Page Christenbury is a search engine marketing analyst at ROI Revolution, a Google AdWords Qualified Company, located in Raleigh, NC. For more quick tips, visit www.roirevolution.com/tips.

Almost all fitness business owners have robust Web sites set up to promote their latest marketing promotions and gym locations. However, driving qualified traffic and maintaining a steady flow of leads remains a challenge. Search engine marketing (otherwise known as pay-per-click advertising) makes it easy for fitness business owners to laser target the exact audience they want their ads to show to, and thereby keep a steady stream of qualified leads flowing into their sales team, leading to more gym membership sign-ups each month.

More than 20 million searches related to gym memberships are performed every month in the United States on Google.com. By not taking advantage of this traffic, club owners are leaving money on the table and giving business to their competition. In this economy, it is more important than ever to learn how to make the most out of every advertising dollar spent.

Setting up pay-per-click campaigns can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the terminology and options for your campaign settings. Here are steps for setting this up and using it to market your fitness business:

Step 1: Choose your search engine. The first step is to decide with which search engine you would like to start. Each company and industry can perform dramatically differently in each engine, although it usually makes sense to start advertising on the engine with the most market share. Here are links to get started with the top three engines:

Step 2: Choose your key words. Key words are the root of all of pay-per-click traffic. A key word phrase is actually the group of words a searcher types into a search engine that triggers your ad to show. To come up with a list of key words on which you want to advertise, think about what potential gym members would type into search engines when looking for your facility. Make sure you also include your location in the keyword, for example, personal trainers in Raleigh, NC. Other possible key words are: affordable gym memberships, family gym memberships and personal trainer services.

Step 3: Laser target where your ad shows through location targeting. Think about where you want your leads to come from. Where do you offer your gym memberships? Most engines give you the option to either target an entire city or target a radius around a zip code. Spending your ad budget on areas that are not close to your gym—and, therefore, are unlikely to bring you new members—is a huge mistake that many new advertisers make.

Step 4: Qualify your visitors through your ad’s text. Your ad’s text is your chance to stand out from your competitors. What services are your competitors offering? What are your prices compared to theirs? Use your ad’s text to promote your unique selling proposition. It also is important to include a specific call to action in your ad’s text. If you offer a free two-week pass, your call to action could be to sign up now for a free two-week pass. It is best practice to test multiple ads with different messages. Each search engine’s ad guidelines vary. However, the main text format is: headline—25 characters, body text—35 characters (2 lines), display URL—35 characters.

Step 5: Choose your landing page. Your landing page is the page that the visitor is taken to after they click on the ad. This page needs to re-enforce what you discussed in your ad’s text, and it also needs to be designed so that it is easy for the visitor to take the next action. If your main goal is to have users fill out a contact form, then this form needs to be the central focus. Other good things to include on landing pages are testimonials, photos of your facilities, operation hours, facility amenities, a phone number and a map of where your club is located.

Step 6: Set-up conversion tracking. All the major search engines offer free conversion tracking tools for your campaigns. This means that once these tools are installed, you can see with a few simple clicks exactly which key words are bringing you leads and which key words are wasting your advertising budget. For most fitness business owners, the main conversion on their Web site will be for a visitor to fill out a contact form or to sign up for a free trial.

Step 7: Manage key word bids. Once you have conversion data collecting, you will start seeing that some key words are performing well for you and some key words are performing poorly. You will want to increase bids on key words that are bringing you leads at a profitable price and decrease bids on key words that are costing you a ton and not bringing you profitable results.

I encourage you to learn about search engine marketing and take a swing at setting up a pay-per-click campaign for your facility.