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What Every Gym Owner Needs To Know About Local Search

Today's post was written by Tiffany Houkum, Search Engine Marketing Specialist at Zen Planner.

When you need to find something in your neighborhood, whether it is a restaurant, coffee shop or dry cleaner, where do you go to find it? Chances are, you wouldn’t go searching around your house for a phone book. Instead, you’d probably grab your smartphone, tablet or laptop and search on Google to see quickly all the options nearby.

If Google is where you go to find businesses in your area, it’s likely that’s what prospects of your gym rely on when they’re looking for fitness facility options in their area. This makes local search a key component of your gym’s marketing strategy.

Local Search Defined

Before we dive deep into the world of local search, let’s first define a couple key terms that will be used throughout this article.

  • Local search is the act of performing a search within a specific geographic area (ex: “gyms in downtown denver”).

  • Local directory sites are websites like Yelp, Google My Business, Yahoo Local, etc. that house business listings. Think of these sites as the modern day phone book.

  • Local listings are the actual business profiles on these sites. These profiles contain important information about a specific business, including contact information, hours, website links and more.

  • Local Presence is having visibility in the search engines when searchers perform a local search. As a business owner, you want your business to appear on the first page for local searches in your area. 

The Importance of Local

Local search has exploded over the last several years, due in large part to the introduction of smart phones. Having a website is no longer enough to ensure you’ll have presence in the search results. To understand how crucial a strong local presence really is, check out these eye-opening statistics:

Prospects in your area are using Google to find a new gym to call home. If you’re not showing up when they perform a local search, there’s a good chance they’ll choose a competitor who is listed. That’s why it’s critical that you start claiming and optimizing local listings for your gym, school or studio today.

Where You Need to be Listed

Perform a search for the term “local directory sites,” and you’ll be shocked at the number of options that appear. Many are free, some of them come with small one-time fees and others come with hefty annual fees. With so many local sites, you may be wondering where can you even start. While every single directory listing you fill out becomes another opportunity for your gym to be found online, I highly recommend that you start with the following free listings:

  • Google My Business

  • Bing Places for Business

  • Yahoo Local

  • Yelp for Business Owners

  • Facebook for Business

Before you begin creating a listing for your business, perform a search on each of these sites to see if a listing for your business already exists. If it does exist, the site will have easy to follow instructions on how you can claim the listing so you can begin optimizing it. 

Components of Local Listings

Every directory site is different, but the majority of them offer the same key attributes for each business listing. When claiming, creating and optimizing your listing, you’ll need to ensure it you’ve filled out the following key components:

  • Business Name: You must use your actual business name and it needs to be exactly the same on every single directory site. Don’t add keywords, taglines, phone numbers or anything else to your name. Slight variations in the name can confuse both search engines and searchers.

  • Address: Only physical street addresses can be used so avoid including PO boxes. If you have more than one location you’ll need a business listing for each one.

  • Phone Number: Having the correct phone number is extremely important. Google reports that when over 50% of mobile callers are researching a product or service or want to complete a purchase that they call a business directly. Make sure that you have the capacity to handle phone calls as having prospects leave messages on a voicemail line adds no value to your business.

  • Website: Add a correct link to your website. Local listings are a great way to get valuable links to your site.

  • Business Hours: This component is very important as it now shows up in Google Map results. Note your hours for each day of the week that your fitness business is open. Hours can be “go or no go” call for certain prospects. If someone loves to workout in the morning and the hours on your listing say that you open at noon, they might not click to view your listing.

  • Categories: Most directory sites will allow you to add up to five relevant categories to your business listing. Check out Moz Local’s Category Research Tool to get ideas on which categories to add to your listing.

  • Description: This is your opportunity to provide a short overview of your fitness business. Keep it short and simple (ideally between 250 and 500 characters). Mention the types of classes and training options you offer. Also, try to work some localized keywords into your description to help your listings show up better in the search results.

  • Images: Be sure to add visual components to your listing by including your logo, along with photos of classes taught at your gym. It’s important to ensure that you add at least one image to your listing (ideally your logo), otherwise your listing will appear with a general avatar in the search results.

  • Reviews: Many people turn to local listings to hear what other people think of a particular business. BrightLocal reports that 88% of consumers consult online reviews before they make a purchase, and tend to trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Encourage your happy members to spread the love they have for your gym, studio or school by writing a review.  But, you also need to make sure that you’re following proper guidelines for getting new reviews.

Once you’ve claimed and optimized these listings, keep a close eye on your Google Analytics account to track the success of your efforts. As you start seeing more visitors arrive at your website from these local sites, you might want to consider increasing your local efforts by paying for listings on additional sites, like YP.com or by starting a small pay-per-click advertising program with AdWords Express. Either way, having a plan in place to ensure you have a strong local presence in the search results will help your fitness business a ton long-term.

If you’re looking for additional tips to improve the online visibility of your fitness business, consider downloading Zen Planner's free Guide to SEO for Fitness Businesses. This eBook contains step-by-step directions building a solid keyword list and optimizing your site to help it achieve better rankings in the search results. 

About Tiffany

Tiffany Houkom currently serves as the Search Engine Marketing Specialist for the fitness business software company, Zen Planner. Born and raised in Denver, Tiffany is a Colorado girl to her core. From snowboarding and hiking to working out at her neighborhood CrossFit box, Tiffany has a hard time sitting still. Professionally, Tiffany has over five years of digital marketing experience, with an emphasis on search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and content development.  

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