Your fitness website sucks (here’s what you can do about it!)

A bad website reflects badly on your brand and does you more harm than good. Tech head and health pro Dr Bill Sukala’s advice will help your site realise its potential as a lead generator.

Is your website just a dead online brochure that gets few visitors and no engagement? Do you write articles that nobody reads (or wants to read)? Do your pages appear on Google’s page 2 Siberian wasteland?

There’s a good reason for it: your website sucks. OK, well maybe that’s a bit harsh, but you’re probably overlooking the basics.

Taking a cold and impartial look at your website can help identify and address issues that are holding back your site’s performance.

Since I launched the Health Pro SEO project (healthproseo.com), I have helped numerous health professionals clean up and convert their websites into loyal, dedicated employees that work around the clock 24/7.

Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons why websites flail and fail – and some actions you can take right now to keep yours fighting fit.

Confusing site architecture

Website architecture is one of the first things I notice when I conduct a website audit. There’s nothing more distracting than a website with tonnes of information crammed onto a single web page. Remember, more people are viewing websites on mobile devices these days, so keep your design simple and uncluttered. Create clearly defined sections and be brief and concise in your descriptions. Use simple navigation menus and keep drop-downs to a minimum (complicated menus do more to confuse than help). Keep your design and colours consistent across pages so visitors can easily find your header, sidebar, and footer information.

Non-responsive website

Approximately 75% of people are visiting your website on a mobile or tablet, so it’s essential that you have a responsive theme that adjusts to every device. Outdated sites that still render the desktop version on mobiles and tablets run the risk of getting ‘demoted’ in Google search results.

Slow website

When it comes to life online, we’ve all gradually developed a need for speed. Attention spans are short, and so is patience. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for a page to load, so if your site is slow it can cause visitors to abandon you and click back to Google to choose another option. But what causes this? Some of the usual suspects include large image files (2MB or more), poor quality hosting, code bloat from themes and plugins, and advertising blocks, among others.

Large images

Large images might look nice on your website but they can really drag down your page loading time. Resize an image from, say, 4000x2400 down to 500x300 and then compress it at Tiny PNG. This will shrink down the file size as small as possible. A 2MB file can be edited and compressed down to less than 50kb and it won’t make a noticeable difference to your website visitors.

Shared McHosting

Many large hosting companies (hosting farms) offer cheap shared hosting plans, but you pay the price elsewhere, in the form of a slow website. They cram your site onto a server with 5,000 other sites (see Figure 1) where they’re all competing for resources in a form of digital Darwinism! To check your site, go to http://whois.domaintools.com, type in your website, and under IP address, look at how many websites are found on that server. If you find you’ve got thousands of ‘flatmates’, consider moving.

Australia-based Ventra IP offers high quality hosting and excellent customer service at a fair price. I switched to them two years ago and have had no speed issues whatsoever.

Theme bloat

WordPress themes (the design or look of your site) can be sleek cheetahs or white elephants. Before you select a WordPress theme, always run speed tests on their live demos. Check it on GT Metrix, Pingdom, and Google Page Speed Insights. If you get slow speeds (12+ seconds to load), consider a different theme.

Plugin bloat

There’s a joke in the website world that for whatever problem you encounter ‘there’s a plugin for that!’ IT nerd humour, sorry. Plugins are specific add-ons for your site, such as a video player or editing tool. While they add functionality, if you have too many of them, they can really bog down your site. Try to use only necessary plugins and avoid going overboard with them.

Ad bloat

Contextual ads such as Google Adsense can help monetise your site, but a drawback is that they require calls to external files (files not hosted on your server) which can impact page loading time. Use them but, like with plugins, use sparingly.

Pop-ups and auto-play videos

Interstitials (ads that appear while a page is loading) such as pop-up boxes and autoplay videos block or distract visitors from viewing your content and destroy the user experience. Google is now penalising sites that abuse them. Try embedding your email subscription form in the body of your page or add it as a sticky ribbon at the bottom of your site.

Outdated technology

It’s absolutely essential that you keep your content management system (i.e. WordPress), theme, and plugins up to date. Hackers use automated hackbots that continually scan the internet looking for outdated sites with vulnerable files.

Lax website security

Make sure you have security measures in place through your hosting provider and within your content management system. Plugins such as Sucuri, WordFence, or WP Cerber provide additional layers of security to block the bad guys. Also, be sure to back up your site to the cloud (i.e. Dropbox or Google Drive) with premium plugins like UpDraftPlus.

Poor website health

How do you know if Google is able to properly crawl and index your site? What about page errors? Malware infections? Now you can go straight to the source! Google Search Console is a free service you link to your website that provides regular information on site health and security. It is a treasure trove of information that can be used to continually update and improve your site.

No website metrics

Google Analytics is another free service that gives you real-time and historical data on your website visitors. Performance metrics tell you how many people visited your website, number of page views, time on page, and even demographic information such as age, gender, and geographic location. The practical value of Google Analytics is that it allows you to track and trend your content performance over time. If an article isn’t cutting it, then you can go back and beef up or tweak that content to improve its chances of ranking higher in search results.

Content is king

I’ve saved the most important factor in determining the success of your site until last, because if your website foundations (i.e. everything detailed above) are in place, then your content has the best chance of ranking well in search engines.

When it comes to content, there are three main factors to bear in mind, namely to:

  • Write content that people are searching for and want to read
  • Write well-written, informative content
  • Write well-formatted content that search engines can easily index.

Write content that people are searching for and want to read

This might seem like a no-brainer, but people write content all the time that nobody is searching for and nobody will ever find.

For example, if you write an article about what you had for breakfast this morning, the reality is, nobody cares (this isn’t Instagram). Your article doesn’t solve their problem, nor does it provide any lasting value.

On the other hand, if you write a comprehensive and authoritative article on high intensity interval training for men over 40, then you’re onto a winner.

You can see in the Google Trends image (Figure 2 below) that the popularity of HIIT is rising. By adding ‘over 40’ to the phrase, you narrow down the search volume, but you still target a lot of people over 40 searching for high quality HIIT guidelines. You could experiment with other long-tail keyword phrases such as ‘high intensity interval training + over 50’ or ‘high intensity interval training + after pregnancy.’

Finding competitive keyword phrases with low competition takes a bit of work but, on a very basic level, you absolutely must write content people already want to read. Address the queries people are actively typing into Google (Figure 3 below), i.e. when you type in a key word, what search suggestions does Google offer?

Write well-written, informative content

Once you’ve settled on your topic, your content should be well-written and have a natural flow. If your keyword phrase is ‘high intensity interval training for men over 40’, it should be included in your copy in various incarnations, but do not over-repeat it and abuse it.

For example, ‘In this article on high intensity interval training for men over 40, I’m going to provide you with the best guidelines on high intensity interval training for men over 40. The first thing men over 40 need to know about high intensity interval training is...’ This is called ‘keyword stuffing’ and can get you penalised by Google.

There is a lot of debate about how many words an article needs to be in order to rank in search engines. The truth is, there is no magic number. You need to write an article that adequately addresses the topic. 300 words is probably too little unless it’s for an extremely low-competition keyword, but 1,000 to 1,500 words of valuable, information-dense content will have a better chance.

Write well-formatted content that search engines can easily index

Following on from above, your content must be written for humans, but it should also be formatted for search engines. If Google looks at your article and has no idea what it’s about, then how can it properly index it? Remember, Google is a matchmaker trying to match visitors’ search queries with the best content that addresses those queries.

To format your article, make sure that your keyword phrase is included in important sections of your page. You can customise all of these in WordPress using the post editor and Yoast SEO plugin.

Title tags
The title of your article is what will appear in Google search results. You’ll want to be sure that your title contains the terms ‘interval training + men + over 40’. For example, it might be something like ‘10 must-know interval training tips for men over 40.’

Meta description
The meta description is the little snippet that readers see in Google results. Technically, it’s not important in search ranking, but a descriptive and well-written meta description can help entice readers to click through to your article. And if you get more click-throughs, then you may get more social media shares and valuable backlinks from other websites which may help improve your ranking.

Heading tags (H1 to H6)
Heading tags are similar to those you’ve seen in Microsoft Word documents. They form a hierarchy from largest to smallest, much like an outline. This is helpful for planning out your article to keep it neat and orderly for readers, but it also has the added benefit of helping Google to understand and index it.

In the example below, you can see how the main keyword phrase ‘interval training’ is included in different heading tags and the paragraph text.

  • H1 – 10 must-know interval training tips for men over 40
  • H2 – Benefits of interval training
  • H2 – Types of interval training
  • H3 – Stair running
  • Paragraph text: Stair running is a popular form of interval training….etc
  • H3 – Agility drills
  • H3 – Jump rope drills
  • H2 – Interval training risks

Image alt tags
When you upload and add images to your article, you should include your keywords in the image alternative text, or alt text, which helps Google understand what the image is about (and the text displays if for some reason the image does not appear).

URL (web address)

Include your keywords in the page’s URL and make sure it’s informative but concise. For example, a URL for this article might be: http://yourwebsite.com/interval-training-tips-men-over-40, as opposed to: http://yourwebsite.com/10-excellent-must-know-interval-training-tips-especially-for-men-over-40-years-of-age. The second one is bloated and unlikely to confer any additional SEO benefit.

Whether you already have a website that is underperforming, or are planning on setting up your own site soon, it is well worth taking these tips on board. Some simple strategising and a focus on great content will help your lonely site come in from the cold and into the warm glow of page 1 search results.


Dr Bill Sukala is the creator of Health Pro SEO (healthproseo.com), a website and SEO training consultancy helping health professionals increase their online visibility. He has over 25 years’ experience as a health practitioner and over a decade of web programming and SEO experience. Bill has used these skills to create health content on his site drbillsukala.com which outranks powerhouses like WebMD, Amazon, and major universities and hospitals. He has numerous articles that rank first on Google page 1 and have garnered millions of page views.