What’s the first thing people do when they decide to get in shape and join a gym? They turn to social media to ask for recommendations from friends and family, and then they turn to the Internet to do more research on their options.
Here’s another question for you: If potential customers research the fitness studio websites on the list that their initial search returns, what are they going to find when they get to yours? Five-star reviews? Three-star reviews? No reviews at all? The reality of the connected world we live in is that your lack of stars may send potential customers to competitors who have better reviews.
Here are some stats to back that up:
- A large number of online shoppers—81%—do Internet research before buying (Adweek 2014).
- Of consumers in general, 69% seek advice and opinions on goods and services before making a purchase (Mintel 2015).
- Of the consumers who seek advice, 70% are equally likely to visit user review sites or independent review sites before purchasing goods or services, and 57% use social media networks for recommendations (Mintel 2015).
It doesn’t take a statistician to see that reviews are an important part of your online presence. They help reinforce the recommendations of friends, they serve as collective intelligence from other consumers, and they help with search rankings. In this article, we will break down the nuances of the review sites that are most important for fitness professionals, and we’ll give you some tips for increasing your reviews.
Yelp (www.yelp.com) is one of the biggest online review sites for local businesses. With a monthly average of 90 million unique visitors and more than 102 million reviews, the site and its importance are hard to ignore (Yelp 2016). In addition to its impressive user engagement, Yelp has a partnership with Apple. So when you use Siri to search for local businesses, the search results serve up Yelp reviews as well (Search Engine Land 2012).
To determine who gets displayed at the top of the search results, Yelp uses a complicated algorithm based on user reviews. If you want to show up on the first page, you need to have reviews and they need to be good. That doesn’t mean you can create a bunch of fake accounts and leave reviews to push your business to the top. The algorithm takes into account each user’s credibility.
If you haven’t already claimed your Yelp profile, make sure you do. Like it or not, people are stumbling upon your business listing on Yelp. When your profile is not claimed, or if it lacks important information and/or pictures of your space, it makes a bad first impression. Once you’ve claimed your account, you have access to lots of metrics that show how people find you and what they are saying about you.
Beyond claiming your profile and waiting for the reviews to come in, you should be aware of the other Yelp features that can benefit fitness pros. First, Yelp curates all sorts of lists by industry, based on Yelp reviews. That means that if your business has a lot of “stars,” it’s likely to be included in the list that comes up in the search results, usually right below the Google directory list at the top.
Yelp has a special program that is growing in popularity in cities with strong fitness communities. It’s called Yelp’s Fit Club, and it is organized by local Yelp community managers as a way to expose Yelpers to all that the local fitness scene has to offer. The program puts up a schedule of classes at fitness facilities all over the city that Yelpers can attend for free. While facilities must offer the classes for free, being listed on a Yelp’s Fit Club site brings participating businesses both exposure and reviews.
Yelp also has an Events section, where you can post events for either Yelp Elite or the general public. Yelp has a lot to offer small businesses; make sure you’re not missing out on all of its features.
Many business owners don’t realize how important Facebook reviews are—or that they even exist. Facebook reviews give your brand credibility and enhance your Facebook presence. Of the many factors that Facebook uses in its algorithm, star ratings help increase the visibility of your Facebook posts. More reviews and higher star ratings equal more views.
Facebook reviews appear in two places on your Facebook page: on the left-hand side, where the information about your business appears; and on the Reviews tab near the top of your page. In both places, users can see the average review in terms of stars, as well as how many reviews you have. Another important place the reviews appear outside of the platform is within Google search results. When users use Google to search for your business, the first listing among the results will most likely be your website—followed by your Facebook page, with your star rating front and center.
Another great Facebook feature to know about is the ability to embed good reviews on your website. To do this, head to the review you’d like to embed, click on the timestamp of the review, click the drop-down arrow at the top right and select the “Embed Post” option. If you don’t see this option, select the “More Options” link and you will find it there.
Have you ever searched for a business or a type of business in your area and noticed the Google listing that populates at the top? There’s a map and then a list of three places, with an option to view more. Each listing has an address, a telephone number, a link to the business’s website and a star ranking. Those stars are Google reviews, and they are very important.
Google is the largest search engine out there, dominating the local search engine market with a 65% share (The Site Edge 2016). Among other things, Google wants to be your resource for finding anything and everything with ease. One of those ways is through the local search directory Google My Business (www.google.com/business/). It’s important that you, as a business owner, show up in these listings—preferably in one of the top three spots. To do that, you’ve got to ensure that your Google My Business profile is 100% complete, and also that you have a good number of positive reviews.
Bottom line: The first listing people see when they are searching the Internet for a gym in their area is the Google Local listings at the top of the page. According to Search Engine Watch, “Consumers are 38% more likely to visit and 29% more likely to consider buying from businesses with a complete Google My Business page” (Search Engine Watch 2015). Setting up your account on Google My Business also instantly improves your search rankings; using this tool to take control of your listing is a no-brainer.
How to Get Reviews
Now that you know how important user reviews are, make sure you have some! The first rule for getting reviews is to ensure that you are providing amazing customer service. Wow your clients, and the positive reviews will come.
That said, you shouldn’t just wait around for reviews. Here are some tips for getting this feedback from your loyal supporters:
- Ask. If you want reviews, you have to ask for them!
- As first-time visitors make their way out the door, simply ask them for a review, and hand them a card with a list of places where they can leave one.
- Email your best clients and ask them for reviews.
- Post a request for reviews on your social media channels.
- Put up signage in your studio.
- Set up a reviews landing page that connects people to all the places where they can leave a review.
Adweek. 2014. 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. Accessed Apr. 18, 2016. www.adweek.com/socialtimes/81-shoppers-conduct-online-research-making-purchase-infographic/208527.
Mintel. 2015. 7 in 10 Americans seek out opinions before making purchases. Accessed Apr. 18, 2016. www.mintel.com/press-centre/social-and-lifestyle/seven-in-10-americans-seek-out-opinions-before-making-purchases.
Search Engine Land. 2012. Yelp elevated by Apple relationship, second only to Google in local importance now. Accessed Apr. 18, 2016. http://searchengineland.com/yelp-elevated-by-apple-relationship-second-only-to-google-in-local-importance-now-125824.
Search Engine Watch. 2016. The importance of user reviews for local SEO. Accessed Apr. 19, 2016. https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2436136/the-importance-of-user-reviews-for-local-seo.
The Site Edge. 2016. How to optimize your Google My Business Page for success. Accessed Apr. 19, 2016. http://thesiteedge.com/how-to-optimize-your-google-my-business-page-for-success.
Yelp. 2016. About us. Accessed Jun. 24, 2016. www.yelp.com/about.
- Google My Business. www.google.com/business/
- Social Media Examiner. “7 Ways to Use Yelp to Improve Your Local Business.” www.socialmediaexaminer.com/yelp/
- Yelp for Business Owners. “Claiming Your Business.” https://biz.yelp.com/support/claiming
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