The Local Search/SEO Guide for Gyms, Health Clubs & Fitness Centers

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What local search and SEO best practices do the best-marketed gyms, health clubs and fitness centers get right?

We dug into real data from fitness businesses in the 10 largest U.S. cities: Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Jose and San Diego.

We studied actual site visits to the most successful gym and health club websites, analyzed keywords, compared search queries and more.

Here’s what these businesses have in common:

They understand how members pick gyms and health clubs.

These gyms really understand where their customers come from, and how they think when they’re picking a club to join.

Like them, most of your customers want to join a gym that’s near their home, near their workplace, or on their commute.

How near?

Typically, within 3 – 5 miles.

What are they really looking for? Actual Google search queries tell the story:

  • “best gym in Plano”
  • “health club near me”
  • “best weight loss program in Frisco”
  • “gym with sauna”
  • “cheap gym”
  • “health club child care”

If prospects use voice search on their smartphone, it’s probably a longer, more conversational query:

  • “OK, Google, what’s the best club between Plano and McKinney for women”
  • “What gyms cost less than $40/month”
  • “What health clubs have free daycare for little kids”

They understand how Google gym and health club searches really work.

Optimizing for local search is highly specialized. It’s different from optimizing, say, WebMD’s site or the Under Armour site.

When someone searches, Google provides two major types of organic search results, sandwiched between paid ads on the top and bottom of the page:

  • The local 3-pack, a compact display of 3 top-rated gyms in your area
  • About 10 more text listings, usually a mix of review sites and business sites

We didn’t include your Google My Business listing knowledge panel, because that only appears when someone’s searching specifically for your brand. Unless you’re a chain, most prospective members aren’t searching for your business name.

So, your goal is to show up in the 3-pack. Second-best is showing up in the text listings, usually a mix of review sites and health club or gym websites.

This raises a key question: how you can make sure your health club appears as close to the top of the search listings as possible?

You can’t buy your way into it. Google’s SEO algorithms decide how high your health club’s website ranks on the page. They consider a long list of signals into deciding which businesses get coveted “local pack” status and which ones don’t.

What you can do, in order of importance, is implement the most important local search principles for your business:

  1. Optimize your gym’s Google My Business listing, including ongoing use of all available features like posting, service listings and Q&A
  2. Encourage Google My Business reviews
  3. Fully configure and optimize your club’s Facebook page
  4. Encourage Facebook reviews
  5. Encourage Yelp reviews
  6. Fully configure your Yelp listing
  7. Purchase Yelp’s Page Upgrade package which is currently about $90
  8. Claim and complete your NextDoor business listing if available in your community
  9. Optimize your website’s technical performance for mobile
  10. Dial in your website’s content and navigation to swiftly and painlessly address the demonstrated priorities and concerns of potential members
  11. Create a unique page for each club location
  12. Create a unique page for each major feature, like group fitness, personal training, and swimming pools. (Don’t call it aquatics. That’s an industry term, not a consumer term.)
  13. Create a unique page for each market segment you serve
  14. If you have only one location, create a unique SEO-optimized page for each major local area you draw members from
  15. Provide multiple ways to contact your health club on your site and in all of your listings: phone, SMS, website chat, email, and Facebook Messenger.
  16. Respond meaningfully to inquiries within all of these channels within minutes during all hours you’re open.

Conscientious and thorough implementation of each step above will give the best local search marketing plan possible for your fitness business.

Extra: Handy SEO/SEM Marketing Tools for Gyms & Health Clubs

Common Keywords

Note: don’t optimize for anything you don’t actually offer.

  • Gyms in [city]
  • Gyms in [city state]
  • Best gyms near me
  • Best fitness gyms
  • Personal trainer [city state]
  • Fitness clubs [city state]
  • Fitness center [city state]
  • Spas in [city state]
  • Weight loss programs [city state]
  • [health club name] prices [city]
  • Best personal trainers in [city state]
  • Youth sports training

NextDoor gym and health club listings

NextDoor is an underutilized local search opportunity. VIsit their site to claim and complete your gym or health club’s NextDoor profile.

Yelp Page Upgrade

Look for these after you log into Yelp for Business. The Page Upgrade package is less than $100/month. It is not the same as buying a Yelp Ad package, which we recommend against.

Local search/SEO worst practices to avoid

The best fitness center websites:

  • Don’t stuff website footers full of zip codes or community names
  • Don’t jam health club page titles full of keywords
  • Don’t forcefit keywords into the main site navigation
  • Don’t chase citations in obscure online business directories that no one actually looks at
  • Don’t worry about backlinks from anyone except other local or regional businesses or organizations