SEO Case Study: Elevating a Personal Trainer Above Local Gyms
December 8th 2023
For personal trainers, SEO can be difficult, as gyms tend to dominate the rankings in a given geographic area.
At SilverServers, we managed to elevate a local personal trainer’s search engine presence to become the only personal trainer in Kamloops whose website is strong enough to compete with local gym websites. Achieving rankings among gyms is a remarkable accomplishment, achieved by years of dedicated hard work by our client and our team. As the SEO team working with the website since its initial launch on the Grassroots SEO Program, we want to tell the David versus Goliath story of the website’s triumph and describe the seemingly insurmountable challenges it overcame. At the time of posting, our client has ranked in the top 5 search results for “personal trainer kamloops” for a couple of months.
Let’s explore the challenge encountered and the strategy we used to succeed.
We’ll start by considering an SEO concept called a “content cluster”. Building up a website’s search engine rankings for a business’ services is a complex process full of many details. However, by using content clusters, the process becomes organic and easier to manage. Here’s how it works:
Pick a Service you want to rank for. In this case, personal training.
Create one strong, menu-level page on your website that discusses the primary, general information someone needs to know about that Service.
Support that page by writing valuable additional articles in a blog that link back to the main page (think FAQs, tips, etc).
This approach sets you up to show Google that you’re an expert, you speak with authority on your topic, and you’re trustworthy. In most cases, it’s the best way to build search engine rankings for topics or keywords that are relevant to a particular business
This structure is important to Google. As a result, gym websites have an inherent edge over independent personal trainers. Let’s look at why.
Gym websites have an almost built-in content cluster surrounding the topic of personal training. They don’t need to get creative to do it. Consider this:
An established gym with an existing online presence decides to offer personal training services.
They create a Personal Training page that discusses the gym’s desire to help people as well as important information like pricing and expectations. Every gym is different, but an SEO-friendly Personal Training page doesn’t necessarily require much creativity.
Whether or not they're knowledgeable in SEO, most gyms support their Personal Training page by adding Personal Trainer bios. The bios of these trainers provide valuable additional details like certifications, passions, and stories. With multiple trainers who have varied backgrounds and experiences, the variety balances out, building strongly on top of the established foundation of the gym’s online presence. And because personal trainers are part of a gym’s personal training service, the bio pages typically link back to the main page, giving it necessary “link juice”.
Additionally, because personal training typically happens at gyms, Google has organically decided over the years that when you search for personal training, you’re probably searching for a personal trainer at a gym. Therefore, they typically display gyms first in search results.
The weaker position that an independent personal trainer begins with may already be clear, but consider some additional points these business owners contend with:
They’re likely not attached to a gym, so their personal training services don’t build on any gym’s established SEO foundation.
They’re independent, so Google’s understanding of their service is skewed by their personal certifications, passions, and stories. There are no other trainers to balance out their offerings and generalize their value to Google.
The Personal Training Service page isn’t supported by multiple trainer bio pages. On an independent trainer’s website, the About page is the trainer bio - it’s not a support page for a Service page.
A creative SEO strategy is required in order to support the Personal Training page because content clusters aren’t a natural outgrowth of offering this service.
Our client’s website faced these challenges when it began its journey in the Grassroots SEO program here at SilverServers. The objective was clear yet daunting: elevate the website in the local “personal trainer” search rankings, ensuring it not only competed with, but surpassed the visibility of well-established and successful local gym websites.
We see the effectiveness of content clusters regularly as we analyze websites. Check out our SEO Showdown series to learn more about how we analyze websites.
Our Strategy - How We Used Uncommon SEO Tips for Success
Training to achieve physical fitness takes determination, patience, and work. If you’re an SEO specialist or independent personal trainer looking to elevate your website to compete with gyms, keep in mind that it takes similar determination, patience, and work. Those aren’t typically listed as “SEO principles”, but when you’re trying to rank for keywords that don’t often rank in your favour, they’re valuable characteristics.
While reading this strategy, keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to sit around doing nothing for months, waiting for opportunities to strike. Google likes to see regular updates to a website, so waiting for unpredictable opportunities to make updates doesn’t work in a website’s favour. In our case, personal training wasn’t the only fitness service offered by our client. While waiting for opportunities and openings to make valuable progress in rankings for personal training keywords, we were working regularly at fortifying the site’s authority for other services that already had a healthy presence in search engines.
Here’s what helped us break the SEO barrier commonly encountered in the personal training industry:
- Work Responsively: We kept a watchful eye on Search Console data about one-on-one personal training keywords. Any time our data showed that the site was receiving a burst of visibility and traffic for personal training, we strategically responded to expand the online presence of the site for the topic, using the keywords in our data. We took action in various ways:
Adjust meta tags, URL, or headers to use the most valuable keyword(s) the website was getting visibility for.
Create (or suggest creating) a blog post on a topic that was relevant to the keyword(s).
Over time, we found that those bursts of visibility, traffic, and rankings occurred more and more often. We didn’t try to push personal trainer topics, we set the hooks, waited for openings, and then took advantage of them.
Be Patient: Though not typically discussed as an SEO principle, patience is key to success for challenging keywords. Our team waited for every opportunity to push forward our efforts to show Google that the website was a valuable search result in the realm of personal training. Over time, opportunities came more often, and eventually, the website began to rank consistently in visible rankings. This process took years, which is something that only worked because our client was on board with it and we were providing value for other services while we waited for every opportunity.
Fortify Existing Online Presence: While waiting for opportunities to push forward on personal training topics, we were always fortifying a foundation generally across all of the topics and services our clients wanted organic rankings for. We typically encouraged blogging about services. At the same time, we optimized yoga pages, provided technical SEO tweaks to the pages of healthy and delicious recipes, and kept class schedules current and visible. We never ignored personal training, but when we couldn’t provide immediate value on that topic, we prioritized opportunities to fortify the site’s online presence for a variety of the client’s related services. Showing search engines that the site was an authority on many topics in the fitness industry, helped correct the skewed, not-a-personal-trainer view that Google had of our client. It likely balanced Google’s perception of the client’s expertise and helped the search engine recognize the value of the site’s personal training content later on.
Our SEO strategy wasn't particularly groundbreaking, but it was (and continues to be) more thorough and engaged in long-term strategies when compared to what you might typically see done by our competitors in the marketing and SEO industry. To learn more about our unique and tech-first approach to SEO, check out our SEO Tips blog category. We consistently provided SEO support and suggestions as part of our monthly Grassroots SEO Program, and our small suggestions were responded to and acted upon as often as possible. Our goal was to build a content cluster around personal training in Kamloops. Valuable blog posts were written often and the personal training page was fine-tuned many times. When the site started to show signs of blossoming for personal trainer keywords, we turned our efforts towards it and began to take a proactive approach that resembles more common SEO strategies.
Efforts with our client’s website eventually bore fruit. Our technical and on-page SEO efforts combined with an active social media page and the client’s local awards as a personal trainer, drew Kamloops into checking out the website, and eventually resulted in the website breaking through the oil-and-water barrier often separating gyms and independent personal trainers.
Early in 2023, we noticed her Search Console and Google Analytics data rapidly shift to contain strong personal training keywords. We were excited to see high rankings. We’re even more excited to see that those rankings have remained in place as we continue to maintain them.
Today, this personal trainer’s website continues to enjoy unusually high rankings and visibility for search results that typically favour gyms. It outranks many of the gyms in Kamloops and stands out in search results. The website overcame the difficult challenges that opposed it by getting strong first, and then waiting for the opportunity to take a slot in the page 1 search results.
At SilverServers, we believe in turning challenges into triumphs. The success of our client’s Kamloops personal trainer website exemplifies our commitment to excellence and ability/willingness to navigate the complexities of SEO until we arrive at outstanding results. SEO is never complete, so we celebrate this victory and look forward to crafting many more SEO success stories!
Learn more about our Grassroots SEO Program today.
For more case studies, check out the SEO Tips section of our blog!