UK Health and Fitness Clubs - Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, Q3 2023

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The Q3 2023 benchmarking report for UK health and fitness clubs has just been published. Learn how the top 12 UK health and fitness clubs perform across the digital space.

The latest Q3 2023 benchmarking report for UK health and fitness clubs has just been published. It covers the 12 largest clubs in the UK, including David Lloyd Leisure, Virgin Active, The Gym Group, énergie Fitness, LivingWell Health Clubs, TotalFitness, Anytime Fitness, The Bannatyne Group, Fitness Space, Snap Fitness 24/7, PureGym, and Fitness First.

Health and fitness clubs logos

The research gives an inside track on who is winning the biggest share of voice online and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for other health and fitness clubs to win brand exposure, drive online views, and increase membership figures. The report highlights quick wins that will improve enquiries from your online strategy and identifies the barriers that may be reducing your site’s ability to optimise digital performance.

To see a preview and contents page of the Q3 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call. Digital Benchmark Report - Health and Fitness Clubs - Q3 2023 - Cover

What The Industry Research Report Covers

The 70+ pages of research benchmarks each brand based on 50+ metrics and indicators of successful digital strategy, including organic visibility, domain authority, paid media ads, conversion performance, technical performance, site speed, universal search, content, social ads, accessibility, and mobile performance.  

Driving Optimal ROAS from Paid Media Channels

Some of the leading players in the space are high spenders on paid media channels such as Google, Bing and Facebook - but have a poor or sub-optimal conversion improvement strategy. Without an optimised, sophisticated conversion strategy that maximises the conversion rate, the return on investment is unsustainable or will underperform. Scaling spend on paid media is not achievable unless the conversion rate delivers optimal performance in the sector. Some in the space have paid media spend levels from £30k+ per month but dedicate minimal resources and budgets to conversion testing.  Given the cost per clicks on ad networks will continue to rise, we recommend spending at least 10% of your paid media budget on ongoing conversion optimisation testing schedules to ensure your paid media ROI maintains long-term viability, competitive advantage, and sustainability.

Technical Website Compliance

Savvy digital marketers know that having a technically sound website is an essential component of a successful fully integrated digital strategy - plus a site capable of maximising conversion performance. Health and fitness clubs have the benefit of not needing to maintain an ever-changing array of stock, so it should be relatively straightforward for these brands to avoid large volumes of 4xx errors.

As expected, our health and fitness clubs delivered very few 4xx errors in our crawls, with the exception of PureGym, which returned 449. PureGym must ensure that no key conversion pages are blocked off by dead ends, causing users to drop from the site. The Bannatyne Group returned 1,926 5xx errors - indicating a fault with their server. After re-crawling, we were able to access the site with no 5xx issues, however, The Bannatyne Group must be mindful that their servers are capable of consistently supporting their site.

Site Speed & Conversion Rate Performance

When 62% of consumers are less likely to convert if they have a negative mobile site experience, ensuring that your site is quick and easy to load will see a significant improvement on your overall conversion rates. Health and fitness clubs must ensure they are primed and ready for an increasingly mobile-first audience and are serving quick, easy to use mobile sites.

Mobile page speeds for health and fitness clubs range from 57 for David Lloyd Leisure, to 14 from Snap Fitness 24/7. David Lloyd Leisure is one of only two health and fitness clubs to breach the 'okay' benchmark of 50. All health and fitness clubs should consider how a mobile user is interracting with their site and ensure they're not losing potential members due to slow loading times.

Building Competitive Advantage with Domain Authority

Domain authority (DA) is an essential metric for measuring the effectiveness of SEO performance and helps create a reliable overall gauge of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, i.e. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. Health and fitness clubs may want to collaborate with fitness publications and bloggers within the health niche, to expand their backlink profile and increase levels of relevant referral traffic.

A ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing, however, it’s generally considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. DAs for health and fitness clubs range from 72, for Snap Fitness 24/7, to 31 for Fitness Space. Fitness Space, along with the three other brands scoring below the 'good' benchmark, should look to backlink reclamation as an initial way to improve their profile and become more competitive on domain authority.

Organic Performance – Mobile & Desktop

A strong organic performance is strategically important as it ensures your site ranks above competitors for core, transactional keywords. When 93% of your customers won’t go past the first page of Google, your absence or lack of targeting for essential keywords will cost you conversions. Due to the cost of living crisis, consumers may be cutting back on small luxuries such as gym memberships, and opting for at-home workout options or a membership at a cheaper club. Health and fitness clubs should be mindful that they are optimising and ranking for relevant terms, depending on current events and topics, in order to maintain traffic.

As we expected, all twelve health and fitness clubs have seen a fall in their organic traffic year on year. The biggest fall has been seen by Fitness Space, which has lost 65% of its digital footfall from 2022. The health and fitness club that has come closest to maintaining organic sessions is Fitness First, which lost only 4% year on year.

Universal Search Opportunity

Google Universal Search Results are an evolving opportunity to make your pages visible on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Universal results often appear before traditional listings and are eye-catching for users. Universal search results refer to rankings on a SERP that are not the traditional ‘blue line’ Google link, and a site can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. Health and fitness clubs may find any of the Universal Search opportunities useful for sharing information and building brand awareness directly from the SERP. Results such as 'FAQs' and 'people also ask' questions will provide an opportunity to share knowledge of exercise and build authority, while 'local pack' will improve visibility in local areas.

Health and fitness clubs are appearing for a diverse range of Universal Search opportunities, with each brand showing optimisations for several different types. 'Local pack' is the most widely used, appearing across all twelve health and fitness clubs, while we can see 'people also asked' appeared for the highest volume overall. PureGym is showing the strongest performance for Universal Search results, making 45,242 appearances overall.

The Longtail Keyword Opportunity

Longtail keywords are often considered high intent and potentially more likely to convert as a searcher is being more specific. Optimising for longtail keywords also puts your content strategy in a strong position to rank for new search terms as they enter Google’s index. Health and fitness clubs can either look at developing content giving specific exercise advice, which will help funnel users from the brand awareness to consideration stage, or focus on building visibility around high-conversion-intent keywords, that may mention terms such as fees.

A strong performance in Universal Search results, particularly in 'FAQs' and 'people also ask' results, can often indicate a strong longtail keyword performance. PureGym is leading the way on longtail keywords, securing significantly more rankings in the top 100 than competitors, along with the most appearances in the top 3, 10, and 20 positions too. PureGym's large blog will be playing a big part in this strong performance.

Facebook Adverts

With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) forecast to hit over 42 million users by 2022, it is not surprising that brands have jumped at the opportunity to advertise on the social media platform. Facebook’s UK digital advertising revenue has been estimated to have breached £2.6b in 2019. Facebook ads are an opportunity to capture attention from a social media audience and present the brand in a dynamic, eye-catching way.

We've included examples of David Lloyd Leisure below. David Lloyd has used three different creative formats in their campaigns, which will enable its paid social team to assess which is the most engaging for future activity. The vertically aligned image is a smart choice, which will maximise both the space available to share information and the occupation of any mobile user's screen.

David Lloyd Facebook Ads August 2023

Top Social Shares & Content

When it comes to social media and on-site content strategies, it is important to release content that has a longer shelf life. An article is considered 'evergreen' if it has maintained its relevancy to an audience for a long period of time. It's great for your engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content that achieves traffic over a long period of time. Health and fitness clubs with a strong blog presence are likely to see more engagement from social media, with users keen to improve their technique or even copy some exercises at home.

All twelve health and fitness clubs are seeing the most social media referrals come from Facebook, with David Lloyd Leisure achieving the most engagements overall, with a total of  78,701. Looking at audience size, PureGym has secured the most Facebook likes, with 498,900, and the most Instagram followers, with 203,000. This represents a pre-engaged audience that is more likely to see any organic content.

Website Readability & Accessibility

About 20% of people in the UK have a disability – 2 million of which are people living with sight loss. In addition, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of colour vision deficiency. Health and fitness brands will want to carefully consider the impression they are giving users, from the first digital touchpoint. Prospective members who have a vision deficiency, or other additional needs, will need to know that they will be welcomed and supported in accessing facilities, beginning with the health and fitness club's website.

Generally speaking, health and fitness clubs have a reasonably good grasp on digital accessibility. However, there are still errors and alerts present on many of the brands' sites. The biggest cause for concern lies with Fitness First, which has flagged with 77 alerts. Looking at these in more detail, many come down to unclear headings and redundant titles text, potentially causing challenges to users with screen readers.


For a glance into just six of the metrics we evaluated these top 12 health and fitness clubs on, check out our quick-look table below; Health&FitnessClubs W&L Aug23


To get a copy of the full report, please complete the enquiry form. If you want to talk to us about accelerating your digital performance, please call us on 01543 410014 or schedule a call with Mike Movassaghi.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

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