According to Datareportal, as of January 2023, there are 5.16 billion internet users worldwide. That’s 64.4% of the population. And ”almost 6 in 10 working-age internet users (57.8 percent) still refer to online resources when looking for information.”
Clearly, no gym or fitness center can afford to ignore the internet when it comes to finding new members. You have to be online and you have to establish an excellent online presence.
But what does that mean? What is an online presence, and how can you establish and grow your own online presence? Find out in our online presence guide for gyms.
What is an online presence?
Your online presence isn’t just about having a website and posting on social media. Not if you want to build a strong presence that actively supports your bricks and mortar gym and helps to guide new members toward joining.
It does start with you and what you do online, including what you post, how often you show up, and what you say about yourself.
However, you also need to be visible in the search engines and on social media. And finally, your online presence wouldn’t be complete without members of the public interacting with you and deciding how they feel about you and your gym.
Your online presence isn’t just about what you say about yourself, it’s about what other people think of you, based on what you’re providing online and how you come across. A strong online presence consists of an excellent reputation, great visibility, trustworthiness, and integrity.
Benefits of having an online presence
There’s quite a lot of effort involved in building a solid and strong online presence, but trust us when we say that the benefits far outweigh the work you put in. Here are just some of the benefits of building your online presence and reputation:
1) Get discovered more easily
If you’ve done the work, you’ll have an active presence on social media, a great website, visibility in the search engines, and there will be business directories all across the internet with your details and content included. Once you have all of those in place, it’s clear that you will be more discoverable for anyone wanting to find a great gym in your local area.
Anyone needing a gym will be able to find you in search and on social. In fact, it will be harder to miss you if you’ve set everything up well.
This is one of the biggest benefits of having a strong online presence.
2) Be seen as a legitimate business
Have you ever seen a business that barely has a website, never mind a full and rich online presence? There’s nothing on social media, the website is dated and has very little information. A Google search only brings them up if you type in their name and their location. If you were hoping to find a business to buy from, would you be buying from that one? Chances are, that’d be a huge “NO.”
You, on the other hand, with your strong and established online presence, will stand out as a legitimate and honest business that cares about its members and genuinely wants to help people with their fitness.
If that other business with barely any online presence is another gym, you know you’ve got membership in your area already sewn up. Pretty much anyone that’s interested in joining a gym is going to pick you.
Building your online presence is all about establishing your credibility and your reputation.
3) Promote your business around the clock
Your website and social media platforms don’t sleep. While you’re getting your optimum night’s sleep, teaching classes, running your business, or even managing to have some downtime, your online presence will be busy working away and promoting your gym. All the content you’ve built up, the expertise you’ve shown, and the care you’ve shown your audience will continue to market your business for you, even when you aren’t actively present.
4) Save money while attracting new customers
You do still need a marketing budget to ensure you continue to market your gym well, but with a strong online presence, at least part of the work is already done for you. If you’re the gym with a vibrant community built around your website and your social presence, the local gym people can count on for help, advice, and genuine, heartfelt care for your members and your online audience, you simply won’t need to spend as much on marketing to convince people to join.
Being genuine, honest, and helpful is a huge part of building your online presence. People are naturally drawn to that. And if you can keep demonstrating those things, along with your expertise in fitness and health, you’re marketing yourself just by being yourself. You don’t need a budget for that. And it works.
5) Earn Google’s trust
If you have a polished, consistent, well-branded presence across the internet, backed up by excellent, SEO-optimized content, you will be able to earn Google’s trust.
What Google wants to see is that you are providing quality content that your audience wants to see. Google, as a search engine, is always aiming to provide the best possible answers to all the queries it handles. Give Google quality content that does answer relevant questions and you can’t help but gain more visibility in the search results and establish, as we said above, that you really are a legitimate business.
Google also wants to see consistency when providing your business information, so that they can be sure they’re looking at the same business every time. That’s why it’s important that your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) is consistently the same everywhere online. Every directory, your website, and each social platform you’re on, you need to give your information in the same way every time. If, for example, you include your area code on your website, include it everywhere else too. Use the same information each time, right down to how you write your street address.
It all helps to build trust with Google and also with your audience.
6) Nurture customer relationships
With a strong online presence, you’ll have great content that will help to nurture current and potential customer relationships. You can build a rapport with your members and non-members alike over social media, on your website, and by email. Help them with their questions, drop solid advice, demonstrate how they can get the results they want, even provide content that’s just for entertainment. It all helps to keep your existing members around and to have potential members thinking about how much fun your gym looks to join.
How to increase your online presence
We’ve no doubt given you some ideas above about what you need to do to build your online presence, but here, we’re going to get into the details.
1) Your Website
Your website is the absolute center of your online universe. If you think of your website as the sun and all other aspects of your marketing as the planets circling it, you won’t go far wrong.
What you’re doing when building your online presence is guiding people to either visit your website for more information, to get them to sign up to your newsletter so that you can continue to market to them, or even better to join your gym right now.
For people who don’t join immediately, everything is there on your website – or should be – to let them know they’re in the right place.
Your website should be modern and attractive, fast loading, and easy to use and navigate, whether people find you on a laptop, a tablet, or on a mobile.
Start by taking a look at your current website. Does it measure up? If not, do a full review to see where any problems or causes of friction in your sales funnel lie and get the professionals in to help you fix it.
Check if you have your contact details prominently on every page. Can people easily find what they want? Do you have clear calls to action? Can people easily join online? Does every aspect of signing up, either for your newsletter or as a member, work perfectly and smoothly?
Next, you need to optimize your website with SEO best practices. That means researching your keywords and phrases, including local keywords, and understanding how to use them and where. Ensure you’re including keywords in your categories, general website copy, headings, sub-headings, meta descriptions, blog posts, on your directory listings, and in your social media content.
Look at what your audience wants to know and wants to see. Publish quality articles, blogs, how-to posts, free workouts of various lengths, nutritional information, Q&As, FAQs, and more on relevant subjects. Check your social and website analytics to see what people are searching for and what questions they are asking. Also, look at what your most popular posts are and what are the most popular formats for your content. Does your audience prefer to read or would they rather watch videos? Do they like to see you do live streams? What lengths are most popular for blog posts and videos alike?
Excellent content is really important, but it does need to be accompanied by high-quality images. Don’t skimp on this. People online are too used to seeing sparklingly clear, quality images. If yours aren’t, it will matter.
Give your audience what they want, and they’ll come back for more. They might even join your gym, too.
Give your audience what they want, and you’re also giving the search engines what they want. You’re giving Google and the other search engines the best possible chance to find you and to boost you up the search results.
2) Social Media Profiles
You can lose an awful lot of time on social media if you’re not careful, but it is important and there are ways to manage your social platforms and make the most of them.
Before you get started, look at your existing audience. Where do they spend most of their time? Is it Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok? Instead of spreading yourself too thin, be most effective by choosing the platforms where your audience hangs out. If you’re not sure about social media yet, start with just one platform and then perhaps look at sticking to just two altogether. You can only do what you can do, and it’s far better to be completely brilliant on one platform than it is to be “meh” on ten of them. You’ll get a far better response, better engagement, and likely more leads too.
Make a plan for your social content and work out what you’re going to share. You can then start creating content ahead of time and use marketing automation, such as that in Surefire Local’s professional marketing platform, to schedule your posts well in advance.
That saves you time and means that you don’t have to be there twenty-four seven. It can also help when you’re so busy you just can’t post, and when you need a nice, long vacation.
You do still need to be active on social media though. You can’t leave everything to automation. People will need live answers to their questions and they want to see you liking their comments and responding, not just a series of clearly automated posts with no real input from you.
You really do have to show up for your audience. We’ve talked about some of the types of content you can share above, but audiences love educational content. They like to see free workouts, information on how to get the results they want, help on what to eat to back up the exercise they’re doing, and so much more.
Obviously, you will want to post some information on classes, memberships, and what your gym has to offer too, but don’t focus on followers or selling. Post your marketing by all means, but for the most part, focus on providing excellent, genuinely helpful, and authentic content that your audience will love.
We mentioned SEO above, so don’t forget it when you get to your social media. Make sure you’re also including your general and local keywords in your social posts too. And use appropriate hashtags to help get attention.
3) Directory Listings
Claim your business on the biggest and most important directory platforms, your Google Business Profile (GBP), Yelp, Facebook, Bing, and any other quality and relevant directories.
It’s particularly important that you claim your GBP as that listing allows you to tell Google how you’d like to appear in the description they provide in the search results. A fully optimized and complete listing will also potentially allow you to get listed in Google Maps’ Local Pack. This gives you one of only three listings right at the top of the search results, so it’s extremely important.
On every directory, fill in your profile fully. If there’s a space for something, make sure you complete it. Choose your category wisely and make sure it fits what you do. Add your company bio, information about you and why people should be a part of your gym, and what classes and any other services you offer, such as personal training and nutritional help. Fill in the FAQ section and add quality photos and videos showing just how good your gym is.
Don’t forget to also optimize these profiles for SEO too, and to complete your listings with consistent information, just as we talked about above with your NAP.
Many of these directory listings also allow customers to leave reviews. And you can also request and reply to your reviews on some platform. You can’t avoid negative reviews forever, but you can respond to them and attempt to resolve the problem. Try to take them offline to a phone call so that you don’t appear to be having a public row to any readers of your reviews. You also need to continue to go out and get new reviews. In part that pushes any negative ones down the list, but it’s more important because people only tend to look at the last few weeks’ reviews when researching a new gym.
Sadly, managing your directory listings isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing. You do need to keep coming back to maintain and monitor your listings. You’ll also want to answer any new questions, respond to new reviews, post new content and images, and add any news and special offers.
However, it is possible to use Surefire’s marketing platform to update over 80 directory listings in one go, so you don’t have to spend hours logging into and out of different platforms.
4) Online Ads
You can reach more customers, build your audience, and attract quality leads by using paid online advertising and email marketing.
You’ve no doubt heard of Google Ads and Bing Ads. These and others are paid ads where you can target your audience using demographics, local area, and more. You’ll pay per click when anyone clicks your ad. These ads can be highly effective in increasing your audience and finding targeted leads.
Facebook and many other social platforms also offer paid ads. Again, you can tightly target your audience and make sure you use an eye-catching image and great copy to get attention from the right people.
With display ads, you can target your audience based on websites and apps they’ve visited, their interests, hobbies, and even on real places they’ve visited.
These ads might not have the engagement rates of search ads, but you should still get enough impressions to make them worth it. And you have more options for branding your ads, using colors, and more.
Ever bought a TV and then found that your social media and web search is full of ads for other TVs? That’s retargeting at work, and it can work for you too. If someone clicks on one of your other ads or visits your site, you can retarget them with an ad to bring them back to look at your gym again.
5) Email Campaigns
Use your great content and your social presence to guide people to sign up for your newsletter. You’ll then get found in your members’ inbox, too, and you can market to them and stay in touch whenever you want. You could offer a lead magnet, such as an exercise chart or a short ebook of healthy recipes to get people to sign up. Why build your list? Because email marketing is highly effective and because that list is yours. If Facebook has an outage or your most used social platform closes down altogether for some reason, you can still reach your audience and market to them.
Attend a Surefire Local Marketing Platform demo
We’ve given you quite a laundry list of things to do to build your online presence. But it doesn’t have to be as hard as it might sound. We offer business intelligence marketing software that can help you automate much of what you need to do and streamline the rest. We can help you manage the most important online marketing activities all within one platform.
And our software comes at a fraction of the cost of other tools or agencies.
You can manage all your directory listings at once with a few clicks, manage and reply to your reviews, write up ideas for your content marketing, email marketing, social marketing, and more, and automate your posting and emailing. Manage your paid ads on our platform too, and get a full overview of your marketing with quality reports and analytics to ensure you always know what’s working and what’s not.
Why not book a demo of our professional marketing software to see how we can help you build a strong online presence for your gym?