How to Use Google My Business for Your Fitness Business to Increase Organic Traffic
By Sherry Bonelli
If you want more organic traffic to your website, you should be using Google My Business for your fitness business.
One of the best ways to get your fitness business found online by customers and potential clients is by being ranked in a Google local search.
Searchers that do a local search have high intent. That means they typically know what they want.
The beauty of this high intent searcher is that 80% of local searches lead to a purchase, a visit, or a scheduled appointment within 24 hours of that search.
That’s not all.
Four out of 5 people that are doing a local search, use Google and 70% of all searches are on a mobile device.
Here’s why that’s important.
Google My Business has a mobile app, too, making it even easier for fitness business owners to communicate with those high intent local searchers.
So, if you don’t have your fitness business listed with Google My Business or have it listed but haven’t bothered to optimize it, then you are missing out on an enormous opportunity right now.
According to Search Engine Land, Google Local Search has been growing 50% faster than mobile searches overall.
And guess where 92% of that local search traffic goes?
They go to the top three listed businesses, otherwise known as the Google Local 3-Pack.
That makes Google’s Local 3-Pack coveted prime online real estate for local search.
So how do you get higher local rankings on Google?
You begin by setting up your free business profile with Google My Business.
This article reveals exactly what you need to know to properly set up your fitness business for Google local search for free.
Not only will you discover how to list your business, but you’ll also learn how to optimize your listing.
Here’s a snapshot of what you will learn:
- How to claim and name your business
- The best way to choose a category
- Why you need the GMB app
- How to optimize your listing with tips on creating posts and making the most of pics and videos
- What to avoid doing so Google doesn’t remove your listing
- What to do if your listing does get removed
Before diving in, here are a few terms to become familiar with as you read through this article.
Google My Business Terms to Know
Google Local 3 Pack: The top three results of a local search on Google show up in a 3-pack underneath a Google map with clickable buttons for the business website, directions and contains other information about the business.
Google “View All” Local Finder: When clicking the “view all” under the local 3-pack in a Google search, you will see the Local Finder, which is a complete listing of local businesses. It includes a map, website, and directions in addition to other information about a business.
Google My Business Profile/Knowledge Panel: This is an information box that Google displays on the right side of the page that contains information about a business when a business name – and typically a city – is specifically searched for. For a business, you can get hours, directions, address, the website, phone number, etc.
Service Based Business (SAB): A service area business offers services to customers at their location. You run your business out of your home but do not have a location for customers to visit (think training clients in their home, a park, etc… but no ‘brick and mortar’ studio).
The purpose of this article is to give you the information you need to get started with Google My Business.
We hope you use this resource as a guide as you work to accomplish your goals in Step 2 of the NPE Perfect Client Journey™: Generate Leads.
And to learn how you can 2x the traffic to your fitness business with Google Local Search, register for our On-Demand Webinar.
So, let’s get to it!
Google My Business Ranking Factors
You may think that location is the primary factor Google looks at when choosing a business to rank in the Google Local 3-Pack.
Location is only part of the equation.
Google has four main factors when ranking a business:
- Trust Score
These factors are covered in-depth throughout the article, but I want to briefly describe how each factor works.
Google’s top priority when it comes to search is to match the person to the best listing possible. So, Google looks at how relevant that product or service is to the searcher.
To become more relevant to Google, you need to list your products and services in as many places as possible.
The next thing Google looks at is your business’s Trust Score. This is directly related to the quality of reviews on your site, how trustworthy Google thinks the content on your site is and the quality of sites that link back to your site – among other factors. If Google trusts your site and thinks your site is highly authoritative, that will help your rankings.
Google wants to see that you have a lot of highly rated reviews that you respond to promptly.
Google considers a business to be prominent if they are listed with many quality and authoritative online directories and actively publish new, quality content on their website.
Finally, location does play a big part in how Google ranks a business, but it is not always the primary way to get into the Google Local 3-Pack.
Location vs Quality Based Searching
When someone goes to Google to search for a local business, they will typically use search terms like fitness trainer near me.
However, some search terms are related to quality as well.
For example, someone may search for best fitness business near me or best fitness business in Santa Monica.
These terms are related not only to location but also to quality (best).
Google will then choose the top three listings related to that search in the searcher’s location.
However, it is important to understand that even if the searcher is close to a business, one further away may get the listing in the top 3 instead depending on a variety of other factors Google’s algorithm takes into consideration during the ranking process.
Google does this because quality comes first, every time.
So when a searcher includes best in the search query, Google lists the three businesses that Google thinks best match the searcher’s query… even if a relevant business is closer.
The local 3-pack is the hot-spot for businesses that want to get that search traffic for specific keyword search queries.
However, if your fitness business is not showing up in the 3-pack, click view all to go to the local finder to (hopefully) see your listing there.
If the searcher does a branded Google search using your business name, your knowledge panel may show up. (Keep in mind that if your business name is made up of generic words like “Atlanta Gym,” your knowledge panel probably won’t show up because the words in your business name are too general.)
For example, if you type in Urban Body Fitness, you will see the business’s knowledge panel. This is where all of your business details show up.
Your Google My Business for your fitness business listing works like your website homepage, so it should include everything a searcher would need without having to go any further.
Within the knowledge panel, you can get to the business’s website if the business has a physical location that customers can visit, and you can even call the business directly from there.
Optimization here is essential to meet the searcher’s needs. Your website needs to be mobile responsive. Remember, 70% of people use their mobile phones when doing a local search.
Service Area Business (SAB) and Hybrid SABs
If you are solely an online fitness business, meaning you do not bring services to someone, and you only have virtual offerings, you do not qualify for a Google My Business listing.
If you go out and do personal training in a client’s home, then your business is considered a Service Area Business (SAB) and you would qualify for a Google My Business listing. Service Area Businesses do not have storefronts where customers go. Typically, SABs are home-based businesses.
It’s important to know that if you are a Service Area Business, you must delete your physical address from your Google My Business listing after you’ve gone through the verification process. (Service Area Businesses cannot display their address on their GMB Listings.)
To claim a GMB listing, you must either have a physical storefront with permanent signage and employees working at the business location during stated business hours. Or you must be a Service Area Business and travel to your clients to offer fitness services to their homes. If you are an SAB, it’s a good idea to, have signage with your business name on your vehicle.
As long as you meet people in some face-to-face capacity, you qualify as a SAB.
Since SABs go to their customers, they cannot show their address on the GMB listing. SABs won’t show up on Google Maps either.
Now if you have a storefront with signage at the location and go out to customers, you are considered a Hybrid SAB.
A hybrid SAB can list an address and service areas. Your service areas should not be more than two hours outside of your location because that would defeat the local aspect.
Here is what the Google map would look like for a service area business (SAB).
An example would be a business owner with a physical gym location with employees and personal trainers who go to clients’ homes.
If you don’t qualify for a GMB listing – or set up your Google My Business account improperly – you risk getting your listing suspended and taken down by Google.
See if your business qualifies here.
How to Claim Your Google My Business Profile in 5 Steps
To have a Google My Business listing for your fitness business, you have to claim your profile.
Before you begin, do a Google search to see if your business has been claimed.
Believe it or not, if you have any type of online presence, Google has most likely made a listing for your business. If Google has created a listing, you will simply need to see if you can access it.
So, when you search for your business and a listing comes up, click on “Own this business?”
From there, you can go through the steps to claim and verify your listing.
If your business doesn’t show up, you can then claim your business using the steps below.
Step #1: Sign into Google My Business. Then, sign into your Gmail account (Be sure to save that Gmail account and password).
If you don’t have a Gmail account, you will need to create a Google account.
Step #2: Enter Your business name. Use your official legal business name, and don’t use descriptors like a city name.
When you choose your business name or enter a new business name, make sure you don’t add any extra keywords, a city name, or additional words to give further explanation to describe your business. That violates Google My Business’s Terms of Service and it will get your business listing suspended.
Only use your official business name.
Your business name may appear in a drop-down list. If it does, choose it.
If you are a practitioner, you can only list your first and last name. Do not add what type of practitioner you are or the name of the company you work for.
When asked to choose a category, choose something as niche-specific as possible. If your category is not listed, choose one that’s close to what you do.
Step #3: Enter your business details. Do you have a location that customers can visit? Check “Yes” to add a location that customers can visit. Check “No” if you offer services to customers at their location.
Check Yes to add a location.
Check No if the business offers services to customers at their location.
If you have a physical location that customers visit, you’ll enter your business address. If your business does not have a physical location, but you visit clients at their home, you will select areas that you serve – like cities, counties or zip codes.
If you have a physical location, your address cannot be a PO Box, a UPS Box, a virtual office, or a co-working or shared office. You must have a legit address. Do not create a fake business.
If you are a Service Area Business, you can add up to 20 service areas later on.
If you have a physical location but also go out to clients’ homes to do personal training, you are considered a Hybrid Service Area Business and you’ll be given this option:
Then you can then select service areas as well:
Keep in mind that if you select this option, you must have permanent signage at your physical location and you must have employees staffed at your physical location during business hours.
Next, add your phone number and business website URL. Do not use a redirect URL or a Facebook or other social media URL.
You can set up a GMB website, but you do not have to.
Step #4: You’ll then be asked to finish and manage the listing. Once you do that you’ll be given an option to verify your business. Typically you’ll be given the option for Google to send you a postcard verification sent to your business address.
Google will send you a verification postcard with a PIN to prove that the business exists at the address you provided.
Be on the lookout! It looks like junk mail, so be sure not to throw it away.
You should receive your postcard in 5-14 days. If you don’t, contact Google My Business Support to get another one sent or get further help.
After your listing is verified, bjuse sure to log in to your GMB dashboard and answer all the questions on your GMB profile.
Just some of these include:s
- business description,
- photos, and
- the date the business was founded.
This information makes it easier for potential customers to find more information about your company.
If anyone violates GMB Terms of Service, you can suggest an edit for that listing, and Google will review it for change. If the suggested edits don’t take effect, you can formally report that business by filling out a redressal form.
Suggested edits can create changes that can be made live on your profile without you noticing.
We suggest regularly checking your Google My Business dashboard to make sure no one has edited your account.
These edits could potentially damage your listing or your business.
For example, a competitor could go in and change your number to their number or your URL to a completely different site.
SO BE SURE you are regularly checking your listing.
Categories directly impact how you rank…choose them wisely.
The first category you choose should be very specific to your niche. Once you do that, pick a few other categories that fit with the type of business you have.
If you’re a gym, that should be your category. If you are a personal trainer, that should be your category.
If you are not ranking well, then you may want to change your first category. However, don’t change your business categories too often.. You may need to reverify or your listing could inadvertently get suspended if you do this.
Google My Business App for Your Fitness Business
We recommend you download the Google My Business App on your mobile phone because there are particular features you only get on the GMB app.
You get real-time notifications. So if you sign up for messenger and get a review or a text message while on the road, you can see those and immediately respond.
The app features in Apple IOS differ somewhat from Android features, and the listings may not look the same. However, you get the same functionality with both.
Optimizing Your GMB Account
Optimizing your GMB account is a great way to leverage your listing. Google ranks GMB listings, so it’s vital to have complete and accurate information that provides value to the searcher.
You want to make your listing engaging for the searcher as well.
Here is a look at all the things you can do to boost your Google My Business ranking.
Include Your Fitness Business Description
Your business description should highlight what makes your business unique.
Provide useful information about:
- Services and products you offer
- Your physical location
- Areas you serve
This is not an area to sell.
Don’t include information on pricing, special promotions, discounts, sales, or URLs.
Just be complete, concise, and engaging.
Your business description does not impact your rankings.
Keep your description to the point with the most compelling information at the top.
Typically people scan and have short attention spans, so be sure the information you provide engages them quickly.
Also, you’re allowed 750 characters in your business description, BUT your description gets cut off at 250 in the knowledge panel.
So, make the most out of those first 250 characters.
Pro Tip: The business description DOES NOT affect your ranking, and keyword stuffing won’t help you rank higher.
So don’t do it.
Google will review your business description, so make sure you are meeting their criteria.
Short names are like vanity URLs and an easy way to share your GMB profile.
You can also solicit reviews by adding using the following URL and replacing “short-name” with your GMB short name: https://g.page.short-name/review/.
By having a short name, you are making it easier for people to leave Google My Business reviews.
Reviews are a known Google ranking factor, so asking for and getting positive reviews is a good thing!
You can change your short name up to three times a year.
You are not guaranteed to get your original short name back if you change it, though, so keep that in mind.
Posts are like “mini ads.” They show up in your knowledge panel.
They are an excellent place to provide information about your products or services, special events you may be having, or special offers.
You can put a link to a great blog post you recently wrote.
You can also add holiday posts to send seasonal messages.
There are five types of posts you can create:
- Covid-19 Update
You are allotted 1,500 characters for your post’s details, but ideally, you need to keep the length between 150 and 350 characters.
Be sure to put the most important information at the beginning of the post so that when people view it on a mobile phone, the good stuff doesn’t get cut off.
Posts expire after seven days, but people can scroll through old posts. If you added an event post, it expires when the event is over.
You don’t want to include a phone number, URL, or email address within the body of the post. This will get your post rejected.
Pro Tip: ALWAYS include a call to action in your posts. Google provides a drop-down for your CTA. If you select the “Call Now” as a call to action, Google will automatically pull in your GMB phone number (which should be a LOCAL phone number.)
And bonus – people can click on that button and call you directly if they are looking at it from their phone. And if you have Messenger set up, on mobile devices people can message you directly from your GMB posts!
Add Pictures and Videos
Adding pictures and videos is super simple to do.
You just need to go to photos and click on the plus sign to upload.
Keep the pixel size of your images around 1200 x 900.
If you want to have the edge over the competition, hire a professional photographer to take your business photos.
Google offers trusted professional photographers that you can hire to enhance the customer’s local search experience. You can even add a virtual street view tour of your business.
If you upload videos, make sure your videos are no more than 30 seconds long. That’s a good reminder to make your videos short, engaging, and to the point.
Also, be sure your file size is under 100MB, and the resolution is 720p or higher.
You can set your logo and cover image in the GMB app on your mobile device and your desktop account. Because these are separate, you can choose a different image on the app if you like.
However, be aware that Google may swap your cover image for something they prefer to show.
Attributes describe various features of your business.
These are made available to you by Google. Choose the ones that best represent your business.
The available attribute features will vary depending on your business’s category.
Here are some examples of Google’s Highlights attributes:
- Identifies as Black-owned
- Identifies as veteran-led
- Identifies as women-led
Service Options attributes:
- Online classes
- Outdoor services
They also feature Health and Safety attributes:
- Mask required
- Temperature check required
Check any that are appropriate for your business.
These will show up on your knowledge panel.
Customers can text message you. Google recently added text messaging for desktop as well.
According to Justia, “…Business owners will now be able to use their desktop computers to monitor all messages from customers and engage in a conversation with them.”
You will see a messaging chat box tool that will house your conversation, and located to the left will be the list of customers that have left messages.
It is just like texting and yet another way of Google making it easier for you to connect with customers.
Pro Tip: Google checks to make sure you respond to customers promptly.
If you don’t respond to a message within 24 hours, Google can turn your messaging feature off (and that will make you and your business look really bad to Google.)
Google isn’t going to favor a business that isn’t responsive to its customers.
So, if you want to set up messaging, be sure not only to respond but be timely. That’s just good business practice anyway.
Questions and Answers
This feature allows people to ask questions about your fitness business, and you can answer those questions.
This is NOT in your Google dashboard. You have to do a search for your business, using Google’s Chrome browser while logged into the Google account you use to manage your GMB listing. You can then see the questions in your business’s Knowledge Panel and then answer these questions from your knowledge panel.
Google will send you an email letting you know that someone has asked a question.
Google is starting to use artificial intelligence to answer questions by going through reviews and posts on your listing to find potential answers.
Because Google integrates these areas of GMB, it further gives you good reason to create useful posts and ask for reviews.
Now, if you already know of common questions people ask within your business area, you can proactively create Questions and Answers in your GMB profile. (You would just ask a question and then answer the question yourself, as the business owner.).
If you don’t know, do a little research by asking your sales reps and customer service staff to identify the questions people most often ask and add those to the Q&A section of your GMB listing.
Anyone can ask, and ANYONE can answer. So, this is another good reason to keep an eye on your account. Someone could potentially answer a question wrong.
Pro Tip: Google has said that upvoting questions can make them more visible. If someone has an essential question, go ahead and upvote it! The answer with the most votes appears as the primary answer. Just click on the thumbs up icon.
Google My Business Online Reviews
Unlike other local search sites (like Yelp), Google encourages business owners to ask their customers or clients for online reviews. Just make sure you do it ethically.
Google gives each business on Google Maps a Trust Score based on the quality of your business reviews.
Your goal should be to have a minimum of 50 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars or higher. Focus on getting at least 1-2 new reviews per week.
It’s important to respond to all reviews, even the negative ones.
Address the concern in a polite manner.
Use reviews as data collection. See what your business is doing well, and find out where you have room to grow.
Be open to fixing things that get negative reviews. Reviews allow you to do better business.
Google rarely removes reviews.
A review must violate Google’s terms of service to be removed. A review can be flagged as inappropriate but won’t be removed unless it actually violates those terms.
According to Search Engine Land, Google recently made it even easier for you to manage your reviews.
In the past, if you submitted a review for removal, it was difficult to see what the status of that review was.
However, Google just released a new tool that shows your recent reviews all in one place, allows you to report reviews for removal, and lets you check the status of reviews already reported.
Everyone appreciates it when things, especially tech related, are made easier.
You can make it easier for people to leave reviews for your business by removing obstacles that make it frustrating to give a review.
Creating a review link is a great way to make leaving reviews easier for your clients.
Remember, you can create an easy-to-use review link by using your short name. Simply use the following URL and replace “short-name” with your GMB short name: https://g.page.short-name/review/. Then send out this URL to your happy customers and politely ask them for their feedback on your business.
Google offers directions on creating a review link on your desktop and smartphone.
Leaving a review takes time out of people’s day, so make it simple!
For clients who don’t have Gmail, let them know they can download the Google Maps app and give a review from there.
Here are a few best practices tips:
- Make leaving a review easy for your client by providing a short link.
- Request Google reviews in an email and on social media platforms you use (include the short link).
- Make sure clients don’t leave a review while on your business Wi-Fi network. (It can look suspicious to Google if a review comes from the IP address of the business.)
- Do not bribe clients for a review.
Pro Tip: Like the 5-star reviews people leave for your business. If you get three or more likes, that review could get bumped up.
All this being said, we know many businesses like to offer fun, incentivized reviews within their community.
This can, however, put you at risk of having your reviews removed, so use good judgment here.
The best practice is to over-deliver and then ask for reciprocity with a review. The best reviews are honest feedback on how they enjoyed doing business with you and your team.
Reserve with Google: Bookings
You can set up bookings for live online classes or training through Google My Business.
Google has several providers they have partnered with through their booking service. This is a great way to connect and get things done with many online services.
This booking service is an easy way to reserve tables at restaurants, grab tickets to events, book hair appointments, or book a spot for a live class online or at the gym.
You can do this through search, Maps, or the Assistant. All of your bookings will be in one easy-to-manage spot.
You can also receive notifications about your booking through Calendar, Gmail, or any of your devices.
For your fitness business to qualify, you must offer at least one LIVE service delivered virtually.
Once you sign up for Google Bookings, people can book directly from your GMB listing.
Getting your account suspended is a serious offense and should be avoided at all costs.
A suspension can lead to you losing control over your listing or Google removing your listing altogether.
Reasons for Google My Business Account Suspensions
Providing inaccurate or inconsistent information on your fitness business listing is the quickest way to get your listing suspended.
Making too many changes at a time to your listing can trigger a suspension as well.
Here are some ways your account could get suspended:
- Keyword stuffing
- Making false claims (fake business)
- Name, address, and phone number appear differently in the Google directory (spamming your business name)
- More than one business claims to operate from your address (duplicate business)
- A service-area business with a physical address listed
- You are online or virtual and not brick-and-mortar (No P.O boxes)
- You have a forwarding URL for your listed website
- Making several edits at one time
When you violate one of these rules, Google will let you know…they just won’t tell you which one you violated.
GMB Suspension Types
There are four types of suspensions:
- Soft suspension
- Hard suspension
- Manager account suspension
- Owner account suspension
A soft suspension means your listing still shows up, but you cannot make any changes in your dashboard to the listing. If you make changes, they won’t go live.
This is also known as a manager account suspension.
A hard suspension is reserved for a pretty bad violation, and your listing won’t show up at all.
This is an owner account suspension.
Google has exceptionally high standards, and maybe you broke one of these rules without truly understanding all the rules.
It is a common happening, so don’t panic if it happens to you.
You need to figure out why you got suspended, though.
How to Fix Your Suspended Google My Business Listing
It’s your responsibility to show Google that you fixed your listing and prove that you are a legitimate business that deserves to be on Google.
Step #1: Check your “Info” section against the Guidelines for representing your business on Google to see what your violation is.
Step #2: Bookmark this link on your computer. You need to read this regularly because Google updates this often.
Step #3: Fix your listing.
Step #4: Gather documents that will prove you are a legitimate business:
- Brick-and-mortar: Take pictures of signage outside and inside of your building.
- Service area business: Take pictures of the signage on the vehicle you use.
- Use a utility bill with your business name and address on it.
- Use Secretary of State information.
Step #5: Submit a reinstatement request form with all collected documentation uploaded.
Do not create a new GMB profile in the meantime, and do not submit more than one reinstatement request form.
If your listing has been suspended, you can read this full article for detailed information.
When you are reinstated, there is a possibility that you may lose some of your reviews. You can reach out to GMB support to see if those reviews can be salvaged. Unfortunately, sometimes those reviews are lost for good.
Temporarily Closed Businesses
If your business is temporarily closed for whatever reason, you can mark that in your GMB listing. Image alt
You can mark it as temporarily closed, permanently closed, or you can remove the listing altogether if you need to.
This is a good practice if you are closed so that customers don’t show up to a business that isn’t available.
You will show up in ranking results if you do not entirely remove the listing, but your ranking results will drop.
Updating Service Availability
Maybe you aren’t closing but need to update your service availability.
This is in the home section of your dashboard.
You will have different options such as:
- Is your business open?
- Are you offering onsite services?
- Are you offering online classes?
These options depend on your category, what you have already chosen, and what Google offers.
Google My Business Support
Finally, if you have any issues with your GMB listing, there are a couple of ways to get support.
This link https://support.google.com/business/gethelp will take you to a “Contact Us” page.
From there, you will have chat or phone options.
Another way to receive support is to go to the Google My Business Help Forum.
The people who monitor this forum are all volunteers and NOT Google employees, so be kind to them as they try to help you because they are not getting paid to do so.
You can ask them questions, and if the problem is severe enough, they can escalate it to Google for you.
You now have everything you need at your fingertips for a successful GMB listing.
If you follow these steps, your listing will very likely show up high on Google search results.
Listing with other online directories like Bing, Yelp, or Apple Maps will help Google determine how prominent your business is.
The key is to make the association between your brand and your keywords as strong as possible. The more areas your business is listed, the quicker this will happen.
As this association becomes stronger, Google will be more likely to list your business higher in the rankings.
There are over 150,000 online directories, so start by listing with the ones that are the most familiar to you or are more prevalent in your area.
Listing with 20-40 is recommended. This tells Google what products and services you offer in a wide area, including your outreach to suburbs.
Local search optimization with Google My Business for your fitness business is a “no-brainer” and should immediately become part of your lead generation efforts.
And, if you already have a listing, go back to it and make sure you are doing everything right.
Go back and look at all the different sections of your listing and take advantage of this prime opportunity to put your fitness business in the Google spotlight and increase your Google Maps traffic.
- Have an average of 50 reviews that are 4.5 stars or higher with a continued growth goal of at least one new review per week.
- List your company with at least 20 online directories.
- Utilize the 750 allotted characters in your business description with the essential information in the first 250 characters.
- Consistently post engaging content all within Google’s guidelines.
- Complete the entire business profile.
If you do these things, Google will reward you.
It’s really that simple.
You now have zero excuses not to take advantage of this gift from Google of free advertising.
Don’t you want your fitness business to be a part of that Local 3-Pack or the Local Finder?
Of course, you do!
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The sooner, the better because the competition is fierce!
So, GET IT DONE.