Leslie Nolen is CEO of The Radial Group, which provides wellness businesses with seminars, publications and coaching on starting and managing profitable and personally rewarding businesses. E-mail her at lnolen@radialgroup.com or visit www.radialgroup.com to subscribe to free weekly business tips tailored to wellness businesses.

Many health clubs create a Web site because everyone else is doing it. However, this isn’t the best reason to start one. Web sites take proper planning, care and maintenance. For a five-point tune-up for your fitness facility’s Web site, answer the following questions:

1. What’s the purpose of your Web site? Web sites without clear goals waste time and money while producing few results. Many clubs convince themselves that the benefits of Web presence can’t be measured. However, if you can’t measure results, you’re probably not getting results.

Common goals for health club Web sites include:

  • Developing leads. Your club might provide information about membership options and pricing.
  • Selling and delivering products and services. Your club might let members re-order supplements online or offer online discussion forums.
  • Streamlining customer service. Health clubs often offer online membership renewal plus exercise and diet logging.

2. How will/do people find your Web site? People looking for a local health club may start with an Internet search. People looking for a personal trainer often start by asking friends.

Three tactics make it likelier that prospects will find your Web site:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO). SEO increases the odds that your site will show up in search engines. Examples include keywords, metatags and links to related sites.
  • Sponsored search services (like Google’s AdWords). These allow you to selectively present ads based on an Internet user’s search query. If that user clicks on your ad, you pay a small charge. If no one clicks, you don’t pay.
  • Publicizing your business on related sites. For example, if you offer specialized fitness programs for people with chronic diseases, post useful suggestions and ideas to blogs or message boards on sites dedicated to these conditions. Include your Web site address, business name and city or state in your signature when you post.

3. Does your company’s Web site have a clear call to action? What exactly do you want site visitors to do? You definitely don’t want them to click once or twice, then wander away. Offer something useful like a list of 100 healthy snacks in exchange for their e-mail addresses and permission to contact them. That lets you take the initiative on future communications.

If lead generation is your goal, offer something that encourages them to reach out to your business. For example, a health club hoping to spark interest in a tour can offer an Internet-only premium, such as a coupon for two complimentary smoothies and two protein bars when they visit. If you offer nutritional coaching, a newsletter gives prospects a no-risk way to experience your approach. They’ll be likelier to respond positively later to promotional e-mails.

Prominently display satisfaction guarantees, member stories and customer testimonials. Audio and video can really connect with potential customers by showing them a snippet of a live training session.

4. Is your Web site about you or your customer? Prospective customers want proof that you understand their needs, and they want evidence that you can help them succeed. Examples include self-assessments, customer and client testimonials, and case studies.

Make it easy for them to work with you. Be sure to include directions to your club, telephone numbers and club hours.

For current customers, you might offer the ability to pay dues or re-order supplements online with a credit card. You can post this week’s class schedules and offer online scheduling for seminars and services such as massage or personal training.

These things are less important for most prospects:

  • How long you’ve been at your location
  • How long you’ve been in fitness or wellness
  • A rehash of every employee’s life story
  • Long speeches about your passion for helping people or your vision for a healthier nation

5. Is your Web site fresh? Web sites get stale unless you update them. Review your site’s content periodically.

First, identify content you can add that’s new and interesting to customers. Examples include periodic customer successes, updates on the new equipment you’ve installed, additional chiropractic services you’re now offering, monthly health tips and new workout ideas. Add interest with short audio and video clips. For example, you could post a question-and-answer session with a nutritionist and trainer.

Then, delete what’s old and outdated. If you have a press or media section with one article from your 2001 grand opening, delete or update that section. Otherwise, your business looks stagnant. Remove pages that say “coming soon” until you’re ready to finish the content. And, if you’ve got a few healthy living tips last updated in 2004, retire them and start adding new ones every month.

Follow these pointers, and your Web site investment will produce happy members and measurable business results.