Digital Marketing in the fitness industry

Since starting in 2010, we have done a great deal of our work in the fitness industry and it’s where we’ve seen some of our biggest results.

We’ve worked with gym chains, supplement brands, fit-tech companies and individual PT’s, nutritionists and other experts to develop their brands and achieve serious ROI online.

The first of these clients was Simply Gym, who began working with Inbound when they opened their first site in Cheltenham. Since that time we have worked with them to optimise their search engine rankings, maximise their on-site conversion rate and enhance their brand reach on social media. Since that first gym opened, we have now driven over two and a half million UK consumers to the Simply Gym website. You can see the full case study here.

Digital marketing in the health and fitness sector

The fitness industry contains all sorts of different niches, so this resource will break them down into:

  • Gyms
  • Supplements and nutrition (and other ecommerce based companies)
  • Fit-tech

The fitness industry is booming and there are all sorts of opportunities for businesses to boom. However, it is also one of the busiest markets, with new businesses launching every day, so it’s essential that  before you do so you are absolutely crystal clear on your brand positioning.

This article won’t go into the fine details of brand development (you can find that here) but the key point to recognise is that your brand must sit at the intersection of the following three truths:

  • It must be aligned to something you believe in and know you can deliver well
  • It must be aligned to a growing consumer trend
  • It must not be “owned” by another fitness brand in the mind of consumers (ideally completely neglected)


The gym market has shifted hugely in the last 8 years or so, with the middle of the market all but disappearing and the budget and boutique sectors going through an amazing period of growth. Regardless of where in the market you sit, the key channels for any gym or club are as follows:

SEO for gyms

Location based search is probably the most powerful channel you have, and the good news is that for most regions it’s pretty easy to get on the first page – after all, there aren’t that many physical locations with a close proximity to compete with! However, you can significant help your chances by creating rich landing pages that cater to as broad a user intent as possible. Some examples of the kind of content you would likely want to include are as follows:

  • Personal trainer bios
  • Member review integration
  • Hi-res imagery of the kit and facilities
  • Videos of classes
  • Class timetable
  • Gym address information and local telephone number
  • Gym FAQ’s

The other element to consider is your local maps listing. These ought to be registered with Google, populated with current information and then a number of Google reviews should be collected by the gym in order to ensure it has credibility, both in the eyes of Google and the consumer.

Social media direct response for gyms

Another hugely effective tactic for gyms is to harness social media, particularly Facebook. In fact many gyms now use Facebook direct response as their primary means of launching new sites. There are several important aspects to delivering such a campaign:

  • Know your numbers – first of all, it’s essential that the numbers are well understood. For example, if your membership is £20 a month and the average member is with you for 12 months, then that means each member is worth £240 in revenue. To calculate the profit, you should take the running costs and divide them by the capacity (although I’d err on the low side with capacity) – probably around 75%), then add a small additional cost for admin. So if the annual running costs were £100,000, and the capacity was 1000, then you’d need to allocate £100 to each member, plus say a tenner for admin. That leaves you with a profit value of £130 per new member, which means you can spend up to £130 generating this member and it is worthwhile, but not a penny more. Of course in reality you want to generate members for as cheaply as possible (and via FB you will get it down to just a few pounds in many cases), but this model allows you to scale quickly whenever you need to, without ever over spending.
  • Nurture leads pre launch – as with any launch, much of your sales opportunity comes in the weeks and months before. You need to be generating as much traffic as possible to your pre-sales page, and ensure you are capturing their data so that you can market to these people via SMS and email in the run up to its big opening.
  • Know your peak times of interest – there is no point just spending all your media budget randomly through the week. You need to know when your audience is at its most active and when they are most likely to subscribe. For gyms this peak period tends to be on Mondays between about 5pm and 7pm, but it will of course vary from brand to brand.

Supplement companies and other eCommerce businesses in the fitness market

The key channels for nutrition/supplement companies (or indeed other ecommerce businesses such as fitness or wellness clothing) are very different. The most important by far is email. In fact there are many large brands in the fitness market that generate the vast majority of their sales via their email list. There are all sorts of techniques you can employ, but here are some of the most common:

  • Bundles – people love buying bundles as you are solving an entire problem rather than merely selling a product.
  • Promotions exclusively for email recipients – selling via your email list is considerably cheaper than via advertising or affiliate marketing, so you can afford to offer some special deals to your list.
  • Running out reminders and birthday treats- you will of course know when a customer is running out so it makes great sense to send a simple email reminding the customer that they need to stock up. It can also be nice to send special discounts on customer’s birthdays (all automated of course) to show that you really care about them.

Nutrition Businesses

Affiliate marketing for nutrition businesses

Affilitate marketing is big business in the supplements and nutrition markets. It can be an incredible way of generating additional spikes of highly converting traffic, and many businesses have been built on it.

However, the challenge comes when you open up your affiliate programmes to the really large networks, particularly if you don’t have a lot of margin to play with. It’s easy to find yourself in a race to the bottom, sacrificing profit for volume until all you’ve succeeded in doing is irreversibly cheapen the brand.

Affiliate programs can be really powerful, but just ensure it’s not at the expense of your brand and content activity.

SEO for nutrition businesses

Another powerful route to market for nutrition and supplement companies is through the organic search rankings. Some of the key factors to consider include:

  • URL structure – if you are selling your nutrition products via an eCommerce store then the website architecture will play a huge role in your ability to acquire new customers. Theoretically, your site should be a huge catalogue of category, sub category and products pages, each with the ability to drive targeted traffic. However, often the URL’s are dynamically generated which means that as far as the search engines are concerned the page is only a fraction of the size that it ought to be.
  • On-page factors – there was a time where simply inserting “Whey Protein powder” into the title tag could be enough to inform Google of the relevancy of the page. However, Google knows that people’s expectations are far broader than the mere search query they type, so if someone searches for protein then we have to put ourselves in their position and ask what additional information might aid their experience? Could it be customer review integration, a video showing how to mix the protein and what to blend it with, or links to other high protein recipes? All these factors will not only improve the UX and therefore increase the likelihood of conversion, but they are also exactly what Google wants to see and therefore likely to result in higher rankings.
  • Authority – unless you operate in a niche market, you are almost certainly going to be competing against a huge number of other websites all targeting the same keywords, which means that just showing great content isn’t enough, you need to demonstrate to Google that you have a heightened level of authority and trust relative to the alternative brands. This authority comes from a range of sources, including the links point to your website from other domains, your social media activity and the proportion of people actively searching for a returning to your website every day.


Every day there are new fitness technologies emerging, each promising some revolutionary solution to all of life’s exercise, nutritional and wellbeing challenges. Needless to say, in such a crowded space with so many big promises being made, it is a huge challenge to cut through the noise and communicate a message that actually resonates with your intended audience.

There is no exact formula to achieving this but there are some common themes you notice across almost all of the brands that do succeed:

  • They build a tribe – even if you believe your product has broad appeal to the masses, you need to hone in on the 1% that are crying out for it. This 1% will be more forgiving and committed, allowing you to get away with the occasional bug or design flaw in the early stages. By owning a small proportion of the market you can vindicate your basic business model on a small scale, making it far easier to attract further investment.
  • They obsess over their on-boarding process – this is so obvious it shouldn’t need saying, but the single most important design element of your product is the sign up process. With each second of time you eliminate from this journey, you are significantly increasing the proportion of people that will complete it. And of course the higher your conversion rate, the lower your cost per acquisition, which means you can afford to target a larger sum of people. However, you must remember that on-boarding does not end with the person giving you their personal details, which takes me to my final point.
  • They prioritise engagement and retention over acquisition – this is probably the most important characteristic of all. The brands that achieve viral growth do so because for every new subscriber, they actually gain more than one. In other words, the retention and referral rate outweighs the attrition rate, which means that even without any advertising their subscriber base will grow. Unfortunately, far too many brands treat these factors as secondary and place the majority of their efforts on acquisition of new customers. Your focus should be on maximising your subscribers daily engagement with your product (which primarily comes from the quality of the product experience and regular direct communications via email, SMS or an app). This is also where having a loyal tribe pays huge dividends.


Here is a complete guide to creating a marketing strategy in the fitness sector.


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    The first step is to perform in depth research into your business, target audience and competitors to develop a complete strategy for your brand and content, along with all paid and organic channels.

    If required, we will then use our research to propose a complete brand identity, including your brand core, product features, organisational values and visual identity.

    Before starting any content development, it’s essential that the technical foundations are in place, including domain health, site speed and mobile compatibility.

    In order to differentiate the brand we need a number of big ideas to spearhead the content activity, driven by influencer engagement. There must also be a clear content framework that defines the subject and format of content within the monthly calendar.

    once the content strategy is defined we need to be clear on the role and objective of each channel, including the search engines, email, blogging and social media sites.

    Alongside the brand strategy there should be a targeted advertising campaign focused on lead generation within an agreed CPA (Cost Per Acquisition). Common channels for a CPA campaign include PPC, remarketing and social direct response.

    We believe in rapid iteration and that requires regular analysis and reporting focused on a small number of key performance indicators, with the primary emphasis always on sales.