In 2016, important changes will influence how health clubs and fitness businesses use the four pillars of online marketing—organic SEO and website marketing, social and email, pay-per-click, and mobile presence.
Use this overview to flag “business as usual” vulnerabilities in your 2016 marketing plan while you still have time to make changes. After all, if your current plan is simply to do more in 2016 of what you did in 2015, that’s a plan that will shrink the visibility and presence of your health club or fitness business.
Organic SEO and website marketing
TREND: The quiet revolution in organic SEO will continue in 2016. As more and more traffic reaches your site via social and messaging platforms, Google Analytics and other tools are scurrying to catch up. At the same time, Google is pushing more and more content to the search results page, reducing the overall number of site visits by searchers. The bottom line: content quality and user engagement will be more important than ever.
What it means
- Google’s algorithms have become much more sophisticated than many health club GMs and wellness leaders realize, integrating numerous and varied signals of quality from visitor clicks and shares to AI-driven assessments of content quality.
- As a result, improving your organic search rankings will require unique and substantive content that meaningfully responds to search queries.
- “Content-lite” sites stocked with superficial, generic content will continue to get less and less SEO juice, and those which still rely on single keywords and low-quality backlinks are, in a word, doomed.
Social and email
TREND: In 2016, Facebook and email will continue to be the only social platforms that matter for wellness businesses that market to consumers. Facebook will continue to actively add marketing tools and “social commerce” tools as it continues to build out an ecosystem that is the primary online home for many users. Email service providers will continue to consolidate as signaled by the recent Constant Contact acquisition. This will likely split the email marketing sector into 1) providers which actively add features and integrations and) providers who essentially freeze their current capabilities and compete strictly on price.
What it means
- You need to be sure that you’re actually marketing on Facebook and not just going through the motions. There are many good ways to market health, wellness and fitness on Facebook. They do not include mindless posts of internet memes, overused inspirational quotes, ridiculously perfect stock images and other junk that no one even bothers to like.
- Marketing diversification is equally important. Don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook basket, where you’re at Facebook’s mercy and have no control over your own community.
- Email is the natural complement to your social media presence. It offers you the unique ability to bridge followers from Facebook – where you’re subject to Facebook’s decisions and whims — to your own site, where you control everything that happens. Done right, it’s significantly more effective at actually converting people to paying clients and members, too.
- LinkedIn? Yes, but only for corporate wellness providers. Twitter? Don’t bother. Instagram and Pinterest? As we’ve said before, only if you have a specific and well-defined strategy for converting random interest from people all over the United States and indeed the world to your actual business. Otherwise, it’s casting a very wide net for just a handful of desirable fish. Google+? Undergoing a transformation into a forum-driven platform. Interesting, but best avoided until it matures a bit.
Pay-per-click and display ads
TREND: It was already tough for most wellness businesses to justify PPC and online advertising on the web as a whole, and it’s only getting harder in 2016. Apple will continue rolling out its ad-free search engine, just one part of its vaunted campaign to keep all ads off users’ phones, and increased sensitivity to click fraud and the general ineffectiveness of “spray and pray” campaigns will make PPC even less attractive as a marketing priority.
What it means
- Smart wellness businesses will focus their online marketing on Facebook, their website, email and online reviews. They’ll balance their overall marketing plan between these online strategies and offline activities like in-person in-store events and direct mail (an oldie but goodie with an astonishingly high ROI that’s more affordable than ever, thanks to the USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail.)
- If you depend on PPC, your ability to reach iPhone users is at serious risk. Why? About 20% of all smartphone owners have an iPhone, and those numbers can be much higher for specific wellness businesses depending on demographics. (Check Google Analytics for your company’s site traffic by device.). Apple has several initiatives underway to eliminate ad exposure for iPhone users and to restrict the gathering of the very data that PPC campaigns use for targeting.
- Even smaller wellness businesses are starting to catch on to the fact that about 60% of Internet traffic isn’t even humans—it’s bots, automated computer programs that generate clicks and impressions. Thus many of the clicks they pay for aren’t even real. Huge consumer products companies like Kellogg struggle with this issue, so you know the rest of us are at a complete disadvantage.
- The more serious issue: for the 40% of website traffic that’s actually human, wellness consumers pay more attention to peer input from Facebook and online reviews, plus your own distinctive content, than they do paid aids.
TREND: In 2016, for the first time, mobile traffic is expected to exceed desktop traffic in 2016.
What it means
- You need a mobile strategy, not just a mobile-friendly website or an app. We live in a world where many people will only experience your website on a phone or tablet. That experience better be a great one at every touchpoint, from scheduling a tour to viewing facility photographs to scheduling a personal trainer, registering for a class, or reviewing their dues history.
- It also means that you can no longer depend on catching your potential customer at a particular time or place doing a particular thing. Gone are the days of counting on early Monday email delivery that catches prospects at their desks, sipping on that morning coffee and sorting through a few recent emails before they’re snowed under with internal communications, project deadlines, and hair-on-fire problems from Department X.
- Mobile customers are likelier to mix business and personal time, take their emails at a Starbucks along with text messages, Facebook, and a chai latte than they are to follow a fixed routine of time and place. They’re likelier to multi-task, more used to a small footprint device, and expect your business’s online practices to adapt to them, not the other way around. Small print, dense text, and fixed size images and web copy aren’t just outdated; they’re at best an irritant, and at worst they drive people away.
- Smart wellness businesses can use mobile-friendly content platforms like WordPress with (nearly) instant-on e-commerce, sharing and other tools to accomplish much of what used to require web programmers, at a fraction of the cost. This helps not just customers, but the businesses themselves, who can now conduct much of their commerce using mobile devices, allowing them to “take the show on the road” in a heartbeat when the opportunity arises.
For 2016, it’s time to look past outdated “magic formulas” that promise to increase web, social, and mobile traffic. Any magic has long since worn off the wand. Smart fitness and wellness businesses will focus on the details of critical business functions like sales and marketing, ask and answer the tough questions about their business, and develop compelling content that cultivates growing relationships with customers. As new tools arise to make that job easier, they’ll use those tools to do a better job vs looking for better tools that do the job for them.
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