I recently arrived home surprised to discover that a phone book had been dropped off on my front porch. “They still make these things?” I asked myself as I proceeded to walk the outdated bundle of paper straight to my recycling bin. While I still search for local business information on nearly a daily basis, a phone book is certainly not the place I go to do so.
When I need to find something in my neighborhood, whether it is a new restaurant, gym or coffee shop, I hop on Google to find it. And I am not alone. According to Google, four out of five consumers conduct local searches on search engines. With so many people turning to the Internet to find local businesses nearby, solely having a presence with your website is not enough. Up-to-date, optimized listings on various local business directory sites are a must-have for any brick and mortar fitness business this year.
Why Local Search Matters
As a business owner, you’ve probably heard mumblings about the growth of local search, but it’s truly amazing how quickly it has exploded over the last couple of years. BrightLocal reports that 57% of consumers searched online for a local business more than six times last year. Google claims that 50% of smartphone searchers and 34% of computer/tablet users visit a store within a day of their local search.
Local listings are increasingly taking up more space on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Take a second and perform a quick search on Google for your fitness business category (CrossFit gyms, yoga studios, martial arts schools, etc.) followed by the city you’re located in. When I performed this search, seven Google Business listings and one Yelp listing appeared on the first page of the search results, along with a large map on the right-hand side of the page with pinpoints for each location. If you do not have optimized local listings, especially Google Business listings, you’re missing out on valuable first-page real estate.
Must-Have Local Business Listings
There are hundreds of local listing sites, so figuring out where to start can be somewhat of an overwhelming task. There are certain local listing sites that have more weight than others. As you’re starting to execute your local plan, be sure to focus on the following important (and free) sites:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places for Business
- Yahoo Local
- Yelp for Business Owners
- Facebook for Business
Please note that listings for your business might already exist on some of these sites. Before creating a new listing, perform a quick search on each platform to see if a listing for your fitness business already exists. If it does, follow the simple instructions on the site to claim your business listing so you can begin editing it.
The Basics of Local Listings
Once you’ve claimed and/or created your listings, it’s time to start adding key attributes to ensure they are well optimized and consistent. The following components are necessary for each listing:
- Business Name: Always use your actual business name, and ensure it’s the same across all of your listings. It’s a common mistake to have slight name variations across local platforms (ex: Thompsonvilletown Gym and Thompsonvilletown Fitness Gym). These variations, even though slight, can cause confusion among search engines and searchers. Basically, you need to keep your business name as-is; don’t add things like additional keywords, taglines, phone numbers and URLs.
- Address: Only use a physical street address for you business. Shared addresses and PO boxes should be avoided, and it’s likely your listing won’t get approved if you use them. If you have more than one location, create different, unique listings for each one. Many searchers on both computers and mobile devices will be looking for directions to your location, so if you’re claiming an existing listing, make sure the address is correct.
- Phone Number: Your phone number is a crucial component of your business listing, as 61% of mobile searches result in a phone call. According to Google, over 50% of mobile callers are searching for your business, or want to complete a purchase when they call your business directly. Due to this, make sure you have the capacity to take these calls (don’t expect voicemail to suffice) and you’re using a phone number with the local area code (tracking numbers, out-of-state cell phone numbers and 1-800 numbers should be avoided).
- Website: Local listings are a great way to get quality links to your website. When adding a link to your site, make sure you’re using the exact URL for your site. If your website URL does not contain www. when you plug it into your browser, then the URL you’re using for your link shouldn’t contain it either.
- Business Hours: Google has been placing much more emphasis on business hours, as these are displayed in the search results for your business and on the Google Map listing as well. Be diligent when adding hours for your business. If you’re open from 5:00 am to 7:30 pm every day except for Wednesday, be sure that the hours in your listing reflect that. Also, if your schedule changes frequently, remember to update your business listings every time you’re updating your website.
- Categories: Don’t forget to add relevant categories for your business listings. Many sites will let you add up to five categories, and these can be important ranking factors for search engines. If you need help finding relevant categories for your fitness business, use Moz Local’s Category Research Tool.
- Description: Most local listings have a section for a short description of your business. Keep this description short and sweet by staying between 250 and 500 characters. This is a great place to add two to three important, geospecific keywords that are relevant to your business.
- Logo: Make your listing stick out in the search results by adding branding to it. If you don’t add your logo, the main image that will show up with your Google Business listing is a map of your location. Perform a quick search again for your business category and city name. Do a lot of your competitors have a map image showing up next to their listing? If not, this is a great way for you to gain a quick competitive advantage over them.
Make Your Listings Fancy
Once these essential attributes have been added to each listing, you can begin to spice your listings up by adding more engaging components. Photos are a great way to add personality to your listing, as they can provide potential members an idea of what your classes are like. If you offer different types of classes, or you appeal to several different age groups, be sure to include a wide range of photos so all relevant targets can see what you offer.
Many local listings also allow you to add videos. Consider adding a short video (between 90 and 120 seconds) that provides an overview of your gym. This video could contain clips of actual workouts/lessons, members’ testimonials, as well as a brief history of the business and its mission provided by you.
Reviews are one of the biggest perks of having established, well-optimized local listings. Based on research from BrightLocal, 88% of consumers consult online reviews before they purchase local services. These consumers also report that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Based on this information, it’s important that your members and clients are providing reviews for your business. However, it’s important that you be careful about soliciting reviews. Some sites, such as Yelp, have strict guidelines about what is and is not acceptable behavior for acquiring new reviews. This takes us back to the importance of always providing amazing customer service that will delight your members, making them want to spread the word about your business.
The verdict is in. Internet searchers want well-optimized, accurate local listings to help aid them in their purchase decision process. To ensure you have visibility for this engaged audience, start working on creating, claiming and improving your local listings today.
If you’re looking for additional ways to improve your marketing strategy for your fitness business this year, check out our Digital Marketing webinar. This must-see webinar covers everything from local and organic search to pay-per-click advertising. Once you’ve done that, check out our 10 Step Marketing Guide to learn more ways to stand out in a crowded market.