2 – 3%.

But we all know that folks click on ads all the time without buying anything. The process of turning lookers into customers is called conversion.

Tracking conversions is one of the most important yet underutilized features in Google AdWords, and it’s one of the biggest issues we see when we audit clients’ PPC results. Too many PPC search consultants only understand conversion for product sales — not services, and especially not health and wellness services.

For product retailers, it’s easy to measure conversion. For example, I just searched for “vitamin D supplement” and saw an iHerb PPC ad for “Nature Made D3.” If I click on that ad, go to the iHerb Nature Made Vitamin D product page, and then buy those vitamins, iHerb knows with 100% certainty that their ad for Nature Made’s Vitamin D product converted.

Certain types of conversions are easy to track for some health clubs, fitness businesses and yoga studios. Common examples include:

  • Online membership signup
  • Online appointment scheduling for personal training, sports massage or other services
  • Online sale of class cards
  • Online sale of products like logo T-shirts, fitness toys or supplements

However, many fitness and wellness businesses simply don’t close sales online. They have a face-to-face model. You can and should still use conversion tracking, but you’ll be tracking your prospect’s “next step”, which should be the last thing that happens before they buy. Examples include:

  • Online signup for a club tour or free membership trial or membership pass
  • Visits to a page that contains maps and directions to your facility, since this would logically precede coming into to sign up
  • Visits to “Make An Appointment” or Contact pages

By the way: do you have a telephone-based sales model? Google AdWords can track those conversions!

3. Use specificity to improve PPC ROI

PPC advertising to everyone with a pulse is expensive and frustrating. Successful PPC campaigns use multiple targeting strategies at once to make sure that you’re only bidding to place your ads in front of the likeliest prospects. Targeting is both an art and a science. Your PPC firm needs expertise in your industry plus the ability to slice and dice your PPC and Google Analytics data.

Just a few examples, because the list of targeting strategies is almost literally endless:

  • Geo-targeting (absolutely essential even for national fitness brands)
  • Demographic targeting (age and gender, for example)
  • Targeting people who have already visited your website at least once
  • Targeting people who have clicked on one of your ads before
  • Targeting people based on the presence or absence of specific attributes of your program or service
  • Targeting people who are searching for a competitive program or business
  • Targeting people who are ready to buy right this minute
  • Targeting people only when your facility is actually open (useful for urgent care clinics, for example)

And we haven’t even touched on all the strategies for building  your keyword lists, from long-tail words to modified broad matches to phrase matches to figuring out the best PPC ad segmentation strategies for your specific health club or wellness business.

Very few businesses do a great job of targeting their PPC campaigns. For example, they bid on extremely popular or common search terms, often just one word, like “Zumba” or “personal training” or “CrossFit” or “physical therapy.”

Here’s the problem: you don’t know if the person who typed in “Zumba” wanted books on Zumba, a Zumba teacher training program, Zumba class locations, a job teaching Zumba, what to wear to Zumba class, the history of Zumba, or even fitness dance alternatives to Zumba, like capoeira.

When you bid on generic terms, you get ALL of those searchers. And most of them aren’t even remotely likely to be prospects for your Zumba classes!

Instead, target search terms to more granular attributes — price, program, client goal, customer need, customer persona and so forth. You’ll pay less, for more conversions — a win/win.

For example, “24 hour health clubs Far North Dallas TX” increases the chances of your ad showing ONLY when someone is looking for round-the-clock fitness clubs in Dallas. The fact that they’re looking for a specific type of club in a specific place is a strong buying sign (and guess what — that ad will be cheaper and deliver a higher click-through and conversion rate than a keyword like “dallas health clubs” or “24 hour health clubs dallas”).

It’s also very important to use negative keywords. For example, if you do not offer prenatal yoga at your Bikram hot yoga studio and don’t want the liability of including pregnant women in your hot yoga classes, it might be smart to make “prenatal yoga” a negative keyword. That way you’ll never, ever show an ad for  your studio to someone searching for “prenatal yoga.”

4. Understand Quality Scores: the MVP metric

In general, ads nearest the top of the page are likeliest to attract the most clicks. So what decides where your ad will land? Google calculates a Quality Score for each of your ads based on how strongly your ad matches the intent of the person doing the searching.

The Quality Score considers numerous elements, including your actual ad content, your use of advanced features like ad extensions and mobile-optimized ads, how well your ad “synchs” with your landing page, and your budget for the keywords you’ve associated with that ad. It also considers historical click-through and conversion rates.

A strong match among all of these elements results in a higher Quality Score (from 6  – 10), because your ad is likelier to meet the searcher’s need. And that means you get a better position on Google’s search results page, and best of all — you pay less for the privilege.

If it’s a weak match, you’ll have to buy your way to the top of the search results page by paying more. Even if that sounds good to you (and I hope it doesn’t), it’s still a bad idea. Google is smart. They’re very good at predicting what customers are really looking for. If the Google Quality Score says your ad is poorly designed, you’re very unlikely to get great results even if you pay a premium to get great placement for your (bad) ad.

5. Understand the role of organic search vs PPC

A good overall web marketing strategy makes use of both PPC and content marketing where they’re most useful.

PPC is all about generating sales. Notice that conversions are all steps that happen near the end of your prospect’s buying process. This is where PPC delivers its highest ROI. It is marketing for fast results.

Organic search, on the other hand, is a long-term marketing strategy. It’s about building your brand while you build interest, addressing concerns early in the buying process, and nurturing leads. It is NOT about fast results and prompt sales generation. Earlier in the buying process process, organic search optimization of your website and social presence delivers a better return. At that point, prospects are reading your blog posts, scanning testimonials, looking at your photo gallery, reading your “About” page or skimming competitive comparisons or descriptions of your different fitness and wellness programs.

The art and science of pay-per-click

PPC is not a “set it and forget it” activity.

Success requires knowledge about your industry and insight into your specific business and customers.

It also demands active, ongoing analysis, tweaking and tuning of your ads, ad extensions, keywords AND landing pages based on CTR, conversion rate and cost per conversion results and trends.

There are no shortcuts. Ads and keywords cannot be cookbooked. To work, they have to be tailored to your business, your market, your ideal customer, and more.

Funny and true story: we interviewed someone for a search position recently. We gave him a sample scenario and asked him to comment. Among other things, he thought that “cantaloupe migraine” was a crazy keyword that probably should be categorized as a negative keyword.

Wrong! If he had health and wellness industry experience, he would have known that food sensitivities, specifically to melons, are fairly frequently associated with migraines!

That’s why industry experience is so important. And that’s why someone who never talks to you, and does PPC “blind” without any knowledge of your business, nearly always sub-optimizes your campaigns. They don’t know what they don’t know.

Understanding your “best customer” is equally important. Not all weight loss programs can or should feature “bikini body” headlines. Unless you’re Planet Fitness or a similar low-price franchise, why on earth would you pay good money to give low prices top billing in your ads?

So the old song is right? Money can’t buy me love?

Done right, PPC advertising buys you attention from well-qualified potential customers, and careful stewardship of that attention will convert interested searchers into members and clients.

Successful PPC management is a delicate mix of art, science, and ongoing attention to detail. When those elements are in harmony, you’ll find that your marketing is indeed winning the customers who truly are most likely to love you.

Does your health club or wellness business
need a PPC audit?

Yes, if you’re wondering:

Is my ad spending out of line for other businesses like ours?

Should our ad budget keep creeping up?

Are our PPC campaigns really worth the money?

Is our PPC consultant or in-house team actually doing a good job?